Inter Press Service » Gender http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:20:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 India Steps Up Citizen Activism to Protect Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:34:28 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148122 Red Brigade, a female-only collective, equips Indian women and girls with self-defence techniques and targets males who have committed sexual assault. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Red Brigade, a female-only collective, equips Indian women and girls with self-defence techniques and targets males who have committed sexual assault. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Dec 7 2016 (IPS)

Last month, Delhi Police launched a unique initiative to check spiralling crimes against women in the city, also known dubiously as the “rape capital” of India. It formed a squad of plainclothes officers called “police mitras” (friends of the police) — comprising farmers, homemakers and former Army men — to assist them in the prevention and detection of crime and maintenance of law and order.

In another scheme, police chiefs launched their own version of “Charlie’s Angels” — a specially trained squad of crime-fighting, butt-kicking constables in white kimonos who take on sexual predators across the country. The 40-member women’s squad trained in martial arts guards “vulnerable” landmarks in the city such as schools and metro stations, while undercover as regular citizens."I carry pepper spray and a knife with me as I return late from the office." -- Shashibala Mehra, 52, an accountant in New Delhi

India, considered one of the world’s most unsafe countries for women, has lately seen a raft of innovative initiatives to safeguard women from sexual crimes. Ironically, despite increasingly stringent laws and a visible beefing up of police protection, crimes against women have surged.

According to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, such crimes (primarily rapes, molestations and stalking) have skyrocketed by a whopping 60 percent between 2010 and 2011 and 2014 and 2015.

A report by the National Crime Records Bureau found 337,922 reports of violence, including rape, cruelty and abduction, against women in 2014, up 9 percent from 2013. The number of reported rapes in the country also rose by 9 percent to 33,707 in 2014, the last year for which such figures were available.

In addition, sexual harassment on Indian streets or in other public spaces is a common experience for women. A survey by the NGO ActionAid found 79 percent of Indian women have been subjected to harassment or violence in public.

The rise in attacks on women has also led to a mushrooming of volunteer-led projects which provide a valuable social service. For instance, one such initiative — Blank Noise — in one of its campaigns #WalkAlone, asked women across the country to break their silence and walk alone to fight the fear of being harassed on the streets. In another campaign, women were urged to send in the clothing they were wearing when they were harassed which were then used to create public installations.

By engaging not only perpetrators and victims, but also spectators and passers-by, Blank Noise, launched in 2003, relies on ‘Action Heroes’ or a network of volunteers, from across age groups, gender and sexuality to put forth its message. Effective legal mechanisms, staging theatrical public protests and publicizing offences help the organization mobilize citizens against sexual harassment in public spaces. Week-long courses are also offered to teach women how to be active in building safe spaces.

Schoolboys are sensitized about sexual crimes at a seminar in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Schoolboys are sensitized about sexual crimes at a seminar in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Although the Indian Parliament passed a strong anti-rape law while also making human trafficking, acid attacks and stalking stringently punishable, it hasn’t translated into diminishing crimes against women. Some women’s rights activists believe that women are inviting a counter-attack by claiming their right in public spaces.

“There’s a lot of media coverage, candlelight marches and social media angst if women are outraged but in reality little has changed, ” says Pratibha Malik, an activist with a pan-India non-profit Aashrita. “I feel the very presence of women in non-traditional spaces like offices, in bars, restaurants etc in a patriarchal society like India’s is responsible for this backlash.”

The trigger for much of legislative and police action was the December 2012 rape of a 23-year-old Indian medical student in a moving bus when she was returning from a movie with a male friend. The couple were attacked by a group of men, including one aged 14. The woman was raped several times and later died, while her friend was beaten with an iron rod. The incident sparked mass protests demanding action.

Following the episode, which created global headlines, a committee — Justice Verma Committee — was instituted and its report cited “the failure of governance to provide a safe and dignified environment for the women of India, who are constantly exposed to sexual violence.”

The three attackers in the 2012 rape were sentenced to death and within months the government passed a bill broadening the definition of sexual offences to include forced penetration by any object, stalking, acid violence and disrobing.

However, such actions by the State haven’t really resulted in much succour for the fairer sex.
They feel they have to take charge of their own security. Many women IPS spoke to, say they feel danger still lurks around street corners, especially in the big cities, where venturing out at night is still considered an `adventure’.

“I don’t feel safe in public places at all nor while using public transport. I know nobody will come forward to help me if I get into trouble,” says Rekha Kumari, 30, a cook.

“I carry pepper spray and a knife with me as I return late from the office,” says Shashibala Mehra, 52, an accountant in New Delhi. “Throughout my 40-minute commute back home I keep talking to my husband on phone just so that he knows when I’m in trouble.”

Laxmi Aggarwal, 27, an acid attack victim who has now become an activist championing the ban on the sale of acid in India, says the government has done little to prevent its sale. “Young, vulnerable girls are attacked in many parts of rural India,” she says.

Aggarwal has joined hands with an organization called Stop Acid Attacks to assist other victims of such attacks and also fight for their rights in local courts.

Realizing how some Indian law enforcement agencies can no longer be trusted for their safety, many women are also resorting to buying weapons and pepper spray, downloading security apps, signing up for self-defence classes, and joining self-help groups.

Campaigns which help victims of violence fight social stigma have urged the government to enforce stricter laws and promote gender equality. Red Brigades, a female-only collective, for instance, equips women and girls with self-defence techniques and targets males who have committed sexual assault. Blank Noise, another volunteer-led project, is working to tackle street harassment and change public attitudes towards sexual violence.

Such initiatives, say activists, are vital to safeguard Indian women who are stepping out of their homes to work, travel and lead a full life.

“We try to make erring men see reason after talking to the man and his parents. If he still doesn’t listen, we go to the police station,” says Usha Vishwakarma. “If he’s still adamant, we go into the action stage.”

An important part of the support Red Brigade offers involves helping victims get rid of the self-guilt that the violence they suffered was their fault.

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Nicaraguan Women Push for Access to Land, Not Just on Paperhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 23:40:41 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148102 Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Dec 5 2016 (IPS)

A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large.

Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told IPS that since the late 1980s, when women trained in the Sandinista revolution organised to form cooperatives, access to land has been one of the movement’s main demands.

According to Rocha, as of 1997, the organisation has worked in a coordinated manner to fight for recognition of the rights of women farmers not only with regard to agriculture, but also to economic, political and social rights.

Femuprocan, together with 14 other associations, successfully pushed for the 2010 approval of the Fund for the Purchase of Land with Gender Equity for Rural Women Law, known as Law 717.

They also contributed to the incorporation of a gender equity focus in the General Law on Cooperatives and to the participation of women in the Municipal Commissions on Food Security and Sovereignty.

For Rocha, this advocacy has allowed rural women to update the mapping of actors in the main productive areas in the country, strengthen the skills of women farmers and train them in social communication and as promoters of women’s human rights, to tap into resources and take decisions without the pressure of their male partners.

“For rural women, land is life, it is vital for the family; land ownership and inputs to make it productive are closely linked to women’s economic empowerment, to decision-making about food production, to the preservation of our environment, and to ensuring food security and protecting our native seeds to avoid dependence on genetically modified seeds,” said Rocha.

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Femuprocan is the only federation in the country solely made up of women farmers: more than 4,200 members organised in 73 cooperatives in six of the country’s departments: Madriz, Managua, Granada, Región Autónoma del Caribe Norte, Matagalpa and Jinotega.

Rocha believes the progress made has been more qualitative than quantitative.

In 2010, when they pushed through Law 717, an estimated 1.1 million women lived in rural areas, and most of them owned neither land nor other assets.

The law was aimed at giving rural women access to physical possession and legal ownership of land, improving their economic conditions, boosting gender equity, ensuring food security and fighting poverty in the country, estimated at the time at 47 per cent.

Nicaragua currently has a population of 6.2 million, 51 per cent of whom are women, and 41 per cent of whom live in rural areas, according to World Bank figures.

Data from the Household Survey to Measure Poverty in Nicaragua, published in June by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge, indicates that 39 per cent of the population was poor in 2015.

The poverty rate in urban areas was 22.1 per cent, compared to 58.8 per cent in rural areas.

According to the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam, only 18 per cent of the rural women who work on farms in Nicaragua own land, while the rest have to lease it and pay before planting.

“Access to land ownership is a pending demand for 40 percent of the members of Femuprocan, which represents a total of 1,680 women without land,” said Rocha.

The struggle for access to land is an uphill battle, but the organisation is not giving up.

“In 17 municipalities covered by our federation, 620 women are active in the process of searching for lands for our members. Not only women who have no land, but also women who do are engaged in the process of identifying lands to make them productive, as are other governmental and non-governmental organisations,” she said.

One of the members of the organisation told IPS that there has been no political will or economic financing from the state to enforce the law on access to land.

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

“How many doors have we knocked on, how many offices have we visited to lobby, how many meetings have we held…and the law is still not enforced,” said the farmer, who asked to be identified only as Maria, during a trip to Managua.

“The problem is that the entire legal, economic and productive system is still dominated by men, and they see us as threats, more than competition, to their traditional business activities,” she said.

Other women’s organisations have come from rural areas to the cities to protest that the law on access to land is not being enforced.

In May, María Teresa Fernández, who heads the Coordinator of Rural Women, complained in Managua that “women who do not own land have to pay up to 200 dollars to rent one hectare during the growing season.”

In addition to having to lease land, the women who belong to the organisation have in recent years faced environmental problems such as drought, dust storms, volcanic ash and pests without receiving the benefit of public policies that make bank loans available to deal with these problems.

“Six years ago, Law 717 was passed, ordering the creation of a gender equity fund for the purchase of land by rural women. But this fund has not yet been included in the general budget in order for women to access mortgage credits administered by the state bank, to get their own land,” Fernández complained in May.

The Nicaraguan financial system does not grant loans to women farmers who have no legal title to land, a problem that the government has tried to mitigate with social welfare programmes such as Zero Hunger, Zero Usury, Roof Plan, Healthy Yards and the Christian Solidarity Programme for food distribution, among others.

However, sociologist Cirilo Otero, director of the non-governmental Centre of Initiatives for Environmental Policies, said there is not enough government support, and stressed to IPS that women’s lack of access to land is one of the most serious problems of gender inequality in Nicaragua.

“It is still an outstanding debt by the state towards women farmers,” he said.

Nevertheless, data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that Nicaragua was one of 17 Latin American countries that met the targets for hunger reduction and improvement in food security in the first 15 years of the century, as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

According to the U.N. agency, between 1990 and 2015, the country reduced the proportion of undernourished people from 54.4 per cent to 16.6 per cent.

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Unleashing Africa Full Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/unleashing-africas-full-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unleashing-africas-full-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/unleashing-africas-full-potential/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:22:37 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148058 Amb. Amina Mohamed is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and a Kenya’s candidate for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.]]>

Amb. Amina Mohamed is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and a Kenya’s candidate for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 2016 (IPS)

Africa, the cradle of mankind and home to the youngest population in the world, has a historic opportunity to realise its full potential, in sharing our potential prosperity, by enhancing economic growth, promoting and entrenching democratic ideals. That is why I am so passionate to be running for the coveted African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Amb. Amina Mohamed

It is time for the African Union to provide leadership. Africans of all walks of life are looking up to it. I also strongly believe our continent is at a turning point, a defining moment, when we must drive an agenda that realises a common vision of integration, cooperation, collaboration and committed leadership. It is Africa’s time; we cannot afford to miss this golden opportunity to put it at the centre stage of world politics and economics while improving the lot of our people and countries.

We already have a sound blueprint going forward as envisaged in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – TThe Africa We Want.

This blueprint has a clear roadmap for implementation. One of the critical areas is achieving synergy of member States through collaboration among the eight regional economic groupings and AU’s strategic partners.

Africa’s markets must communicate with each other to harness trade and investment. Infrastructure deficit stands as an impediment towards this objective. We must secure seamless connectivity through people-to-people interactions, ICT and knowledge transfer throughout the Continent. Hard infrastructure development should also be reinforced by more intra-Africa rail, road, air and water linkages.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere once said: “Together, we the people of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states’. It is no longer tenable to keep talking of our great potential. It is time to make the African Continent; felt, heard and respected on the global scene. For this to happen, Africa must take greater responsibility of financing its development and programmes. Such has been the agreement by our Finance and Planning Ministers since March, 2015. Domestic resource mobilisation is the assured strategic complement to foreign investment and official development assistance. Focused leadership at the AUC will guarantee that this decision is fully implemented.

In order to increase the financial resources available internally, industrialisation and diversification remain pertinent. More specifically, we need to harness our blue economy and fast-track the mining industry.

Africa has to build the capacity of our youthful population. In 2015, African Youth aged 15 – 24 years accounted for 19 percent of the global youth poppulation and projected to increase by 42 percent by 2030. This is a demographic dividend to Africa’s prosperity. Women must also be fully enabled to play an inclusive role in all spheres of Africa’s development. Tapping into African talent will be the hallmark of my tenure. The collective success to Agenda 2063 lies in creating an indomitable human force to resolve Africa’s challenges.

Every African citizen deserves a life of dignity free from harm, in order to promote social justice and the realization of their potential. I am optimistic that together we can continue to create a Continent that not only embodies our pride and dignity, but also the hub for peace and stability.

Africa must also make its cultural diversity a cause for celebration. Cultural exchange across the continent through education, travel and symposia. This will renew our Pan-African ideals especially among younger Africans.

Our continent has made significant strides in expanding access to education and better health care. In order to shelter our population from extreme want, we ought to explore skills diversification and universal health coverage.

Investing in value-addition through agro-processing will increase Africa’s global market share and attain collective food security and comparative advantage.

Going forward, we must remain in partnership with the rest of the world. Global challenges such as climate change will only be resolved through cooperation. However, Africa remains most vulnerable from effects of global warming. As such, we need to; take serious mitigation and adaptation measures, utilise indigenous knowledge to generate local shared solutions and build resilient communities in addition to our continued demands for climate justice.

Thus, united by the vision of an independent Africa working for better lives of all her people, it is now time for the AUC to foster the realisation of Africa’s full potential through transformative leadership harnessed by the AUC Secretariat.

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Ending AIDS Needs Both Prevention and a Curehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/ending-aids-needs-both-prevention-and-a-cure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-aids-needs-both-prevention-and-a-cure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/ending-aids-needs-both-prevention-and-a-cure/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:13:43 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148030 A poster about stigma in a HIV testing lab in Uganda. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

A poster about stigma in a HIV testing lab in Uganda. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 1 2016 (IPS)

Eighteen million people, just slightly under half of the people living with HIV and AIDS globally, are now taking life-saving medication, but global efforts to end the disease still largely depend on prevention.

While efforts to expand antiretroviral treatment have been relatively successfully, prevention efforts have been more mixed.

With the help of treatment, mother to baby transmission has dropped significantly. Transmission between adults aged 30 and over has also dropped.

However, transmission rates among adolescents have risen, causing concern, particularly about the high number of new cases among young women between the ages of 15 to 24.

According to UNAIDS, a new report published last week, “shows that the ages between 15 and 24 years are an incredibly dangerous time for young women.”

The report included data from six studies in Southern Africa, which showed that “southern Africa girls aged between 15 and 19 years accounted for 90% of all new HIV infections among 10 to 19-year-olds.”

“Young women are facing a triple threat,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. “They are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing, and have poor adherence to treatment. The world is failing young women and we urgently need to do more.”

The report also noted the countries that have increased their domestic funding for HIV prevention, “including Namibia, which has committed to investing 30% of its HIV budget in preventing HIV among adults and children.”

“Of course we all hope that this is a bi-partisan consensus but the fact that we, the U.S. government, continue to pay directly for service delivery in some countries is a huge risk,” -- Amanda Glassman

Ensuring the continued and renewed domestic and international funding for both treatment and prevention was the subject of discussion at the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C. on Monday.

The event, held ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December, focused on a U.S. government initiative aimed at involving government finance departments, as well as health departments, in the HIV response.

Currently over 55 percent of the HIV response in low and middle-income countries comes from the governments of low and middle income countries.

However a significant amount of international support, roughly one third overall funding, comes from the U.S. government, which has made tackling HIV and AIDS a priority through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

However while U.S. funding for the HIV and AIDS response is considered bipartisan HIV and AIDS support, like any U.S. government program may change under Presidency of Donald Trump.

IPS spoke to Amanda Glassman, Vice President for Programs and Director of Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development after the event:

“Of course we all hope that this is a bi-partisan consensus but the fact that we, the U.S. government, continue to pay directly for service delivery in some countries is a huge risk,” she said. “On the one hand I think maybe it makes it harder to cut, but on the other hand if it does get cut it’s a disaster.”

Of the 18 million people currently on antiretroviral treatment globally, “4.5 million are receiving direct support,” from the U.S. while an additional 3.2 million are receiving indirect support through partner countries.

While there remains broad consensus over treatment, prevention efforts are considered more politically contentious.

Previous Republican administrations have supported abstinence programs, which studies have shown to be ineffective at preventing HIV transmission.

Glassman noted that while there is more political consensus over treatment programs “you need prevention really to finish this.”

However she noted one positive example from incoming Vice-President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana.

“(Pence) actually eliminated (needle exchange) programs and then saw HIV / AIDS go up and so he reversed his position, so I think that sounds good, he listens to evidence and action,” said Glassman.

However Pence’s record on women’s reproductive rights and his reported comments that in 2002 that condoms are too “modern” and “liberal”, may not bode well for overall prevention efforts, especially considering that addressing higher transmission rates among adolescent girls also requires addressing gender inequality and sexual violence. Update: In 2000, Pence’s campaign website also said that a US government HIV/AIDS program should direct resources “toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” a statement many have interpreted as support for gay-conversion therapy.

Reducing the high rates of transmission among adolescent girls will not be easy. It involves increasing girls economic independence as well as helping them to stay in school longer.

“It’s a discussion of investment in secondary school … so the discussion is bigger than health,” said U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Deborah Birx at the event.

This is one of the reasons why involving government finance departments is important.

However finding additional funds for both education and health in the “hardest hit countries” will not be easy, said Glassman.

“(These countries) are coming in with growth projections that are much lower, they have pretty low tax yields meaning that the amount that they get from their tax base is pretty low.”

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Debate Roils India Over Family Planning Methodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/debate-roils-india-over-family-planning-method/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=debate-roils-india-over-family-planning-method http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/debate-roils-india-over-family-planning-method/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 21:34:55 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148002 A family in New Delhi. Given India's high infant mortality rate, one of the highest in the world, many women are not keen on sterilisation since they feel that it shuts out their option of having children later if required. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A family in New Delhi. Given India's high infant mortality rate, one of the highest in the world, many women are not keen on sterilisation since they feel that it shuts out their option of having children later if required. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Nov 29 2016 (IPS)

The Indian government’s decision to make injectable contraceptives available to the public for free under the national family planning programme (FPP) has stirred debate about women’s choices in the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country.

The controversial contraceptive containing the drug Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DPMA) is currently being introduced at the primary and district level. It is delivered in the form of an injection and works by thickening the mucous in a woman’s cervix which stops sperm from reaching the egg, thereby preventing pregnancy. It is also much cheaper than other forms of contraceptives available across the country.

Injectables have been part of family planning programs in many countries for the last two decades. They have also been available in the private sector in India since the early 1990s though not through government outlets. Advocates of injectable contraceptives say that their inclusion in the government’s programme will now offer women more autonomy and choice while simultaneously whittling down the country’s disquieting maternal mortality rate (MMR).

Nearly five women die every hour in India from medical complications developed during childbirth, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly 45,000 mothers die due to causes related to childbirth every year in India, which accounts for 17 percent of such deaths globally, according to the global health body. The use of injectable contraceptives is also backed by the WHO, which has considered the overall quality of the drug with evidence along with the benefits of preventing unintended pregnancy.

However, Indian civil society seems splintered on the issue. Several bodies like the Population Foundation of India and Family Planning Association of India support the government’s move. The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), an apex body of gynaecologists and obstetrics in the country, is also supportive of their use based on scientific evidence.

However, women right activists have opposed the initiative as a part of the national programme. They point to a report by the country’s premier pharmaceutical body — Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) — which has noted that DPMA causes bone loss. The report emphasizes that the osteoporotic effects of the injection worsen the longer the drug is administered and may remain long after the injections are stopped, and may even be irreversible. The DTAB had advised that the drug should not be included in the FPP until discussed threadbare with the country’s leading gynaecologists.

Several health groups, women’s organizations and peoples’ networks have also issued a joint statement protesting the approval of the injectable contraceptive. As far back as 1986, Indian women’s groups had approached the Supreme Court regarding serious problems with injectable contraceptives. based on a study by the country’s premier medical research organization — the Indian Council of Medical Research

Advocates of women’s health and reproductive rights add that the contraceptive is harmful to women as it leads to menstrual irregularity, amenorrhea, and demineralization of bones as a result of its long term use. Users have also reported weight gain, headaches, dizziness, abdominal bloating as well as decreased sex drive, and loss of bone density. The latest evidence from Africa now shows that the risk of acquiring HIV infection enhances because the couple is less likely to use a condom or any other form of contraception to minimise infection.

However, experts iterate that the real issue isn’t just about women’s health but about a human rights-based approach to family planning.

“Why should we control women’s access to choice? Is it not time to re-examine the issue and initiate a fresh debate?’’ asks Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India, who has opposed the introduction of DMPA.

Others say that while they are all for enlarging the basket of choices for women, and empowering them, pushing invasive hormone-based technology upon them is hardly the way to go about it. Besides, with the incidents of arthritis and Vitamin D deficiency in India already worrisome, demineralization of bones caused by DPMA will make matters a lot worse.

The total Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) in India among married women is estimated at 54.8 percent with 48.2 percent women using modern methods. This is comparatively lower than neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka whose CPR stands at 65.6 percent, 61.2 percent and 68.4 percent, respectively.

In India, the primary method of family planning is female sterilization – at 65.7 percent, which is among the highest in the world. One of the key reasons for this is the limited availability of a wide range of contraceptive methods in the public health sector in the country, say family planning experts. Some fear that the new method might also result in poor women being used as guinea pigs for public healthcare.

“Women’s reproductive health has always been contentious and has had a fraught history, plagued by issues of ethics, consent, and the entrenched vested interests of global pharma companies and developed nations,” says Mukta Prabha, a volunteer with Women Power Connect, a pan-India women’s rights organization. “So we need to tread with caution on DPMA so that women can make informed choices and their health isn’t compromised.”

Indian women suffer from a host of problems associated with unwanted pregnancies from unsafe abortions to maternal mortality and life-long morbidity. The paucity of trained medical personnel in the public health system adds to their woes.. Besides, India has always had a troubled history of sterilisation. In 2014, over a dozen women died as the result of contaminated equipment in a sterilisation camp in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

The resulting media uproar pressured the government to re-examine its policies and its long-held dependence on sterilisation. But in 2015-16 again there were 110 deaths due to botched sterilisation procedures. Given the high infant mortality rate, many women are wary of sterilisation. They also feel it restricts their choice of having children later if required. Despite this, over 1.4 m Indian women were sterilised in 2014 as against 5,004 men.

Worse, the controversial DPMA — which is aimed only at women — isn’t gender sensitive either. What should be pushed instead, say women activists, is male sterilisation which is a far simpler and minimally invasive procedure which also minimizes health risks for women.

As Prabha puts it, “Indian men’s participation in family planning has always been dismal even though they’re the ones who determine the number of children a women has. The current debate is a good opportunity to involve the men in the exercise and set right the gender skew.”

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Selling Their Bodies for Fish and a Handful of Shillingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 19:44:53 +0000 Diana Wanyonyi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147985 People at Gasi Beach in Kwale County, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, wait for fishermen to buy the daily catch. Credit: Diana Wanyonyi/IPS

People at Gasi Beach in Kwale County, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, wait for fishermen to buy the daily catch. Credit: Diana Wanyonyi/IPS

By Diana Wanyonyi
KWALE, Kenya, Nov 28 2016 (IPS)

It’s Saturday morning and Hafsa Juma* is seated on a traditional mat known locally as a mkeka under the scorching sun outside her homestead, located near Gasi Beach on the Kenyan coast.

Clad in a traditional Swahili dress known as a dera, complemented by a mtandio wrapped around her head, Hafsa, 15, says she has been suffering from flu and headaches for more than a week. She hoped the hot sun might ease her chills and shivering, since her parents are unemployed and too poor to pay for a doctor visit."As much as I don’t like what I do, I'm forced to do it because we need to survive.” -- Asumpta, age 14

Hafsa is one of many girls who barter their bodies for fish and a little money at Gasi Beach on the Indian Ocean, in Kwale County. The oldest of three siblings, she is the breadwinner for her family.

Living near the beach, she is easy prey for male fishermen. She said started sex work two years ago.

“I completed standard eight [the final year of primary school] in 2014,” she said. “My parents are not well and that is why there is no food to eat at home. I’m forced to go and look for something small to bring home. I leave at around 8 p.m. and I come back to the house at around 12 a.m. Every night, I have one client. After he agrees to my demands, he gives me 200 shillings (about two dollars) and half a kilogramme of fish,” she said, avoiding eye contact.

Hafsa described being forced by her parents, especially her mother, to provide food for her family by offering sexual favours to male fishermen.

“I usually go to Gasi beach every day,” the teenager said. “In a month, if I work well, I get 5,000 Kenyan shillings (equivalent to 50 dollars) and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Walking with Hafsa along the shore of the Indian Ocean, our conversation is interrupted by a green wooden fishing boat with fishermen from the deep sea approaching the shore, where women, men and children with baskets eagerly wait to buy fresh fish from the fishermen coming in from the night catch.

Most of Hafsa’s clients are fishermen from the neighbouring country of Tanzania, who travel to Gasi once a year during the northeast monsoon winds and stay there for three months, from December to March, to fish and sell their catch.

After the monsoon season is over, and the foreign fishermen go back home, her clients are mostly motorcyclists who carry passengers, locally known as bodaboda.

“When I want to go to any given place away from home, I just board a motorcycle. When I’m almost at my destination, the bodaboda rider agrees to have sex for money. He gives me 100 shillings, and I also do the same with different bodaboda men to return home.”

Iddi Abdulrahman Juma is vice chairman of the Gasi Beach Management Unit, and a beneficiary of training from a non-governmental organisation known as Strengthening Community Partnership and Empowerment (SCOPE) that works to end commercial sexual exploitation of children in Kwale County. Juma blamed parents and guardians for making children vulnerable by sending them to buy fish at the beach.

“We’ve been seeing like 10 children coming here to the beach to buy fish, which is also dangerous. Some of them are already pregnant and others infected with deadly diseases. The age group of children who indulge in commercial sexual exploitation is between 12 and 17 years old,” he said.

Twenty kilometers from Gasi, in the Karanja area of Kwale County, 14-year-old Asumpta Pendo* sweeps out a thatched mud shanty. She says it is a mangwe — a place where palm wine known as mnazi (a traditional liquor) is sold.

Just like Hafsa, Asumpta also indulges in sex for money with clients, often drunk, just to put food on her family’s table. She is also forced by her mother to sell mnazi.

“I dropped out in class seven because my mother was unable to educate me and we live in poverty. Life is hard,” she said. “Most of my clients are palm wine drinkers. In a day, I usually get one or two clients. Some of them prefer to use condoms, while others refuse. They usually give me money — between a dollar and 12 dollars a night.

“If I refuse to sell palm wine to male customers here at home, my mother beats me and goes to the extent of denying me food. As much as I don’t like what I do, I’m forced to do it because we need to survive,” Assumpta said.

A 2009 baseline survey conducted by the End Child Prostitution in Kenya network, an umbrella of various civil society organisations, found 10,000 to 15,000 girls living in the coastal areas to be involved in child sex tourism.

To address this problem, SCOPE has partnered with the organization Terre des Hommes (TDH) from the Netherlands to implement a programme aimed at ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Kwale County and three sub-counties, Matunga, Msambweni and Lunga Lunga.

The strategy includes creating awareness among the general community and calling on local citizen constituencies to raise their voices against these abuses.

The coordinator of SCOPE’s End Commercial Sex programme, Emanuel Kahaso, said that the problem is serious in Kwale County, popular with tourists for its clean, sandy beaches.

“In 2006, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported that there were more than 50,000 children in Kenya who have engaged in sexual exploitation and 30,000 who are selling their bodies along the beaches in coastal Kenya,” he said.

“As an organisation, we also found out that more than 15,000 children here in the Kenyan south coast are used for commercial sex work in tourism,” he said. “Because of traditions and taboos, parents do not talk openly with their children about reproductive health and some of the perpetrators who are found guilty of the vice are not arrested because of these taboos.”

Emerging hotspots such as drug dens, nightclubs and discotheques, as well as an increase in bodaboda transport, have lured many children into commercial sex. According to local sources, in many instances, early marriage and commercial sex work have been initiated by parents, as well as child sex tourism and prostitution along the beach areas.

The problem is further exacerbated by the cultures and traditions of the local tribes, which are gender-biased and support various forms of sexual exploitation of children. Illiteracy is high, the economy is poor and laws to protect children are rarely enforced.

At Msambweni Referral County Hospital, Saumu Ramwendo, a community health worker for SCOPE, empowers and counsels young girls on health matters and fighting commercial sexual exploitation. The group has so far been able to reach 360 children who are the victims of sexual exploitation and 500 others considered at risk.

*Names have been changed to protect their identities.

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25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/25th-november-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=25th-november-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/25th-november-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women/#comments Fri, 25 Nov 2016 10:03:06 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147954

By Lakshmi Puri
NEW YORK, Nov 25 2016 (IPS)

Each year on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is commemorated. A commemoration in essence is an opportunity to reflect on the challenges, prove that progress can be made and celebrate victories. It is also a reminder of the obligations and the responsibility we all must own at both the private and the public level to ensure that every woman, every girl, in all corners of the world lives in a world free of violence and fear. They must be enabled to enjoy their most fundamental right to physical integrity and security.

The reality today is grim. In every country, in every city or village, in conflict zones and refugee camps, in health pandemics like HIV or Ebola and humanitarian crisis due to cyclones or earthquakes, one out of three women are beaten, abused, stalked, assaulted, tortured, raped, trafficked and sexually exploited, coerced into slavery or becoming drug mules, so called honour killed, burnt alive for dowry and sold or forced into child marriage. This means over a billion women and girls of all ages are affected.

Globally, 47 per cent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to less than 6 per cent of murders of men. Women represent 55 per cent of victims of forced labour and 98 per cent of the victims of sexual exploitation. Globally, an estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM/C in 30 countries and 700 million were married as children.

47 per cent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to less than 6 per cent of murders of men. Women represent 55 per cent of victims of forced labour and 98 per cent of the victims of sexual exploitation. Globally, an estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM/C in 30 countries and 700 million were married as children
The necessary global norms and standards to end violence against women have been set. We have the Agreed Conclusions of the CSW 57 which set out a global plan of action on the elimination of violence against women and girls (EVAW), building upon the CEDAW, Beijing Platform for Action, the international Declaration on EVAW, the Regional Conventions – Belen de Para and Istanbul Conventions for example.

But the paradigm shift came as part of the Gender Equality compact in the first ever, universal, comprehensive and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the United Nations last year. It declared EVAW as essential for the achievement of sustainable development and enshrined EVAW in all its forms as Sustainable Development Targets in SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, with linkages to other SDGs including SDG 16 on just and peaceful societies.

We know what the underlying causes of this very complex and pernicious phenomenon is. Harmful traditions, customs and cultural norms, gender stereotypes and inequality and patriarchal political, economic and social structures manifest themselves in this most egregious violation of women’s human rights. This in turn creates and perpetuates an environment of impunity for perpetrators. Men typically indulge in violence as an exercise of their inherent power, entitlement, superiority and a sense of ownership of women by them. This is the mirror image of the sense of vulnerability, fear, shame, helplessness, resignation and dependence felt by women and girls who are victims and survivors of such violence.

We now have insights on how we can change and demolish these structures that breed violence and despair for both women and their families and communities, hold them back from achieving their potential and leave them behind in every way. UN Women has worked with the international community to set out guidelines and tools for implementing the Four Ps of EVAW – Prevention, Protection, Prosecution of Perpetrators and access to justice for victims and survivors and Provision of critical services from helplines to one stop multi service crisis centers and long term rehabilitation and empowerment support.

Enactment of Laws, policies and special measures and their effective implementation including through targeted institutions and interventions by governments is vital. Movement building for mindset change and change in social norms by all sectors of society including the private sector, women’s organizations, youth, faith-based groups and men and boys is a necessary complement.

All of this of course requires investment – of political will, social capital and financial resources. And it’s worth it both from the perspective of the heavy human and material cost and hemorrhaging of resources violence against women continues to exact otherwise and the enormous social and economic benefits that ending violence brings with it.

Apart from the immense emotional and psychosocial cost of violence against women and girls, there are high economic costs. Beyond the direct medical and judicial costs, child and welfare support, violence against women takes a toll on household and national incomes and budgets and poverty reduction efforts. This is on account of lost opportunities for education, income, productivity and employment of affected women and girls. Annual costs of intimate partner violence alone were calculated at US$5.8 billion in the United States and US$1.16 billion in Canada. In developing countries these are several fold and underestimated.

In Australia, violence against women and children costs an estimated US$11.38 billion per year. Domestic violence alone costs approximately US$32.9 billion in England and Wales. Conservative estimates indicate that the cost of violence against women could amount to around two per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). This is equivalent to 1.5 trillion, approximately, the size of the economy of Canada. It should come as no surprise that domestic and intimate partner violence cause more deaths and entail much higher economic costs than homicides or civil wars.

Experience has shown that when women are free from violence and have the power to make their own choices, the chains of poverty can be broken, families and communities grow stronger, peaceful and secure, children are better protected and their chances of a better life becomes more viable, environmental awareness deepens, and opportunities for civic and political engagement based on inclusivity and socially constructive values are able to flourish. Thus allocating adequate and significantly increased resources to ending violence against women is not only a legal obligation and a moral imperative, but a sound investment too.

This is true for all communities on every continent. Despite this truth, in many parts of the globe women still face multiple forms of discrimination and remain undervalued and underutilized, violated and aggressed against. The resources dedicated to addressing the issue do not match the scale of the challenge let alone the scale and scope of the multiple benefits it will yield. It’s a global public good that must be delivered and invested in.

This is the theme of this year’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign and 16 days of Global Activism being kicked off on 25th November 2016 to end violence against women and girls around the world. Today we want stakeholders to put money where their conviction is but also where most benefit women and girls as well as to the whole of society and economy. They must heed our call for transformative investment in gender equality, women’s empowerment and EVAW projects so we are able to fulfill the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and truly build a future where no one is left behind.

With a focus on prevention, the UNiTE campaign last year involved over 450 events planned in more than 80 countries throughout the 16 Days of Activism in November and December. The UNiTE Campaign and its Orange Your Hood campaign was met with enthusiastic support from governments, civil society, media, and the public. Major monuments in several countries around the world were lit up orange to signal the widespread commitment to action to eliminate violence against women. The UNiTE and the 16 days of Activism reached 310 million people through social media in 2015—a tripling in comparison to the previous year.

While this represents a massive scale in terms of outreach and advocacy, today we want to translate this type of support into concrete commitments on investing in EVAW. Today we ask all stakeholders, to join forces with us and make use of the first-ever UN Framework for Preventing Violence against Women promoting a common understanding on preventing violence against women for the UN System, Member States of the UN, policymakers and other stakeholders.

UN Women has worked to develop a prevention toolkit for various sectors: media last year, the work place and sports sector in the coming year as well as Global a Guidance on Addressing School-Related Gender-Based Violence.

Today we want to encourage governments to place a stronger emphasis in improving national and regional capacities to collect internationally comparable prevalence data on violence against women in an ethical and methodological sound manner, according to available global standards. As UN Women has started to discuss a joint global programme with relevant UN agencies (UN Statistics Division, UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF) to build capacities of national actors to conduct these prevalence studies (and produce SDG target 5.2 indicators).

Today, we call on the international community to support UN-Women and other agencies and civil society work on the provision of essential services package for women and girls subject to violence. Through this programme, we are helping to develop global standards and guidelines, and tools for implementation, for quality service provision for survivors of violence, including domestic violence, across the health, police, justice and social services sectors. Another key initiative is the human rights- based safe city and safe public spaces programme aimed at preventing and responding to violence, including sexual violence against women and girls.

UN Women remains committed to drive a ‘conscience revolution’ thorough awareness raising and advocacy, to supporting changes in legal, political and social norms and their implementation, in building a solid data, evidence and policy based on what works in operationalizing transformative programs on the ground and in fostering strategic partnerships for movement building.

We need the international community to invest in our mission. We are the first generation in history with a real possibility to change the relations between men and women to create significant and lasting gender equality and end gender based violence. We are the first generation with a full understanding of the multiple and intersecting harm caused by violence against women and girls and their unacceptable cost – human and economic. We are also the first generation to have unprecedented and comprehensive political commitment and norms to develop the necessary strategies and tools and to have multi-stakeholder partnerships at our disposal to address this global pandemic.

We can and must be pioneers in demonstrating that violence against women and girls   – in homes, at work, in public spaces or even in the cyber world is not inevitable nor is the resulting harm, suffering and lost opportunity their inescapable destiny. We must ensure that all necessary resources are deployed and investments made to secure an Orange World and a Future free from the tyranny of violence against women and girls. This even as we must step it up for securing a Planet 50/50 latest by 2030.

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Let’s Unite to End Violence Against Women in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/lets-unite-to-end-violence-against-women-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-unite-to-end-violence-against-women-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/lets-unite-to-end-violence-against-women-in-kenya/#comments Fri, 25 Nov 2016 01:48:16 +0000 Sicily Kariuki2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147952 Mrs Sicily Kariuki, is the Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Youth and Public Service in the Government of Kenya, Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya and Stefano A. Dejak is the European Union Ambassador to Kenya.]]> Rally against violence to women in 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya

Rally against violence to women in 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya

By Sicily Kariuki, Siddharth Chatterjee and Stefano A. Dejak
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 2016 (IPS)

Consider this. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of Kenya, 4 out of every 10 Kenyan women undergo some form of violence, whether physical or sexual. This figure is staggering and should compel us to pause and reflect.

Today, on the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let us join together to say: enough is enough!

Gender Based Violence, including domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful practices, such as forced child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still endemic in Kenya, despite the existence of legislation, administrative directives, judicial sanctions, and awareness-raising efforts by a variety of agencies and the government.

It is time for every man to start doing something to end the scourge of violence against women and girls in their homes and communities. A call to action was made by the President of Kenya, HE Mr Uhuru Kenyatta when he urged every citizen to join the government’s efforts to end violence against women and girls during the #HeForShe (a solidarity movement for gender equality) launch in November 2014.

The #HeForShe campaign aims to bring home the message that although laws exist to deal with gender violence and guarantee gender equality, every man must take personal responsibility to root out the vice of gender discrimination in his home. Only then can a society begin to take a stand together to bring to an end injustice committed against women and girls, denying them basic human rights such as a life in dignity, choice and freedom.

Did you know that gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average US$ 95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014– or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth, according to UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report 2016.

Violence and discriminative structures contribute to keeping women out of the workforce, thus dragging down women, their families, and entire communities for generations, in Kenya and elsewhere. For Kenya to reach the goals enshrined in Vision 2030 the potential of all Kenyans, women and men, have to be realized.

Kenya is at a demographic transformation. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that Kenya’s working age population will grow to 73 percent by year 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment. (NCPD Policy Brief: Demographic dividend opportunities for Kenya, July 2014.)

For this to happen women have to join the work force. So improvements in health and nutrition status, especially of girls, women and children, is critical. Appropriate education and skills will enable them to participate in the economy and provide needed labor for its growth. In addition, studies have shown that girls’ education particularly secondary level, and empowerment will delay early marriage and slow adolescent fertility.

Cultural, social and economic barriers that hinder empowerment of girls and women must be addressed and we have to raise our voices to end the scourge of violence against women and girls.

Women are half of Kenya’s demographic dividend; if they are given the right tools and community support, they can not only become financially independent, but be the engines that fuel Kenya’s future growth.

So we need to continue to raise awareness – in Kenya, in the EU, and around the world – to provide information and raise awareness about violence against women, targeting the general public as well as professionals who can help change this situation: police officers, teachers, doctors, judges amongst others. And beyond raising awareness, Kenya has for the first time formulated a comprehensive framework encompassing practical interventions that we hope will drastically reduce cases of Gender-Based Violence.

We must, once and for all, say no to this clear violation of our fundamental rights. All women and girls should be able to lead a life free from fear and violence: in Kenya, in the European Union, and everywhere in the world.

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Violence Against Black Women in Brazil on the Rise, Despite Better Lawshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/violence-against-black-women-in-brazil-on-the-rise-despite-better-laws/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-against-black-women-in-brazil-on-the-rise-despite-better-laws http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/violence-against-black-women-in-brazil-on-the-rise-despite-better-laws/#comments Thu, 24 Nov 2016 21:38:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147943 A group of black women take part in Black Awareness Day celebrated on Nov. 20 in the city of São Paulo. Gender-related violence has increased, in particular among women of African descent in Brazil, despite the passage of better laws. Credit: Rovena Rosa/ Agência Brasil

A group of black women take part in Black Awareness Day celebrated on Nov. 20 in the city of São Paulo. Gender-related violence has increased, in particular among women of African descent in Brazil, despite the passage of better laws. Credit: Rovena Rosa/ Agência Brasil

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 24 2016 (IPS)

Four months in hospital and a number of operations saved the life of Maria da Penha Fernandes of Brazil, but the rifle shot left her paraplegic at the age of 37. When she returned home, her husband tried to electrocute her in the bathroom.

It eventually became clear that the author of the first attack, the shot in the back while she was sleeping one night in May 1983, had also been her husband, who claimed four thieves had broken in, tied him up, and shot her.

She left the family home protected by a court order that gave her custody over the couple’s three daughters, and launched, from her wheelchair, a 19-year battle in court to bring him to justice for the two murder attempts.“The Maria da Penha Law stipulates that first you have to file a complaint with the police, in order for it to reach the judicial authorities, and we know that the police don’t protect black women. The obstacle is racism, and if this is not recognised public policies will not be adjusted to meet the needs of black women. We have to face racism, train civil servants, police as well as administrators, to treat us as human beings.” -- Jurema Werneck

After his lawyers managed to overturn two convictions in Brazilian courts, she turned in the 1990s to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which in 2001 held the government of Brazil accountable for judicial tolerance of domestic violence in the case and recommended that it adopt more effective measures to combat violence against women.

Finally in 2002, the attempted murderer was sentenced to 10 years in prison. But he managed to walk free after just two years.

The main accomplishment of Da Penha, a bio-pharmacist in Fortaleza, capital of the northeast Brazilian state of Ceará, was to inspire a law that was named after her, adopted by the national Congress in 2006, against domestic violence.

However, gender-related murders continued to increase in Brazil, though at a slower rate.

From 1980 to 2006 the number of murdered women grew 7.6 per cent annually, while from 2006 to 2013 the rate dropped to 2.6 per cent, according to the Violence Map, produced by Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, Latin American Social Sciences Institute (Flacso) coordinator of studies on violence in Brazil.

The Maria da Penha law, special police units for women and other instruments “are effective against violence, but the resources are insufficient,” Clair Castilhos Coelho, executive secretary of the National Feminist Network of Health, Sexual and Reproductive Rights, told IPS.

But there is an important reality in this Latin American country of 205 million people: results differ depending on skin colour.

“For black women the situation has worsened,” Dr. Jurema Werneck, one of the coordinators of Criola, an NGO that promotes the rights of black women, told IPS.

In 10 years gender-based murders of black women increased 54.2 per cent, reaching 2,875 in 2013, while murders of white women dropped 9.8 per cent, from 1,747 in 2003 to 1,576 in 2013, according to the Violence Map.

“Racism lies beneath this contrast. Mechanisms to combat violence do not protect the life of everyone in the same way,” said Werneck.

“The Maria da Penha Law stipulates that first you have to file a complaint with the police, in order for it to reach the judicial authorities, and we know that the police don’t protect black women,” she added.

“The obstacle is racism, and if this is not recognised public policies will not be adjusted to meet the needs of black women. We have to face racism, train civil servants, police as well as administrators, to treat us as human beings,” she said.

Demonstrators call for full enforcement of the Maria da Penha Law against domestic violence in Brazil, 10 years after it was passed. One of the signs reads: ”When you remain silent, violence speaks louder.” Credit: Tony Winston/ Agência Brasília

Demonstrators call for full enforcement of the Maria da Penha Law against domestic violence in Brazil, 10 years after it was passed. One of the signs reads: ”When you remain silent, violence speaks louder.” Credit: Tony Winston/ Agência Brasília

A more effective application of the Maria da Penha Law would be to take the complaints directly to the offices of the public prosecutor and the ombudsperson, which would require a larger number of public prosecutors and public defenders rather than more police officers, said Werneck, who pointed out that this is already being done in some neighborhoods in the southern city of São Paulo.

It is also necessary to combat “institutionalised racism”, which permeates many law enforcement bodies, for example, and “to work together with society to value black women,” who have historically been marginalised in Brazil, she said.

Another accomplishment by women was the adoption in March 2015 of a law that establishes stricter sentences for femicide, defined as the murder of a woman due to gender-related motives.

Brazil thus became the 16th country in Latin America to adopt a law against femicide. According to the Violence Map, Brazil ranks 7th in the world with respect to the number of femicides: official figures indicated in 2015 that 15 women a day were the victims of gender-related killings.

However, violence against women includes other forms of aggression that affect the female population in their daily lives.

Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, kicks off 16 days of activism.

In Brazil, murders of men and boys represent 92 per cent of a total that is reaching 60,000 murders a year, a figure that only compares to the numbers seen in war-stricken areas.

But with regard to specific kinds of violence, such as physical, psychological and economic abuse, rape and abandonment, women tend to represent a majority of victims.

In 2014, a total of 147,691 women who had suffered some kind of violence were treated in Brazil’s Unified Health System, two times the number of men. That meant 405 women a day needed medical care because they were victims of violence.

The last National Health Survey, which is carried out by the Ministry of Health and the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute every five years, found that 2.4 million women were victims of physical aggression at the hands of someone that they knew, against 1.3 million men.

With regard to rape, the Brazilian Public Security Forum’s Annual Report registered 47,646 cases in Brazil, 6.7 per cent fewer than in the previous year. But the drop, which is based on documented cases, does not reflect a trend because experts believe that at least two-thirds, or up to 90 per cent of cases, go unreported.

”Violence against women may be increasing due to the new stronger role of women, who in the past were submissive in their homes and were used to suffering in silence. But with the old patterns broken, with women achieving rights, working, voting and reporting abuse, the oppressors respond with more violence,” said Castilhos.

There is also an increase in complaints as a result of gains achieved, such as the Maria da Penha and femicide laws and regulations that make reporting cases of abuse obligatory in the public health system, she said.

In her opinion, ”the greatest violence against a woman in the last few years in Brazil was the removal of former president Dilma Rousseff (Jan. 1, 2011 – Aug. 31, 2016), who had committed no proven crime to justify it, by a parliament where the majority of its members are accused of electoral crimes and corruption.”

The political environment generated by the new government headed by Michel Temer, Rousseff’s former vice president, ”paves the way for more violence against women, due to its misogynistic nature,” she said, pointing out that no ministry is headed by a woman and complaining about proposals to reverse previous progress made in empowering women.

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Speaking Out on Sexism and Violence Through Hip-Hophttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/speaking-out-on-sexism-and-violence-through-hip-hop/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=speaking-out-on-sexism-and-violence-through-hip-hop http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/speaking-out-on-sexism-and-violence-through-hip-hop/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2016 15:46:51 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147909 Johnna Artis, 20, first apprentice and Maria Fraguas Jover, 24, rehearsal director at the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory pictured at the United Nations. Credit: IPS UN Bureau / IPS.

Johnna Artis, 20, first apprentice and Maria Fraguas Jover, 24, rehearsal director at the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory pictured at the United Nations. Credit: IPS UN Bureau / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 23 2016 (IPS)

Young women are beginning to find their voices around issues such as sexism and violence, including through hip-hop, an art-form which has a long tradition of fighting oppression.

Johnna Artis, 20, a first apprentice of H+ the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory told IPS about how she has learnt to express herself and gained confidence through dance:

“Hip-hop has allowed me to realise that I can speak, and that my voice can be heard, and if my voice can’t be heard, my movements can be heard, so I have multiple ways to talk to people,” said Artis.

Growing up Artis says she felt that she often silenced her own voice, but she has become more confident to speak out, particularly she says, since she has learned that sharing her own experiences can help others.

“I’m talking more and I’m interacting more, so it’s a process, but I’m getting out of the silence,” she said.

Artis, originally from Brooklyn, New York, is one of 25 hip-hop dancers at the conservatory, who rehearse for four to six hours, six days a week.

“(Hip-hop) has been a voice for the oppressed always,” -- Maria Fraguas Jover

Artis’ teacher Maria Fraguas Jover, 24, Rehearsal Director at the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory told IPS that while female dancers like Artis are learning to express themselves through hip-hop this is not how it has always been.

“Hip-hop was created by men, dominated by men, just the way the world has been. It’s a patriarchal society, so really hip-hop is just a microcosm of that.”

“So for (Johnna) to have that voice and use that voice both verbally and physically also opens up for other women to have that voice too and to continue to evolve hip-hop culture,” said Jover.

Hip-hop has a long tradition of addressing oppression, although it has traditionally also been a largely male art-form.

“(Hip-hop) has been a voice for the oppressed always,” said Jover, including Caribbean immigrants in the U.S. and other Black Americans, only historically these have mostly been male voices.

By involving more women, the conservatory has been able to add sexism to the issues they address, added Jover.

“When you come to our performances that’s pretty much all we’re talking about: racism, sexism, misogyny, and we do it in entertaining ways too, to open up the conversation.”

“(Women) having a voice in hip-hop means that we can speak to men in hip-hop and tell them that we don’t feel safe, and you’re not a terrible person but this is what you need to do and it is in your power to change this.”

But she noted that it is not only up to women to address gender-based violence.

“Us having a voice does something, but the people who really do have the power to change their own oppressive powers and mentalities are men, so then that goes to men speaking to other men (too).”

Members of the conservatory attended a special event at UN headquarters ahead of the International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women which is celebrated on 25 November each year.

The event, organised by UN Women, focused on young people, who due to their age and often less independent economic status, are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence. This is in part because at this stage in their lives they are yet to learn to express themselves or to know what a healthy relationship should look like.

Safi Thomas, Artistic Director and founder of the Conservatory told IPS that adults often discourage young people from having a voice.

“We often silence them, through authority bias, through diminishing their words, by not listening to them, by not giving credence to their words,” he said.

This means he says, that young people can find it difficult to feel safe to speak out when they are experiencing violence “be it bullying, be it abuse, be it sexual assault, be it rape.”

As Artis describes, speaking out could mean simply being able to discuss different ideas about what a healthy relationship should look like.

“Having people talk about different relationships and how we can interact with people is very important because if we only know one thing we don’t know that there is something else possible,” explained Artis.

Finding a voice is particularly important for young women many of whom fear speaking out because society continues to blame victims rather than the perpetrators of sexual violence.

Although young women are increasingly speaking out against gender-based violence, progress is slow and in some cases, countries are still moving backwards.

This past week legislators in Turkey were considering a bill, which could see girls who are victims of rape forced to marry their rapists. The bill was knocked back following protests.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. men, and particularly young white men, are being radicalised in online discussion groups to hold both sexist and racist views, as observed by writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa on Twitter following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President.

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Nations Lose Bid to Block UN LGBTI Experthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/nations-lose-bid-to-block-un-lgbti-expert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nations-lose-bid-to-block-un-lgbti-expert http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/nations-lose-bid-to-block-un-lgbti-expert/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 21:29:41 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147892 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/nations-lose-bid-to-block-un-lgbti-expert/feed/ 0 How Do You Make a Region Visible?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/how-do-you-make-a-region-visible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-do-you-make-a-region-visible http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/how-do-you-make-a-region-visible/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 18:01:48 +0000 Inna Michaeli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147889 Feminists and activists in plenary at the 13th International AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. Credit Claudia Ferreira

Feminists and activists in plenary at the 13th International AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. Credit Claudia Ferreira

By Inna Michaeli
BERLIN, Nov 22 2016 (IPS)

One challenge we are facing is that we are invisible as a region, and the feminist movement is invisible, both inside and outside the region.” Natalia Karbowska, Board Chair of Ukrainian Women’s Fund said at a session on Eastern and South-East Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia: Getting (back) on global feminist map during the recent AWID Forum held in Bahia, Brazil from the 8th-11th September, 2016.

You might recognize your own region in the trends Natalia described: women’s organizations wrongly perceived as service providers, rather than drivers of advocacy and policies; gender mainstreaming shifting the focus and funds away from feminist movement-building; and, governments dismissing policies on gender because “there is a war in the country.”

Changing national formations, contested colonial histories and violent conflicts, and the vast ethnonational and cultural diversity, make it impossible to speak of Eastern Europe, North Caucasus, the Balkans, and Central Asia as one region. And yet, many voices in the session on Eastern and South-East Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia at the AWID Forum emphasised the need to work together and to develop unified messages around thematic areas.

The destructive role of Russia for civil society in the region came out strongly. Its draconian laws and repressive practices against NGOs are having a negative effect far beyond its borders. Irina Maslova – leader of the sex-workers’ movement Silver Rose, based in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia – could not have said that more clearly: “I am deeply ashamed that in my country, in my city, the law against ‘gay propaganda’ was passed. That the law criminalizing NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ was passed, and now it hits everyone, hits hard. It spreads throughout the region and incites repression of civil society, especially women’s organizations and the most marginalized.”

Highlight on Sex Workers and LGBT People

Sex workers in Russia and the region, explained Irina, “are either invisible or seen as criminals. The existing laws untie the hands of the police, of the state, of society, to steal, to attack, to kill us”.

Migrant sex workers are particularly vulnerable. In one of the criminal raids on brothels, Sandra, a young African sex worker, suffered extreme injuries. Silver Rose supported her through the long surgery and rehabilitation process and the struggle to file a police complaint. Transnational migration and associated vulnerability make a strong case for feminist cooperation across regions.

Danyar Orsek, Director of Kyrgyz Indigo, outlined the challenges for LGBT movements. “In some countries like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, there are laws against sodomy since Soviet times. In others, like Russia, they are passing new laws, like the one on gay propaganda. In Kazakhstan, transgender people need sterilization if they want a legal recognition, their gender in the passport”. Legal obstacles are enhanced by violence in the family and society, discrimination in universities and workplace.

A selection of activists marching for rights and justice at the 13th International AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. Photo credit Claudia Ferreira

A selection of activists marching for rights and justice at the 13th International AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. Photo credit Claudia Ferreira

Working Together, Working Regionally

While collaboration has a long way to go, there are positive examples to build on. Irina told with excitement about a great diversity of women coming to meet the CEDAW committee to tell the truth about Russia: “…women working on drug policy, women human rights defenders, women of Caucasus and even women from Ukraine came. We joined forces because we are joined by the desire to live, to live as women, as happy women.” As a result, Russia received strong recommendations, including to repeal the ‘gay propaganda’ law.

Natalia emphasised the importance of mobilizing people. “We had the bill on foreign agents in Ukraine and many people out on the streets, people who don’t know the term civil society, but they came and stopped it. A lot depends on us, and strong movement consists of strong organizations, and this is why it is important to have strong funds“.

“We are often so isolated in our problems. But when an activist is killed in Honduras - we need to react, to connect with them, to raise solidarity. This is how people start getting interested.” -
Lara Aharonian, Director of Women's Resource Center in Yerevan, Armenia
“This Region Isn’t Interesting for Funders”

Mariam Gagoshashvili, from Astraea: Lesbian Foundation for Justice shared from her experience. “I thought it is because of lack of knowledge of what’s happening in the region. But I understood that the funding that came in 1990s had a lot of geopolitical interests that are not there anymore.”

Natalia suggested to go “beyond women’s rights or human rights rhetoric and talk about policy and politics. Women’s rights and gender equality are also questions of national and regional security. And, we also lack data and stories from our country”.

There is a need to get creative on sustainability and alternative sources of funding: national and regional women’s funds, emigrants who maintain strong ties and commitment to the civil society.

Why Should Feminists Care?

So how do you get (back) on the feminist map? And why should feminists worldwide care about these parts of the world?

First, there are strong geopolitical reasons. Totalitarian trends and religious fundamentalisms currently on the rise will not stop at national borders. In Irina’s words, “Russia is looking to its imperialistic past, and tries to transmit its politics, its laws and practices onto the global level. It tries to call people back to the fascist past. We must speak about this, and speak loudly.” In such extremely repressive and increasingly isolated settings, cross-border solidarity becomes critical. “Support our voices, we are few, because it is frightening. We need this support to survive.“

Then, there is much to discover in learning from each other. “Together we are strong. This is why I am interested in other regions. We can exchange knowledge and experience, and there is much valuable experience in Central Asia we can share.”- Danyar.

Perhaps most importantly, to get on the feminist map, you can make the first step towards it. Lara Aharonian, Director of Women’s Resource Center in Yerevan, Armenia, reminded us that the best way to get people more interested in one’s region, might start with the genuine interest we take in others: “We are often so isolated in our problems. But when an activist is killed in Honduras – we need to react, to connect with them, to raise solidarity. This is how people start getting interested.” Certainly this insight can inspire us across regions and movements, whenever we feel invisible and marginalized in the global agenda. By reaching out and extending our solidarity to others, we embark on a journey of mutual recognition and solidarity.

The Eastern and South-East Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia: Getting (back) on global feminist map session took place at the 2016 AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. Read more reflections on ‘Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice’

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Children of the ‘Others’, Sons of Minor Godshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/children-of-the-others-sons-of-minor-gods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-of-the-others-sons-of-minor-gods http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/children-of-the-others-sons-of-minor-gods/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 14:23:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147885 UNICEF campaign on Zika response © UNICEF/UNI183007/Quintos

UNICEF campaign on Zika response © UNICEF/UNI183007/Quintos

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 22 2016 (IPS)

In December 1946, “faced with the reality of millions of children suffering daily deprivation in Europe after World War II,” the General Assembly of the United Nations created the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), to mount urgent relief programmes.

In keeping with the ethos of the United Nations, UNICEF’s mandate was—and still is, to provide aid “without discrimination due to race, creed, nationality, status or political belief.”

It is so that the sole condition made by Maurice Pate upon his appointment as the organisation’s first Executive Director was “that it include all children” from both Allied and “ex-enemy countries.”

Seventy years later, as Europe copes with a refugee crisis not seen since it was founded, the organisation remains an ever-present advocate for children’s rights, UNICEF reminds.

“It is uniquely positioned among humanitarian and development agencies to respond not only to the needs of children displaced by disaster and armed conflict, but also to work for a better future for all children.”

And in spite of the growing shortages of funds to the United Nations system at large, this New York-based organisation strives to alleviate the huge suffering of hundreds of millions of children trapped in wars, violence, abuse, exploitation, smuggling, sexual violations, trade of vital organs and death.

UNICEF believes that there is hope for every child. “The conviction that every child is born with the same inalienable right to a healthy, safe childhood is a constant threat through the history of the organisation. Its continued viability depends on applying past lessons learned to the challenges ahead, and harnessing the power of innovation to solve tomorrow’s problems. “

As envisioned by current executive director Anthony Lake, this will require a “willingness to adapt and find new ways to realise the rights and brighten the futures of the most disadvantaged children around the world.” “UNICEF understands that the spiral of poverty, disease and hunger stifles global development and leads to violations of children’s human rights.”

Children and adults fleeing from ISIL-controlled areas in rural Raqqa. More than 5,000 people have fled their homes over the past week to escape the fighting. © UNICEF/UN039551/Soulaiman

Children and adults fleeing from ISIL-controlled areas in rural Raqqa. More than 5,000 people have fled their homes over the past week to escape the fighting. © UNICEF/UN039551/Soulaiman

So far, so good. But not enough. Recent facts show the increasingly dramatic situation children face worldwide. UNICEF’s Statistics and Monitoring report mentioned in July this year, some key findings:

16,000 children die every day, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.

• The births of nearly 230 million children under age 5 worldwide (about one in three) have never been officially recorded, depriving them of their right to a name and nationality.

2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, including 946 million who are forced to resort to open defecation for lack of other options.

• Out of an estimated 35 million people living with HIV, over 2 million are 10 to 19 years old, and 56 per cent of them are girls.

• Globally, about one third of women aged 20 to 24 were child brides.

• Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence.

Nearly half of all deaths in children under age 5 are attributable to undernutrition. This translates into the unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year.

Marking this year’s UN Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, UNICEF Executive Director said “When we protect their rights, we are not only preventing their suffering. We are not only safeguarding their lives. We are protecting our common future.”

Iraq 2016: A girl looks out through a hole in a wall at a damaged school in Ramadi, in Anbar Governorate – which has been especially hard hit by conflict, violence and internal displacement. Some 3.3 million people in the country are currently displaced and over 10 million are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the country’s ongoing crisis. About 1 million school-aged Iraqi children are internally displaced; 70 per cent of them have missed an entire year of education. © UNICEF/UN/Khouzali

Iraq 2016: A girl looks out through a hole in a wall at a damaged school in Ramadi, in Anbar Governorate – which has been especially hard hit by conflict, violence and internal displacement. Some 3.3 million people in the country are currently displaced and over 10 million are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the country’s ongoing crisis. About 1 million school-aged Iraqi children are internally displaced; 70 per cent of them have missed an entire year of education. © UNICEF/UN/Khouzali

Established on 20 November 1954, UN Universal Children’s Day promotes international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.

20 November also marked the day in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty that changed the way children are viewed and treated as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.

Lake called on the world to confront the “uncomfortable truth” that around the planet, the rights of millions of children are being violated every day.

“[Children’s rights are] being violated around the world, in every country, wherever children are the victims of violence, abuse and exploitation, violated wherever they are deprived of an education.”

“[Their rights are violated] wherever they are denied the chance to make the most of their potential simply because of their race, their religion, their gender, their ethnic group, or because they are living with a disability,” he added.

Lake cautioned on the long-term impact of these violations in how children may view the world when they grow up and how they will perceive others’ rights when their own rights are violated.

“These children are the future leaders of their societies […] the future parents and protectors of the next generation.”

UNICEF’s total resources for the period 2014–2017 amount to 26,700.7 million dollars. Please consider that the world spends 1,7 trillion dollars a year on weapons.

In either case, these amounts come out of citizens’ pockets. Should they not choose whether their money should be spent to saving children or producing death machines that kill children, women and men?

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Rape as an Act of Genocide: From Rwanda to Iraqhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rape-as-an-act-of-genocide-from-rwanda-to-iraq/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rape-as-an-act-of-genocide-from-rwanda-to-iraq http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rape-as-an-act-of-genocide-from-rwanda-to-iraq/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 16:37:19 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147804 Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe.

Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe.

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

The governments of Rwanda and Iraq have agreed to work together to fight rape as a weapon of genocide, noting disturbing similarities between sexual violence in Iraq today to the Rwandan genocide twenty years ago.

Just as targeted rape was as much a tool of the Rwandan genocide as the machete, an estimated 3000 Iraqi Yazidis under ISIL’s captivity are currently facing acts of genocide and targeted sexual violence, including sexual slavery.

Given Rwanda’s experience with sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide, Iraq’s permanent mission to the UN has signed a joint communique, an official statement establishing a relationship, with Rwanda’s permanent mission to the UN.

The joint effort will be aimed at sharing action plans to rehabilitate women victims and reintegrate them into their communities.

Rwanda was the first country where rape was recognised as a weapon of genocide by an international court. This court case was the subject of a documentary, The Uncondemned, which recently premiered at the UN.

The documentary is centred around the case of Jean Paul Akayesu, the mayor of Taba in Rwanda between April 1993 and June 1994, who was brought before the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR).

Akayesu was found guilty of nine counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, including the landmark conviction of rape as an act of genocide, in 1998.

“I decided to shame the act, I decided to put it out there, I wanted the truth to be known, but most importantly I wanted justice." Rwandan Witness "JJ".

Prior to the film screening, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, described the importance of recognising rape as an act of genocide.

Bangura paid tribute to the Rwandan women who testified in the Akayesu trial as well as two Iraqi Yazidi women, one of whom is an ISIL rape survivor, present at the screening, and praised them for “giving other women the confidence to emerge from the shadows.”

A report to the UN human rights council has found that ISIL – also known as ISIS – has committed the crime of genocide against the Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish religious group.

“The film demonstrates that only when survivors and civil society come together and join forces with investigators, prosecutors and policy makers, that justice can be delivered in its fullest sense,” said Bangura.

“The silver lining in these encounters is the exceptional courage and resilience of the rape victims to overcome their traumatic experience…they defied traditions and taboos by standing and speaking up, despite the fear of stigma and rejection or retribution from perpetrators,” said Jeanne D’arc Byaje, the Charge d’Affaires to the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the UN.

Thousands of people were targeted with sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide, said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.

According to Byaje, in a span of 22 years since the genocide, Rwanda has “been able to reverse the deplorable situation by eliminating gender-based abuse and violence to increase the capacity of women and girls to protect themselves.”

Byaje called for “an international community that is a partner and not a bystander…and that is willing to work towards long-term efforts to promote unity and reconciliation.”

Iraq’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mohamed Ali Ahakim, similarly appealed to the international community for help with the dire situation faced by Yazidi, as well as other minorities, women and children currently under ISIL”s captivity.

“Young women and children have been specifically targeted by ISIL and are being systematically sold in slave markets sometimes for a dollar or a pack of cigarettes…this is a tragedy that has not been experienced before in any of Iraq’s diverse communities,” said Ahakim.

However, Ahakim said that the problem is not confined to the current situation – “it would be easy to work with a coalition of 65 countries to defeat ISIL militarily.”

“The main problem is what we are going to do next once we liberate Iraq and free the young women and children…I don’t have the ability to comprehend the difficulties that will be faced trying to infuse normality into these communities,” said Ahakim

From the testimonies given at the UN, after the film screening, by the Rwandan witnesses at the Akayesu trial and the Yazidi rape survivor, it is evident that justice is the most crucial component of any next-step action plans for survivors.

“I decided to shame the act, I decided to put it out there, I wanted the truth to be known, but most importantly I wanted justice…what happened to us was horrible but we are still here…and that is because of justice” said one Rwandan witness, known as “Witness JJ”.

Yazidi rape survivor of ISIL, 18 year old Lea Le, who escaped her captors by tying scarves together and using them to climb out of a window along with some friends, said that “we should not hide what happened, it is very important for justice to be carried out…it is unfair that survivors have to wait so long for justice.”

Asked about the impact of the Akayesu case on other war crimes trials, Ambassador Pierre R. Prosper, the lead prosecutor during the Akayesu trial, admitted that there have been some subsequent prosecutions as result of the international precedent set by Akayesu’s case.

However, “we have lost the momentum, the political will to deal with the issue of not just rape but other genocide atrocities in general…we are waving the flag of saying this is wrong but we are not acting,” said Prosper.

Prosper called for governments to direct resources to relevant entities to pursue accountability and ensure justice.

“We need to re-energise ourselves,” said Prosper.

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No Climate Justice without Gender Justice – the Marrakech Pacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/no-climate-justice-without-gender-justice-the-marrakech-pact/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 13:26:44 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147768 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women]]> Credit: Hari Gopal Gorkhali/IPS

Credit: Hari Gopal Gorkhali/IPS

By Lakshmi Puri
MARRAKESH, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

The historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change last year is a breakthrough commitment to respect, promote and consider gender equality and women’s empowerment obligations while taking climate change action. It also committed to gender-responsive adaptation and capacity building. A year later, with the Agreement entered into force on 4 November, vigorous efforts are being made at COP 22 in Marrakech to make sure that gender equality is systematically integrated into all aspects of the implementation of the Agreement.

Both gender equality and climate change champions around the globe are meeting here in Marrakesh to transform the climate change agenda into one that recognizes the rights, priorities and capacities of women and girls and harnesses their talent and leadership for effective climate proofing and response.

Yesterday, on 14 November 2016, Parties adopted a decision on gender and climate change which extends the 2014 Lima Work Programme on Gender. The decision is far-reaching in that, for the first time, climate decision-makers supported the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all areas of work of the Convention — mitigation, adaptation, finance, capacity-building, technology development and transfer, loss and damage. Now, it is incumbent upon Parties to register in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) commitments to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

A breakthrough in operationalizing gender-responsive climate policy and action was achieved, as the decision mandates the development of a gender action plan that will propose priority areas and concrete activities for gender-responsive climate action across the various work areas of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The decision also strengthens efforts to promote the participation of women in the UNFCCC process, including in bodies established under the Convention. It enhances accountability by requesting regular reporting from constituted bodies and financial mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) on how they are working to promote gender equality in their work.

The global agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and arrest global warming is about more than just tackling climate change. Of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),  SDG-13 “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” is closely linked to SDG-5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, recognizing gender equality both as a means and an end to effective climate action is a must. Moreover, the co-benefits of climate action and gender equality also positively and simultaneously address other SDGs – on poverty eradication, health, education, economic growth, sustainable energy, water and sanitation, full and productive employment and decent work, sustainable cities, just and peaceful societies, among others. For example, UN Women launched its Global Flagship Programme on Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy in partnership with the Government of India, the Department for International Development DFID of the UK and UNEP, which has a benefit multiplier effect. When linking efforts to achieve gender equality to climate action, we can effectively respond to the tragedy of climate change by helping to mitigate impacts and build resilient, inclusive societies.

Lakshmi PuriThe impacts of climate change range from health threats, resources constraints, loss of livelihoods, displacement, forced migration and conflicts, energy, income and time poverty and food insecurity to reduced access to infrastructure and essential services. They all have disproportionate impacts on women and girls. Climate change impacts also exacerbate the existing inequalities, discrimination, heavy burden of care and domestic work and violence that women face in their daily lives. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, the inadequate sanitary facilities and lighting in the overcrowded camps contributed to the high instances of night attacks on women. The hardship and suffering for women and girls walking millions of miles for endless of hours to fetch water, fuel and food in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia is unconscionable and has a high opportunity cost to them and to society and the economy.

Even without much support and validation, women have been on the front lines of adaptation and mitigation. They have been formidable climate change activists, working in families, communities and economies to fend off the effects of extreme weather events and build resilience. Women have pioneered inclusive and sustainable initiatives. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in Benin has been key in the fight against energy poverty while economically empowering women in their local communities.  It is an example of women led resilience building. Similarly, the leadership of CEO Ms. Wandee Khunchornyakong has allowed the Solar Power Company Group, Thailand’s largest solar power generation company, to successfully unlock private financing for photovoltaic capacity, provide clean energy jobs for women, and lead the country on a low-carbon growth path. Women are also demonstrating leadership in science, technology, and innovation, as well as developing and applying protective, resilient and adaptive technologies to deal with flooding, heat, water management and promoting local indigenous practices and traditional knowledge.

Yet, the consistent unequal participation of women and men in decision-making processes has meant rights and contributions of women are not adequately considered in disaster preparations and response plans, leading to further marginalization and greater risks. A 2015 study covering 881 environmental sector ministries from 193 countries found only 12 per cent of the ministers were women. Women account for only 20 to 25 per cent of the workforce in renewable energy. The low representation of women in positions of power and influence has been one of the factors for the slow progress in the formulation and implementation of gender-responsive climate policies and strategies. Gender-based discrimination in all its forms must be eliminated with the utmost urgency.

The successful implementation of the actions under the extended work programme will require significantly increased targeted resources. Although the GCF has promoted a gender-sensitive approach from the outset, the existing resources to finance climate actions rarely ensure access to climate finance for programmes that are led by or have women as beneficiaries. This must change and both GEF and GCF must provide transformative and significantly scaled up financing for specific programs that aim at gender and climate justice together.

UN Women has been working with Parties and other stakeholders to strengthen understanding and the systematic integration of a gender perspective in climate policies and actions. In doing so, it is crucial for Parties to set concrete goals and targets in order to ensure the full, equal and effective participation of women in climate policy making and programme implementation at national, regional and global levels.

A paradigm shift is happening. This represents an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the co-benefits between gender equality and climate action, putting gender equality considerations and the voice and agency of women and girls at the centre of all climate management efforts and investments. We will thereby leave no one behind and do justice to people, planet and the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

 

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Climate Change, A Goat Farmer’s Gainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:14:43 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147763 Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
KWAZULU NATAL PROVINCE, South Africa, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

Bongekile Ndimande’s family lost more 30 head of cattle to a ravaging drought last season, but a herd of goats survived and is now her bank on four legs.

In money value, the drought deprived Ndimande of more than 21,000 dollars. Each goat would be worth an average of 714 dollars if they had survived in the dry, hot and rocky environment in her village of Ncunjana in the KwaZulu Natal Province, which has been stalked by a drought that swept across Southern Africa.Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They're also easier for women to herd.

More than 40 million people are in need of food following one of the worst droughts ever in the region, with the Southern African Development Community launching a 2.8-billion-dollar emergency aid appeal.

Smallholder farmers in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province have shifted to goat production to adapt to climate change. Their fortitude could be a success story for African agriculture in need of transformation to produce more food to feed more people but with fewer resources.

Livestock farmers like Ndimande are making good of a bad situation. They need help to cope with worsening extreme weather events which have led to increased food, nutrition and income security in many parts of Africa.

Science, innovation and technology

Adapting agriculture to climate change and climate financing are pressing issues at the seminal 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 22) which opened this week in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. Morocco – already setting the pace in implementing the global deal to fight climate change through innovative projects – has unveiled the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA), a 30-billion-dollar initiative to transform and adapt African agriculture.

The transformation of the agricultural sectors in addressing climate change is essential to tackling hunger and poverty, José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, said in a message in the run-up to the COP 22 following the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4. Agricultural sectors are uniquely positioned to drive sustainable development through climate-smart sustainable agriculture approaches, da Silva emphasised.

Almost all African countries have included agriculture in their climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), highlighting the grave risk that climate change poses both to food security and economic growth on the continent, said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Science, innovation and technology will be at the core of adaption in African agriculture, he said.

According to the African Development Bank, 315 to 400 billion dollars will be needed in the next decade to implement the continent’s agricultural transformation agenda.

Harnessing technology is one of many solutions in addressing the impacts of climate change if smallholder farmers are to sustainably produce food, while rearing livestock. The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) – which has launched a regional project to improve farmer’s access to technologies to lift them out of hunger and poverty – has identified diversifying livestock-based livelihoods as one of four proven solutions that cereal and livestock farmers in Southern Africa can adopt to transit to climate-resilient agriculture.

Goat fortunes

Swapping cattle for goats has allowed Ndimande to grow her flock from 30 goats three years ago to 57 goats and 15 kids. Last year, she sold six goats at an average price of 67 dollars each and invested the proceeds in a new three-bedroom tile and brick house.

Ndimande is one of several farmers in KwaZulu Natal Province who, through training in goat management under a collaborative agribusiness and Community Animal Health Worker project, are helping transform livestock farming.

The Mdukatshani Rural Development Project is a 5-million-dollar partnership between the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Heifer International South Africa to double goat production by developing 7,000 female commercial farmers and creating over 600 jobs for the youth in KwaZulu Natal Province.

In addition, the project seeks to create 270 micro-businesses and generate 7.1 million dollars in revenue within five years.

“Goats have given me food and income because I am able to sell them within a short space of time unlike cattle,” Ndimande told IPS, explaining that better livestock management skills have improved her flock.

Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They’re also easier for women to herd, said Rauri Alcock, a director of the Mdukatshani Rural Development Project.

“Women are our priority attention because they are in charge in many households and are the vulnerable people we are trying to get to, so goats, women, global warming come together very well,” Alcock told IPS during a tour of agribusiness project organised jointly by CTA and the Southern Africa Confederation of Agriculture Unions (SACAU) for livestock farmers from across Southern Africa.

Alcock explains that Mdukatshani Rural Development Project’s main entry point has been helping farmers avoiding kids’ deaths in their flocks. Despite being productive, the high mortality of kids at weaning lowers productivity for a farmer to be able to start selling their goats.

“Goats are an adaptation strategy as we talk about climate change. We see that male farmers who have had cattle and lost them are now moving towards keeping goats because goats are actually more resilient and better animals for a harsh changing environment,” said Alcock.

Another farmer, Sikhumbuzo Ndawonde (46), a former steel factory worker in Johannesburg until he was retrenched, has supported his family through keeping goats even though he does not eat them.

“I never eat any goat meat but I love keeping them because I get good income from them besides being able to have a goat for traditional ceremonies. They are now my job,” said Ndawonde, who has a flock of 33 goats and sells at least 10 goats each year.

Climate change has winder implications for livestock keepers in Southern Africa but with management, this is a route to sustainable livelihoods, says Sikhalazo Dube, a livestock specialist and the Southern Africa regional Representative for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

“One of the challenges caused by elevated levels of carbon in the atmosphere is increase in the woody component of the vegetation. Goats as largely browsers are best suited to reduce bush encroachment and in the process benefit nutritionally,” said Dube, adding that in declining feed availability due to drought, keeping goats is ideal.

Small stock can be produced in small areas and require less feed, making them ideal for women and youth who are often landless or not supported to own land to use as an entry point for income generation and Small Medium Scale Enterprises, Dube said.

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Release of Chibok Girls Rekindles Pressure to Free Last 196http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/release-of-chibok-girls-rekindles-pressure-to-free-last-196/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=release-of-chibok-girls-rekindles-pressure-to-free-last-196 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/release-of-chibok-girls-rekindles-pressure-to-free-last-196/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2016 12:50:36 +0000 Ini Ekott http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147721 Hundreds of people gathered at Union Square in New York City in May 2014 to demand the release of some 230 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria. International pressure helped lead to the release of 23, but most remain in captivity. Credit: Michael Fleshman/cc by 2.0

Hundreds of people gathered at Union Square in New York City in May 2014 to demand the release of some 230 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria. International pressure helped lead to the release of 23, but most remain in captivity. Credit: Michael Fleshman/cc by 2.0

By Ini Ekott
ABUJA, Nov 11 2016 (IPS)

The Nigerian military announced the rescue of a missing Chibok schoolgirl Saturday, bringing to 23 the number freed since Boko Haram seized 219 girls from a secondary school in the country’s northeast in April 2014.

The latest rescue came about a month after the Islamist group released 21 girls in a deal with the government. Earlier in May, Amina Ali became the first amongst the missing girls to be rescued.Boko Haram has also abducted hundreds of men, women and children. But the abduction of the Chibok girls drew international attention, galvanized with the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

The releases riveted people around the world, and the government has flaunted them as political coups. But they have also rekindled demands from activists campaigning for greater government action for the release of nearly 200 girls still in captivity.

“It’s day 933 of abduction; 197 girls (are) still in captivity under your watch Mr. President @MBuhari. Time to bring them home,” Maureen Kabrik, a member of the BringBackOurGirls group, tweeted to President Muhammadu Buhari days after 21 of the girls were released early October.

The BringBackOurGirls group, set up to publicise the plight of the girls amidst international outrage in 2014, announced it would release on November 14 a report of a six-week monitoring of the government’s effort to rescue the girls.

The group accuses President Muhammadu Buhari of not doing enough to rescue the girls despite his electoral promise a year ago. Alongside other campaigners, the group has held protest marches in the capital Abuja for months.

Between August and September, it staged 78-hourly marches on the presidential villa and threatened to increase the pace to 48-hours in November. Now, it is promising to do even more to press for the girls’ release.

“Our obligation to demand (the) rescue of the rest 197 of our Chibok Girls is ever stronger,” said former Education Minister and World Bank executive Oby Ezekwesili, who co-founded the group.

Boko Haram, which has waged a seven-year insurgency aimed at carving out an Islamic caliphate in the northeast, seized more than 276 girls from their school in April 2014. The group opposes Western education and has killed over 20,000 people, among them teachers.

In September, U.S.-based 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and the Stefanus Foundation said in a report that 611 teachers died as a result of the crisis since 2009. The report said 19,000 teachers had been displaced, 1,500 schools closed down, and 950,000 children denied the opportunity of accessing education.

Boko Haram has also abducted hundreds of men, women and children. But the abduction of the Chibok girls drew international attention, galvanized with the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

President Buhari campaigned on the promise of fighting corruption, defeating Boko Haram and rescuing the Chibok girls. But rights campaigners have long criticised the administration’s pace at getting the girls home.

In September, under pressure from activists, the government released details of its attempt to swap the girls with Boko Haram fighters. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said talks began barely two months after President Buhari took office in May 2015.

He said the swap deal failed to go through at the last hour even after Buhari assented to the “difficult decision” of freeing the militants. The president believed that “the overall release of these girls remains paramount and sacrosanct,” Mohammed said.

An attempt to restart the process in December 2015 also failed, in part due to a leadership crisis in Boko Haram’s ranks.

Cold comfort

After 21 girls were released in October in a deal brokered by the Red Cross and the Swiss government, the Nigerian government assured that some 83 more would be freed “soon”. Presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu said talks had reached an advanced stage.

But as weeks passed by with the girls still in captivity, the demands have intensified, and the initial euphoria has gradually given way to disenchantment.

“It is cold comfort that 197 of the girls are still in the den of their abductors more than 900 days after,” the country’s Guardian newspaper said in an editorial on Nov. 1. “No one can be fully relieved of the terrible bruises inflicted on the girls, their parents, this nation and its foreign friends, until all the girls return.”

The BringBackOurGirls group said while there has been some improvement, the government still must do more to rescue all the girls.

Daily, the group circulates on social media figures reminding the government how long the girls have been in captivity, and how long they have been held under the Buhari presidency.

“Day 939 of #ChibokGirls‘ abduction. 196 still in captivity. Day 529 under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch,” it posted on Twitter on Nov. 7.

The government says it is not relenting. “Whatever it takes to get the Boko Haram situation under control, we will do it because there are still more girls in captivity,” Information Minister Mohammed said last week.

The government has also undertaken full responsibility for the girls rescued so far. “Aside from rescuing them, we are assuming the responsibility for their personal, educational and professional goals and ambitions in life,” President Buhari said while receiving the 21 girls. “These dear daughters of ours have seen the worst that the world has to offer.”

Experts warn that the girls face stigmatisation following their ordeal at the hands of Boko Haram.

“Frequently, returning to their families and communities is the beginning of a new ordeal for the girls, as the sexual violence they have suffered often results in stigmatization,” said a statement by the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

But the presidency denied the girls had been abused or raped during their during two-and-a-half years’ captivity.

On Wednesday, Thompson Reuters Foundation quoted a confidential report prepared based on interviews with the girls as saying that while they were all encouraged to marry the militants, they were neither forced into doing so or converting to Islam.

Reuters Foundation reported that 61 had married Boko Haram militants, while those of them who did not agree to marry were used as servants.

Security analysts have also warned about the possibility of the girls being indoctrinated.

“We are concerned by reports that dozens of the girls may have been indoctrinated and do not wish to return to Chibok,” said Cheta Nwanze of SBM Intelligence, which provides analysis of the Nigerian socio-political and economic situation. “We are optimistic the second batch of the release would provide more intelligence about the condition of the remaining girls.”

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High Voter Turnout at U.S. Elections a “Public Good”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/high-voter-turnout-at-u-s-elections-a-public-good/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=high-voter-turnout-at-u-s-elections-a-public-good http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/high-voter-turnout-at-u-s-elections-a-public-good/#comments Tue, 08 Nov 2016 20:17:48 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147684 Signs in East Harlem, New York, an area with a high Hispanic population ask voters not to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Signs in East Harlem, New York, an area with a high Hispanic population ask voters not to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
NEW YORK, Nov 8 2016 (IPS)

Long lines were reported throughout the country on Tuesday as U.S. voters headed to the polls in one of the most polarised elections in living memory.

Inline image 1In one voting location in Cincinnati, Ohio as many as 4000 people stood in a line over half a mile long waiting to vote, according to Twitter user Saahil Desai.

High voter turnout should be considered as a public good, Massimo Tommasoli Permanent Observer for International  Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) to the UN told IPS.

“In general, it is a public good to have a high level of participation because normally this is something that reflects higher levels of inclusion, it addresses typical exclusion, segmentation of a country,” although he noted that it is not always a priority for politicians who would rather focus on inspiring their own supporters to vote.

The closeness of the 2016 US Presidential election has sparked questions about electoral integrity and voter participation.

One way that electoral integrity can be assured is through international observation.

The 2016 US Presidential election is being observed by an international Election Observation Mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

“In general, it is a public good to have a high level of participation because normally this is something that reflects higher levels of inclusion" -- Massimo Tommasoli.

However, although the U.S. government invited the international observation mission, 13 U.S. states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia — explicitly forbid international observers.

One of these states, North Carolina – a so-called “swing state”, has been the subject of particular scrutiny in the days leading up to the election.

On Thursday 11 November, a federal judge issued a restraining order to stop state and county election boards in North Carolina from “mass purging” voters from its electoral rolls.

The mass purging had begun after electoral boards began illegally removing voters from the roll after a single letter from their home address was returned to sender.

The court challenge was bought by the North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People which said that: “en masse voter challenges in Beaufort County have disproportionately targeted African American voters, who comprise only 25.9 percent of the Beaufort County population, but account for more than 65 percent (91 of 138) of the challenges.”

“The NAACP is defending rights of all North Carolinians to participate in this election and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue,” said the Reverend William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP in a statement.

Considering that the U.S. Presidential election between Republican George Bush and Democrat Al Gore in the year 2000 was decided by a margin of only 537 votes in Bush’s favour in the State of Florida, even small changes in state election rules and regulations could potentially have a significant impact.

Another way that participation in US elections is limited is through voter ID laws.

“The issue of ID requirements is a highly political issue in the U.S.,” noted Tommasoli. The requirements are considered to “disenfranchise voters especially the poor or minorities that do not have … access to ID.”

Stricter voter ID laws are usually favoured by Republicans or conservatives, he said, noting that other elements of a working electoral system include voter registration and voter education.

Motivating young voters to vote for the first time is extremely important as this may determine their voting patterns for the rest of their lives:

“If you do not vote when you reach voting age it is highly unlikely that you will vote (later).”

Overall, Tommasoli said that “voter turnout in the U.S. is traditionally very low compared to other countries” but that Tuesday may bring a higher turnout than usual due to the polarisation of the election.

The United States Election Project predicted Monday that 135 million people would vote in the 2016 election, higher than the 2008 election when President Barack Obama was first elected.

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Canadian Indigenous Injustice: A Colonial Problem?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/canadian-indigenous-injustice-a-colonial-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=canadian-indigenous-injustice-a-colonial-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/canadian-indigenous-injustice-a-colonial-problem/#comments Sun, 06 Nov 2016 21:58:03 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147654 A traditional dancer at the Manito Ahbee Festival, a gathering that celebrates Indigenous culture and heritage to unify, educate and inspire. Credit: Travel Manitoba/cc by 2.0

A traditional dancer at the Manito Ahbee Festival, a gathering that celebrates Indigenous culture and heritage to unify, educate and inspire. Credit: Travel Manitoba/cc by 2.0

By Rose Delaney
LONDON, Nov 6 2016 (IPS)

The history of Canada’s indigenous population has been, for the most part, kept in the shadows.  According to leading expert on indigenous justice Lisa Monchalin, the consequences of colonialism and dispossession on native communities have been “glossed over”, unacknowledged and dismissed by the “settled” population.

At the launch of her new book “The Colonial Problem: An Indigenous Perspective on Crime and Injustice in Canada” earlier this month at University College London, Monchalin emphasised the impact colonial legacies have left on indigenous peoples in modern-day Canada.

During colonial times, she explained, the native population was compelled to become dependent on a foreign system which paid little heed to their own distinct culture and customs. European settlers suppressed the rights of the indigenous groups, rapidly establishing a European hierarchical structure which considered them nothing more than an “Indian problem”.

The colonial solution to the Indigenous “problem” was nothing short of deadly. As a direct result of European settlement, the native population became a vanishing race with an estimated 80 to 90 percent dying from diseases brought from Europe. In the 1700s, blankets infected with smallpox were distributed as a means of eradicating Indigenous peoples.

Those who did not die of disease were forcefully displaced. Many were pushed onto smaller parcels of land, obliged to culturally assimilate and abandon their traditions or left to die off in territories with few resources.

In many ways, Monchalin said, “colonisation can also be drawn back to the prevalence of violence against indigenous communities through the centuries, including acts of gender-based violence”.

Before colonisation, traditional native societies prided themselves on being matriarchal, honouring and valuing the “sacred” nature of women within their community. Women were granted a strong voice through positions of leadership and power and there was an equitable division of labor. “Acts of sexual violence were a rarity before European contact,” Monchalin said.

Under the European system of governance, native women were forcibly dispossessed of their agency. They could no longer be considered valiant leaders, rather, their colonisers wanted to enforce the message that they were little more than subordinates to the male members of the community. Under colonial rule, only men were accepted to speak on behalf of their communities.

The colonisers began to formulate the image of the native woman as an “exotic other”.  They referred to indigenous women as “squaws”, the female version of a savage. They described them as having “no human face, lustful and immoral”, Monchalin explained.

These ingrained colonial perspectives not only converted the native female identity into a sexualised commodity, it also led to the widespread sexual objectification of native women, with acts of sexual violence committed justified by the fact that these women were “human in form only”.

The subordination and oppression of native women rooted in colonial times is still prevalent today. Sexualized and romanticized constructions of the “erotic” indigenous women have resulted in widespread reports of sexual harassment and violations across the country.

“In Canada, 87 percent of indigenous women will experience physical violence in her lifetime. One in three of these women will be raped,” she said.

Indigenous women continue to be victimized by the persisting structures of a dehumanizing colonial system which stripped them of their agency and considered them “lesser being”. This came to the fore in 2014 when 1,181 cases of missing native women between 1980-2012 were made public. The crisis was largely dismissed and a truth inquiry only established last year. Police brutality conducted against indigenous women has also been reported across the country.

Many believe that the historical legacy of Euro-centric suppression contributes to the ongoing issues of injustice and inequality demonstrated towards indigenous peoples. In 1873, one of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) main objective was to address the “indigenous problem”, the goal being the “silent surrender” of the native people.

This led to the creation of “residential schools”, government-funded schools responsible for educating aboriginal children in Canada. The Canadian government developed a policy called “aggressive assimilation”. They believed that a church-run, industrial boarding school was the best way to prepare them for life in mainstream society and ultimately, abandon their “savage” traditions.

However, this government initiative took a turn for the worse. Native children were subjected to violence and abuse. Sexual abuse was found to reach epidemic levels within the schools and some children were even reported to have been used for “nutritional experiments”. After over a century of “state-sponsored violence”, the last residential school closed in 1996.

The need to suppress, silence and condemn a people based on their ethnicity has led to state-induced violence and mistreatment of native peoples by state authority to the present day. Systemic issues of racism and discrimination “legitimize” acts of police brutality and unjust incarceration of indigenous peoples. In fact, there’s a clear Indigenous overrepresentation in the Canadian prison system, with roughly 4.3 percent of the total population incarcerated.

The legacy of colonial injustice persists today for aboriginal peoples in Canada subjected to abuse, violence, and prejudice daily. Seven generations of residential school victims, deep-rooted female exploitation, state-induced violence, and unlawful incarceration, amongst a host of other atrocities, has led to a build-up of intergenerational trauma within indigenous communities across the country, she said.

However, Canada’s federal government has begun to address the widespread neglect and failed policies felt by past generations of indigenous people.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly declared his commitment to beginning a new prosperous relationship between Canada and its indigenous people. “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit,” he said at the assembly of First Nations in December 2015.

Canada plans to invest 8.4 billion dollars over five years, beginning in 2016–17, to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples and their communities and bring about transformational change.

“Through education, awareness raising and a willingness to confront and question the violent past, the people of Canada can finally celebrate Indigenous identity and ultimately, reconstruct their rich traditions that were forcibly broken down under colonialism,” Monchalin concluded.

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The Perils of Writing about Toilets in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-perils-of-writing-about-toilets-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-perils-of-writing-about-toilets-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/the-perils-of-writing-about-toilets-in-india/#comments Sun, 06 Nov 2016 03:02:38 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147650 Paul interviews Dalit women in Hamirpur - a district in Northern India. All of these women have been abandoned by their husbands who fled to escape drought. Credit: Stella Paul / IPS.

Paul interviews Dalit women in Hamirpur - a district in Northern India. All of these women have been abandoned by their husbands who fled to escape drought. Credit: Stella Paul / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
NEW YORK, Nov 6 2016 (IPS)

Journalist Stella Paul was midway through an interview about toilets when she found herself, and the women she was speaking to, under attack from four angry men.

“This man, he comes and he just grabs this woman by her hair and he starts dragging her on the ground and kicking her at the same time,” Paul told IPS.

She remembers thinking, “what is happening,” as another three men followed, beating the women, including Paul who was hit in the face.

“They are blindly just beating this woman.”

“Why? Because how dare you talk about getting a toilet when you are untouchable, you are Dalit.”

The attack took place while Paul – a 2016 recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award and IPS contributor – was researching a story about women forced into dual slavery in illegal mines in South-East, India.

The women Paul was interviewing had been forced to work unpaid in the mines, but were trying to escape, some of them were attending school, and they had now found out they were potentially going to have their own toilet under a government sanitation scheme.

“They employ the poorest of the people, and they bring in a lot of women that are from the untouchable section – Dalit – and the extremely marginalised classes in India.”

“It was revealed that the whole industry was illegal – no license taken from the government – and they were taking out iron ore and selling it to China.”

“The whole day they force them to work in the mine and at night they force themselves on these women, they force them to serve them sexually.”

“So it’s dual slavery, they don’t get paid, and they have to allow these men to sleep with them, and their daughters.”

Paul, who comes from North-Eastern India, travels her home country talking to some of the poorest people in India and unearthing stories of unbelievable exploitation and corruption in places where other journalists often think not to look.

She often spends her time listening to the stories of untouchables – people who other Indians don’t consider worthy of having opinions.

“When you are untouchables your life is no better than a dog’s life. Your job is to go there and defecate in the open, because that is how you have always done and that is how you will always do.”

“Honestly I don’t feel anybody will tell these stories of these women of dual slavery, of (the) little changes that they are making in the face of huge threats.”

“I don’t see these stories anywhere, I don’t think anybody will tell them and how can I not tell their stories? So that’s my choice to go there and tell it.”

But Paul believes that although her kind of journalism often comes with little recognition she is also constantly rewarded.

“Once you start going there, meeting these people you can never become a bitter cynical skeptical person who will look down on poor people,” she says.

Listening to these stories has helped her grow in empathy and become a better person, she says.

“That is the best bonus of being a journalist, that there is this huge growth potential, internal growth.”

Yet by listening to the disenfranchised, Paul often finds herself getting into trouble, as was the case when her interviews with the women about toilets uncovered local corruption.

Paul with forest women she interviewed in Anantagiri, Inida about solar energy. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS.

Paul with forest women she interviewed in Anantagiri, Inida about solar energy. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS.

“It was a positive story on how a section of these women are now coming out of (slavery).”

“I was there in a village and there was a group of women (telling me) they have started going to school … they are going to rebuild their lives.”

Yet by daring to talk about having their own toilets the women had stepped into dangerous territory.

The government of India had allotted funds to the state as part of an anti-defecation drive.

More than 500 million people in India, almost half of the total population, still defecate in the open. According to UNICEF open defecation is a serious threat to public health and an underlying reason why 188,000 children under five die from diarrhea every year in India.

“There is a lot of money that is coming in and these men, the local government, they are actually stealing this money,” said Paul.

This is why the women talking to Paul about toilets was met with violence.

After getting punched again while rescuing a girl she had asked to take photos for her, Paul marched straight to the office of a senior local official.

But the commissioner sat behind a transparent window clearly unoccupied while his receptionist told Paul he was too busy to see her.

Paul didn’t give up, returning the next day.

“We finally got to meet him, but what I wanted was not to complain about what happened to me but to interview him about … the sanitation project because I wanted to get my story first.” she said.

The commissioner pretended not to understand Paul’s English or Hindi.

“Finally he gave me one sentence and I could complete my story.”

Paul herself comes from a part of India officially designated as a “disturbed region.”

“My home province is in the North Eastern part of India, which borders China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.”

“The army has a special power act and under a law they are legally authorised to go and take special action against people there.”

“Therefore security forces (can go) to anybody’s home without a warrant at any time of the night or the day.”

“There is rampant gender violence there committed by the army.”

“Very few male reporters actually report that – it’s the women reporters who report these things.”

Paul says that even in apparently peaceful parts of India, gender violence “is rampant” and “women reporters are specifically targeted.”

“A guy reporter never has to worry about being touched inappropriately, groped, assaulted, molested or raped.”

She says that reporting on development issues like gender violence or gender inequality is difficult because a lot of people, including government officials, don’t believe these issues are important.

“Without these issues being solved there is no real progress, no real development so we have to report on them, but then there are people who believe that these issues do not matter which makes you feel very lonely.”

Paul herself almost did not survive childhood because she was born a girl. When she was 2 years old, and sick with diptheria, part of her family did not see it as worth treating her, because she was a girl. She survived because her mother fought to save her.

Preference for male sons has led to a ratio of 919 girls to every 1000 boys in India, according to the 2011 census.

Paul has gone on to write about infanticide for IPS.

Courage in journalism often focuses on reporting on war zones, but reporting on gender violence is also a form of war reporting, Chi Yvonne Leina, a journalist from Cameroon and Africa Lead at World Pulse told IPS.

“Violence against women is the longest most continuous and the most dangerous war we are having on earth.”

“Stories like what (Stella) tells – people don’t necessarily know until they dig through in the community,” said Leina.

But this digging can lead to negative reactions, says Leina.

“When you are attacking a culture, you are alone… when soldiers go to war they are going in numbers but when you as a reporter are in face of a culture coming against the culture alone, you are alone against a whole community.”

“Anything can happen and maybe you can disappear, where I come from journalists disappear, they don’t die they disappear.”

Paul has received threats both anonymous and to her face that she too will be made to disappear. While reporting on brick kilns using child labour in her home state a man grabbed her phone and threw it in the river.

“He said: ‘do you see that phone it didn’t take seconds to disappear in the river we make people disappear just like that,’ and then he was snapping his fingers,” Paul described.

Paul is one of three 2016 recipients of the Courage in Journalism Award, alongside Janine di Giovanni, Middle East Editor of Newsweek and Mabel Cáceres Editor-in-chief of El Búho Magazine.

The awards were presented at ceremonies held in New York and Los Angeles in late October. Reeyot Alemu, of Ethiopia the 2012 recipient of the award was also honoured at the ceremony – she was previously unable to attend after being jailed for 1963 days.

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