Inter Press ServiceGender Violence – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 26 Apr 2018 20:46:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Myanmar Unlikely to Resolve Rohingya Problem Without International Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:53:14 +0000 Trevor Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155462 Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

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Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

By Trevor Wilson
CANBERRA, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

The lead-up to the Australia-ASEAN Summit in Sydney on 16-18 March 2018 was characterised by widespread and well-publicised protests in Sydney against human rights abuses occurring in several ASEAN member countries – namely Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

These protests dominated pre-summit media coverage and likely surprised some ASEAN leaders who might not have expected such a public outcry. In some instances, the protests were accompanied by quite negative commentary in Australian media.

Trevor Wilson

As Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto head of government, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the Australia-ASEAN summit for Myanmar. This was her first official visit to Australia, although she had visited in late 2013 when she was a mere member of parliament, before her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a resounding victory in the November 2015 general elections.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was accorded the courtesy of a full state visit to Canberra. Yet throughout her visit, she faced constant criticism from the Australian public over her government’s handling of its Muslim minority group, the Rohingya.

Australians are naturally dismayed by the disastrous humanitarian circumstances confronting the Rohingya, large numbers of whom had fled to Bangladesh after heavy-handed military operations against them by the Myanmar Army in August and September 2017.

Both Australian government and non-government responses have led to additional humanitarian assistance flows from Australia to help relief efforts.

So far, this assistance is mainly going to Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh. This does not really get to the heart of the problem, which is ultimately for Myanmar to resolve.

The Rohingya question was reportedly raised in confidential sessions of the Australia-ASEAN Summit but was not mentioned in any official media coverage. In fact, Myanmar’s policy on the Rohingya remains in stalemate.

One important challenge for Suu Kyi is to demonstrate how her government would implement the policies she announced in her 19 September 2017 speech to the Myanmar nation. The world has yet to hear how her policies of inclusion and realising the peace dividend for all Myanmar’s people might be achieved in Rakhine State as a credible part of a compact involving the Rohingya.

Even if tangible and satisfactory outcomes will take time to achieve, Suu Kyi needs to articulate how any truly relevant action plan might be seriously pursued. The people of Myanmar and international donors alike are keen to know that a way forward is worth pursuing.

Any internal solution of the Rohingya issue in Myanmar will eventually need to address the vexed question of citizenship for the Rohingya. However, this seems to be more than Myanmar’s Buddhists can tolerate at the moment, obsessed as they are with any perceived threats to national sovereignty.

Even Aung San Suu Kyi may not have sufficient authority on her own to forge a new national consensus in Myanmar that means treating Rohingya more fairly, and she is still apparently reluctant to entrust finding a way forward to the United Nations.

But it is meaningless to hold her alone morally responsible or to single her out for not doing more when the Rohingya problem has been mismanaged by all concerned for so long.
Whatever transpires, Myanmar will probably not be able to fashion a solution to its Rohingya problem without additional direct international assistance, but any Myanmar government response to the Rohingya problem will be constrained by growing public hostility in the country towards the Muslim population.

There has been some press reporting that the Myanmar Government had decided to allow the United Nations access to the areas where the Rohingya were forced to leave, but UN access to Rakhine State is not confirmed.

A UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission has been waiting for permission to enter Myanmar since late 2017 in order to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

The issue of whether or not Australia should provide direct assistance to Myanmar will now need delicate consideration, free from any additional constraints from ASEAN. This is especially the case since achieving an ‘ASEAN consensus’ may not be feasible.

Australia has a strategic interest in having the Rohingya problem resolved on an enduring basis, but Australia does not necessarily have the clout to do this on its own.

It would require working more intensively to persuade all stakeholders to take the Annan Commission recommendations seriously, to establish a better and more transparent regional basis for cross-border migrant workers, and to ensure that those whose claims to refugee status can be verified are granted protection in countries like Australia, where Rohingya have proved to be excellent citizens.

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Excerpt:

Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

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The Nowhere People: Rohingyas in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nowhere-people-rohingyas-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155451 A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants. Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in […]

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Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants.

Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in the world at three million — have found shelter across vast swathes of Asia including in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh alone, who now face the onset of the monsoon season in flimsy shelters."As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis." --Dr. Ranjan Biswas

Demographers note that the Rohingyas’ displacement, while on a particularly dramatic scale, is illustrative of a larger global trend. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world is witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 22.5 million refugees, over half of them under 18, languishing in different parts of the world in search of a normal life.

Often referred to as the boat people – because they journey in packed boats to escape their homeland — around 40,000 Rohingyas have trickled into India over the past three years to cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Jammu where their population is the largest. Some had settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp that was set up in 2012 by a non-profit on a 150-odd square metre plot that it owns.

The camp’s occupants worked as daily wage labourers or were employed with private companies. A few even ran kirana (grocery) kiosks near the camp. Most of these refugees had landed in Delhi after failed stints in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh or Jammu (a northern Indian city), where they were repeatedly targeted by radical Hindu groups.

Nurudddin, 56, who lost all his belongings and papers in the Kalindi Kunj fire, told IPS that he has been living like a vagabond since he fled Myanmar with his wife and four children in 2016. “We left Myanmar to go to Bangladesh but we faced a lot of hardships there too. I couldn’t get a job, there was no proper food or accommodation. We arrived in Delhi last year with a lot of hope but so far things haven’t been going too well here either,” said the frail man with a grey beard.

Following the Kalindi Kunj fire, and public complaints about the government’s neglect of Rohingya camps, the Supreme Court intervened. On April 9, the apex court asked the Centre to file a comprehensive status report in four weeks on the civic amenities at two Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana, following allegations that basic facilities like drinking water and toilets were missing from these settlements.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Rohingyas told the court that the refugees were being subjected to discrimination with regard to basic amenities. However, this was refuted by Additional Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta who, appearing for the Centre said there was no discrimination against the Rohingyas. The court will again take up the matter on May 9.

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Rohingya issue entered mainstream public discourse last August when the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government abruptly asked the country’s 29 states to identify illegal immigrants for deportation –  including, the guidance said, Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar.

“As per available estimates there are around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country,” India’s junior home minister Kiren Rijiju then told Parliament: “The government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas.”

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre claimed that Rohingya refugees posed a “serious national security threat” and that their deportation was in the “larger interest” of the country. It also asked the court to “decline its interference” in the matter.

The Centre’s decision to deport the Rohingyas attracted domestic as well as global opprobrium. “It is both unprecedented and impractical,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told Scroll.in. “It is unprecedented because India has never been unwelcoming of refugees, let alone conducting such mass deportation,” she said. “And I would call it impractical because where would they [the Indian government] send these people? They have no passports and the Myanmar government is not going to accept them as legitimate citizens.”

Some critics also pointed out that the Rohingyas were being targeted by the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party government because they were Muslims, an allegation the Centre has refuted.

Parallels have also been drawn with refugees from other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have comfortably made India their home over the years. However, to keep a strict vigil against the Rohingyas’ influx, the Indian government has specially stationed 6,000 soldiers on the India-Bangladesh border.

Activists say that despite thousands of refugees and asylum seekers (204,600 in 2011 as per the Central government) already living in India, refugees’ rights are a grey area. An overarching feeling is that refugees pose a security threat and create demographic imbalances. A domestic legal framework to extend basic rights to refugees is also missing.

Since the government’s crackdown, Rohingya groups have been lobbying to thwart their deportation to their native land. In a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India titled Mohammed Salimullah vs Union of India (Writ Petition no. 793 of 2017), they have demanded that they be allowed to stay on in India.

However, the government has contented that the plea of the petitioner is untenable, on grounds that India is not a signatory to the UN Convention of 1951. The convention relates to the status of refugees, and the Protocol of 1967, under the principle of non-refoulement. This principle states that refugees will not be deported to a country where they face threat of persecution. The matter is now in the Supreme Court of India which is saddled with the onerous task of balancing national security with the human rights of the refugees.

However, as Shubha Goswami, a senior advocate with the High Court points out, while India may not have signed the refugee convention, it is still co-signatory to many other important international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the principle of non-refoulement, and it is legally binding that India provide for the Rohingyas.

There’s growing public opinion as well that the government should embrace and empower these hapless people.

“Rather than resent their presence, India should accept the Rohingyas as it has other migrants,” elaborates Dr. Ranjan Biswas, ex-professor sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis which will usher in peace and stability in the region.”

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Kidnapped, Abducted and Abandoned…http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kidnapped-abducted-abandoned http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 06:39:05 +0000 Geetika group http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155434 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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By Geetika Dang , Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Kidnappings and abductions have soared since 2001. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that their share in total crimes against women nearly doubled from 10% in 2001 to 19% in 2016. More striking is the fact that 11 women were kidnapped or abducted every day in Delhi in 2016. What these statistics do not reveal are brutal gang-rapes of kidnapped minors and women, multiple sales to husbands who treat them as animals, unwanted pregnancies, police inaction, and frequent abandonment with nowhere to go—not even to their maternal homes—because of the stigma of a being a “prostitute”.

Geetika Dang

An illustrative account from Mirror (23 August 2016) is not atypical. A 12-year-old girl went missing on 2 July 2006, in northeast Delhi and returned home after 10 years. After she was sold to a farmer for a paltry sum, she was forced to work all day in the fields, load heavy sacks of grain onto her back and trucks, and then at night she was raped by numerous men. Over a period of three years, she was sold nine times. At 15, she was sold and married to a drug addict and alcoholic from whom she had two children. After the husband’s death in 2011, she was tortured, forced to have sex with her brother-in-law and his friends, her children were taken away and she was thrown into the street.

A frequently cited fact that for every100 abductions of women aged 18-29 years, 66 were abducted for marriage, is at best a half-truth as it conceals how women are traded and treated as animals.

Our analysis with the data obtained from the NCRB, the Census, National Commission of Population and RBI unravels the factors that are responsible for the surge in kidnappings and abductions, especially since 2013 or post Nirbhaya.

While the incidence of kidnapping and abduction (per 1,000 women) surged 7.5 times in India over the period 2001-16, many states and Union Territories (UT) witnessed alarming spikes too. In Haryana, for example, it spiked 15 times, and in Assam 8.5 times. Delhi remained the worst with the highest incidence in both 2001 and 2016, and saw a surge of 5.8 times during this period.

Vani S. Kulkarni

An important finding of our analysis is that the higher the sex ratio (ratio of women to 1,000 men) in a state, the higher is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Available evidence suggests that women are often abducted from areas that have a surplus and sold in areas with a deficit. The more affluent a state, the more likely is this crime. The higher the ratio of rural/urban population, the lower is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women. This implies greater vulnerability of women in urban areas. As emphasised by Amartya Sen (2015) and others, the roots of crimes against women lie in the weak police and judiciary system, and callousness of society. An approximation to the ineffectiveness of the police and judiciary system is the conviction rate for all IPC crimes, which is extremely low, besides being a long drawn-out corrupt process. Yet it lowers the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Another is governance that we capture through which party ruled a state (BJP or its coalition, Congress or its coalition, and President’s rule, relative to regional parties). The difference may lie in whether they believe in gender equity, women’s autonomy and their protection. Accounting for all other factors, the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women are lowest in Congress or its coalition ruled states and highest in President ruled states. The latter presumably reflects a breakdown of the law and order system. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, 2013 on saw a surge, suggesting that over these years the incidence of this crime rose markedly. It is unclear why this surge persisted.

Raghav Gaiha

The IPC distinguishes between kidnapping (applies to minors) and abduction (applies to adults). Sections 359 to 369 of the Code have made kidnapping and abduction punishable with varying degree of severity according to the nature and gravity of the offence. For example, whoever maims any kidnapped minor in order that such minor may be employed or used for the purposes of begging, is punishable with imprisonment for life. Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person in order that such person may be murdered or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being murdered, is punishable with imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment up to ten years. The relentless rise in kidnappings and abduction, and subsequent abandonment of women, despite a plethora of legislation and amendments, tell a cruel tale of apathy towards them and abysmal enforcement machinery.

Published in the Sunday Guardian, 22nd April 2018

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 18:21:40 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155414 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A protest march in New Delhi against the rape a a child in Kathua. Credit: PTI

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

Grotesque and barbaric, is the only way to describe the rape and murder of an 8 year old child, in a country where women and girls are traditionally revered as Goddesses.

There have been numerous cases of rape across the country, however, the story of little Asifa, who was sedated, gang raped, tortured and then murdered in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir has haunted us all. While Asifa was killed in January 2018, the details of the case only grabbed national headlines in April, this was partly due to the heinous nature of the crime, and disturbing allegations that the child’s treatment, was the result of a concerted plan of action to drive out the nomadic Muslim community which her family belongs to.

Since then, the media in India has been awash with case after case of babies and girls being raped across India, with little to no action taking place to prevent this deluge of sexual assault and violence. From an 8-month old baby girl in Indore, to a 9-year in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, to a 10-year old girl in Chhattisgarh, to the rape of a 16-year old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh (allegedly by a leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ruling party), there is seemingly a new atrocious daily headline which exposes the rape and murder of yet another child.

All the while, elected officials have either been shockingly silent, or have spoken out too late, and some have even shown their active support for the accused perpetrators of such crimes.

Have we become so numbed in India, that such revelations no longer hold any shock value for us? Has the simple humanity of protecting our innocent and helpless children from harm, the most important duty of every adult in India, forsaken us?

Consider this. In 2016, over 19000 cases of rape were registered in India. In 2017, in India’s capital Delhi, an average of 5 rapes was reported every day.

In response, through an executive order and cabinet approval, the Indian government introduced the death penalty for those found guilty of the rape of a child under the age of 12.

Globally death sentences are coming to an end. It is my personal belief that the death penalty will have little or no effect, however heinous the crime is. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “when fighting a monster, be careful not to become a monster yourself”.

The issue that India is grappling with at present is an endemic, societal problem and no quick fixes are likely to solve it. Harsh penalties alone will not be a deterrent. As the malaise is systemic, so too should be the cure.

So here is a four-tier approach

Firstly, it is important to increase the reporting of rape and assault. Across the world rape is a generally underreported crime; this is all the more true in India. It is essential that women and children be educated on their rights on reporting of a violent act against them through an active social media campaign.

Secondly, it is absolutely vital that law enforcers are trained to react swiftly and with sensitivity to women and children who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. Sensitivity training and knowledge of the rights of women and children are another vital need and must be made mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Thirdly, punishments need to be exemplary and widely covered in the media. There must be a “shock and awe” campaign of zero tolerance of sex offenders and those who kill and violate women and children. Fast track courts must ensure that the law is surgical and unrelenting in pursuing and ensuring that such offenders face the full force of justice, regardless of their rank and station.

Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to ignite values and traditions that respect and nurture women and children. This can only be borne out of consensus in society. Awareness amongst men of the scope of this issue is critical. Men who turn a blind eye to such brutal acts in their own neighbourhoods, communities and families are just as culpable as those that perpetrate these acts. Action from courts and police will not suffice if the community remains defiantly opposed to change.

So the biggest question remains: how exactly to engage the entire populace to initiate a change in mindset? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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The Cover up Culture: Sexual Abuse & Harassment in the UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/cover-culture-sexual-abuse-harassment-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cover-culture-sexual-abuse-harassment-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/cover-culture-sexual-abuse-harassment-un/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 14:34:39 +0000 Peter A Gallo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155204 Peter A Gallo is a former investigator at the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)*

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In February 2018, the UN launched a 24-hour hotline for staff to report sexual harassment. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Peter A Gallo
NEW YORK, Apr 9 2018 (IPS)

Under-Secretary-General Jan Beagle recently spoke at an event at the International Peace Institute on the subject of ‘Combating Sexual Harassment in the United Nations.’ She spoke eloquently and coherently, but what she said, unfortunately, was largely an exercise in distraction and futility.

Beagle praised the UN as some sort of ‘trailblazer’ for actually having a sexual harassment policy for ten years, but the UN has only been drawn into the sexual harassment spotlight as a consequence of the ‘Harvey Weinstein effect’ so her admission that ‘much remains to be done’ has to be public confirmation that that policy has been ineffective.

It has been ineffective because the Department of Management – of which Beagle is now in charge – ensured that it would not be rigorously enforced, because the UN culture is one of adherence to the ‘Prime Directive’ which involves protecting the Organization from all criticism, regardless of the facts.

‘Sexual harassment’ encompasses a broad spectrum of offensive behaviour, from the inappropriate joke though more direct and offensive verbal harassment, to the unwelcome physical contact at the more serious end of the spectrum.

There, physical contact, combined with the requisite sexual intent element, constitutes a criminal offence – and that is the point at which the impotence and the hypocrisy of UN is most clearly seen, because Beagle’s Department is fiercely protective of the mechanisms used to protect those accused, and deny justice to victims.

In addressing sexual harassment, there is an inherent conflict in ST/SGB/2008/5 (and similar regulations in the funds and programs) in that the allegation is investigated by lay “investigators” hand-picked by the Program Manager, and the same policy also holds that managers and supervisors who fail to ensure that such complaints are addressed in a fair and impartial manner can themselves be sanctioned for their negligence.

There are, of course, no known cases of this actually ever being enforced; but thousands of cases where a “fact-finding panel” reached the finding most desirable for the Program Manager who appointed them. This is not a coincidence, this is the Prime Directive in practice; the rights of victims are of less importance than telling the boss just what he wants to hear.

One of the Secretary-General’s initiatives has been the recent announcement that sexual harassment investigations would henceforth be handled by OIOS. This, sadly, is no improvement.

Criticisms of ‘fact-finding panels’ pale into insignificance compared to the Organization’s wilful blindness to the complaints of corruption and other unethical conduct within OIOS. Gross incompetence and prejudice on the part of investigators is not only common, but those responsible are invariably protected for their unprofessionalism.

Indeed, the last time OIOS conducted a sexual harassment investigation – the Sirohi case – it was so badly mismanaged that OHRM had to settle the case at the last minute and keep the UNDT from ever being published in an attempt to keep the facts hidden. UN staff members can take comfort in knowing that all the investigators involved in that travesty have since been promoted, so they can now make a mess of many more sexual harassment investigations being directed to OIOS.

The UN is now claiming that they are listening to victims, praising the Secretary-General’s leadership, when in reality, his contributions amount to little more than sound bites.

The Organization is fiercely protective of a burden of proof that is not only difficult to meet, but – as the recent UNAIDS case demonstrates – also puts the decision-making responsibility in the hands of senior officials who have more interest in protecting the perpetrator than any notional concept of “justice” for the victim.

Indeed, the UN “legal system” makes it extraordinarily difficult for victims to challenge the decision not to discipline their assailants.

Complainants in the UN are troublemakers, and the ‘whistleblower protection’ rules are little more than a joke, so any staff member who reports serious misconduct risks their own career by doing so.

The road to promotion in the UN allows no tolerance for anything other than unconditional submission to the Organization and unthinking obedience to what is deemed to be the proper procedure, regardless of the consequences. Criticism of the UN, including acknowledging that a problem exists, is heresy.

As a result, consciously or otherwise, promotion boards ensure that anyone perceived to think or express themselves in an irregular – and hence possibly seditious – manner will be weeded out, so while geographical (and therefore cultural and ethnic) diversity is mandated in its founding charter, the UN culture is one of blind loyalty to the “groupthink” doctrine, and any committee comprised of senior UN officials, regardless of their ethnicity, can be expected to demonstrate very low levels of cognitive diversity.

Of course, even to admit that any UN policy has actually failed is to violate the ‘Prime Directive’ so it will not be done.

The sexual harassment problem cannot be addressed by the same people, using the same thought processes, as were formerly blind to the fact a problem even existed.

The corporate culture in the UN has created the sexual harassment problem, and is incapable of resolving it. Having created an environment pre-disposed towards protecting those the Organization wishes to protect, the most that can be expected from the Secretary-General’s lip service to this issue is a temporary ‘Hawthorne effect.’

It is not the rules or the policies or even the procedures that are at fault as much as the culture of the UN officials who cling to the fallacious belief that misconduct can be addressed without holding the perpetrators accountable.

The UN cannot police itself, and at the end of the day cannot protect its own female employees from sexual assault. One need look no further than the farcical handling of the Loures investigation by UNAIDS.

The solution is not just another policy, another committee or another co-ordinator, nothing short of a completely independent investigative body will suffice.

*The author is a former UN staff member who, as an OIOS investigator, suffered retaliation over a two year period as a consequence of a having made a misconduct complaint against senior OIOS officials who impugned his competence but denied him any explanations of what he was alleged to have done wrong. He says he was refused ‘protection against retaliation’ by the Ethics Office twice, had six applications to the UNDT dismissed on legal technicalities. Since separating from the UN he has been an outspoken critic of the corruption in the Organization, has been quoted in newspapers worldwide, invited to speak on television, and appeared as a witness before a US Congressional Committee. The Department of Management, he complains, is still unable and unwilling to answer the questions he asked about what he is alleged to have done that constituted a ‘performance shortcoming.’

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Excerpt:

Peter A Gallo is a former investigator at the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)*

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India Cracks Down on Human Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/india-cracks-human-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-cracks-human-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/india-cracks-human-trafficking/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 11:22:21 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155162 The Indian Union Cabinet has cleared the long-awaited Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, which proposes an imprisonment of 10 years to life term for those trafficking humans for the purpose of begging, marriage, prostitution or labour, among others. The bill will become a law once cleared by both houses of Parliament. In a […]

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The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

The Indian Union Cabinet has cleared the long-awaited Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, which proposes an imprisonment of 10 years to life term for those trafficking humans for the purpose of begging, marriage, prostitution or labour, among others. The bill will become a law once cleared by both houses of Parliament.

In a pioneering move, the ambit of the proposed legislation transcends mere punitive action to encompass rehabilitation as well. It provides for immediate protection of rescued victims entitling them to interim relief within 30 days. There are specific clauses to address the victims’ physical and mental trauma, education, skill development, health care as well as legal aid and safe accommodation."If implemented, the law could have far-reaching benefits, like curbing the underground labour industry and ensuring that fair wages are paid." --High Court advocate Aarti Kukreja

The National Investigation Agency, the country’s premier body combating terror, will perform the task of national anti-trafficking bureau. A Rehabilitation Fund is also being created to provide relief to the affected irrespective of criminal proceedings initiated against the accused or the outcome thereof.

“It’s a victory of the 1.2 million people who participated in 11,000 km long Bharat Yatra (India March) for this demand,” Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said in a statement, referring to a month-long march he organised last year.

According to global surveys, human trafficking is the third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. The Australia-based human rights group The Walk Free Foundation’s 2016 Global Slavery Index points out that at a whopping 18.35 million, India leads the global tally for adults and children trapped in modern slavery.

Thousands of women and children are trafficked within India as well as well as neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh. Some are enticed from villages and towns with false promises of gainful employment in the cities, while a large number of them are forcefully abducted by traffickers.

As trafficking is a highly organized crime involving interstate gangs, the bill proposes a district-level “anti-trafficking unit” with an “anti-trafficking police officer”, and a designated sessions court for speedy trials. The Bill also divides various offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”. The former category of crimes carries a jail term of seven to 10 years while the latter can put the offenders in the clink for at least 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

Also, aggravated offences would include trafficking for the purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage. The draft bill also moots three years in jail for abetting, promoting and assisting trafficking.

There is also a provision for a time-bound trial and repatriation of victims — within a period of one year from the time the crime is taken into cognisance.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 8,100 cases of trafficking were recorded in India in 2016 with 23,000 trafficking victims being rescued last year. However, experts say the figures fail to reflect the true magnitude of the crime. The actual figures, say activists, could be much higher as many victims do not register cases with the police for lack of legal knowledge or due to fear from traffickers.

India’s West Bengal state – which shares a porous border with poorer neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal and is a known human trafficking hub – registered more than one-third of the total number of victims in 2016. Victims were also trafficked for domestic servitude, forced marriage, begging, drug peddling and the removal of their organs, the NCRB figures showed.

Worsening the crisis are the growing demands of a burgeoning services industry in India which recruit the abducted without a system of proper vetting, say experts. This practise is directly responsible for the spiralling number of human trafficking cases reported in India. It is here that the new proposed law can go a long way in combating human trafficking.

“If implemented, the law could have far-reaching benefits, like curbing the underground labour industry and ensuring that fair wages are paid,” says High Court advocate Aarti Kukreja.

The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world, compared to 35.8 million in 2014, a concern that affects large swathes of South Asia. But significantly, there is no specific law so far to deal with this crime. Experts hope the proposed legislation will make India a pioneer in formulating a comprehensive legislation to combat the trafficking menace.

Currently, trafficking in India is covered by loophole-ridden laws that enables miscreants to give the law a slip. According to New Delhi-based social activist Vrinda Thakur, the new initiative’s comprehensive nature will help tackle trafficking more effectively.

“All previous legislation dealing with human trafficking treated traffickers as well as the trafficked as criminals. This was bizarre. It prevented the victims from coming forward to report the crime. However, as per the proposed new law, the first of its kind in India, victims will be offered assistance and protection,” elaborates Thakur.

As part of the government’s larger mission to control trafficking, some measures are already underway. An online platform has been created to trace missing children and bilateral anti-human trafficking pacts have been signed with Bangladesh and Bahrain. The government is also working with charities and non-profits to train law enforcement officers. The proposed new law will act as a force multiplier to take these efforts further.

Kukreja elaborates that the Bill has an in-built mechanism to eschew antiquated and bureaucratic legislature that currently bedevils law enforcement in India.

“It will unify existing laws, prioritise survivors’ needs and provide for special courts to expedite cases,” she says.

By whittling down human trafficking in South Asia and deterring traffickers with high penalties, labour practices will decline, giving abducted women and children the chance to better their future, contributing to the country’s economic and social development.

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El Salvador’s Shameful Treatment of Women Who Miscarryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/el-salvadors-shameful-treatment-women-miscarry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=el-salvadors-shameful-treatment-women-miscarry http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/el-salvadors-shameful-treatment-women-miscarry/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 13:06:24 +0000 Jeannette Urquilla http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155057 Jeannette Urquilla is executive director of Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz (ORMUSA), the Salvadoran partner of Donor Direct Action, an international women's group.

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A low middle-income country with half the population below the age of 25, El Salvador suffers from high socioeconomic and gender inequity. Credit: UNFPA

By Jeannette Urquilla
SAN SALVADOR, Mar 28 2018 (IPS)

Mayra Veronica Figueroa Marroquin (34) was released from prison earlier this month after serving time for what she argued was a miscarriage. Her sentence was reduced from 30 years to the 15 years she had already spent behind bars.

At age 19, she had been working as a housekeeper in 2003 when she was raped and subsequently suffered a miscarriage. She was convicted under El Salvador’s abortion ban – one of the most extreme in the world.

Figueroa Marroquin is the second woman this year to have been freed from jail under such circumstances. Last month Teodora del Carmen Vasquez was also released 11 years into her 30 year sentence for what she stated was a stillbirth. Del Carmen Vasquez was waiting at the gates to meet the other woman this week.

Since 1998 under Article 133 of our Penal Code abortion has been completely illegal in El Salvador in all circumstances. Women have been sentenced to up to eight years in more typical cases, but if a judge decides that the abortion was in fact an “aggravated homicide” then a much higher sentence – up to 50 years – is passed down. And when a miscarriage takes place a woman is often at severe risk of being charged with this.

Pregnant women are often abandoned by the country’s public hospitals and are often at severe risk of being arrested following a miscarriage. More often than not these women are also from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, which makes it difficult for them to pay for private medical care.

This means that instead of getting proper treatment if anything goes wrong during pregnancy they either do nothing at all and hope for the best – or they turn to unofficial covert channels, thereby putting themselves in serious physical danger.

The Alliance for Women’s Health and Life previously reported that, between 2000 and 2014, 147 women from El Salvador were charged with abortion-related crimes. This year the Citizens’ Association for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, of which my organization ORMUSA is a member, found that there are still 24 women in prison for what have been categorized as “homicidal” abortions. These women were all convicted in similar scenarios to the two that were released this year and many have already sent many years behind bars.

Not only do we need to ensure that these women are all released but also that the law on abortion is urgently changed. The Ministry of Health estimates that almost 20,000 abortions took place from 2005 to 2008. Regardless of whether abortion is legal or illegal it still takes place.

The only difference is the level of women’s safety who undergo the procedure. The WHO confirms that 68,000 women die every year because of illegal and unsafe abortions. It is likely that a significant number of these deaths can be prevented.

El Salvador is one of only four countries in Latin America which bans abortion in all instances – including after rape and when a mother’s health is at risk. It is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman.

We have the highest rate of femicide globally – 15.9 homicides for every 100,000 women. Between 2010 and 2017 we found that 3,138 women were murdered. This is not a country where the basic human rights of women are held in high regard.

We are hopeful though that things may be starting to change. The Supreme Court’s decision to free these two women is encouraging. Last year the United Nations also urged El Salvador to review the discriminatory and harmful abortion law – at least in instances of any risk to the life and health of the pregnant woman, after rape, incest or where there is severe fetal impairment.

We are still waiting to see if a 2016 parliamentary bill on reproductive rights will be debated and passed – a proposed reform of Article 133. In this bill abortion would be decriminalized in the following instances: after rape, statutory rape, or when the woman has been trafficked; where the fetus is likely to die, or when the pregnant woman’s life is put at risk.

Despite having many allies such as the Ministry of Health as well as parliamentarians, resistance by many religious groups and politicians means that we still have a long way to go.

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Excerpt:

Jeannette Urquilla is executive director of Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz (ORMUSA), the Salvadoran partner of Donor Direct Action, an international women's group.

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A Pledge for Parityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/a-pledge-for-parity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-pledge-for-parity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/a-pledge-for-parity/#respond Wed, 21 Mar 2018 22:23:11 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154943 With March marking Women’s History Month, the debate over gender-based discrimination couldn’t have reached its new peak at a more critical time. Speaking on International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Around the world, women and girls are calling out the abusive behavior and discriminatory attitudes they face everywhere and all the time. They […]

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At least 1,000 people marched in Rio de Janeiro on March 15 to protest the targeted assassination of 38-year-old political activist Marielle Franco. Credit: Mídia Ninja

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 21 2018 (IPS)

With March marking Women’s History Month, the debate over gender-based discrimination couldn’t have reached its new peak at a more critical time.

Speaking on International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Around the world, women and girls are calling out the abusive behavior and discriminatory attitudes they face everywhere and all the time. They are insisting on lasting change. This is what women and girls want. And that is what I want. And it is what every sensible man and boy should want.

“There is no better path to a more peaceful and prosperous world than the empowerment of women and girls. […] As we still live in a male-dominated world with male-dominated culture, and until power is fairly shared, the world will remain out of balance. Gender inequality, discrimination, and violence against women harm us all,” he concluded, defining the importance of a robust women’s rights movement seeking equality.

Research conducted by MTV and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on young people’s political participation found striking results: Compared to four in ten young men, about six in ten young women agree that gender stereotypes encourage men “to treat women weaker and less capable” and encourage “sexually aggressive behavior.”

Compared to 17 percent of young men, around 38 percent of young women feel pressured by stereotypical gender roles. Regarding double standards in the labor market, only 55 percent of young men, compared to 81 percent of young women, “believe that women must be more qualified than men to compete successfully for the same job.” Forty-two percent of young men say “women use gender as an excuse when they don’t get what they want from the labor market.”

These results translate to gender impacting the likelihood of young people’s political involvement. Therefore, young women are more likely to become politically active, “from online participation to volunteering for a cause to attending a public rally or demonstration.”

Women took to the streets in Curitiba the day after the killing of Marielle Franco. The sign reads “The state killed Marielle.” Credit: Oruê Brasileiro

Young women activists are a vital element to sustain these movements as they raise new women’s rights issues. According to the National Democratic Institute, there is hard evidence in places where women saw political empowerment of an eventual increase in “democracy,” “responsiveness to citizen needs,” “cooperation across party and ethnic lines,” and “sustainable peace.”

In Rwanda, where women hold 56 percent of the seats in the Parliament, female parliamentarians receive credit for “forming the first cross-party caucus” tackling “controversial issues, such as land rights and food security.”

While some argue the #SayHerName,#HeForShe, #MeToo, and #TimesUp movements marked the beginning of a new feminist era, women human rights activists are not only targeted for their activism but also for their identity. Women’s rights activists around the world face repression and poor assistance from governments in the context of the motto “Good girls don’t protest.”

“Female human rights activist are particularly politically targeted,” Nyaradzo “Nyari” Mashayamombe told IPS, repeating “Particularly!” for emphasis.

Mashayamombe is the core founder of the Tag a Life International Trust, a Zimbabwean Girls and Young Women’s Rights organization also working with boys and men to tackle religious and cultural practices that expose girls and young women gender-based discrimination with the government targeting their activism.

“In Zimbabwe, before the recent change in leadership, it was sometimes difficult to get into the communities,” she said. “The government feared we would influence people, so local authorities refused us entry. With the new government voicing respect for international human rights, we are hoping for change.”

The death of Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro on March 14 made the councilwoman and LGBTQ activist a global symbol. Crowds of ten thousands of protestors turned out in the streets across Brazil when it was reported her assassination was politically motivated and in retaliation for her criticism of police brutality in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. The hashtag #MarielleFrancoPresente was used 3.6 million times in 42 hours and more than 30 languages, pledging to stand together.

“Around the world, when they come for one of us, when they come for one women’s rights defender, they come for all of us,” Noelene Nabulivou, Political Adviser for DIVA for Equality, told IPS. “Whenever one is killed or harmed in the process of our work, the rest of us needs to look at what we have learned from the feminist movement which is intersectionality. They come for an LGBTQ-activist, we are all there in support. Online and offline.”

Time’s up.

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Dowry Death or Murder?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/dowry-death-murder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dowry-death-murder http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/dowry-death-murder/#respond Mon, 19 Mar 2018 09:12:22 +0000 Geetika group http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154877 Geetika Dang is Independent Researcher, India; Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; Raghav Gaiha is (Hon) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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As dowry deaths are embedded in archaic community and family norms, and in a corrupt and ineffective judicial and police system, curbing of this heinous crime remains a daunting challenge.

By Geetika Dang , Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Mar 19 2018 (IPS)

Dowry deaths rose from about 19 per day in 2001 to 21 per day in 2016.

It is indeed alarming that the rise in dowry deaths is unabated despite greater stringency of anti-dowry laws. In 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act made giving and taking of dowry, its abetment or the demand for it an offence punishable with imprisonment and fine or without the latter. This was an abysmal failure as dowries became a nationwide phenomenon, replacing bride price. More stringent laws followed. The Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1983 inserted a new section (498-A) to deal with persistent and grave instances of dowry demand and such offences were punishable with imprisonment extendable to three years. As cases of brutal harassment and dowry deaths continued to rise, another Act was passed in 1986, relating specifically to the offence of dowry death.

Geetika Dang

Such deaths were punishable with imprisonment for a period not less than seven years, but may extend to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and H.L. Gokhale, in their judgement (Durga Prasad & Anr vs State of MP) on 14 May 2010, rejected an appeal for dowry death on the grounds that, apart from the fact that the woman had died on account of burn or bodily injury, otherwise than under normal circumstances, within seven years of her marriage, it had also to be shown that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry. Only then would such death be called a “dowry death” and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused the death of the woman concerned. It is of course arguable that establishing priority in time of cruelty against the female spouse before her death or “suicide”—alleged or otherwise—is yet another major and nearly insurmountable hurdle in punishing the perpetrators of dowry deaths.

Conviction rates for dowry deaths at all-India level have hovered around a low of one-third of registered cases. In fact, the conviction rate was about 32% in 2001 and fell to about 30% in 2016, pointing to growing inefficiency of the judicial and police systems. Besides, in several states (notably Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Telangana), the conviction rates were abysmally low (10% or lower). Worse, in some of these states (notably, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh), there were sharp reductions from already low levels in 2001. The variation across states remained high in both years, suggesting that the gaps between high and low conviction rates were large.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Media reports abound in bestiality towards a bride, with the natal family failing to comply with hugely inflated dowry demands and subsequent extortionary demands. As if daily humiliation, wife beating, torture, threats of bodily harm, and forced sex with male relatives were not ghastly enough, often brutal killings through wife-burning, or asphyxiation, and not infrequently through hired assassins follow in quick succession. The natal family is left a silent spectator constrained by tradition, custom, lack of resources for legal redressal and not least by perceived difficulty of marrying another daughter. It is thus not an exaggeration that the distinction between dowry death and murder is blurry.

New insights emerge from our econometric analysis of panel data of dowry deaths at the state level, constructed from the National Crime Records Bureau for the period 2001-2016, and other supplementary data from the RBI and the Census. This allows us to isolate the contributions of several factors including marriage squeeze (age adjusted ratio of females to males), state affluence, conviction rates, nature of political regime, and the Supreme Court judgement of 2010 to the variation in the incidence of dowry deaths (or ratio of dowry deaths to women’s population in a state).

Raghav Gaiha

Marriage squeeze is used as a proxy for surplus of marriageable women over marriageable men or scarcity of the latter in a stylized marriage market. If there is a growing scarcity of such men in the marriage market, higher dowries are likely and so more dowry deaths may occur. Thus higher sex ratios result in more dowry deaths. The greater the affluence of a state, the higher was the incidence of dowry deaths. The effect of conviction is negative and significant, pointing to the important role of speedy convictions in lowering dowry deaths. We also examined whether coalitions of BJP and Congress governments at the state level were associated with dowry deaths. We find that both political regimes lowered dowry deaths, but with a larger reduction in BJP coalitions. Why coalition governments are more effective than regimes with one party needs further investigation.

Finally, as dowry deaths are embedded in archaic community and family norms, and in a corrupt and ineffective judicial and police system, curbing of this heinous crime remains a daunting challenge. Whether the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign is a likely solution is over-optimistic, if not reductionist.

This story was originally published by Sunday Guardian

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is Independent Researcher, India; Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; Raghav Gaiha is (Hon) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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The Role of Law Schools in Shaping Global Gender Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/role-law-schools-shaping-global-gender-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=role-law-schools-shaping-global-gender-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/role-law-schools-shaping-global-gender-justice/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 09:25:39 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154802 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

March 8th, 2018, International Women’s Day, saw an extraordinary global mobilization for gender equality. In the last year, global movements for gender equality– from marches to powerful grassroots organizing and viral social media campaigns, such as #MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States and other countries– have galvanized the world’s attention like never before.

Opening of the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women 12 March 2018. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Against the backdrop of historic global efforts for women’s rights and gender equality, the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) began its two-week long deliberations at the UN Headquarters in New York on Monday, March 12.

This is the UN’s largest gathering on gender equality and women’s rights, and the single largest forum for UN Member States, civil society organizations and other international actors to build consensus and commitments on global policy.

At this tipping point in history, do lawyers, law schools and law students have a higher moral role to play in addressing the shameful legacy of gender discrimination in every community and country? Law schools train the next generation of lawyers, leaders and advocates and help inform the laws and policies that shape the lives of women and men in their countries.

Law schools, by virtue of their very mission, must stand up against injustice everywhere. Along with governments, and civil society networks, law schools have a role to play in the profound legal, political and social changes that are unfolding around the world. In the 21st century, gender discrimination in law remains widespread; according to IFC research, 155 of the 173 economies covered have at least one law that challenges women’s economic opportunities.

There are over 900 legal gender differences across 173 economies. In 100 economies, women face gender-based job restrictions. In 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. However, a powerful new movement that transcends borders and boundaries is driving women to connect, mobilize and lead like never before and law schools must join this global effort.

At CSW 62, Penn Law will introduce a joint publication with UNESCO and UNSDG Fund titled Making Laws, Breaking Silence: Case Studies from the Field. In the words of Asma Jahangir, the human rights icon who died earlier in the year, “these timely and powerful essays from the ground alter the way we think of lawmaking for women and are an important contribution to gender equality law reform around the world.”

This publication is one of several collaborations with the United Nations on Goals 5 (Gender Equality) and 16 (Rule of Law) of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Women’s Leadership Project (GWLP), set up as the first phase of the UN Women’s new Family Law database, has created a clearing house of information. In many countries around the world, family law is a locus of gender discrimination and magnifies the unequal status of women in the public sphere.

This is the first mapping of its kind that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional family law to examine the entire legal system of a country to identify the law’s subtle and powerful impact on women’s status in her family.

Penn Law has become a leader among law schools in its partnerships and collaboration with the United Nations and multilaterals, primarily UN Women and the SDG Fund, in advancing research and action on gender equality under law and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Penn Law students who are externing at the UN SDG Fund will cover the CSW proceedings and join a growing group of Penn Law students who have served UN Women and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as externs.

Researchers in the seminar on International Women’s Human Rights continue to present their research to UN Women and the OHCHR on the ways in which Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820 and 2242, some of the crowning achievements of the global women’s movements, are central to the prevention of violent extremism.

On March 1, Penn Law partnered with Perry World House, and the Penn Middle East Center to celebrate International Women’s Day. The keynote conversation with Ambassador Moushira Khattab, the former Minister for Family and Population who wrote the first Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Law in Egypt and Aisha Oyebode, co- convener of the Bring Back our Girl’s Campaign was a profoundly affecting testament to the power of women’s narratives to alter the socio-political realities that disempower women.

Over the last two years, Penn Law’s Global Leaders Forum has convened some of the world’s most celebrated women leaders (these interviews are part of a women’s leadership documentary series), including President Mary Robinson, Asma Jahangir, Navi Pillay, Hina Jilani, Zainab Bangura, Tzipi Livni, Irina Bokova, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Dubravka Simonovic, Ambassador Maria Mejia, Moushira Khattab, Lubna Olayan, Indira Jaising, Hillary Clinton (via video) and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

These women all share one thing in common: they are all glass ceiling breakers, but also continue to break barriers and push boundaries. These acts of resistance, not just in political, economic and social life, but in received orthodoxy, are the alchemy to achieving full and equal rights for all women.

Law schools and other academic institutions around the world have long played a role in transforming laws and policies and have been associated with new political, cultural and economic movements. It is time now for law schools to take the lead in the most important movement of the 21st century- the unfinished movement for equal rights for women.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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A Fair Reflection? Women and the Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fair-reflection-women-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fair-reflection-women-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fair-reflection-women-media/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 22:34:35 +0000 Audrey Azoulay http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154664 Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

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Gender inequality is the greatest moral and social issue of our time — and the world’s most critical economic challenge.

Globally, women are grossly underrepresented in scientific research and development (R&D). Credit: Bigstock

By Audrey Azoulay
PARIS, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

Information and communication technologies have the potential to open up new worlds of ideas and the media – television, newspapers, advertising, blogs, social networks, film – is increasingly omnipresent in the lives of many of us. In line with one of the major themes of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, UNESCO is assessing how the media and ICTs shape the lives of women.

In the mass media,women are often relegated to archetypical roles, or to peripheral characters. They are often underrepresented and are more likely to be portrayed as passive victims.

When women in the media are reduced to stereotypes it is deeply damaging psychologically. Films continue to fail the simple “Bechdel Test” to measure gender bias, created by satirist Alison Bechdel, whereby two female characters talk to each other about something other than a man.

In advertising – a good litmus test for public attitudes – cleaning products still tend to be pitched to women whilst ads for banks, cars and other major financial investments are pitched to men.

A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO. Credit: UNESCO/Christelle ALIX

Alas, nearly 40 years on, the words of Margaret Gallagher in her 1979 UNESCO report The Portrayal and Participation of Women in the Media (the first major global report on the subject) still ring true: “The media have been observed to lag behind change in the broader social system. For even if, in many cases, the media cannot realistically be expected to initiate change, they can certainly be expected to reflect it.”

In the news media, some progress has been made. But the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project Report made some alarming conclusions: women still make up less than a quarter of the persons featured in newspapers, television and radio news and only 13% of stories specifically focus on women. Fewer than one in five experts interviewed by the media are women, and not only because they are underrepresented in the respective fields of expertise.

This means that major issues that affect women’s lives do not make it into the global conversation: the pay gap, voice and representation in public spheres, the challenges of balancing family with career, spouse and child abuse, the culture of victim-shaming of survivors of rape and harassment…

Part of the root problem is that women are underrepresented in newsrooms: female reporters are responsible for only one third of all stories. Yet, extrapolating from the Global Media Monitoring 2010 report, female reporters are more likely to challenge stereotypes and ensure gender equality in their coverage.

Women still make up less than a quarter of the persons featured in newspapers, television and radio news and only 13% of stories specifically focus on women. Fewer than one in five experts interviewed by the media are women, and not only because they are underrepresented in the respective fields of expertise.
Through our Gender Sensitive Indicators for Media,UNESCO is leading the way, providing guidance for policy-makers, editors and journalists to avoid falling into the pitfalls of archetypal gender roles and ensuring women’s participation. And since 2000, the UNESCO Women Make the News initiative has encouraged newsrooms to promote content related to women and encourage female journalists.

When women’s voices are heard, it makes a real difference to their lives.

One woman, trained in Tanzania through UNESCO’s Local Radio Programme, described how women reporters mounted pressure on the authorities to arrest an accused rapist. This amplified call for justice could no longer fall on deaf ears.

It is not just mass media, the internet has changed the way we use, contribute to and comment on media. It has the power to remedy asymmetries. Unfortunately, the internet often replicates these problems and has, in fact, thrown up new challenges. For example, only 17% of Wikipedia’s profiles relate to women and their achievements, according to the Wikimedia Foundation.

To redress this balance, this Women’s Day we are running a “editathon” with some 100 volunteers who will create and update pages about dozens of women who have contributed to knowledge in the fields of science, culture and education – the core of UNESCO’s work.

Creating information is not enough if it cannot be used. Across the world too many women still cannot unleash the broader potential of mobile technologies to gain access to information.

A recent Broadband Commission report, co-authored by UNESCO, concluded that there were over 250 million fewer women online than men that year due to a widening gender gap in digital skills, which actually exacerbates existing power imbalances. This is why UNESCO supports women and girls access to ICTs through our flagship Mobile Learning Week, which this year will focus on Skills for a Connected World.

Even for those women with access, the internet has opened up a new arena in which they are subject to sexual harassment, rape and violence threats, and cyberstalking. For example, a 2014 study conducted by the think tank Demos found that on Twitter, female journalists receive nearly three times as much abuse as male journalists.

The subject is, as yet, under-researched but UNESCO is working to address online abuse, particularly aimed at women, through our Media and Information Literacy programme.

Young generations are sometimes described as digital natives – skilled in media and ICTs. This International Women’s Day is our chance to find ways to ensure that all women and girls also have the opportunities to become digital citizens, empowered to access and participate equitably in our global knowledge society.

The post A Fair Reflection? Women and the Media appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

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Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:25:38 +0000 Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154651 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Peter Kagwanja is former Adviser Government of Kenya (2008-2013) and currently the President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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New University graduates in Kenya. Credit: Nation Media

By Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

March 8, 2018 International Women’s Day offers another opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and women’s political rights.

True, the annual event, which has been observed for over 100 years, is about women’s rights. Every woman and girl dreams of a world in which they are able to achieve their full human potential, have a life free of harmful social norms and stereotypes.

But the Day is also about reflecting on the stories of sexual exploitation and abuse from Hollywood to politics to the aid world, which needs a whole culture shift. It’s about ending a culture of patriarchy, misogyny and treating women as second class citizens.

However, progress towards gender parity is regressing. Women’s rights are being “reduced, restricted and reversed”, noted the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres in 2017.

As a clarion call to action and to catalyse change towards a more gender-equal world, “Press for Progress” is a fitting theme for International Women’s Day 2018.

Today, we live in a world where global gender gap is widening again for the first time in a decade; where men’s earnings are rising faster than women’s, making the feat of gender equality a pipedream.

In view of the current rate of regression, the Global Gender Gap Report (2017) of the World Economic Forum concluded that the world might take 217 years to reach the 50-50 gender parity.

Key to reversing this trend is by enhancing the role of women in leadership. Parity with women, practically half of the world’s total talent pool, is the best driving force for economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication. According to the UNDP 2016 Africa Human Development Report, gender inequality costs sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year.

Failure to close the gender gap will mean that achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the world we want by 2030 of ‘leaving no one behind’ will be a mission impossible.

In Kenya, gender equality is needed to ensure successful implementation of the ‘big four pillars’ that President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled last year—including expansion of manufacturing; affordable housing; universal healthcare; and food security.

Kenya has made gains in women political empowerment. The naming of six women the new cabinet and several others to senior positions is a step in the right direction. Notable Kenya’s new female cabinet secretaries hold commanding posts traditionally reserved for males, including the Ministries of Defence, Public Service, Foreign Affairs, Health, Education and Lands.

Further, Kenya’s 2017 election revealed a positive shift in attitudes towards women’s leadership. Women were voted in as Governors in three counties (Kitui, Kirinyaga and Bomet) and three others as Senators (in Uasin Gishu, Nakuru and Isiolo).

Three women—Fatuma Duulo (Isiolo Senator), Naisula Lesuuda (MP for Samburu West) and Sophia Noor (MP for Ijara)—were elected in marginalized areas in Northern Kenya.

However, even as tokenism gives way to meritocracy, Kenya is yet to achieve the level of gender equality in countries like Rwanda, which boasts the highest proportion of women representatives in parliament at 63.8%.

Participation of women in electoral politics is still low. Out of the 10,918 aspirants in 2017, only 1,749 (16 per cent) were female. Those elected are still far below the two-thirds threshold set by the 2010 constitution. Today, only 68 (19%) women are elected to the National Assembly, 18 (27%) to the Senate and 82 (6%) to county assemblies.

Political will is needed to implement Article 81 (b) of the Constitution 2010 that requires the two-thirds gender representation in public offices. Twice Parliament has declined to pass the Bill.

We need to change mind-sets in Kenya and globally to dismantle the architecture of gender inequality as a necessary condition to achieve progress and leave no one behind.

According to the UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms. Amina J Mohammed, “our efforts to leave no one behind will be a test of our common vision, resolve and ingenuity. A whole of government and whole of society approach must become our new norm”.

This requires affirmative action and boldly confronting adverse social norms, practices rooted in patriarchy and misogyny, as well as investing in education of girls, women’s health and political empowerment.

The post Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Peter Kagwanja is former Adviser Government of Kenya (2008-2013) and currently the President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

The post Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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#MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dotshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/metoo-in-the-global-workplace-time-to-connect-the-dots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=metoo-in-the-global-workplace-time-to-connect-the-dots http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/metoo-in-the-global-workplace-time-to-connect-the-dots/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 10:32:59 +0000 Laila Malik and Inna Michaeli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154644 Laila Malik works with the communications team at the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). Inna Michaeli is
with the Building Just Economies initiative at AWID

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Hondurans protest outside a Tegucigalpa hotel where U.S. and Central American officials were negotiating a regional trade pact. Credit: Paul Jeffrey, Courtesy of Photoshare. #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots

Hondurans protest outside a Tegucigalpa hotel where U.S. and Central American officials were negotiating a regional trade pact. Credit: Paul Jeffrey, Courtesy of Photoshare

By Laila Malik and Inna Michaeli
TORONTO/BERLIN, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

Since its explosion onto the social media landscape at the end of 2017, the #metoo movement has continued to gain global traction. Initially centred on powerful Hollywood women breaking decades of silence about sexual abuse and harassment in the industry, the conversation soon spread across global regions and sectors, from #YoTambien in the Spanish-speaking world to #balancetonporc in French.  From China to أنا_كمان# in Arabic. From national governments to universities to international development, the stories are grim, and their pervasiveness has been jarring.

But for the majority of women and LGBTQI people, these stories are nothing new.

Individual instances of abuse and harassment are locked firmly in place by prevailing working conditions and an absence of labour rights protection. Across the planet, women’s disproportionately high rates of informal employment and complex production chains prevent them from organizing to protect their rights

Because global feminists and human rights advocates have been fighting for a more just world for decades, and have long noted that those individual instances of abuse and harassment are locked firmly in place by prevailing working conditions and an absence of labour rights protection. Across the planet, women’s disproportionately high rates of informal employment and complex production chains prevent them from organizing to protect their rights.

When they do, they are threatened with violence and union-busting attacks – often by the powerful, mostly North-based, transnational corporations who employ them. Data on the global workplace harassment and abuse of trans and non-binary people is less readily available, but many countries around the world continue not to even recognize trans and nonbinary identities and rights, and International Labour Organization (ILO) research reveals that LGBT people face discrimination in “access to employment and throughout the employment cycle, and can result in LGBT workers being bullied, mobbed, and sexually or physically assaulted”. People who do not conform to traditional gender norms face even more discrimination than those who can “pass”.

While talk in corporate and international development circles about the importance of women’s economic empowerment is on the rise, it often stops at individual income generation or improvement of self-esteem. Meanwhile, governments often refuse to take measures to protect precarious and informal workers – the majority of whom are women – out of fear of losing their competitive advantage to labour markets in other countries.

The situation of Cambodian women who work in the beer industry is case in point. In Cambodia, young women are hired by beer companies to sell as much of the brand as possible. They work long hours in bars, restaurants, and beer gardens late into the evenings, and are paid by commission or by a set salary per month. Some have contracts protected under the Cambodian Labour Code, and some are unprotected informal workers.

Cambodian beer promoters have been organizing since 2006 for a living wage, and to introduce protections against sexual harassment and violence, long working hours and toxic working conditions in bars and restaurants. During that time, more workers have gained formal status, allowing them to  benefit from the country’s labour code, and minimum wage standards.

But last year, Cambrew Ltd. – the largest brewery in Cambodia, 50% of whose shares are held by the Carlsberg Group – announced a change in working hours that would force women to leave work two hours later in the evening – despite travel safety and childcare concerns – without consultation with workers.

The company also began offering short-term contracts as a way to discourage beer promoters from joining the union, as well as giving union leaders morning shifts where they cannot make additional wages through overtime or larger sales. Ongoing fear of police brutality and dismissal continue to keep trade union activism and mobilization in check.

In other parts of the world, millions of women work under – and fight – similar conditions, upheld by the same logic. 85% of sweatshop workers are women between 15-25 years old, where stories abound of managers calling women workers into the back of workrooms, trying to touch or grope them and threatening to fire them if they refuse.

Around the world, 1 in every 13 female wage earners is a domestic worker, and only 10% of them are employed in countries that extend them equal protection under national labour laws. About 30% of them work in countries that exclude them from labour laws completely. Basically, the threat and exercise of sexual abuse and harassment of women is the cultural grease that keeps profits flowing efficiently across the globe.

 

Young Bangladeshi women raise their fists at a protest in Shahbagh. Credit: Kajal Hazra/IPS

Young Bangladeshi women raise their fists at a protest in Shahbagh. Credit: Kajal Hazra/IPS

 

Time for binding agreements

But feminists and human rights advocates have been, and continue to mobilize for gender and economic justice. In October 2017, 14 organizations came together to request the integration of a gender approach into a long-awaited international legally binding treaty to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses.

It would include assessments of the impact of business activities on women’s lives, ensuring that women can get justice in courts and creating conditions that are safe, respectful, and enabling for women human rights defenders. It would challenge corporate impunity and legally oblige businesses to uphold international human rights standards all over the world.

At the same time, the International Trade Union Confederation and others have been mobilizing with a campaign for the International Labour Union (ILO) to adopt a comprehensive convention on violence and harassment against men and women in the world of work. This convention is a step in the right direction – towards transforming workplaces to become safer and dignified spaces for people of all gender identities.

On March 8, International Women’s Day,  the intergovernmental working group on the binding treaty will  present its report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva – more than 100 years since women garment workers came out to the streets to demand fair working conditions.

Today, working spaces are often still exclusionary, exploitative and unsafe, particularly for women, trans and non-binary people and global south communities, as well as for queer and racialised people, for differently able-bodied people, and for migrant communities. It is time we responded to that long-standing demand for the human rights of all workers to be respected.

No one international treaty will hold all the solution, but it is a reminder that in order to stop violence against women in the workplace, a structural change is needed in our economic and human rights systems, and the struggle is long underway.

 

The post #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Laila Malik works with the communications team at the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). Inna Michaeli is
with the Building Just Economies initiative at AWID

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post #MeToo in the Global Workplace: Time to Connect the Dots appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fear-uncertainty-grip-rohingya-women-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fear-uncertainty-grip-rohingya-women-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fear-uncertainty-grip-rohingya-women-india/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 01:57:38 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154637 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Rohingya refugee women in Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Rohingya refugee women in Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
JAMMU, India, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

In the semi-lit makeshift tent covered with strips of cardboard, five women sit in a huddle. As their young children, covered in specks of mud and soot, move around noisily, the women try to hush them down. Hollow-eyed and visibly malnourished, all the women also appear afraid.

Aged 19-30, they have two things in common: one, they are Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and two, they all live in fear of being sent back to the country they were forced to flee.“In Burma, they are still killing our people. Here, they say we are Bangladeshis. We do not even speak Bangla. Where shall we go? --Ansari

“I came here when I was 13. Now I am 19,” says Nur Kalina, the youngest. She faintly remembers running with her parents from their village in Myanmar’s violence-wracked Rakhine state.

“From Akhyep (Akyab, currently known as Sittwe) we started. We ran through rice fields, then by the river. When we came to Cox’s Bazar (across the border in Bangladesh), our fellow villagers were there. My aunt was there. They said, there is no food, no work, no future here. So my parents came here.”

All the other women in the room – Leila, Shamshida, Taiyyaba and Rahena – nod. Their stories are not very different from Kalina’s. Each one of them came to Jammu in 2012. Since then, the rows of huts in the Kiriyani Talav neighborhood of northern India’s Jammu city have been their home. They all got married here and became mothers.

Each one of them has relatives who are still living in Sittwe who call every now and then to talk about the current situation. Every time, they share news of fresh attacks and new names of relatives and neighbors who have been murdered. “They always tell us, don’t come back here,” says Laila.

Rohingyas in Jammu

There are around 5,743 Rohingyas in Jammu & Kashmir state, according to the state government. Scattered over Jammu, the summer capital of the state, and neighboring Samba district, their number is a fraction of that in Bangladesh (858,898) or Pakistan (350,000).

Yet this tiny population is at the center of a controversy with some local factions accusing them of indulging in criminal activities such as land grabs, illegal settlement and aiding terrorists, and demanding their repatriation.

One of the political parties spearheading the opposition against the Rohingyas is the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JNKPP), a Jammu-based right-wing group led by Harshdev Singh. Singh, formerly a minister in the state, would not talk to IPS despite granting an appointment, but his party has been very vocal in demanding a quick repatriation of the Rohingyas. On March 3, he led a protest march in Jammu and urged the home minister of India to send back the Rohingyas, who he described as a security threat.

“The illegal immigrants pose a threat to communal harmony and pluralism of Jammu. The Union Home Minister should personally intervene and direct the state government to take necessary action in this regard otherwise the situation in Jammu could take an ugly turn like in Kashmir,” Singh was quoted as saying by local media.

Opposition to the Rohingyas intensified after a terrorist attack on an army camp in Sunjwan, an area on the city outskirts. Right after the attack, Kavinder Gupta, a local politican, accused the Rohingyas of being involved in the attack. Although he was criticized by other lawmakers, his party members stood by him.

India, which has not signed the International Refugee Convention, asked the states in August 2017 to identify the Rohingyas for a possible deportation. The decision, however, has since been challenged in the Supreme Court of India by some Rohingya refugees.

A child plays outside a makeshift home in a Rohingya camp, Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A child plays outside a makeshift home in a Rohingya camp, Jammu, India. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Fear in the air

Hazara, who asked to go by her first name only, is a 29-year-old Rohingya refugee woman living in a hut bordering the army camp in Sunjwan. Like all the other women Rohingya refugees, Hazara never went to school. With no education and no specific skills, the single mother of two was earning her livelihood by shelling walnuts for her non-Rohingya neighbors. The wages of INR 12 (less than a quarter) for each kilogramme of walnuts were not very high, but they helped the woman feed herself and her family.

However, since the attack on the army camp, it has become difficult to find work.

“The next day when I went to work, they said, ‘You are troublemakers, we don’t want you here.’ Everyone was looking at me suspiciously, as if I have done something very bad,” recalls Hazara, who is now working as a part time domestic for a Kashmiri Muslim family. This will help her pay the rent for the hut – a princely sum of INR 500 (about 7 dollars) – but not enough to feed herself and her children. Hazara is largely dependent on a Madrasa (religious school) run by fellow Rohingyas for her survival.

Mushtaq Ahmed, one of the 16 teachers at the school, says that right after the attack on the army camp, security forces entered the school to question them about the assailants. Since then, the attitude of the neighbors changed dramatically.

“Since 2017, we have been hearing things like we are collabrating with militants, helping them, etc, but this time, the attacks are more direct. Some women are still shelling wallnuts, but once the season is over, who knows what will happen?” Ahmed said.

Illiteracy, child marriage and poor health

There are 40 Rohingya refugee families in Kiriyani Talav locality. None of the women in these families has had a formal education. Uneducated and unskilled, they were married before the age of 18.

Nur Kalina was married at 14. “The elders in the community said it’s a sin to stay unmarried for long. So my parents got me married soon after I started to menstruate,” recalls Kalina. All of 19, the young woman already has three children.

“Child marriage is rampant in the Rohingya refugee community,” says Ravi Hemadri, who heads the Development and Justice Initiative (DAJI), a Delhi-based NGO that partnered with UNHCR until last month in documenting the Rohingya refugees and helping them access the aid and support they are entitled to.

At DAJI, activists have been campaigning against early marriage, Hemadri says, but the progress is slow. The refugees live in extreme poverty which drives the families to marry off their daughters early, he explains.

Laila Begum, 34, and Taiyyaba, 29, have asthma, while Taiyyaba has a 3-year-old daughter with stunted growth and weak limbs. As many as 12 women in the camp said they are suffering from respiratory diseases, while some, including Kalina’s mother Medina, 54, has tuberculosis. Kalina also has chronic lower back pain that often keeps her in bed.

None of the women gets regular medical treatment because they can’t afford it. Laila, who has visited the government-run hospital a few times for free medicine, says that the hospital asked her to pay INR 2000 (about 30 dollars) for medicine the last time.

“I don’t have so much money,” she said, adding that only the widows among them are entitled to some aid – 10 kgs of free rice each month.

Hope in the middle of hopelessness

Early this year, the UNHCR ended its partnership with DAJI in Jammu. The UN organization also advised the Rohingyas to move elsewhere in view of the growing political opposition. Since then, some of the Rohingya refugees – about 200 of them – have indeed moved out of Jammu.

But the women refugees say that despite the growing threat to their safety, leaving is not an option. “In Burma, they are still killing our people. Here, they say we are Bangladeshis. We do not even speak Bangla. Where shall we go? Why shall we leave? There is no safe place for us, so only way is to keep quiet,” says Ansari, a Rohingya woman.

The post Fear and Uncertainty Grip Rohingya Women in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-america-doesnt-always-mean-thing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-doesnt-always-mean-thing http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-america-doesnt-always-mean-thing/#respond Mon, 05 Mar 2018 23:10:38 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154632 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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The post In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post In Latin America “Me Too” Doesn’t Always Mean the Same Thing appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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DRC: A Crisis the World Can No Longer Afford to Ignorehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/drc-crisis-world-can-no-longer-afford-ignore/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drc-crisis-world-can-no-longer-afford-ignore http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/drc-crisis-world-can-no-longer-afford-ignore/#respond Sun, 04 Mar 2018 20:01:47 +0000 Badylon Kawanda Bakiman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154612 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
KIKWIT, DR Congo, Mar 4 2018 (IPS)

The numbers are hard to fathom. Nearly two million people driven from their homes in 2017 alone. The worst cholera epidemic of the past 15 years, with over 55,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths. Countless others killed, maimed or sexually assaulted.

The human costs of the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo are borne disproportionately by women and children, whose homes have been pillaged and burned, who are not in school and thus vulnerable to soldier recruitment, and who have now been left with almost nothing.“These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years." --Jan Egeland

Charlotte Ukuba, 60, fled to Site Etat at Kikwit, Kwilu Province in the southwest of DR Congo.

‘’I’m living now outside with my eight children,” Ukuba told IPS. “My husband was killed last year by the Kamwina Nsapu’s violence in Kasai province. When I came here, I was living first in a church with other displaced persons. But last week, a pastor chased us away. I have no money and need clothes for my children.”

Her eldest daughter is suffering from malaria. ‘’There are no drugs for this girl. I’m calling for help,” she added.

Violence broke out in Kasai in August 2016 following the uprising of local militia in Kasai Central. The crisis has been characterized by repeated clashes between militias and local security forces, which have subsequently generated inter-community conflicts.

Another displaced woman named Rose Thimbangula died at the age of 47 on Feb. 14 in Nzinda commune in Kikwit. The cause of death was tuberculosis complicated by fistula due to sexual violence. She had no money for medicine.

Dressed in a long black dress, Marie Ntumbala, 37, sleeps on the floor of a small room in Mweka, Kasai province. She is originally from a village called Tutando, 150 kilometers from Tshikapa, but was forced out by conflict. Ntumbala was fortunate enough to be taken in by a local family. But she says she is still living on the edge.

“When I’m ill, I can’t go to the hospital because I’m penniless. The Congolese government must help all the displaced persons in our country,” she said.

DR Congo has some 4.5 million internally displaced people, the largest number in Africa. Elections scheduled for 2017 were postponed to the end of this year, as political instability and clashes between soldiers and militias continues to escalate. An estimated 120 armed groups are operating in eastern DR Congo alone.

Red Cross workers provide a hot meal to IDPs at the Kanzombi Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Red Cross workers provide a hot meal to IDPs at the Kanzombi Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Humanitarian actors launched the largest ever funding appeal for the country this year, asking for 1.68 billion dollars to assist 10.5 million people. Only half of the 812.5 million dollars appealed for in 2017 was funded.

Brigitte Kishimana is 28 years old and six months pregnant. She lives at the Moni Site in Kalemi, Tanganyika province in the southeast. ‘’I need prenatal care,” she said. “Several other pregnant women at the sites need it too. If not, their lives will be in danger. Last year, four displaced women died during pregnancy or childbirth,” she told IPS.

Georgette Bahire, a 45-year-old farmer in Sud-Kivu province, fled Lulumba village on June 29, 2017. Fighting between government soldiers and the Mai-Mai, an armed group, drove her from her land. She was taken in by a family in the city of Kibanga.

“Humanitarian workers helped us in 2017 with food and some drugs. But the needs are still great,” she said.

Since the beginning of this year, armed conflicts have continued to plague the country, particularly in the areas of Rutshuru, Masisi, Walikale, South-Lubero and Beni. The gradual withdrawal of humanitarian aid workers from these areas has amplified the vulnerability of people affected by the humanitarian crisis, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a September 2017 report.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, at an IDP camp in DRC. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, at an IDP camp in DRC. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council

“The crisis in DR Congo has deteriorated exponentially over the last two years,” Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IPS in an interview. “These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years. Regions that were normally peaceful and stable areas of the country such as the Grand Kasai region and Tanganyika have now become hotbeds of unrest, with intercommunal violence displacing hundreds of thousands.”

“The fighting in the Kivus and Ituri is pushing the conflict in DR Congo closer and closer to a regional humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes into neighbouring countries like Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. A fresh appeal is necessary because while humanitarian needs are exploding and assistance is not able to meet the pace of needs.”

Egeland called on the international community to prioritize the humanitarian crisis in DR Congo and step up their efforts to help the 13.1 million people in need of assistance.

“If not,” he warned, “there will be fatal consequences for the country and possibly for the region.”

IOM is working to provide durable solutions for 5,973 IDP households in the North-Kivu province.

‘’Currently, IOM is helping 77 displaced women suffering from fistulas caused by sexual violence,” IOM Programme Officer Jean-Claude Bashirahishize told IPS. “In 2017, IOM received 205 cases of sexual violence in 12 sites,” he said, adding that cultural taboos made it difficult for women to talk about what had happened to them.

IOM helps victims of sexual violence get economic assistance, but also to train in livelihood activities so they can become self-sufficient.

‘’Insecurity is the greatest barrier to IOM accessing areas where armed groups are fighting government military forces,” Bashirahishize added.

Patrice Mushidinima, a civil society leader at Bukavu, the county seat of Sud-Kivu province, confirmed this, telling IPS, “Sud-Kivu province has 33 distinct armed groups operating in the area.”

In October 2017, the Congolese government and FAO helped more than 20,000 internally displaced persons, of whom about whom 70 percent were women and children at Kikwit, Kwilu province. But the situation is growing increasingly dire.

‘’Farmers who fled due to conflict have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced,” FAO, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a statement.

‘’IDPs have rights that need to be respected by the government and other authorities in the country. The Congolese Constitution claims that human life is sacred,” Valentin Mbalanda, a human rights activist in DR Congo, told IPS.

The European Commission, United Nations, and Dutch government will co-host a pledging conference in April. Jan Egeland said that international donors must give the same attention and priority to DR Congo that they do comparable crises around the globe.

“That means they must put their muscle and weight behind a successful donor conference and fulfill any pledges made. Donors must also look at needs on the ground and not just the bottom line. The DR Congo crisis of 2018 is not what is was in 2000 or 2005,” he said.

“Lastly, the international community must acknowledge the consequence of doing nothing. The stakes in DR Congo are high if inaction is the route we choose. There could be mass loss of life and humanitarian neglect could destabilize the entire region. This is a crisis of conscience that the world cannot afford to ignore.”

The post DRC: A Crisis the World Can No Longer Afford to Ignore appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post DRC: A Crisis the World Can No Longer Afford to Ignore appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 18:19:58 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154574 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

By Sopho Kharazi
ROME, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

As a student in Rome, the closest event that left a mark in my life was the Women’s March in the Italian capital. The march allowed me to contribute to the empowerment of women and to demonstrate that no woman is free– even if one’s rights are being violated. #MeToo.

Domestic violence thrives in a culture of silence. A broad-based campaign in Georgia aims to bring the issue out into the open. Credit: UNFPA

As a woman born and raised in Georgia, I know what it is like to live in a patriarchal society where women have to fight for self-identification. Despite the fact that Georgian women have received more voice in society and filled more workplaces, the problem of gender inequality still exists. And this problem is the most significantly expressed in domestic violence.

Even though the issue of domestic violence has received public attention and few shelters have opened for the victims, the problem still remains unspoken. Until 2014, I myself believed that domestic violence was non-existent in Georgia because nobody talked about it.

However, little I knew how actively present it is in Georgian women’s lives. I remember one day, listening to my parent’s conversation while they were talking about their mutual male friend. My mother suddenly jokingly mentioned how this male friend physically abused his wife only because she ironed his shirt poorly. This is when I felt astonished, angry and frustrated at the same time.

First, I was shocked to hear about domestic violence happening in the friend’s family. Second, I was angry that my mother mentioned the story in a funny way, completely ignoring women’s solidarity and basic human rights. Finally, I was frustrated that my parents were inactive while acquiring this kind of information.

This event forced me to think how Georgian society treats domestic violence and allowed me to open my eyes wider in order to see other instances happening in front of me. For example, later I found out that my Godmother was physically abused by her ex-husband too. However, she was smart enough to leave after the first instance.

The problem of domestic violence has gone viral only in 2014, after 33-year old female lecturer, Maka Tsivsiradze, was shot dead by her ex-husband at Ilia State University in Tbilisi. The UN-funded research suggests that one in every eleven married woman in Georgia is a victim of domestic violence.

At the same time, it should be recognized that this number is depicted from the cases which have been reported while there might be thousands of victimized women who stay silent. In accordance to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 75% of Georgian women see domestic violence as a private matter which prevents the resolution of the problem and the acquisition of the exact data.

In order to solve the problem, it is important to find the cause. According to the psychologist Lela Tsiskarashvili, who works in the Centre for Victims of Torture, low self-esteem of unemployed Georgian men is one of the main reasons of domestic violence. She states that the economic crisis brought by the collapse of the Soviet Union shifted the gender roles, leaving men unemployed while transforming women into street vendors. Despite the fact that women have become the sources of income, the social structure of Georgian family remained the same with men on the top.

The 2015 Report on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence in Georgia incorporates information received from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MoIA). This information suggests that in 2014 there were 92,901 emergency calls to “112” regarding domestic violence.

Apart from this, there were 350 prosecutions for domestic violence, 902 restrictive orders approved, and 87 protective orders issued. These numbers are very high for the nation with the population of 3,718,200.

Even though, there is no report of 2017, the Deputy Public Defender, Eka Skhirtladze, notes that out of eleven cases of attempted murder, eight were identified as domestic violence which demonstrates that the problem is still serious.

However, despite this fact, there is also positive news. For instance, in 2016, the first domestic violence crisis centre opened in Georgia while more and more women start to report about the cases.

According to President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who spoke at the international conference on ‘Femicide Cases Monitoring Tools and Mechanisms: “We should realize that femicide is an issue for our entire society. Many problems can be prevented by adopting legislative amendments or carrying out new policies; however, today I would like to address Georgian society: you play a crucial role in preventing violence against women.”

The post The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

The post The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Women Peace Laureates Condemn Inaction on Rohingya “Genocide”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-peace-laureates-condemn-inaction-rohingya-genocide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-peace-laureates-condemn-inaction-rohingya-genocide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-peace-laureates-condemn-inaction-rohingya-genocide/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:37:46 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154587 Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman met with more than 100 women refugees in camps in the coastal Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh this week, as well as travelling to the “no man’s land” where thousands of Rohingya have been stranded between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Shirin Ebadi […]

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Rohingya people alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

Rohingya people alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman met with more than 100 women refugees in camps in the coastal Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh this week, as well as travelling to the “no man’s land” where thousands of Rohingya have been stranded between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Shirin Ebadi of Iran spoke to IPS correspondent Naimul Haq in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

Maguire is a co-founder of Peace People, a movement committed to building a just and peaceful society in Northern Ireland. She and Betty Williams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976. She is well known for her work with victims of conflict around the world.

Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, former judge and human rights activist and founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran. Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women’s, children’s, and refugee rights.

From left to right (center), Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire. IPS correspondent Naimul Haq stands behind Ms. Maguire. Credit: IPS

From left to right (center), Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire. IPS correspondent Naimul Haq stands behind Ms. Maguire. Credit: IPS

Following are excerpts from the exclusive interviews.

IPS: You have called for trials of the Myanmar leaders in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing alleged genocide. How do you intend to seek justice when the world seems to be so divided over the Rohingya issue?

Mairead Maguire: “The leaders in Myanmar have committed genocide and we have all the witnesses for that. We heard women [speak of] being tortured, raped and their homes being burnt.”

Maguire related the story of a woman who was raped repeatedly and left for dead.

“The unconscious woman was later picked up by an elderly woman who took her to safety. That story of that woman being raped can be multiplied many times and you can well imagine the situation. So obviously we can understand that this is a policy of the Myanmar government to terrorize and expel the Rohingya people. They don’t even recognize them as their citizens. So the international community must take steps to do something. And we must take the Myanmar government to the ICC.

“A lot of people are working on this, like international lawyers, and we will continue until this is fulfilled. The second thing that we want to do is that Aung San Suu Kyi is our sister laureate. We believe that as long as she remains silent about what the Myanmar government is doing she is complacent with the genocide. But we want to go and see Aung San Suu Kyi and we want to ask her to break her silence.”

Maguire explained that she and her colleagues wish to speak to envoys of as many countries as possible.

“We would continue to pursue this dialogue with the ambassadors and leaders of the governments. We would also contact the United Nations and the European Parliament until this is taken to the international court.

IPS: What is your opinion on the voices of the global community, especially the influential leaders, remaining silent to a large extent on the Rohingya issue?

“I think many governments have interests in Myanmar, especially economic. In Rakhine state there are lot of resources like diamonds and costly stones. It’s all about money and oil. China also has interests in Maynmar because of these reasons. Unfortunately, many governments put profits before people. It should be other way around – governments should be responsible for taking care of their people. But they don’t want to say anything on human rights and justice because of political interests. However, we have to say as leaders, as Nobel Laureates, people are important, every person is important and it is wrong because of economic and political ties to allow people to be destroyed like this. We have to speak out and move the world’s conscience.

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

IPS: Do you believe that the United Nations has played its due role?

“No, the UN has not done enough. Human beings have a right to life, right to security and the governments must defend those rights of their people. And we have seen what the Myanmar government has done. I was there as part of a Nobel delegation 18 years ago on the Thai border with Myanmar and witnessed Karen people living in refugee camps who had to flee Burma. I had met many women then who were raped and carrying children of Burmese soldiers. So what we have seen in Cox’s Bazar [Rohingyas] the situation is not new. The Burmese military has been doing this for a long, long time.”

IPS: How can media coverage help bring justice to the victims?

“Women told us their stories of children being beaten, women being raped and their husbands being killed and houses burnt, which were absolutely horrific. The surviving women wanted us to tell their stories to the world so that their sufferings are known and they can then seek justice. They can have their national identity and go back to where they belong. So IPS can tell the real stories because when people hear these stories they cannot ignore them. We need the media like you. Because people don’t believe. It is diabolical what the Burmese soldiers have done to the Rohingya people, thinking nobody will know – but when you bring the truth to the light of day they cannot continue like this.”

Asked about the role of Bangladesh in welcoming the Rohingya refugees, she said, “It’s a wonderful example to other countries who have refugees on their borders. You have opened doors for a million or more and Europe is closing their doors. It is indeed a contrasting situation. When we went to the camps I was so astonished to see how well-organised they were. It’s wonderful to see how the government and the NGOs were working together.”

IPS: How can Myanmar be brought before the ICC?

Shirin Ebadi: Unfortunately, Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute [convention] for the ICC. So the only way this can happen is for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to decide to send the case of Myanmar to the ICC as they did in the case of Sudan.

What has happened to the Rohingya people is indeed a crime of genocide. In fact, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union has all acknowledged that it is genocide. That is why I am very much hopeful that the UNSC will debate this case but my only concern is China as a member of the UNSC may use its right to veto because of its economic interests in Myanmar.”

Ebadi also called on the wealthy Muslim countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, to do more for the Muslim-minority Rohingya.

“They are not giving any assistance, or they are giving very little. They prefer to spend their money on buying weapons which they use for killing people. So, my message to them is come and see the plight of the fellow Muslims and how they are being treated and my message is also to the Islamic countries – shame on you for not helping.”

What message would you give to your fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi? And do you also hold her responsible for the situation?

“I am indeed very sorry Aung San Suu Kyi, a person whom I had campaigned for on many occasions when she was under house arrest to secure her release, has now become complacent in the crime against the Rohingyas. My message to Aung San Suu Kyi is you have to break your silence now. You have to stop the genocide otherwise you would be held responsible and you must answer for your crimes at the international criminal court.”

The Nobel Women’s Initiative, in partnership with the local Bangladeshi women’s organization, Naripokkho, hosted the delegation of the Nobel Laureates to Bangladesh to witness and highlight the situation of the Rohingya refugees and the violence against Rohingya women.

Tawakkol Karman was known as “The Mother of the Revolution” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition of her work in nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work in Yemen.

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Rise of Feminism & the Renewed Battle for Women’s Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rise-feminism-renewed-battle-womens-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rise-feminism-renewed-battle-womens-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rise-feminism-renewed-battle-womens-rights/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:00:37 +0000 Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154581 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini is co-founder & Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

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Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini

By Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini
WASHINGTON DC, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

In 1909, the Socialist Party of America, in support of female garment workers protesting working conditions, designated March 8 as a day to honor women. By 1917, women in Russia were protesting for ‘bread and peace’ against a backdrop of war. In recognition of that protest and women’s suffrage in Soviet Russia, The International Socialist movement designated March 8 as International Women’s Day.

Over the past 101 years, women, governments and the UN around the world have marked the day of solidarity and recognition of our rights. I appreciated its true significance in 2010 when, I spent the day among a group of Masai women in Kenya.

I was leading a delegation of women peacebuilders from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Canada and the US. We drove miles through dusty plains speckled with the occasional tree and giraffe herds to meet the Masai. They had walked hours to join us at their community center, a cinder block building that they’d paid for by making and selling jewelry and crafts.

They knew it was International Women’s Day and they were excited to be included as women in the world. It was humbling to be with them and it felt like a universal sisterhood.

In 2017, in the wake of the massive women’s protests, in the US on March 8th women wore red. For just that day on the sidewalks and in traffic, in government buildings and beyond, we the women signaled our mutual solidarity through our shared flash of red. It was symbolic, reassuring and empowering.

So 101 years on as March 8th 2018 dawns, how far have we come and how far do we still need to go? In America, it is easy to feel angry.

We are witnessing the most deliberate and targeted rollbacks of basic rights for women to be enacted by a government. Domestically in 2017 the Trump administration revoked the Fair Pay act that enabled women and minorities to determine if they were being subject to pay discrimination.

Health care provisions particularly reproductive rights are at perpetual risk. Vice President Mike Pence has openly stated that they aim to put an end to abortion – presumably the legal, safe variety – in his time.

Internationally too, the US is retrenching. In February 2018 the State Department announced that its annual global human rights report would no longer highlight the range of abuses and violations that women and girls typically experience. In the name of expediency and to ‘sharpen the focus’, the US has determined that violence against women is not a sufficiently egregious form of abuse – despite its prevalence among and relevance to at least 50% of the world’s population.

To give simple context: Globally women and girls make up 71 percent of the victims of human trafficking – a vast source of revenue for criminal and violent organizations. Three quarters of them are sexually abused. Of the women murdered globally in 2012, their partners or their own relatives killed half of them. But according to the US administration this evidence does not amount to egregious abuse.

Such denial makes for strange bedfellows internationally. The Trump administration puts the US in the same camp as Cuba, China, Iran, Syria, all of which refused to acknowledge violence against women as a gendered issues in recent years. On seeking to assert state control over women’s bodies particularly in terms of reproductive health issues, it is aligned with among others, Sudan, Russia, and the Vatican/Holy See – a nation of some 570 citizens, of whom just 30 are women –

Globally too, there is room for concern. In recent years, we have seen a co-opting of the rights and equality agenda in insidious ways. Many conservative states have become champions of girls’ education on the global stage. Yet scratch the surface and their agenda is not one of equal rights, opportunity or freedom to choose their own paths. They want to educate girls so they can be good wives and better mothers.

In other words, girls’ education is not for the purpose of fulfilling a human being’s potential, rather it is to prepare her to be subservient to male dominance, and cede the public sphere where decisions are made and power is wielded. And most tellingly no state is making the effort to educate men to be good husbands and better fathers. That would certainly go a long way towards reducing levels of violence.

Another recent trend has been to claim support for the women, peace and security agenda, by opening militaries to female recruitment in combat roles. The latest to join the ranks is Saudi Arabia, which in February 2018 announced that women could join the army as security officers but not as combat soldiers (The irony that these women would still need to live with their male guardians seems lost on the state).

So in the name of equality, women are being deployed to wield weapons and if needed, oppress, perpetrate violence, maim or kill. But an equal chance to fit into existing structures does not equate to an equal chance to transform the entrenched status quo.

When it comes to the women, peace and security issues for example, many of us advocates would argue that our cause is not to enable our daughters to be drafted into armies on equal footing as our sons. Rather ours to ensure that neither our daughters nor our sons have bear witness or engage in the horrors of war. That is the paradigm shift and equality we strive for – much like the Russian women in 1917.

But neither Saudi Arabia nor many other countries are matching their purported awakening to gender equality with a commitment to ensuring women’s effective participation in the realms where decisions – particularly about peace and security – are being made. It is evident by the paucity of women in the negotiations regarding the fate of Yemen and Syria.

Meanwhile conservative forces that rail against women’s rights and feminism, have co-opted the empowerment agenda by deploying their own army of women. From ISIS to the White Supremacist, they understand that women have power and influence. They also understand that women have aspirations and capacity to contribute to a cause.

In the US the fact that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a female spokesperson and television series with female heroes is no accident. They recognize that the optics work in their favor. Their spokeswomen inevitably appear more disarming (pun intended), conveying an image of both modernity and traditionalism, femininity and empowerment, even if they are handmaidens to the male leadership.

But the anger is also giving rise to positive developments. Trumpism sparked the women’s marches and a linking of arms among women across nations, of every generation. Feminism, long taken for granted and even denigrated, is fashionable again. It is fueled by indignation and action.

The #MeToo campaign founded by Tarana Burke long before Trump arose, has surged and its impact is evident in every sector. In the political realm despite the negative stance of the administration, Congress has passed two critical pieces of legislation – the Women, Peace and Security Act and a new Anti-online Sex trafficking bill that is heading to the Senate.

Perhaps the greatest sign of hope is the younger generation. Our teenage girls, who grew up in the Obama years that brought kindness, respect and a ‘can-do’ attitude to the fore, and whose political consciousness evolved in tandem with the rise of social media and greater connectivity, are emerging as new leaders. This too is a global phenomenon.

In the US, high school students Emma Gonzalez and Delaney Tarr who survived the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School shooting in Florida have become leading activists in the tough, overwhelmingly male dominated debates on security and gun control.

In Palestine, 17-year old high schooler, Ahed Tamimi has become the symbol of resistance against the Israeli occupation, after confronting armed Israeli soldiers about shooting her unarmed young cousin. Pakistani Malala Yousefzia, survivor of a terror attack and already a veteran activist at 21, won the Nobel Prize for daring to confront the Taliban about attacks on schools girls.

In Iran, a younger generation of women are confronting the state’s compulsory hijab laws by provocatively standing in public spaces, waving their scarves like flags on a pole. It is notable that in every instance they are either working on equal footing with men, or they have men recognizing their courageous leadership and cheering them on.

In each instance, these young women activists, stands on the shoulders of the many who came before them. They may not be familiar with the terms of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action, Security Council Resolution 1325 and its 7 sister resolutions, the Millennium or Sustainable Development Goals. They may even take much of it for granted, but that itself is an indication of empowerment, as this new generation is taking the struggle into a new phase.

This younger generation’s starting point is one of absolute equality. They not only feel entitled to speak, but feel entitled to be heard. And as my 17 year old daughter remarks, ‘Years of dystopic novels with female heroes saving the day, combined with lessons in civil rights, means of course we want to speak out and act.”

So if their grandmother’s generation fought to get into the system and participate in the status quo set by men, and their mother’s generation fought to transform systems from within by being collaborative, this younger generation is standing their own ground. They are setting their own terms, shaping their own narratives, and creating their own space – particularly through their adept handling of social media.

As they stand up to might of the vested interests and security state offering common sense solutions–be it in the US, Israel, Iran or Pakistan – but being rebuked violently, they reveal how naked and absurd the emperor truly is.

So a century on from the first International Women’s Day, these young women are lifting the veil off the systems that have perpetuated discrimination and violence and calling them out. In solidarity with women of the past they are saying ‘Time’s up”. I know they mean it. So it is with pride and confidence that I, for one, am happy to pass the baton.

The post Rise of Feminism & the Renewed Battle for Women’s Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini is co-founder & Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

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Culture of Deep-seated Denial of Sexual Violence in Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/culture-deep-seated-denial-sexual-violence-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=culture-deep-seated-denial-sexual-violence-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/culture-deep-seated-denial-sexual-violence-sudan/#respond Wed, 28 Feb 2018 17:15:24 +0000 Pramila Patten http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154542 Pramila Patten is the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict

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Credit: UN

By Pramila Patten
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 28 2018 (IPS)

At the invitation of the Government of Sudan, I visited Sudan from 18 to 25 February 2018. The objective of the visit was to gain first-hand knowledge of the situation, assess the challenges of addressing conflict-related sexual violence in Sudan, and establish constructive dialogue with national authorities in this regard.

It marked the first time that any Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict had visited the country since the office was established by Security Council resolution 1888 (2009).

In Khartoum, I met with senior Government officials, parliamentarians and civil society representatives. I also met with the National Human Rights Commission and the Sudan Bar Association, and visited a Women and Child Protection Police Unit. In Darfur, I visited North Darfur (El Fasher) and West Darfur (El Geneina), where I met with senior State-level officials and women at the Abushok and Alhujajj camps who had been displaced as a result of the conflict.

A key observation from my visit to Sudan is the existence of a deep-seated culture of denial which enhances and feeds the culture of silence about sexual violence. Unlike victims of other crimes where perpetrators are condemned, it is usually the victims of sexual violence who are shamed or stigmatized.

As a result, victims of sexual violence are very often fearful of reporting the crime or seeking assistance, further compounding their suffering. Because sexual violence is so vastly underreported, the lack of reported cases cannot be equated with the absence of violence.

It deeply saddened me to hear interlocutors in Sudan doubting and questioning victims as well as the appalling nature of these crimes. The pervasive culture of denial is the most serious obstacle to eradicating this heinous crime.

In many of my meetings, senior government officials explained that there is no sexual violence in Sudan because such violence is strictly prohibited by the Islamic religion. No religion or faith, however, is immune from sexual violence.

Paradoxically, religious institutions can provide much needed emotional and social support, but may also perpetuate silence when they use religion to deny that sexual violence occurred in the first place. I therefore call upon religious leaders in Sudan to speak out on the need to protect and support survivors, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

The ongoing collection of weapons in Sudan is a commendable initiative, and there appears to be an overall improvement in the security situation as noted in Security Council resolution 2363 (2017). However, as the Secretary-General reported in December 2017 (S/2017/249), there remain serious concerns regarding conflict-related sexual violence in Sudan.

During my brief visit, I learned that women continue to be raped while collecting water or firewood, or when they leave camps to pursue livelihood activities. I also heard from women who are unable to return to their pre-war homes due to the absence of security and fears of being raped. In addition, women told me about sexual violence committed in the context of inter-communal conflicts over land and natural resources.

In addition to ensuring security, states also have the responsibility to hold perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence accountable. This requires a criminal justice system which includes institutions willing and able to conduct investigations and prosecutions in accordance with international standards; the adoption and implementation of comprehensive legislation that guarantees equal protection of the law, prohibits all forms of sexual violence, and ensures the protection and well-being of victims and witnesses; public awareness initiatives to educate the population about their rights; and the allocation of adequate resources to criminal justice institutions and service providers.

In this regard, recent amendments to the Criminal Code on the definition of rape as well as the establishment of Women and Child Protection Police Units are important steps forward.

In El Fasher, I met with the Prosecutor General of the Special Court for Darfur, which has jurisdiction over conflict-related crimes committed in Darfur since February 2003. I was dismayed to learn that, to date, the Special Prosecutor’s Office has not investigated a single case of conflict-related sexual violence.

In contrast, there continue to be references to conflict-related sexual violence in Security Council resolutions and reports relating to Sudan, including those of the Secretary-General, the International Commission of Inquiry established under Security Council resolution 1564 (2004), the Panel of Experts on Sudan established under Security Council resolution 1591 (2005) and the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.

I also learned that there are no female judges in any of the five states of Darfur. There is a need for female judges as well as more female police investigators and prosecutors.

In Khartoum, I had the opportunity to meet representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO), including women human rights defenders. I observed, however, that NGOs feel restricted from voicing their views or carrying out programmes on conflict-related sexual violence for fear of reprisal and other consequences.

A society in which women human rights defenders have the freedom and space to be vocal and proactive is a society in which women flourish and participate in decision-making, and in which there is absolute intolerance for sexual violence.

As an outcome of my visit, it is my expectation that the Government of Sudan will agree to adopt a Joint Communiqué between the United Nations and the Government of Sudan. The Joint Communiqué will reflect the Government’s commitment to address conflict-related sexual violence, and provide a framework for United Nations support to be provided through my office (including the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law/Sexual Violence and the inter-agency network United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict); the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID); and the United Nations Country Team in Sudan.

It will also serve as a basis for mobilizing the necessary resources for such support. I have proposed that the Joint Communiqué focus on five priority areas: survivors’ access to medical, psychosocial, legal and socioeconomic services; monitoring, analysis, documentation and information sharing on sexual violence; rule of law responses to conflict-related sexual violence; engagement with the security sector; and engagement with religious leaders and civil society. I have also proposed to deploy a United Nations technical team to Sudan to undertake a needs assessment and develop a plan to implement the Joint Communiqué.

Sexual violence in conflict ruins the lives of individuals, destroys families, breaks up communities and prevents societies from achieving sustainable peace. For too long, sexual violence in conflict has gone unacknowledged and unpunished. There must be no doubt that perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations will be held accountable.

To this end, my office stands ready to support efforts to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence. However, we can only do so where governments are genuinely committed to combatting conflict-related sexual violence and are willing to translate that commitment into concrete actions and results.

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Pramila Patten is the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict

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