Inter Press ServiceGender Violence – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 08 Dec 2018 00:19:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Ending Sexual Harassment in the Work Placehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ending-sexual-harassment-work-place/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-sexual-harassment-work-place http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ending-sexual-harassment-work-place/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 14:35:33 +0000 Comfort Mussa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159078 Ten years ago when I set out on a career in media, my dream was to work for a TV station. The first prospective employer I came across invited me to an interview in his hotel room. As badly as I wanted the position, I had to give it up since it required a hotel […]

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As widespread as sexual harassment is in corporate Cameroon, denouncing it is a herculean task for many women who are faced with the options of either enduring the harassment and keeping their jobs, or speaking out and going hungry

Credit: Raising Voices

By Comfort Mussa
YAOUNDÉ, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

Ten years ago when I set out on a career in media, my dream was to work for a TV station. The first prospective employer I came across invited me to an interview in his hotel room.

As badly as I wanted the position, I had to give it up since it required a hotel room interview. Stories about employers demanding sexual favors for job opportunities were and are still very common in Cameroun.

Even before I had my foot in the door of my career, I was welcomed to a work landscape where sexual harassment at work was widespread. I went into this career “combat ready” having heard too many stories about what is expected from or done to women in the sector. Unfortunately, many women continue to go to work each day ready to fight off harassers. This constant battle is exhausting.

As widespread as sexual harassment is in corporate Cameroon, denouncing it is a herculean task for many women who are faced with the options of either enduring the harassment and keeping their jobs, or speaking out and going hungry

I settled for a radio job, gotten by merit. One afternoon as I was entering the studio, my colleague on the shift before mine was leaving. When I entered the studio, he closed the door and insisted on kissing me. I resisted and pushed him away. Other colleagues (males) in the technician’s booth watched it happen and laughed throughout. I was angry, disgusted and helpless. Colleagues laughed it off as a joke. The station at the time had no policy or provisions on how to handle cases of sexual harassment. Reporting sexual harassment in an organization with no internal tools or processes to deal with it, amounts to little or no action at all.

Many organizations do not have gender policies. In a recent report about sexual harassment at the African Union, interviewees said “…reporting incidents of sexual harassment was often counterproductive as there was no process internally to do so because the AUC does not have a sexual harassment policy”.

It isn’t just the lack of good corporate policies; it is the presence of patriarchal work culture and exploitation that makes it conducive for harassment to thrive. I remember, a colleague from another media house who was often assigned to go interview a particular business man in town or source for adverts from his company because she had broad hips and the business man had a known weakness for women built like that. Each time she was tasked with such assignments, she was told to “use her assets to secure funds for the organization”. She quit the job.

Forms of harassment at work are varied and include displaying inappropriate sexual images or posters in the workplace, telling lewd jokes, making inappropriate sexual gestures, staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts, inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person, making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

This year I and other women journalists in Cameroon launched a campaign dubbed #StopSexualHarassment237 to address the recurrent stories of sexual harassment in work places. Many #MeToo stories came out of this campaign. A few media bosses reached out to ask what they could do to make their organizations safer. Others trivialized the issue and blamed frequent harassment on how women colleagues dressed. Other bosses, queried their staff for even taking part in such a campaign in the first place – a big indicator of how toxic some work spaces are and the hindrances to breaking the silence on the subject.

As widespread as sexual harassment is in corporate Cameroon, denouncing it is a herculean task for many women who are faced with the options of either enduring the harassment and keeping their jobs, or speaking out and going hungry. Denouncing could lead to one losing her job, as perpetrators are often people in positions of power. This situation can be easily solved if we had more women in management positions. Unfortunately, top leadership in corporate Cameroon is still a men’s club.

Over the years I have learnt that ensuring my safety at work starts right from recruitment. One question I ask every prospective employer or company I have worked with is “Does this company have a gender policy?” I set that agenda for what I expect from the company. I advise other women to do the same. One’s salary is not the only thing to crosscheck on a work contract. Our safety and sanity are important too.

In the past few months of our #StopSexualHarassment237 and #MeToo campaign, we have found strength in our collective resolve. Our campaign does not only engage professionals but also students in university and professional schools where unfortunately stories of sexual harassment have been normalised. So normal, that instead of fighting to stop sexual harassment society finds ways to justify and live with it. This “normal” was learnt. It is our duty to teach ourselves a new normal and stop sexual harassment at work and in our communities.

 

 

This article is published as part of an online campaign by the Gender Based Violence Prevention Network, coordinated by the Uganda-based organisation Raising Voices, to prevent violence against women. Use the hashtag #16daysofactivism to join the conversation, or check out @GBVNet via Twitter or visit the GBV Facebook page

 

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Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 08:08:55 +0000 Richard Barathe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159067 Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Credit: Caroline Trutmann / UNDP

By Richard Barathe
PANAMA CITY, Panama, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

María is a 35-year old Salvadoran woman with three young children. Growing up, María knew her mother but never met her father. When María was six, she started working at the Central Market of San Salvador and at the age of 12 she was raped and became pregnant for the first time.

Later, María was expelled from her home once her mother got married for a second time, “My stepfather did not want to take care of me, even less with a son”, she told the researcher for “Resilient Youth, The Opportunity for Central America”, a study developed by the Regional Project Infosegura, a UN Development Programme-USAID joint initiative.

María lived in many different places until she met the father of her second daughter- who was killed years later. After his passing, María had a third child with a third partner whom she soon separated from, due to domestic violence. Currently, María’s teenage son lives with her father, uncle, and grandmother since she simply could not take care of him while also working full time.

Richard Barathe

Women all across El Salvador, women just like María have a life expectancy of around 75 years. It is safe to say that about half of María’s life has been deeply marked by the violence that women experience in Northern Countries of Central America, a region that for the past two decades has seen chronic violence despite Central America not having a regional war in decades.

When speaking of violence in the Northern Countries of Central America, it is assumed to be a problem concerning young men, since “only” 11 percent of the victims of violent deaths are women. However, the story of María is more common than is realized.

María is just another example of how women of this region live surrounded by a violence that affects them differently and specifically just because they are women.

This violence is not necessarily lethal, and victims often survive, but these women continue to be subjected to the same cycle of violence throughout their whole lives, impacting families and communities through generations, affecting their economy and sustainability, and distorting their capacities for development.

Data shows that in María’s home country, 93 percent of the victims of sexual crimes are women. Over two in every five the victims are under the age of 18. We also know that domestic violence is present throughout the adulthood of a woman and that a woman between 12 and 50 years old is at high risk of “disappearing”.

Over 3,500 women have been killed between the years 2010-2017, while nearly 2,700 were reported as Enforced Disappearances around the same period (201-2016) with 43 percent of them being minors.

We know this because the Salvadoran State has made progress in the management of information on citizen security with a focus on gender and has oriented public policies to guarantee evidence-based analysis.

Migration is a phenomenon that also characterizes this region, and data indicates that violence against women is an important factor to be considered. Our initiative also analyzed returnees data: migrants detained in transit who were sent back to their place of origin.

We know that 26 percent of these ‘returnees’ are women and 30 percent of all women say they have migrated due to violence, compared to only 18 percent of men who say violence is the main reason for leaving their country.

Every November, national, regional, and global actors campaign to eradicate violence against women. It is crucial to recognize violence against women as an essential element of citizen security: tackling it is a key step to build more cohesive and peaceful societies.

Addressing general societal violence with a special focus on violence against women must be at the foundation of comprehensive public policies on citizen security, that aim to eradicate all types of violence. Understanding everyday violence that women experience in their homes and streets is a security problem for communities and nations.

No nation will be safe unless women can live safely and develop their full potentials.

In this spirit, the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a holistic model for a comprehensive approach to ensure that women have a life free from all types of violence. All of society thrives with firm steps towards development when no one is left behind.

At UNDP, we are systematizing good practices and success stories of the work in Central America within the framework of the UNDP-USAID Infosegura Regional Project, which is dedicated to the development of capacities for the formulation of public policies based on evidence and with a gender approach. We are, thus, establishing standards, methodologies and scalable processes.

An essential part of the process has been to build trust and coordinate our work with national institutions producing and analyzing data, leveraging new technologies, national experts and innovation.

This coordination has resulted in regional accomplishments in information management with a gender focus, such as specialized surveys and standardized reports on acts of violence against women.

In El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, understanding the context of María’s story as accurately as possible will allow us to efficiently eradicate violence against women as well as all other types of violence. If countries are to achieve the 2030 Agenda, boosting gains in the economic, social and environmental realms, this can only be done if we ensure that no “Marías” are left behind.

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Excerpt:

Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america/#respond Sat, 01 Dec 2018 03:00:08 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158975 This article is part of IPS coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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Susana Gómez, who was left blind by a beating from her then husband, says in a park in the city of La Plata, Argentina that she did not find support from the authorities to free herself from domestic violence, but a social organisation saved her from joining the list of femicides in Latin America - gender-based murders of women, which numbered 2,795 in 2017 in the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Susana Gómez, who was left blind by a beating from her then husband, says in a park in the city of La Plata, Argentina that she did not find support from the authorities to free herself from domestic violence, but a social organisation saved her from joining the list of femicides in Latin America - gender-based murders of women, which numbered 2,795 in 2017 in the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
LA PLATA, Argentina, Dec 1 2018 (IPS)

Left blind by a beating from her ex-husband, Susana Gómez barely managed to avoid joining the list of nearly 2,800 femicides committed annually in Latin America, but her case shows why public policies and laws are far from curtailing gender-based violence in the region.

“I filed many legal complaints (13 in criminal courts and five in civil courts) and the justice system never paid any attention to me,” Gómez told IPS in an interview in a square in her neighborhood in Lisandro Olmos, a suburb of La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires.

Although they already existed in Argentina in 2011, when the brutal attack against her took place, the specialised women’s police stations were not enough to protect her from her attacker.

Her life was saved by La Casa María Pueblo, a non-governmental organisation that, like others in Latin America, uses its own resources to make up for the shortcomings of the state in order to protect and provide legal advice to the victims of domestic violence.

Gómez, her four children and her mother, who were also threatened by her ex-husband, were given shelter by the NGO.

“We had nothing. We went there with the clothes on our back and our identity documents and nothing else because we were going here and there and everyone closed the door on us: The police didn’t do anything, nor did the prosecutor’s office,” said Gómez, who is now 34 years old.

“Without organisations like this one I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, the case wouldn’t have made it to trial. Without legal backing, a shelter where you can hide, psychological treatment, I couldn’t have faced this, because it’s not easy,” she said.

In April 2014, a court in La Plata sentenced her ex-husband, Carlos Goncharuk, to eight years in prison. Gómez is now suing the government of the province of Buenos Aires for reparations.

“No one is going to give me my eyesight back, but I want the justice system, the State to be more aware, to prevent a before and an after,” said Gómez, who once again is worried because her ex will be released next year.

Lawyer Darío Witt, the founder of the NGO, said Gómez was not left blind by an accident or illness but by the repeated beatings at the hands of her then-husband. The last time, he banged her head against the kitchen wall.

“The aim of the reparations is not simply economic. What we want to try to show in the case of Susana and other victims is that the State, that the authorities in general, whether provincial, municipal or national and in different countries, have a high level of responsibility in this. The state is not innocent in these questions,” Witt told IPS.

“When I went blind and realised that I would no longer see my children, I said ‘enough’,” Gómez said.

Alarming statistics

According to the Gender Equality Observatory (OIG) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), at least 2,795 women were murdered in 2017 for gender-based reasons in 23 countries in the region, crimes classified in several countries as femicides.

The list of femicides released this month by OIG is led by Brazil (1,133 victims registered in 2017), in absolute figures, but in relative terms, the rate of gender crimes per 100,000 women, El Salvador reaches a level unparalleled in the region, with 10.2 femicides per 100,000 women.

Charts showing absolute numbers of femicides by country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the rate of gender-based murders per 100,000 women. Credit: ECLAC Gender Equality Observatory

Charts showing absolute numbers of femicides by country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the rate of gender-based murders per 100,000 women. Credit: ECLAC Gender Equality Observatory

Honduras (in 2016) recorded 5.8 femicides per 100,000 women, and Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia also recorded high rates in 2017, equal to or greater than two cases per 100,000 women.

The OIG details that gender-based killings account for the majority of murders of women in the region, where femicides are mainly committed by partners or ex-partners of the victim, with the exception of El Salvador and Honduras.

“Femicides are the most extreme expression of violence against women. Neither the classification of the crime nor its statistical visibility have been sufficient to eradicate this scourge that alarms and horrifies us every day,” said ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena as she released the new OIG figures.

Ana Silvia Monzón, a Guatemalan sociologist with the Gender and Feminism Studies Programme at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso), pointed out that her country has had a Law against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women since 2008 and a year later a Law against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons.

“Both are important instruments because they help make visible a serious problem in Guatemala, and they are a tool for victims to begin the path to justice,” she told IPS from Guatemala City.

However, despite these laws that provided for the creation of a model of comprehensive care for victims and specialised courts, “the necessary resources are not allocated to institutions, agencies and programmes that should promote such prevention, much less specialised care for victims who report the violence,” she said.

In addition, “prejudices and biased gender practices persist among those who enforce the law” and “little has been done to introduce educational content or programmes that contribute to changing the social imaginary that assumes violence against women as normal,” and especially against indigenous women, she said.

#NiUnaMenos, #NiUnaMás

In the region, “significant progress has been made, which is the expression of a women’s movement that has managed to draw attention to gender-based violence as a social problem, but not enough progress has been made,” Monzón said.

Five-year-old Olivia holds up a sign with the slogan against femicide, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has spread throughout Latin America in mass mobilisations against gender violence. Olivia participated in a neighborhood activity in the Argentine city of La Plata on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated Nov. 25. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Five-year-old Olivia holds up a sign with the slogan against femicide, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has spread throughout Latin America in mass mobilisations against gender violence. Olivia participated in a neighborhood activity in the Argentine city of La Plata on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated Nov. 25. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

According to U.N. Women, a total of 18 Latin American and Caribbean nations have modified their laws to punish sexist crimes against women such as femicide or gender-based aggravated homicide.

But as Gómez and other social activists in her neighborhood conclude, much more must be done.

The meeting with the victim took place on Nov. 25, during an informal social gathering in the Juan Manuel de Rosas square, organized by the group Nuevo Encuentro.

The activity was held on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which launched the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. This year’s slogan is #HearMeToo, which calls for victims to be heard as part of the solution to what experts call a “silent genocide.”

María Eugenia Cruz, a neighborhood organiser for Nuevo Encuentro, said that despite the new legal frameworks and mass demonstrations and mobilisations such as #NiUnaMenos against machista violence and feminicide, which have spread throughout Argentina and other countries in the region, “there is still a need to talk about what is happening to women.”

“In more narrow-minded places like this neighbourhood, it seems like gender violence is something people are ashamed of talking about, the women feel guilty. Making the problem visible is part of thinking about what tools the State can provide,” she told IPS.

“Or to see what those tools are,” said Olivia, her five-year-old daughter who was playing nearby, and who proudly held a sign that read: “Ni Una Menos,” (Not One Woman Less) the slogan that has brought Latin American women together, as well as #NiUnaMás (Not One More Woman).

She exemplifies a new generation of Latin American girls who, thanks to massive mobilisations and growing social awareness, are beginning to speak out early and promote cultural change.

“Today women are becoming aware, starting during the dating stage, of the signs of a violent man. He doesn’t like your friends, he doesn’t like the way you dress. Now there’s more information available, and that’s important,” said Gómez, who is a volunteer on a hot-line for victims of violence.

“Now they call you, they ask you for advice, and that’s good. In the past, who could you call? Besides the fear, if they promise to conceal your identity, that prompts you to say: I’m going to file a complaint and I have a group of people who are going to help me,” said the survivor of domestic abuse.

The post Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of IPS coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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Justice elusive to victims of gender-based violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/justice-elusive-victims-gender-based-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=justice-elusive-victims-gender-based-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/justice-elusive-victims-gender-based-violence/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 16:11:27 +0000 Editor Dailystar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158967 Speed up the trial process

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Speed up the trial process

By Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh
Nov 28 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Although incidents of gender-based violence have increased over the years, there is hardly any improvement in terms of getting justice in the cases filed over these incidents. A recent ActionAid commissioned research study has revealed that in the cases filed in such incidents, 97 percent women do not get justice, four out of five such cases brought before the court remain unaddressed for two years before they get court dates, and only in 3.1 percent cases the court rules in favour of the victims. Another striking finding of the study is that two-thirds of such violence occur inside victims’ homes. According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day.

These findings have brought to light the fact that the measures taken by the government and non-government organisations to end gender-based violence and bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice are just not enough. And the fact that in 96.9 percent of the cases, victims either did not get court hearings or had their cases dismissed is a clear indication of how these cases are manipulated by the perpetrators who are generally powerful or influential.

It is also a well-known fact that compared to the large number of incidents of violence, cases are filed only in a few of them. Having little or no information about filing complaints, interference by community leaders and the slow rate of case proceedings at court are the common reasons for low report rate.

Therefore, the state must ensure that appropriate information is disseminated among women to make them aware of resources and channels to safely file legal complaints and grievances. In addition, a lot needs to be done to change the “socially accepting attitude” towards this kind of violence. And the media also has a very important role to play here in terms of raising awareness campaigns, reporting more on violence inside the home and doing follow-up reports on the court proceedings in such cases.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Speed up the trial process

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Promoting Gender Equality On Front Lineshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promoting-gender-equality-front-lines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-gender-equality-front-lines http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/promoting-gender-equality-front-lines/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2018 10:17:43 +0000 Jessica Neuwirth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158897 Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with front line women’s groups around the world.

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Hawa Aden Mohamed and girls at The Galkayo Center, Somalia.

By Jessica Neuwirth
NEW YORK, Nov 27 2018 (IPS)

Last week’s announcement by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) of £50m ($64.3m) to help end female genital mutilation (FGM) is great news. The biggest ever financial commitment by any donor, it could be a game changer for the African-led movement to end this abhorrent subjugation of women.

We have yet to see how exactly the proposal may work, but one of the best parts of the announcement was a pledge to fund women on the front lines. This sets a precedent that I hope other governments will follow.

Funding the front lines is an approach that is often talked about but rarely translated into action. For years, I have seen with my own eyes the importance of the work that happens at the grassroots. The Tasaru Rescue Centre in Kenya has done life-saving work to protect Maasai girls at risk of FGM.

In Nepal, the Forum for Women, Law and Development has changed the law to better protect Nepalese women from cases of rape and acid attacks. In South Africa, Embrace Dignity has helped start a movement of sex trade survivors, fueling the conversation to end sex trafficking on the African continent.

However, despite the growing evidence that locally-led advocacy is more effective and more sustainable, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 8% of the $10 billion given in 2014 to non governmental organizations (NGOs) working on the promotion of gender equality in economically developing countries, actually reached groups that were located in those same countries.

In response to the growing gap between the needs of these national grassroots groups and the allocation of resources to larger international NGOs, I set up Donor Direct Action in 2011 to help level the playing field and get more funding to the women’s groups working on the front lines where it will have the most impact. At least 90% of funds we receive to support these groups are re-granted directly to them.

The women who work on the front lines to end violence and discrimination against women get little attention. They are brave, insightful and effective. Their biggest need is almost always core funding, so our grants are largely unrestricted.

These women should be trusted to invest funding where they know it is likely to be most needed. They determine their own priorities for how best to use the funds. We then help build their public profiles, get their issues highlighted in international media, link them with major donors and political leaders, and provide other forms of strategic support.

On this “Giving Tuesday”, I hope that you will join me in supporting one or more of our partner groups, who are carrying out such critical work. Please also take a moment to share this article on social media or with anyone you think may want to help. If you use Facebook please start a fundraiser. Do anything you can do to help get donations where they are most needed.

Together we are changing the lives of women and girls around the world. It is challenging work but it is moving forward. Let’s keep the momentum going!

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Excerpt:

Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with front line women’s groups around the world.

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The Geneva Centre reiterates the importance of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls for the achievement of gender equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/geneva-centre-reiterates-importance-eliminating-forms-violence-women-girls-achievement-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=geneva-centre-reiterates-importance-eliminating-forms-violence-women-girls-achievement-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/geneva-centre-reiterates-importance-eliminating-forms-violence-women-girls-achievement-gender-equality/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 18:40:18 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158923 On the occasion of the observance of the 2018 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue reiterates the urgent need to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, as a sine qua non condition for the achievement of gender equality worldwide. […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Nov 26 2018 (Geneva Centre)

On the occasion of the observance of the 2018 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue reiterates the urgent need to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, as a sine qua non condition for the achievement of gender equality worldwide.

Echoing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who deplored violence against women and girls as “a mark of shame on all our societies”, the Geneva Centre notes that it is estimated that a third of women worldwide have experienced either sexual or physical violence, including domestic violence, in their lifetimes(1). Phenomena such as femicide, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation, cyber-violence against women, early and forced marriage, sexual harassment and intimidation are on the rise and undermine the halted progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women globally.

In relation to the situation in the Arab region, the Geneva Centre recalls that discriminatory laws providing impunity to perpetrators of violence against women and girls must be repealed. The Centre commends the recent efforts of Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia to repeal discriminatory laws against women and girls. They stand out as shining examples of how to address the prevalence of gender-based violence through legislation and practical measures that protect victims’ rights. Loopholes in national legislation should not allow that wrongdoers escape the long arm of justice.

The Geneva Centre also notes that the unprecedented rise of extremist violence and armed conflict in the Arab region has likewise contributed to worsening the status of Arab women. The effects of armed conflict and insecurity have disproportionately affected women and girls. Conflict situations and humanitarian crises constitute fertile grounds for the perpetration of grave forms of violence against women, aimed at tearing apart the social fabric and thus further destabilizing societies undergoing conflict. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are used by some belligerents in Syria and in Iraq as weapons of war. Victims of these forms of sexual abuses face long-term psychological and social effects, as well as exclusion from society due to persisting stigma.

Furthermore, Resolution 1820 of the UN Security Council of 19 June 2008 prohibits and condemns all forms of sexual violence and rape targeting women and girls, which can amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, or may be acts constitutive of genocide.

The Geneva Centre underscores the nexus between violence against women and the pervasiveness of gender inequality in leadership positions. Violence against women under its multiple forms, including sexual harassment, is frequently used as a means of intimidation and exclusion of women from the political arena, and from the private sector. A 2016 study by the Inter-Parliamentarian Union revealed that a staggering 82% of the interviewed women parliamentarians had experienced psychological violence, whilst 44% had received death, rape or abduction threats.

The use of violence with the aim of excluding women from societies and of undermining their civil and political rights becomes even more evident during election times. Women experience more than twice as much electoral violence than men(2), according to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. In this regard, The Geneva Centre calls for the full political inclusion of women worldwide and in the Arab region in particular, and for the adoption of targeted measures to remedy any deliberate attempts to exclude women from leadership positions through the use of violence and intimidation.

In order to improve the status of women in the Arab region, the Geneva Centre appeals to Arab governments to address all challenges impeding the full realization of Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this connection, he noted that Arab countries must uphold the positive momentum witnessed in the region with regard to the status of women.

The advancement of women’s rights and the enhancement of gender equality constitute the pillars of an inclusive and harmonious society. Decision-makers must remain committed to taking concrete measures for the elimination of gender discrimination and violence, as well as for lifting the barriers that hinder the empowerment of women.

The Geneva Centre will shortly issue a new publication dedicated to the progress and the persisting challenges with regard to women’s rights in the Arab region. Under the title “Women’s rights in the Arab region: between myth and reality”, the upcoming publication will include a comprehensive account of the panel discussion organized in 2017 on this theme, featuring a compelling statement from Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, as well as an in-depth study of the situation of gender equality in the Arab region and worldwide by Ambassador Naela Gabr, member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Geneva Centre remains committed through its initiatives to giving prominence to women’s rights and gender equality worldwide, in all spheres of the society.

(1) According to data provided by UN Women.

(2) International Foundation for Electoral Systems: Breaking the Mold: Understanding Gender and Electoral Violence, by Gabrielle Bardall, December 2011.

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Gender Inequality is Stunting Economic Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress/#respond Sun, 25 Nov 2018 08:05:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158840 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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UN SG Mr. António Guterres-“women’s rights are being, reduced, restricted and reversed”. The Deputy UN Secretary General (DSG) Ms Amina Mohammed and the UNSG. Credit: UN Photo

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 2018 (IPS)

‘Do not let us off the hook; keep our feet to the fire’. These were the words of the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres when he promised to personally lead the global body towards greater gender equality.

As the world observes the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence today 26 November 2018, an independent United Nations system-wide survey on sexual harassment is taking place around all UN country offices.

It is the first of its kind and it demonstrates the UN’s common resolve to eradicate sexual harassment and ensure a safe and inclusive workplace for all personnel across the UN.

The UN initiative is in lock-step with the theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism – ‘Orange the World; Hear Me Too’. The aim is to raise awareness on violence against women and its impact on a woman’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being.

The now-famous ‘MeToo’ movement brought out from anonymity the shame that many women were forced to live with, fearing that to reveal the various inappropriate remarks and unwelcome advances they had endured would jeopardise their careers.

Statistics indicate that more than one in three women across the world have experienced physical or sexual violence, usually perpetrated by an intimate partner. In a study by Edison Research and Marketplace on sexual harassment, 27% of women and 14% of men reported that they had been harassed at some time at their workplace.

Despite the progressive policy commitments and institutional frameworks on gender equality and women empowerment, implementation remains slow and inconsistent. To date, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa has not secured universal ratification.

While the HeForShe campaign has gained high momentum since its launch in September 2014, a lot still needs to be done to bring men on board towards addressing sexual harassment towards women in public and private spaces.

Such campaigns have brought considerable gains towards raising consciousness and self-assurance for women. Increasingly, they are speaking out against the indignities of work-related sexual advances and intimidation.

It is time for another crescendo to rise as we consider the multiple dimensions of gender violence. This is the cost that countries are paying when women are girls are denied the chance to live to their full social and economic potential.

This is the insidious aspect of gender violence that needs the most urgent restitution.

Consider the aspect of employment: according to a World Bank report released this year, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person.

UNDP in its Africa Human Development Report for 2016 says, “Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year

In education, girls still have catching up to do. While Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders, there remains work to do towards demonstrating to young women that they have a future after their education. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment are women.

Estimates indicate that the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages. In addition, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. However, while evidence abounds that parity with women is the best driving force for economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication, women’s rights are being “reduced, restricted and reversed”, according to UN Secretary-General Mr. Guterres.

There cannot be any illusions about the enormity of the task ahead. Misogyny is a deep-rooted expression of male entitlement that often excuses sexual harassment and violence, even at times by the victims themselves. For instance, a World Bank Gender Data Portal shows that 76.3 per cent of women in Mali and 92.1 per cent in Guinea believe a man is justified in beating his wife if she goes out without telling him, neglects the children, refuses sex, burns the food or argues with him.

Such attitudes are often rooted far beyond the reach of social media hashtags. Shifts in attitude must begin from the home, before we can expect corporate bodies and national governments to enact gender-sensitive legislation.

The UN in Kenya is taking some concrete steps in this direction, starting with the establishment of a coordination network on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in the Nairobi duty station.

Women shouldn’t have to feel ‘grateful’ for opportunities says the UN DSG Amina Mohammed in a recent BBC interview. So true. Ultimately, countries need to begin breaking structural barriers, not just with gender equality as a lofty ideal but as deliberate strategy for sustainable development.

The post Gender Inequality is Stunting Economic Progress appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Violence Against Women, a Cause and Consequence of Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/violence-women-cause-consequence-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-women-cause-consequence-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/violence-women-cause-consequence-inequality/#respond Fri, 23 Nov 2018 15:25:56 +0000 Selim Jahan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158823 Selim Jahan is Director of the Human Development Report Office, UNDP

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Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Selim Jahan
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 23 2018 (IPS)

The lack of women’s empowerment is a critical form of inequality. And while there are many barriers to empowerment, violence against women and girls (VAW) is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality.

Estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that about 1 in 3 (35 percent) of women and girls worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. However, these numbers – shocking as they are – only tell a part of the story.

VAW is a global phenomenon that cuts across boundaries of age, socioeconomic status, education and geography. Yet globally we still do not know very much about its extent: only 107 of 195 countries have data available on intimate partner violence for example, a number that falls to just 56 countries when we seek to understand non-intimate partner violence.

Even when data is available, it is likely that the figures are an underestimate as it is notoriously difficult to collect sensitive information on VAW when the victims can fear coming forward or feel ashamed.

VAW also has an impact on the lives of many women beyond the direct victims. The fear of violence can prevent women from pursuing education, working or exercising their political rights and voice. A recent Gallup survey shows that in every region of the world, women consistently feel more insecure than men, although the levels of insecurity significantly vary across regions.

VAW is not only a cause of gender inequality, it is a consequence of it. In many places, gender-based violence is reinforced by discriminatory laws and exclusionary social norms that undermine women and girl’s opportunities for education, income and independence.

Sometimes VAW accompanies shifting power relations within households and communities, especially when there is resentment against women who move away from conventional roles.

Today, 49 countries still do not have laws that protect women from domestic violence. In 32 countries the procedures that women face to obtain a passport differ from those of men. In 18 countries women need their husband’s approval to take a job.

Practices like early marriage are also widespread, particularly in low human development countries, where 39 percent of women aged 20 to 24 were married before their 18th birthday.

Estimates from the 2015 Human Development Report show that even though women carry out the major share of global work (52 percent), they face disadvantages in both paid and unpaid work.

They perform three times more unpaid work than men – 31 percent vs 10 percent – and, when their work is remunerated, they earn 24 percent less than their male counterparts. A professional ‘glass ceiling’ means that women still hold only 22 percent of senior leadership jobs in businesses, and fewer than 25 percent of senior political and judicial positions.

So what next? It is clearly vital to support women and girls who encounter violence, for example ensuring they have access to justice, shelter and protection, whether violence is domestic or in the work place.

But to break the VAW cycle, policy interventions should focus on the longer-term by changing discriminatory social norms; closing gender gaps whether they are educational, economic or social level; or building awareness about VAW.

Innovative and aggressive policy that aims to change outcomes (such as increasing women’s voice in the community) may change norms. Although norms should guide the design of culturally sensitive policies and programs, they should not constrain or undermine initiatives.

Progress has been made on many important fronts (e.g. on closing gaps between men and women in primary education and political participation), but there has been inertia and stagnation in others (e.g. employment).

And so much more effort is needed to tackle the patterns of violence that cut deep into many societies so that they are not perpetuated across generations. Collecting more data is an important first step.

*The HDialogue blog is a platform for debate and discussion. Posts reflect the views of respective authors in their individual capacities and not the views of UNDP/HDRO.

HDRO encourages reflections on the HDialogue contributions. The office posts comments that supports a constructive dialogue on policy options for advancing human development and are formulated respectful of other, potentially differing views. The office reserves the right to contain contributions that appear divisive.

The post Violence Against Women, a Cause and Consequence of Inequality appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Selim Jahan is Director of the Human Development Report Office, UNDP

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UN Commemorates International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 16:16:14 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158738 Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Special Adviser to the President of Wellesley College on Women’s Leadership.

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Protesters gather at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi. Credit: Sujoy Dhar/IPS

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

“From the tuk tuk drivers in Cambodia… to the school children in South Africa, women and men and girls and boys are taking a stand to prevent violence against women,” says Executive Director of UN Women and Under Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

On November 19, the UN marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the Trusteeship Council Chambers at the UN Headquarters. It also commemorates the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women.

One of the unique features of the commemoration is the UN’s commitment to the role of law enforcement in ending violence against women and girls in private and public spaces. This local-to-global focus at the UN will bring critical perspectives from the UN, Member States, and including for the first time, a local law enforcement agency – the New York Police Department (NYPD).

The “violence against women” movement is perhaps the greatest success story of international mobilization. However over 35 percent of women across the world face violence during their life in what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.”

Over one billion women experience gender – based violence in the world. Under Secretary General Mlambo-Ngcuka has pointed out that given the magnitude of this pandemic, if it was a disease, governments and scientists would be marshalling every resource to address it.

According to research led by a group of scholars at Stanford and Oxford universities, domestic violence costs 25 times more than conflict and violent extremism and exhausts 5.2 percent of global GDP.

Despite the stark and unyielding statistics, around the world, a new energy is bringing renewed commitments from heads of state and government leaders to address the different faces of violence against women.

Eighteen years ago, when I partnered with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on a study on domestic violence in the outskirts of Beijing, violence against women in the domestic sphere was recognized only in terms of loss of limb or eyesight.

The broadening categories of domestic violence including the recognition of economic abuse as a category of violence is part of a second generation of domestic violence laws and is in full compliance with international norms such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW).

Earlier in the year, Theresa May wrote to the Guardian, “Not all abusive behavior is physical. Controlling, manipulative and verbally abusive behavior ruins lives and means thousands end up isolated, living in fear. So, for the first time, the bill will provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes economic abuse, alongside other non-physical abuse.”

While older laws on gender -based violence focused on punishment, the new crop of laws focus broadly on punishment and prevention.

For example, the newly passed “anti-violence against women” law in Tunisia (2017) makes it easier to prosecute domestic abuse, and it imposes penalties for sexual harassment in public spaces. Most importantly it calls for children to be educated in schools about human rights.

Another phenomenon of this “second generation” of gender-based violence laws is a heightened recognition of a victim- centered approach and the costs of violence on the survivor, in terms of physical, economic, psychological, social and familial.

Earlier in the year, New Zealand passed legislation granting victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow them to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children. Family violence in New Zealand is estimated to cost the country between NZ$4.1bn and $7bn a year.

One of the critical components of the UNiTe campaign is the recognition that violence against women does not take place in a vacuum. As Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has confirmed: “Violence against women is fundamentally about power. It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.”

Mlambo- Ngcuka harnesses the full panoply of international commitments in their full majestic entirety, including the recognition that gender parity and women’s leadership is critical to UNiTe campaign to end violence against women.

In doing so she marshals international norms, from General Recommendation 12 and 19 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the DEVAW and the Security Council Resolution 1325 and its progeny as normative and constitutive in combating violence against women.

From the HeforShe movement, which calls for male leadership in advancing women’s equality, Mlambo-Ngcuka is putting in motion a broader bedrock of structures to combat violence against women in order to address the root causes of gender inequality.

On November 19, we come together at an extraordinary moment of unprecedented momentum built by the #MeToo movement towards empowering women and achieving gender equality across the board and across the globe.

As envisioned 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognized that “contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…” More must be done to recognize that these barbarous acts take place not only battlefields, but within hallowed halls of power, in the classrooms, in workplaces, including the paddy fields, and in our homes.

As stated in the UDHR, the commitment to end violence against women is a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. This common standard transcends culture, tradition, power or politics.

*Along with Richard Liu of MSNBC, Rangita de Silva de Alwis will be moderating the UN’s Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the UN Trusteeship Council on November 19.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Special Adviser to the President of Wellesley College on Women’s Leadership.

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Teenage Pregnancy in Kenya: A Crisis of Health, Education and Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:50:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158723 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Education CS Amina Mohamed chats with form four candidates of Mama Ngina Secondary School a few minutes before KCSE exams. Credit: Standard

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

November 20, 2018 marks International Children’s Day. Perhaps a day we should use to reflect on a national crisis of underage pregnancies that confronts us.

Recent media reports of the high number of girls failing to sit their final secondary school examinations (KSCE) only reveal the extent to which we have continued to sweep under the carpet candid discussions about adolescent sexuality.

Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed said that the country must confront this worrying trend. “We must have this conversation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It is happening to our children, our sisters, and even our young brothers. We will deal with it or it will not go away”. No doubt CS Mohamed has a tough job ahead.

Consider this. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicate that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant.

The carpet’s edges are now too frayed to conceal our failure to act; we no longer can afford the blissful pretence about sexual activity among our teenagers. Nor can the responsibility for decisive solutions be shunted around.

Numerous studies have documented the fact that a high number of teens are already sexually active. These young girls are part of the four in ten women in Kenya aged between 15 and 49 who have unintended pregnancies. There can be no illusions about what they need: accurate, up-to-date information and access to effective contraception.

It is time to take a wholesome picture of the social and economic price society is paying when 15 percent of its teenage girls become pregnant. For virtually all of them – and statistics say majority are from poor families – it means an end to any dreams of coming out of poverty because they cannot continue with education.

Complications during pregnancy are the second cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls, therefore it means their already poor families have additional health care costs to meet. Children born to such young mothers are more prone to physical and cognitive development.

The overall effect is a perpetuation of the cycle of poverty that brings personal catastrophe while weakening social and economic development and adding strain to already stretched medical services.

In reproductive health, as in most things, knowledge is power. But across sub-Saharan Africa too many teenage girls lack knowledge of their bodies, their contraceptive options, and their rights. The notion of rights is central.

As the UNFPA report The Power of Choice states, in countries where rights to health, education and opportunity prevail, fertility rates tend to be lower. Through exercising their wider rights, people exercise choice about the timing and number of their children.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 that shows girls who have completed secondary education have an average of three children in their lifetimes compared to an average 6.5 for those with no education. Additionally, around 60% of girls who have completed primary and secondary school use some form of modern contraception compared to only 15% of those with no education.

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

“The girl child in this country is under threat from all manner of vices, including early pregnancy and female genital mutilation and many other kinds of nonsense that affect our communities. These things have no basis for the development of our country” said the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto.

The underlying drivers of teenage pregnancy are complex and include gender inequality, child marriage, poverty, sexual violence, and poor education and job opportunities. To be successful, efforts to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy must address all these elements through comprehensive programmes of behaviour change, social and economic development, health and sex education, reproductive rights, and gender equality.

Crucially, such efforts must also include boys and men, whose attitude to girls and women underpin many pervasive social problems in Kenya and across the world.

Reproductive rights and health are also central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages.

As the UN family in Kenya we are working in partnership with government, civil society, religious and youth groups to extend access to sexual and reproductive health information, counselling and services for young people. We intend to step this up.

Three years ago, Kenya launched the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy. Unless bold decisions are made to implement that policy, pregnancies among our youth will continue to be a wrecking ball to the national development agenda particularly the Big Four and the SDGs.

In order for every girl to achieve her full human potential, how can the entire country be engaged to initiate a change in mindset in Kenya? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

The post Teenage Pregnancy in Kenya: A Crisis of Health, Education and Opportunity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Q&A: Creating a Safe Space for Survivors of Sexual Exploitation in the Aid Sectorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-creating-safe-space-survivors-sexual-exploitation-aid-sector/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-creating-safe-space-survivors-sexual-exploitation-aid-sector http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-creating-safe-space-survivors-sexual-exploitation-aid-sector/#respond Sun, 28 Oct 2018 07:56:18 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158398 Wambi Michael speaks on INGVILD SOLVANG, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development on safeguarding staff against sexual harassment and exploitation.

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Panel at the Safeguarding Conference in London. the Department for International Development (DFID) held a Safeguarding Summit which brought together 500 people to commit to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment in the international aid development sector. Credit: DFID/MichaelHughes

By Wambi Michael
KAMPALA, Oct 28 2018 (IPS)

How to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in the aid sector is a question that has come to the forefront in the past year as allegations have been made against various global organisations, including the United Nations.

In July the U.N. announced that it received 70 new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse across all its entities and implementing partners, between the beginning of April to the end of June. In April, global charity Save the Children was accused of not investing allegations of sexual abuse by staff.

And in February, Oxfam workers were accused of hiding an investigation into hiring sex workers by staff in Haiti in 2011 and in Chad in 2006. Oxfam, a confederation of 20 NGOs, receives funding from both the United Kingdom government and it’s government department responsible for administering overseas aid, the Department for International Development (DFID). Save the Children also received funding from DFID.

This month DFID, working with Interpol and the Association of Chief Police Officers, held a Safeguarding Summit which brought together 500 people to commit to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment in the international aid development sector. The NGO side to the summit was controversially convened by Save the Children.

Ingvild Solvang, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development attended the summit where practical steps aimed at making the humanitarian and development sectors safer and more accountable where agreed upon.

Around 500 high level representatives from the U.N., NGOs, private sector, academic and financing community attended.

“I was there to represent GGGI and to share GGGI’s experience on how we approach these important issues. These issues have been mostly focused on work in the humanitarian situation where the big power gaps between vulnerable and effected populations and agencies who are there to help create an environment that might foster exploitation and abuse,” Solvang tells IPS.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Ingvild Solvang, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development. Courtesy: Ingvild Solvang

Inter Press Service (IPS): From your previously experience, why was it important to ‘put people first’ as per the theme of the summit?

Ingvild Solvang (IS): I think particularly in the humanitarian sector where several reports over the last couple of decades have unearthed that actors have not been able to deal with this effectively, the learning is that this has caused tremendous suffering from the abuse itself, but also from people being re-traumatised as a result of organisations’ inadequate ways of handling the issues when reports are made.

GGGI has effective mechanisms to deal with violations in our Codes of Conduct, and that includes sexual harassment and exploitation. At the same time we know that we can always improve, and we need to continue to communicate about these issues to ensure that our standards are known, and that we hold ourselves to account.

A strength of GGGI’s approach to sexual harassment and exploitation is that the message comes from the highest level and works in synergy with a broad participatory approach internally as a part of an Organisational Culture Initiative to define of our core values.

One powerful statement that came out of the DFID summit was that it is important to articulate clearly what is acceptable behaviour, and to signal through dealing with “the smaller stuff” that the big things are unacceptable.

IPS: So what has been GGGI’s experience with sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse?

IS: Our policies for good governance and accountability include policies aimed at safeguarding people both in programme and operations. Though much focus around sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse (SHEA) is on the humanitarian sector, GGGI has worked from the start since we were founded as an international organisation six years ago to ensure that staff, interns, partners and communities that come in contact with our operations are safeguarded.

IPS: What is the importance of safeguarding? And what steps have been taken by GGGI to raise awareness of safeguarding issues?

IS: GGGI has from the start implemented staff codes of conduct and ways to handle complaints and grievances both internally and externally. GGGI’s whistleblower mechanism enables external parties to raise grievances and concerns. For internal issues we are working with an ombudsman, who is trained to mediate in staff related issues, including issues of SHEA.

GGGI’s human resources has recently established a team of Respectful Workplace Advisors at different levels and geographical locations of GGGI, who are trained to advise staff on how to seek solutions to problems they may face, including on SHEA. All new staff are required to take an online course on SHEA.

GGGI’s Projects are designed in alignment with the GGGI Environmental and Social Safeguards Rules, which align with international recognised standards.

IPS: You said you shared GGGI approach to safeguarding issues at the conference. Can you tell us what you shared with participants?

IS: Perhaps most innovative of GGGI’s approaches is GGGI’s Culture Initiative, which is a movement of staff across the organisation who are deliberately engaged in articulation of our core values and behaviours we want to promote in GGGI.

As a young organisation we believe we have a unique opportunity to deliberately shape culture. And the creation of a culture of respect and accountability is key to the tackling of SHEA. The issue of culture was frequently addressed also during the summit, that it is important to find a balance between hard policy and system and approaches to culture building.

Though GGGI didn’t formally present at the DFID summit…people I talked to were particularly interested in GGGI’s approaches to shaping the organisational culture through both formal and informal channels. While, I could learn a lot from more established organisations who willingly shared their SHEA policies for us to learn from. 

Q: Were there some learning points from the summit that can be incorporated into GGGI?

As a follow up from the summit, a GGGI working group for SHEA will meet to discuss follow up actions. For example, we will discuss the need for a separate SHEA Policy in addition to SHEA being defined in Staff Codes of Conduct. A separate policy will add additional strength to the signal that this is an important issue.

We will also align our staff training on SHEA with internal procedures to ensure that everyone is aware of how we define acceptable behaviours on the one hand, but of equal importance is the need to ensure that anyone in and around GGGI who experience sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse should know where to turn to for help and assistance.

This is what the summit was really about: ensuring that survivors of SHEA are at the centre of how organisations handle these issues. Another issue we are looking into is how to report on any such cases. A challenge is that personnel issues are confidential, so organisations struggle with how to effectively report. Other organisations have feared reputation issues. The summit highlighted the importance of reporting to show that issues are dealt with effectively and appropriately. This is not least important for people who have experienced harassment or exploitation to know they have been heard.

Q: What do you make of the outcomes from the conference?

IS: The Summit was a good opportunity for GGGI to reconfirm our commitment to the issue. It is important that the donor community represented by DFID takes such a clear stand and promises clear guidelines and support in building up effective safeguard mechanisms.

From here we at GGGI will continue to work to create a good place to work, to be a good partner, and to have transformational impact where we work. At GGGI we want to contribute so that #metoo and attention to this issue in the international development sector become game changers.

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Excerpt:

Wambi Michael speaks on INGVILD SOLVANG, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development on safeguarding staff against sexual harassment and exploitation.

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Sex Offender Registry is Not Enough to Curb Sexual Violence Against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:48:52 +0000 Elsa DSilva and Quratulain Fatima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158180 India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database […]

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Protesters gather at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi. Credit: Sujoy Dhar/IPS

By Elsa D'Silva and Quratulain Fatima
Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database and accessible to law enforcement.

The creation of the registry is hailed by many as a welcome move in India, where violence against women and girls is pandemic. Recently, the Thomson Reuters Survey stated that India is the most dangerous country in the world with regards to sexual violence. From the start of this year, there has been a series of gang rapes of little girls ranging from babies to teenagers in all parts of the country –  NorthSouth, WestNorthEast and Central India

Neighbouring country Pakistan does not have a sex offender registry but is equally bad when it comes to violence against women and sex offences. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in Pakistan an incident of rape occurs every two hours and 70 percent of women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime by their intimate partners and 93 percent women experience some form of sexual violence in public places in their lifetime.

Measures to prevent sex offenses are needed in both countries and each country can learn from each other’s successful prevention programs. However, only workable solutions should be replicated, and a sex offender registry is not one.

Evidence suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant

Sex offender registries exist in many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the Republic of Ireland. Sexual violence is a problem in each of those countries, too, but studies have shown that sex offender registries have little or no effect on crime prevention or recidivism. Furthermore, evidence from these countries suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant.

Further, we think making the details public, which is how it works in the United States and is what some people in India want, is dangerous as it would further increase the risk for women and girls rather than protect them. Though the government has assured that the registry would have multiple layers of security, there are doubts that the names and identities of the victims would be revealed. The Indian authorities are planning to link the details of the perpetrators to the Aadhar database which has biometric information of the person. Reports have indicated that the Aadhar database is itself not secure and for as little as $8 one can access personal information of people.

Moreover, Googling and knowing that a sex offender lives next door does not ensure that you can google your way to safety since safety from sex offences entail more than sex offender registration laws and a registry. Research shows that most sex offenders are relatives or people known to their victims but systems that put in place sex offender registry assume that sex offenders are strangers.

Many sex offenders are not even reported – particularly in South Asia due to the cultural stigma, faulty police procedures and lengthy court cases – and they aren’t included on any registration/notification system.

Instead of implementing a sex offender registry and seeing that as a solution, more efforts should focus on addressing the underlying issues, like patriarchy and improving the effectiveness of the justice system. Specifically, we recommend the governments of India and Pakistan concentrate on the following measures:

  • Sex education in school curriculum to educate people about sex offences and teach them ways to have responsible, healthy and consensual relationships.
  • Advocacy efforts to break down social taboos around this topic and make it easier to discuss and have a dialogue in the family and community about sex offences.
  • Allocation of public resources toward the rehabilitation of sex offenders with a high risk of repeating their crimes. Research suggests that psychological treatment and cognitive behavioural treatment can reduce recidivism amongst sex offenders.
  • Including women in all policy formulation, including the passage of any relevant laws. They are the stakeholders most at risk of sexual violence and they are in a better position to provide guidelines for policies aiming to stop sex offences.
  • Training police officers to be sensitive to the needs of victim and knowledgeable about the relevant laws so they can be a resource to individuals who want to report crimes. For example, Sweden has a high reporting of sexual violence because the creation of a strong eco-system, a feminist mindset and sensitive police have made it easier to break the silence.
  • Ensuring quick and swift punishment for convicted sex offenses. Long court cases in the face of lingering social stigma puts many victims off reporting sex offences. Policy makers must take a hands-on approach to swiftly dispense justice in sex offences.

Elsa D’Silva is the Founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and works on women’s rights issues in India. She is a 2018 Yale World Fellow and a 2015 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow  her on Twitter, @elsamariedsilva. 

Quratulain Fatima is a policy practitioner working extensively in rural and conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan with a focus on gender inclusive development and conflict prevention. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow her on Twitter, @moodee_q.

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EU & UN Join Mexico to Eradicate Violence against Women & Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/eu-un-join-mexico-eradicate-violence-women-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eu-un-join-mexico-eradicate-violence-women-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/eu-un-join-mexico-eradicate-violence-women-girls/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 14:41:16 +0000 Antonio Molpeceres and Klaus Rudischhauser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157927 Antonio Molpeceres is the UN Resident Coordinator in Mexico and Klaus Rudischhauser is the EU Ambassador to Mexico.

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Mexico, mother keeps a portrait of murdered daughter in a locket. 2014. Credit: UN Women/Ina Riaskov

By Antonio Molpeceres and Klaus Rudischhauser
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 2 2018 (IPS)

Violence against women and girls is one of the most serious, globally widespread, deep-rooted and normalized human rights violations. The statistics are shocking: at least one in three women worldwide has suffered physical or sexual violence, usually by a family member or an intimate partner.

The diverse types of violence levelled against women and girls are rooted in gender inequality. Violence against women and girls is regular and systematic, occurring in every context of their lives, both in private and out in the open. One such form of daily, systematic and public violence against women and girls is femicide.

Globally, 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide are in Latin America. Ninety-eight per cent of the femicides in Latin America are not prosecuted. According to the World Bank, this problem is not only destructive for the victims, but it also carries important social and economic costs.

Violence against women and girls in Latin America consumes 3.7% of countries GDPs, more than twice their education budgets. Several studies have shown that boys and girls that witness or experience violence as children are more likely to become victims or perpetrators as adults.

In 2016, more than 2,700 female deaths with “homicide presumption” were registered in Mexico. An average of 7.5 women murdered every day . According to the Mexican Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, from January to July 2018, there have been 484 femicides, not counting the ‟black figure″ (crimes that are not reported).

Tragically, this kind of violence is very common. Recent registered incidents in Mexico have placed femicides in the public agenda, creating and encouraging social movements calling for more and better prevention, investigation, prosecution, punishment and reparation actions against violence. This social and public context has also been useful to push forward the definition and criminalization of femicide and to develop relevant tools and guidelines to sensitively prosecute these crimes.

It is time to break the cycle. As mentioned in the General Assembly Resolution ‟Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development″, it is impossible to achieve the full realization of human potential if half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights.

We are aware that a world free of violence against women and girls can only be reached through meaningful political and social commitments, supported by appropriate resources. Actions are required at multiple levels to effect change, including to: 1) close political and legislative gaps: 2) strengthen institutions; 3) promote equal gender attitudes; 4) provide high quality services to survivors and reparation for victims and their families; 5) produce and provide disaggregated data; and 6) empower women´s movements, leaving no one behind.

On 27 September 2018, the European Union and the United Nations launched the Spotlight Initiative that will be implemented in Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. It is a multi-year partnership that will substantively contribute to eradicating femicide and other forms of violence against women and girls.

Focused on the six pillars noted above, the Initiative positions the elimination of all forms of violence at the core of the efforts to achieve gender equality and empower women, in line with the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development.

Violence against women and girls is a complex phenomenon, deeply rooted in unequal power relationships between women and men and in ingrained social standards, practices and behaviors that promote discrimination at home, in the workplace and in society in general. Action is imperative, not only to ensure respect for human rights, but also to transform the lives of women and girls to attain sustainable development.

The Spotlight Initiative in Mexico will seek to address the problem of femicide from a holistic perspective. Thus, adding to ongoing efforts in the country, the Initiative will underscore the strengthening of the prevention strategies that will accomplish the reduction of risk margins, modify the social patriarchal structures, strengthen equality between women and men, and decrease impunity, all from the life cycle perspective. Sustainable solutions require that we work on a multi-level approach and bring diverse actors on board.

In collaboration with the Mexican authorities and the different branches of the state, civil society, women´s organizations, women, girls, men, young people, private sector and the media, we will join forces to end this pandemic.

(1)Female Deaths with Presumption of Homicide (DFPH, for its acronym in Spanish) are obtained from the vital statistics published by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI, for its acronym in Spanish) and have been used as a proxy for feminicide. See UN Women, SEGOB, INMUJERES. Feminicide violence in Mexico: approaches and trends 1985-2016, December 2017, in: http://bit.ly/2xGjNeC
(2)Because of the typification of feminicide as a crime in the states, the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System began to systematize information from the relevant justice authorities at state level. See http://bit.ly/2xBzZ0N

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Excerpt:

Antonio Molpeceres is the UN Resident Coordinator in Mexico and Klaus Rudischhauser is the EU Ambassador to Mexico.

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Ethiopian Domestic Workers Battle for Survival in Saudi Arabiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:08:47 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157714 Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says. For nearly a decade, she lived and worked […]

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African refugees await news of their work and residency visa applicatiosn in Lavinsky Park near the Tel Aviv, Israel. Credit: Zack Baddorf/ZUMA Press / IPS

By Rabiya Jaffery
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says.

For nearly a decade, she lived and worked as an undocumented domestic worker employed by a Saudi family until she was deported in 2017.

“The rules on keeping workers who don’t have their papers are getting stricter and the family I worked for were scared they would have to pay heavy fines,” she explains. “They knew someone who had to pay penalty for keeping undocumented help and I guess they got scared – but didn’t want to pay for my sponsorship either so they sent me back.”

Marjani is now living in Bahir Dar, a city in Ethiopia, and describes her life back home as “hopeless”.

“My children aren’t even close to me anymore – I was just someone who would send them money and speak on the phone every now and then for so long,” she says. “And most of my family has been killed in political protests or are in military camps now – it is all futile.”

Marjani was one of the reportedly 5 million undocumented migrants living in Saudi Arabia – a country with an official population of 33 million.

“For the most part – the authorities had turned a blind eye to them,” says Abdullah Harith, a migrant lawyer working in the Gulf countries. “Every few years there would be a couple of crackdowns and some people would be deported back – but overall for decades, the millions of undocumented migrants – some who have been living in the country for generations at this point – were just overlooked.”

But this leniency have changed radically recently as the Kingdom is now actively seeking to deport them as part of its new economic reforms agenda.

A campaign called “Nation Without Violators” was launched in 2017 that was to “progress to deport foreign workers illegally staying in violation of residence, labor, and border regulations of the Kingdom”.

“A 90-day amnesty began in March 2017 that allowed undocumented migrants to finalize their status and leave the country without any penalties,” says Harith.

The amnesty was extended twice and, according to official statistics, at least 800 violators per day were voluntarily deported during the 9 month period.

By the end of the amnesty period, reportedly 45,000 Ethiopians – including Marjani – had registered with the Saudi government and voluntarily returned home.

The remaining estimated 500,000 Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are continuing to live in fear as security authorities are actively continuing to deport undocumented migrants in the country. Violations can result in deportation, a prison sentence, and fines ranging between SR15,000 ($4,000) and SR100,000 ($26,700).

“There are concerns over the humanitarian impacts of returning hundreds of thousands of people back to endemic poverty and potential harm,” says Ayda Gebre , an aid worker for RATSON – Women, Youth and Children Development Programme, a community development NGO based in Ethiopia. RATSON has been working on assisting Ethiopian migrants settle back in the country.

While the role Ethiopian migrants play in helping the country’s economy is significant – in 2015, Ethiopians abroad sent back nearly $4 billion to the country coping with crippling poverty. And while many Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia come for economic reasons, a significant number arrived after fleeing serious abuses at the hands of their government.

During crackdowns on undocumented migrants in 2013 in Saudi Arabia, over 160,000 Ethiopians were returned. Most of the Ethiopians interviewed by Human Rights Watch who were part of the 2013 Saudi expulsions were detained within a week of their return to Ethiopia.

“Most of them were tortured in detention and had, in fact, originally left because of Ethiopian government human rights violations,” says Gebre.

Ethiopia has long been criticized for its human rights violations including its harsh prison conditions, brutality of security forces, lack of freedom of speech, and forced displacement.
“In many other countries, Ethiopians just might be able to claim asylum and potentially be entitled to international protection,” says Gebre.

“But Saudi Arabia has no refugee law and is not a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention, which means that, should expulsions be carried out, many thousands of Ethiopians could be forcibly returned home to face the persecution they fled.”

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The Plight of Women & Young People in the Rohingya Refugee Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 12:37:46 +0000 Asa Torkelsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157424 Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

By Asa Torkelsson
DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS)

August 25, 2018 marked one year since violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, triggering the massive Rohingya exodus to neighbouring Bangladesh. As the crisis continues with no immediate end in sight, it is crucial to expand and sustain health and life skills services for Rohingya women, girls and youth to locate opportunities amid challenges.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

A year ago, renewed violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State ripped 14-year-old *Fathema’s family apart. Her father and brothers were killed, her widowed mother became the head of a household on the run, escaping with Fathema and her other daughters to the crowded Rohingya refugee camps in neighbouring Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Given the atrocities experienced by so many thousands of Rohingya women and girls, the immediate humanitarian response focused on providing urgent medical attention and health supplies, along with psychosocial counselling for traumatized survivors, including those who became pregnant through rape.

Much of this help came through Women Friendly Spaces in Cox’s Bazar – the “shanti khana” or “homes of peace” – which have long provided a safe space for women and girls to avail of essential services, or simply to bond with others, as they seek to heal. The help and information provided there have also inspired many Rohingya women to become community volunteers themselves.

40-year-old Zarina* recalls, “In Myanmar, I didn’t know child marriage was bad.  Here, through the caseworkers at the Women Friendly Space, I’ve learnt about it and other issues like domestic violence.  My eyes are now open, my brain is working. I realise that child marriage is bad for health, it robs a girl of her youth and her life.  I want to end child marriage.”

Zarina and other community volunteers are also seeking to improve a key health indicator.  Currently, only about one in five pregnant women in the refugee camps will give birth in a proper health facility, despite the availability of dozens of trained midwives and other personnel.

Sometimes they are prevented by their husbands – or, in the case of women who have been raped, they fear stigma and discrimination from the wider community.

“Giving birth is like a war, it can be so challenging,” said 35-year-old Nasreen*, another community volunteer. “Every month I help four to five women to the facility here for deliveries. If girls or women don’t willingly want to go to the delivery services, I convince them to access health points and ensure safer pregnancy and childbirth.”

Back in Myanmar, Fathema would probably have been married by now, and, at 14, may already have become a mother. But, just as Zarina and other women were provided with key information about life and love, a new youth-focused initiative at these Women Friendly Spaces is transforming them into learning centres for Fathema, her sisters and other young persons, teaching them about the spectrum of gender equality and rights through the prism of sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

The module – adapted from the global Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) prototype – underscores how crucial it is to impart life skills education as early as possible, to better equip young persons to navigate the often difficult choices faced during the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, including issues such as gender equality, pubertal changes and hygiene, relationships and conflict management.

For young girls in particular, long constrained by the complexities of patriarchy and sexism, the sessions can be liberating, showing them how they should be in charge of making decisions about their own lives – including if and when to marry and to whom, whether to have children and how many, and how to better address and protect themselves from gender-based violence and child marriage.

 

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox's Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

 

These concepts can be overwhelming for any young person, and all the more so for those raised in particularly conservative environments. But by bringing such issues to the forefront in a gentle, non-threatening way, multiple points of view can be discussed and debated openly and safely.

Fathema learnt so much from the sessions at the Women Friendly Space, she’s become a volunteer herself. “The first people I talk to are my parents,” she said. “And then I talk to other young people in my area. I knew nothing about the changes that happen to girls. Now I know how to cope, and I can help other girls as well.”

Putting all these lessons into practice will not be easy for Fathema and her peers, just as it hasn’t been for Zarina and older refugee women, but introducing them to these ideas is an important first step towards moving from disempowerment to empowerment, even in this challenging context.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

“Initially I faced violence from my husband because I had four daughters which he wasn’t happy about,” Zarina said. “But I now teach my husband and others about gender equality.”

*Not their real names

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Excerpt:

Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Damning U.N. Report Outlines Crimes Against Rohingya As Children Suffer from Trauma One Year Laterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/damning-u-n-report-outlines-crimes-rohingya-children-suffer-trauma-one-year-later/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 23:38:55 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157366 At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide. According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, […]

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A damning reporting by the United Nations on the Myanmar’s army crimes against the Rohingya may come too late for these Rohingya children, many of whom remain traumatised as witnesses of the genocide. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

At 12, Mohammed* is an orphan. He watched his parents being killed by Myanmar government soldiers a year ago. And he is one of an estimated half a million Rohingya children who have survived and been witness to what the United Nations has called genocide.

According to accounts in a U.N. fact-finding report released today, the children were likely witnesses to their homes and villages being burnt down, to mass killings, and to the rape of their mothers. As girls, they would have likely been raped themselves.

It has been a year since the atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state led to the exodus of some 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—into neighbouring Bangladesh and to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps have been set up.

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

While some who live in the squalid camps find it hard to envision themselves returning to a normal life; others, like Mohammed, dream of justice.

“I want justice… I want the soldiers to face trial,” he tells IPS, saying he wants justice from the soldiers who “ruined his life”.

“They killed our people, grabbed our land and torched our houses. They killed both my mother and father. I am now living with my sister,” he says.


A year ago, on Aug. 25, Myanmar government forces responded to a Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attack on a military base. But, according to the report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “the nature, scale and organisation of the operations suggests a level of preplanning and design on the part of the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] leadership.”

The report outlines how  “the operations were designed to instil immediate terror, with people woken by intense rapid weapons fire, explosions, or the shouts and screams of villagers. Structures were set ablaze and Tatmadaw soldiers fired their guns indiscriminately into houses and fields, and at villagers.”

It also notes that “rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale” and that “sometimes up to 40 women and girls were raped or gang raped together. One survivor stated, “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men.””

The report calls for a full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, calling for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state.

Senior-general Min Aung Hlaing is listed in the report as an alleged direct perpetrator of crimes, while the head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, was heavily criticised in the report for not using her position “nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.”

While rights agencies have responded to the report calling on international bodies and the U.N. to hold to account those responsible for the crimes, local groups have been calling for long-term solutions to aid the surviving Rohingya children.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Since their arrival in Bangladesh many Rohingya children have not received a proper education, while the healthcare facilities have been strained by the large numbers of people seeking assistance.

While scores of global and local NGOs, aid groups, U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government are working to support the refugees, aid workers are concerned as many of the children remain traumatised by their experiences.

While they are receiving trauma counselling, it is still not enough.

“Whenever there is a darkness at night, I’m scared and feel somebody is coming to kill us… sometimes I see it in my dream when I’m asleep… sometimes I see our room is filled with blood,” 11-year-old Ayesha Ali*, who was studying at a madrassa at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, tells IPS.

UNICEF in an alert last week warned that denial of basic rights could result in the Rohingya children becoming a “lost generation”.

“With no end in sight to their bleak exile, despair and hopelessness are growing among the refugees, alongside a fatalism about what the future has in store,” the alert states.

It is estimated that 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

A number of children in the camps have lost either one or both parents. Last November, Bangladesh’s department of social services listed 39,841 Rohingya children as having lost either their mother or father, or lost contact with them during the exodus. A total of 8,391 children lost both of their parents.

“Most of the children saw the horrors of brutality and if they are not properly dealt with, they might have developed a mind of retaliation. Sometimes the small children talk like this: ‘We’ll kill the army…because they killed our people.’ They are growing up with a sort of hatred for the Myanmar army,” aid worker Abdul Mannan tells IPS.

And while there are 136 specialised, child-friendly zones for children and hundreds of learning centre across Cox Bazar, UNICEF notes it is only now “developing a strategy to ensure consistency and quality in the curriculum.”

BRAC, a development organisation based in Bangladesh, points out current learning centres and other facilities for children are not enough for the proper schooling and future development of the children.

“What we’re giving to the children is not enough to stand them in good stead,” Mohammed Abdus Salam, head of humanitarian crisis management programme of BRAC, tells IPS.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees enter Teknaf from Shah Parir Dwip after being ferried from Myanmar across the Naf River. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

Salam says that the children and women in the camps also remain vulnerable. “Especially the boys and girls who have lost their parents or guardians are the most vulnerable as there was no long-term programme for them,” he says, adding that many were still traumatised and suffered from nightmares. Cox Bazar is a hub of drugs and human traffickers, and children without guardians remain at risk.

Both the Bangladesh government and international aid officials say that they are trying hard to cope with the situation in Cox Bazar which is the largest and most densely-populated refugee settlement in the world.

But Salam says that it is urgent to formulate long-term plans for both education and healthcare if the repatriation process was procrastinated. “Otherwise, many of the children will be lost as they are not properly protected,” he says.

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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Rohingya Refugees Left in Limbo One Year Onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/rohingya-refugees-left-limbo-one-year/#respond Wed, 22 Aug 2018 16:05:44 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157318 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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Rohingya refugees now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Credit: ASM Suza Uddin/IPS

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Aug 22 2018 (IPS)

Aid funding for refugee relief is running out while conditions are still not in place for the safe return of over 700,000 people forced to flee Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh after violence broke out one year ago.

The mass human exodus of refugees from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, which started on 25 August 2017, was one of the fastest growing refugee crises last year. It then attracted huge international attention, but one year on only 34 percent of the United Nations aid appeal to help the refugees and the host community has been funded.

The Rohingya refugees are living in limbo. The safety of families returning to Myanmar cannot be guaranteed, yet they’re receiving scant international support in Bangladeshi camps.

We urgently need to scale up the support. The international community must shoulder more of the enormous responsibility that the Bangladeshi authorities and local communities have taken on, as well as show persecuted Rohingya refugees they are not forgotten.

Facts

Around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh. About 725,000 have arrived after 25 August 2017, according to UNHCR.

By 21 August the UN appeal for support to the Rohingya refugee crisis joint response plan was less than 34 percent funded, according to Financial Tracking Service.

NRC is working in Myanmar and through partners in Bangladesh.

NRC’s expert deployment capacity, NORCAP, has worked in Cox’s Bazar since the onset of the disaster last year. So far more than 40 experts have provided shelter, education opportunities, health, water and sanitation services.

Today, Cox’s Bazar is the world´s largest refugee settlement. Most of the displaced are Rohingya, a Muslim minority who have escaped extreme violence and persecution. In total, around 900,000 refugees from Myanmar are currently sheltering in Bangladesh, with the humanitarian aid system overwhelmed by the vast scale of needs.

“I have not cooked any food for my children today. I do not feel safe enough to go out and collect firewood, so I exchanged some food items for fuel, but now I do not have enough to eat,” Janoara, a single mother of two sons, told the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The humanitarian emergency was further compounded by the onset of the monsoon season in June, with heavy rain, flooding, landslides and high winds damaging or destroying refugees’ shelters. Despite ongoing relocations to safer land, the camps are still dangerously overcrowded, with the average usable space reported to be a mere 10.7 square meters per person.

Far more appropriate land is needed – a major challenge in one of the already most densely populated countries in the world. In Cox’s Bazar, rumours abound and people are worried about being expected to return to their villages before their own preconditions for repatriation are met.

“I will not return before Rohingyas get citizenship, equal rights, free movement and compensation for the houses they burned down and my land. I will not return with my family before we feel completely safe,” Nurul Amin (35) told the Norwegian Refugee Council. He fled Rakhine about one year ago and his demands are echoed by many others in the camps.

The Rohingya people have the right to return. One year after the start of this crisis, we urgently need to speed up efforts to ensure conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return, in line with international standards.

Access for humanitarian agencies to people requiring assistance in northern Rakhine State is currently restricted and it is not possible to independently verify information about conditions in the locations of return. There are also no guarantees in place that returnees will be allowed to return to their original homes and land, or to a place of their choice.

Humanitarian agencies need full access to people in need in northern Rakhine State to make independent assessments, provide assistance and protect communities who want to return.

 

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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Paid Leave In New Zealand For Victims of Domestic Violence Praised Globallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally/#respond Sun, 05 Aug 2018 19:36:51 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157060 New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developing world. Recent legislation there that gives victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave, without having to present any documentation in support, has been praised across the globe. The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill was passed at the end […]

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By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 5 2018 (IPS)

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developing world. Recent legislation there that gives victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave, without having to present any documentation in support, has been praised across the globe.

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill was passed at the end of July with 63 to 57 votes and was launched by Green member of parliament Jan Logie.

“We were very happy to hear about the passage of legislation in New Zealand affording victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave and scheduled flexibility from their employment to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children,” Kristine Lizdas, legal policy director at Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), shared with IPS.

According to United Nations Women30 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner, and in some countries that number goes up to 70 percent.

“Such policy can contribute to and facilitate the exercise of the right of women who experience domestic violence in New Zealand to support, services and protection for themselves and for their children,” Juncal Plazaola, an expert on ending gender violence at U.N. Women, told IPS.

Back in 2004, the Philippines also passed the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, which provided the same 10 days of paid leave to victims of domestic violence.

Civil society and law experts have analysed the benefits of this new policy, given that women who suffer from domestic violence underperform at work. In the United States, victims of domestic violence lose around 10 days of paid work every year, and they work 10 percent of hours less than those who do not suffer from abuse at home.

Plazaola, from U.N. Women, explained: “Women can be constantly harassed at work, delayed getting to work or prevented from going to work. This can lead to either quitting their job or being terminated.” Seeing these types of occurrences, it is vital to promote a corporate environment that takes this reality into account.

“Women who experience domestic violence have high rates of absenteeism at work and such a measure can support them keep their employment. This policy can therefore contribute to more job security, economic opportunities and independence and greater chances for abused women to abandon an abusive relationship,” Plazaola added.

Employment and labour attorney Mark I. Shickman, from Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP, also expressed his agreement with the New Zealand policy: “Employers can allow time off to do what is necessary legally or medically without fear of adverse work consequence or lack of confidentiality.”

However, he did not idealise it.

“Employment accommodations won’t solve every problem, but they are a big help. Vulnerable survivors do not want to risk the work situation which is often their most secure environment, so knowing that they cannot be retaliated against or fired for the time they need to speak to law enforcement, or to counsellors, or to children/family agencies, etc., is a huge help,” Schickman said.

Regarding the risks of the policy—as it does not require the victim to justify in any way that she/he is being abused—all experts seemed optimistic. The risk of the company being subject to fraud by its employees are low.

“The benefits of the law far outweigh the risks involved. The prevalence of false reporting is historically hyperbolised in many contexts. Very few individuals will fraudulently assert that they are victims of domestic violence for the sole purpose of receiving paid leave days,” Lizdas, from BWJP, said.

Plazaola agreed with her by saying that this policy “will most probably contribute to more empowered and satisfied staff with higher productivity.” The issue, she claimed, is not fraud, as most cases are not reported; less than 40 percent of women who have been abused look for help.

“Reasons for this often include shame, as well as blame, from one-self and from others. Therefore, it is not expected that this type of measures will lead to an over- or mis-use of it,” she concluded.

For Lizdas, this kind of policy was a good way to avoid victims’ isolation: “If awareness of intimate partner violence pervades the private/corporate sectors, as well as employers more generally, and if employers are incentivised to identify and provide assistance to employees suspected of being victims of IPV, this should have the effect of reducing victims’ isolation.”

Isolation, an abusive relationship, and a lack of external help increase the risk of domestic violence; at least half of the women victims of homicide every year have been killed by their intimate partners. But homicide is the last step of a violent relationship.

“An abusive relationship doesn’t start with murder, but the abuse escalates and without timely intervention and support, the women may end up murdered,” Plazaola said.

Asked how to avoid this fatal ending, Plazaola was adamant: “We need  legislation and policies on femicide, as well as the tools to properly investigate and punish all forms of violence against women, including femicide. Ending impunity is critical.”

Lizdas agreed: “Reducing intimate partner homicide requires a commitment from a wide variety of social sectors – legal, medical, public health, education, social service, military, etc.”

However, in the U.S, there is another factor that plays into the numbers of female homicide—the easy access to guns. In 2015, 55 percent of the intimate partner homicides in the U.S. were by gun. Shickman warned IPS: “The first issue is getting guns out of the house.”

“Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if the abuser has a gun,” he added.

For Plazaola, the solution to end, or at least reduce, the number of fatal victims on the hands of an intimate partner lies within the whole society.

“Understanding that femicide is the ultimate act in a chain of acts of violence against women, means understanding that health sector, social services, the police and the justice sectors must work together,” she said.

“Having policies that recognise the rights of abused women to protection as well as to other measures that will help them deal with the consequences and harm of this violence, can help us all have a better understanding of their realities, and can contribute to questioning the blaming and shaming too often associated with it.”

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Save the Children Warns Untraceable Minors in Italy May be Traffickedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 12:08:14 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157020 Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked. A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy […]

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The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from some EU member countries. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 2 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked.

A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy are untraceable as of May.

Once they escape the facilities, their vulnerable position—having no money, not knowing the language and being often traumatised after their trip to Italy—places them at the mercy of traffickers and exploiters.

Many of these children end up in networks of sexual exploitation, forced labour and enslavement. Save the Children reported that some girls are forced to perform survival sex—to prostitute themselves in order to pay the ‘passeurs’ to cross the Italian border or to pay for food or a place to sleep.

“I left Nigeria with a friend and once we arrived to Sabha (Libya) we were arrested,” Blessing, one of the victims, told Save the Children.

“I stayed there for three months and then I moved to Tripoli. For eight interminable months I was forced to prostitute myself in exchange for food,” she added.

Blessing then reported that her nightmare continued in Italy where she was sexually exploited by a compatriot. She ultimately was able to enter a protection programme thanks to Save the Children. But her story is a rare case of rescue as many other children find themselves enslaved with no end in sight.

According to testimonies collected by the NGO, minors leave reception facilities because they judge the processes of entering the child protection system as a useless slowing down towards the economic autonomy they aspire to and usually leave the centres a few days after identification.

This has been occurring largely in the southern regions of Italy.

But according to the report, “the flow of minors in transit through Italy to northern Europe is, by its own nature, difficult to quantify.” Though it noted that minors transiting through Italy between January and March, make up between 22 percent and 31 percent out of the total transitioning migrants across the country. The minors are mostly Eritrean (14 percent), Somalis (13 percent), Afghans (10 percent), Egyptians (9 percent) and Tunisians (8 percent).

“The fact that the European Union relocation programme was blocked in September 2017, has contributed in an important way to forcing children in transit to re-entrust themselves to traffickers, or to risk their own lives to cross borders, as well as it continues to happen for those minors who transit through the Italian north frontier with the aim of reaching the countries of northern Europe,” Roberta Petrillo, from the child protection department of Save the Children, Italy, told IPS.

The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from the EU member countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary.

The EU’s initial plan provided for the relocation of 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other European countries within two years. As of May, 12,690 and 21,999 migrants were relocated from Italy and Greece respectively. To date, the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 refugees, Slovakia 16, with Hungary and Poland having taken no refugees.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 10 million children and youth across the world were forced into slavery, sold and exploited, mainly for sexual and labour purposes in 2016.

They make up 25 percent of the over 40 million people who are trafficked, of which more than seven out of 10 are women and girls. According to the ILO estimates, nearly one million victims of sexual exploitation in 2016 were minors, while between 2012 and 2016, 152 million boys and girls aged between five and 17 were engaged in various forms of child labour. More than half of these activities were particularly dangerous for their own health.

“When we talk about data of this kind we must be very cautious because we are dealing with numbers that only concern the emergence of the phenomenon, without keeping track of the submerged data,” Petrillo added.

There were 30,146 registered victims of trafficking and exploitation in 2016 in the 28 EU countries with 1,000 of them minors.

However, according to 2016 figures from the ILO, 3.6 million people across Europe were reportedly modern day slaves.

According to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world, second only to the illegal drug trade. It is estimated to be an industry worth USD32 billion annually.

The most targeted

Nigerian and Romanian girls are amongst the most targeted by the trafficking networks.

According to Save the Children, for the journey that will take them to Italy, the Nigerian girls contract a debt between 20,000 and 50,000 euros that they can only hope to repay by undergoing forced prostitution.

Like their peers from Romania, they enter a mechanism of sexual exploitation from which they cannot get free easily.

While Nigerians escape mainly for security issues and political instability, Romanian girls flee their country because of a total lack of opportunities and economic autonomy there. Their deep economic deprivation makes them highly vulnerable and easy targets for traffickers, who deceive or coerce them to enter into networks of sexual exploitation. 

According to the Save the Children Report, in 2017 there were a total of 200 minor victims of trafficking and exploitation who were put into protection programmes. The vast majority of these, 196, were girls with about  93.5 percent Nigerian girls aged between 16 and 17 years.

In addition, almost half of the minors were sexually exploited 

Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy,  told IPS that migrant men were welcomed with open arms because they were useful for working under exploited conditions.

However, migrant women were welcome only because they were used for prostitution.

“By not guaranteeing legal and safe paths for those fleeing wars and persecution, by not organising and recognising the presence of migrant workers, we just do a favour to the criminal groups, who build real fortunes on trafficking in human beings,” Noury told IPS.

While Petrillo said that “the Italian and the EU legal framework is solid and a good one,” she cautioned that  “what is needed, instead, is a unitary intervention that closely links the issue of anti-trafficking reality with that of minors in transit. And we must be able to guarantee universal protection for the victims.”

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States Must Treat Refugees & Migrants as Rights Holders & Prevent Trafficking & Exploitationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/states-must-treat-refugees-migrants-rights-holders-prevent-trafficking-exploitation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=states-must-treat-refugees-migrants-rights-holders-prevent-trafficking-exploitation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/states-must-treat-refugees-migrants-rights-holders-prevent-trafficking-exploitation/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 08:23:31 +0000 Maria Grazia Giammarinaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156940 Maria Grazia Giammarinaro* is UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

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Maria Grazia Giammarinaro* is UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

By Maria Grazia Giammarinaro
GENEVA, Jul 30 2018 (IPS)

States around the world must act now to strengthen their efforts to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings, including by ensuring that victims and potential victims are considered and treated as rights holders.

Many people who fall prey to traffickers are migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, who have decided to leave their country for various reasons, such as conflict, natural disaster, persecution or extreme poverty.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro

They have left behind their social protection network, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.

In the current poisonous anti-migration political atmosphere, migrants are often targeted as a threat, while in reality they contribute to the prosperity of the host countries where they live and work.

In this context, the anti-trafficking discourse is often misused to justify restrictive migration policies and push-back activities. Taking a stand against xenophobic and racist approaches, as well as violence, hatred and discrimination, is a moral duty which is in everyone’s power.

States have an obligation to prevent trafficking. It is a gross human rights violation. In the context of the Global Migration Compact, States should establish – in addition to international protection schemes – individualised procedures and appropriate indicators to identify migrants’ vulnerabilities to trafficking and exploitation, and provide them with tailored solutions to prevent further harm.

In many countries, human rights activists and civil society organisations have been criminalised and ostracised for acting in solidarity with migrants and victims and potential victims of trafficking.

All over the world, civil society organisations are playing a pivotal role in saving lives, and protecting people from trafficking, during search and rescue operations, and on arrival in transit and destination countries. Any attempt to delegitimise their humanitarian work is unacceptable.

NGOs also play an important role in the identification of victims of trafficking. This is essential for ensuring access to protection and rehabilitation for victims, and should be prioritised, including during large mixed migration movements.

Identification and referral to protection services is only a first step, which must be followed by innovative action to promote social inclusion. This can only be possible if exploitation, especially labour exploitation of migrant workers, ceases to be normalised and the right to the enjoyment of decent work, with fair pay and conditions, is respected and guaranteed to everyone, regardless of their migration status.

On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, my message is that, even in difficult times, inclusion, not exclusion, is the answer.

*Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms, and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims. She has been a Judge since 1991 and served as a Pre-Trial Judge at the Criminal Court of Rome, and currently serves as a Judge in the Civil Court of Rome.

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Excerpt:

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro* is UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

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