Inter Press ServiceGender Violence – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 20 Jul 2018 16:36:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Age Appropriate Sexuality Education for Youth Key to National Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:52:36 +0000 Josephine Kibaru and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156636 Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right. It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its […]

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A community health volunteer informs community members about various methods of family planning. Photo Credit: UNFPA Kenya

By Dr. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right.

It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its youth, with parents shying off from the subject and policymakers largely equivocal. The result is that the continent has the highest numbers of teenagers joining the ranks of parenthood through unintended pregnancies.

The statistics are disquieting: as per the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014), one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Among the 19-year olds, this doubles to two out of ten. In a recent study, six out of ten girls surveyed in two Nairobi slums reported having had an unintended pregnancy.

Among sexually active unmarried adolescents, only about half use any form of contraceptives, yet only one in three women and one in four men, per the same study, knew the correct timing regarding when a woman is likely to get pregnant.

The World Population Day should awaken us all to the critical role of those in authority in ensuring children grow up not only in an atmosphere of love and understanding, but also that they live to their full potential.

Young mothers are four times more likely than those over 20, to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. If they live, they are more likely to drop out of school and to be poor than if they didn’t get pregnant. And their children are more prone to have behavioral problems as adolescents, which means they are also more likely to stay poor. This cycle of poverty has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, ideological and cultural fault lines appear every time discussions about teaching the youth about taking responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

As debates continue, the toll is unrelenting, with complications in pregnancy and childbirth being the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. The rate of new HIV infections among adolescents is rising, from 29% in 2013 to 51% in 2015.

The traditional role of families and communities as primary sources of reproductive health information and support has dissipated, replaced by peers and social media. Though the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of 2015 aims to address young people’s health and well-being, help realise gender equality and reduce inequalities, much remains to be done to implement the good intentions of the policy.

Yet evidence from many countries has shown that structured, age appropriate sexuality education provides a platform for providing information about sexuality and relationships, based on evidence and facts, in a manner that is positive, that builds their skills.

Scientific evidence shows that when young people are empowered with correct information they are less likely to engage in early or in unprotected sex. This is attributable to the fact that they can undertake risk analysis and make informed decisions.

The ultimate goal for Kenya’s population programmes should be anchored on the demographic dividend paradigm. In short, in which areas should we invest our resources so that we can achieve the rapid fertility decline that can change the age structure to one dominated by working-age adults?

Countries such as the Asian Tigers, that have achieved rapid economic growth have strong family planning programmes that help women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and have the smaller families. Family planning is a key tool for reducing poverty since it frees up women to work and leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to each child’s health and education.

First, we must make the obvious investments in reproductive health information and services for all who need them. The other key enablers for the demographic dividend window of opportunity include quality education to match economic opportunities, investing in the creation of new jobs in growing economic sectors and good governance

Second, education, especially for girls, increases the average age at marriage and lowers family size preferences. However, it must also be education that aims to promote the supply of a large and highly educated labour force, which can be easily integrated into economic sectors.

Third, Kenya must therefore identify the skills that are specific to the country’s strongest growing economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Finally, combining sound health and education policies with an economic and governance environment that favours capital accumulation and investment will move Kenya closer towards experiencing the economic spur of the demographic dividend.

As the country takes strides towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals targets, all stakeholders including the United Nations, the government of Kenya, faith based communities, parents and others should all work together to empower adolescents and young people for positive health outcomes.

Young people are the backbone of this country and we owe them the best investment for the future through a multi-sectoral approach. Failure to do that means any national transformative agenda, including the SDGs and the Big Four, will be difficult to achieve.

Josephine Kibaru-Mbae
(@NCPDKenya) is the Director-General, National Council for Population and Development, Govt of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Savagery of Rapes of Minorshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=savagery-rapes-minors http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/savagery-rapes-minors/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2018 21:56:03 +0000 Geetika 3 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156382 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England, and Visiting Scholar, Population Studies Centre, University of Pnnsylvania, USA).

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

By Geetika Dang, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Jun 22 2018 (IPS)

Rapes of minors surged from 16 per day in 2001 to 46 per day in 2016. As if this was not horrendous enough, their savagery adds to it.

In 2016, 43.3% of the total female rape victims were minors. Around 13% of the minor female victims were of age 11 and below. The deceased victim in the Kathua rape case from a nomadic Muslim community was barely eight years old. Her crumpled body was found in a blood-smeared dress in January, 2018. A group of Hindu men lured her into a forest, kidnapped her, drugged her, locked her in a Hindu temple, gang-raped her and then strangled her.

Geetika Dang

In another depraved and cruel assault, an eight-month-old baby girl was raped in New Delhi in January, 2018, by her 28-year-old cousin. As reported, the baby was on life support as her internal organs were damaged during the assault. In yet another case in Hisar’s Uklana town in December 2017, a 6-year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered. The post-mortem revealed that the murderer had inserted a wooden stick in her body. Her body parts were badly brutalized, bore multiple injuries and scratch marks, and blood was spilt all over her body.

In April 2018, a four-month-old baby was raped and murdered in the historic Rajwada area in Madhya Pradesh. The infant’s body was found in the basement area of the heritage Shiv Vilas Palace, with blood smears on the stairs telling a barbaric tale. The ravaged body was carried away in a bundle. Many more gruesome cases could be cited but are omitted as they differ in location but not in the brutality. At the risk of overstating it, the surge in the frequency of rapes of minors has been inextricably linked to their brutality in recent years. Why bestial masculinity has risen in recent years is unclear.

Our analysis with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data and from other sources over 2001-16 yields useful insights into changes in incidence of rapes of minors (per lakh minors) across different states and over time.

Rapes of minors spiked between 2010-14, dropped sharply in 2015, and then spiked again in 2016. Surprisingly, after enactment of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in 2012, the incidence of rapes of minors surged. It covers crimes such as child rape, sexual assault and harassment and using children for pornography. However, NCRB began collecting data under POCSO in 2014. This may be partly linked to the spike in 2014.

Vani S. Kulkarni

There are some striking variations across the states (including Delhi as a sole union territory because of its infamous characterisation as the ‘rape capital’ of India). In 2001, the top three states (with lowest incidence of rapes of minors per 1,000,00 minors) were West Bengal (0.03), Jharkhand (0.12) and Arunachal Pradesh (0.19). In 2016, the top two states changed, with Bihar as the best (0.33), followed by Jammu and Kashmir (0.35) and Jharkhand (1.24) slipping from the second to the third best. So not just the states changed but the incidence was much higher among them.

In 2001, the three worst states/union territory were Delhi (4.44), followed by Chattisgarh (4.16) and Madhya Pradesh (3.24). In 2016, the three worst were Delhi (8.32), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (7.97) and Chattisgargh (7.58). Thus, while two out of the three worst states remained unchanged, the incidence of rapes rose.

At the regional level, the central was the worst in 2001 (33.53% of total rapes of minors), followed by a considerably lower share of the northern (19.01), and a slightly lower share of the southern (16.90%). In 2016, the central contributed the largest share (33.62%), followed by the southern (18.41 %), overtaking the northern region (16.10 %).

Raghav Gaiha

Using the NCRB and other data sets for the period 2001-16, we conducted an econometric panel analysis of rapes of minors during 2001-16, designed to isolate the contribution of each of the several factors associated with the surge in rapes of minors. Specifically, the panel model allows for individual state heterogeneity The larger the pool of minor girls (<17 years relative to men), the higher is the incidence of rapes of minors (hereafter just rapes). The greater the affluence of a state (measured in terms of state per capita income), the lower is the incidence of rape. The effect, however, is small. The lower the ratio of rural to urban population, the lower is the incidence of rapes, implying higher incidence in the latter. Congress and its coalition- ruled states lowered the rapes while President- ruled states saw a rise, presumably because the latter resulted from a breakdown of law and order. There are two surprising findings. One is that after the enactment of POCSO in 2012, the rapes increased. This is contrary to the spirit and intent of POCSO which was enacted as part of an initiative to make anti-rape laws more stringent. As convictions for rapes of minors are not available for the entire period of our analysis, we have used convictions for rapes as a proxy. This has a positive effect on rapes albeit small. This is not surprising as in 2016, out of 64,138 cases of child rapes for trials in courts, trials were completed only in 6626 cases and 57,454 (89.6%) cases are still pending. Of the cases in which trials were completed, offenders were convicted only in 28.2% of the cases.The problem is not just underreporting of rapes of minors for familiar reasons such as incest and fear of retaliation but also the incompetence and corruption of the police and judicial systems. So the recent legislation of capital punishment for rapists of girls below 12 years is a mere distraction from the imperative of systemic reforms. Worse, the capital punishment could add to the butchery of rapes of minors.

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Excerpt:

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

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EU Urged to Ban Early & Forced Child Marriageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/eu-urged-ban-early-forced-child-marriages/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 06:39:14 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156352 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Rashmi Hamal is a local heroine who helped to save her friend from an early marriage. She campaigns actively against child marriages in the Far Western Region of Nepal. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

Rashmi Hamal is a local heroine who helped to save her friend from an early marriage. She campaigns actively against child marriages in the Far Western Region of Nepal. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2018 (IPS)

Something historic was initiated at the European Development Days (EDD) in early June: the EDD placed women and girls at the forefront of Sustainable Development. Since its inception in 2006, EDD has become a barometer for ideas in global development.

Ever since then, the EDDs have developed into the Davos of Development and shapes how the European Union constructs its development policies. In 2018, the EU development agenda was transformed and shaped by a gender equality agenda.

This year’s speakers included the Norwegian Prime Minister, the director-general of the World Health Organization, the Crown Princess of Denmark, and Head of UN Women and Under Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Along with H.R.H Princess Mabel of Oranje-Nassau of Netherlands, the chair of Girls not Brides; Aichatou Boulama Kane, the Minister of Planning of the Republic of Niger; and Linda McAvan,Labour MEP for Yorkshire & The Humber, Chair of European Parliament Committee on Development, I served on the panel on child marriage to examine closely the Draft Resolution “Toward an EU external strategy against early and forced marriage” introduced before the European parliament by Member of the EU Parliament, Charles Goerens who moderated the panel at EDD on June 6.

The Resolution was unique in the way in which it called on European Union, in the context of its foreign policy and its development cooperation policy, to offer a strategic pact to its partners and to that end require that all its partner countries prohibit early and forced marriage in law and practice.

The Resolution points out that in order to comprehensively tackle early and forced marriage, the European Union, as a major actor in global development, must play a leading role.

The Resolution was drafted at an important political moment and captured the extraordinary global shifts and crises as a stated goal: “…whereas during the recent migrant crises, many parents, seeking to protect their daughters from sexual aggression, chose to have them marry before the age of 18.”

The Resolution also took into consideration of girls all over the world, including Yazidi girls and Chibok girls who are forced into marriage: “…calls for the act of forcing a child to enter into a marriage and that of luring a child abroad with the purpose of forcing her or him to enter into a marriage to be criminalized.”

The bedrock of the Resolution is that it calls upon all Member States to include a ban on early and forced marriage in their legislation. In a remarkable use of development cooperation, the Resolution sets out that: “The level of public development aid is made dependent on the recipient country’s commitment to complying with the requirements in the fight against early and forced marriage.”

My recommendation addressed the fact that around the world, even when the law is changed, the loopholes in the law remain. For example, I cited the recent Bangladesh Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2017 signed into law by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last year. The law significantly increased the punishment for contracting or conducting child marriage.

However, it includes a provision in Section 2(10) of the law that undermines the spirit of the law reform: “Within the definition of the law will not be considered an offense if the marriage takes place in special circumstances in the best interest of the underage woman in question.”

Co-opting the primacy of the best interest of the child principle as set out in the Convention of the Rights of the Child helps the government to legitimize child marriage in a way that the principle was never envisioned.

General Comment 14 issued by the Committee of the Rights of the Child recognizes that the best interest standard is vulnerable to manipulation of governments and obliges states parties to ensure the full rights recognized by the Convention.

“The best interest of the standard is rendered meaningless if not seen in the context of all the rights in the Convention. The right to education, access to health care services and protection from physical, and mental violence are in no way promoted and are in fact impeded by child marriage. ”

The EU has a critical role to play in influencing policy reform both in the EU member states and outside. The EU and many of its member states contribute significant amounts of development cooperation to countries with high rates of child marriage. However, it is important for the EU to acknowledge that law reform itself can be complicit in undermining the prevention of child or forced marriage.

Development cooperation must be aimed not only at addressing legislative reform but also on closing the loopholes in the law that render law reform meaningless. This calls for aligning development cooperation not only with changes in law and practice but with the transformation of political will.

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Excerpt:

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

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America First or America Alone?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/america-first-america-alone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=america-first-america-alone http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/america-first-america-alone/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:50:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156347 The United States’ move to withdraw from the Human Rights Council will have “reverberations” throughout the world in years to come, say human rights groups. This week, the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from the 47-member Human Rights Council, accusing it of bias against Israel. “The Human Rights Council has been a protector of […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2018 (IPS)

The United States’ move to withdraw from the Human Rights Council will have “reverberations” throughout the world in years to come, say human rights groups.

This week, the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from the 47-member Human Rights Council, accusing it of bias against Israel.

“The Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” said U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in a statement.

Nikki R. Haley, new United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations presented her credentials to Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

While it comes as no surprise to many, the move has been condemned by global human rights groups.

“It is the latest in a series of gestures that says we’re really only interested in transactional diplomacy—you give us something we want, and we give you something you want and we better get a better deal,” Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead Scott Paul told IPS, noting that it undermines human rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch’s Deputy UN Director Akshaya Kumar echoed similar comments on the U.S.’ “one dimensional” policy to IPS, stating: “By turning their back on the UN with this decision, they also turn their back on victims in Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Burma—all just because of this concern with Israel.”

Created in 2006, the Human Rights Council (HRC) plays a vital role in addressing rights violations around the world. It has initiated investigations in Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Myanmar, and South Sudan while also raising awareness and discussing key topics such as disability rights and violence against women.

Last month, the Council accused Israel of excessive use of force during demonstrations at the border and voted to probe killings in Gaza.

Paul also noted that the U.S. withdrawal is ill-timed as the country’s human rights record is “rightly” under the spotlight.

Most recently, the human rights body blasted President Donald Trump’s immigration policy of separating children from parents at the southern border. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the policy “unconscionable.”

A new report by the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston has also found and criticized the North American nation’s policies which have “overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”

“Quitting this body doesn’t in any way protect you from the scrutiny of the world, or from being assessed by international standards of human rights law…all of those issues are going to continue to be discussed,” Kumar said.

In a letter, Haley attacked human rights groups including Human Rights Watch for opposing her recent push for a General Assembly vote on changes to the Council.

“You put yourself on the side of Russia and China, and opposite the United States, on a key human rights issue. You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the U.S. decision to withdraw from the council,” Haley wrote.

Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau called it “outrageous” and that blaming organizations for the country’s own failure is “taking a page out of the book of some of the worst governments around the world.”

Though Haley promised to continue to work to reform the HRC and to engage in human rights in other fora such as the Security Council, it could be difficult to make significant progress.

For instance, China, a member of both the HRC and the Security Council, has blocked a number of justice and accountability measures at the Security Council including those concerning Syria.

Russia has vetoed Security Council action on Syria 12 times, and very little progress has been made to help protect Syrians.

“So its a rhetorical slight of hand for her to say that the U.S. is still committed to human rights and will pursue it in other spaces when they are walking away from the primary body dedicated to human rights,” Kumar told IPS.

Not only are they withdrawing their membership, the U.S., with almost 18 months remaining on its term, is refusing to attend anymore meetings.

Kumar noted that the move is “really rare” as countries often attend meetings if they come up on the body’s agenda and even if they are not members but are committed to human rights.

“To say that they are not going to come at all is a pretty significant step away from multilateralism,” she said.

“It is really deeply disappointing,” Paul said, noting the withdrawal is a major step back from the U.S.’ legacy at the HRC.

While their engagement with the Council has been spotty, the U.S. has helped some of the body’s key decisions such as the creation of a commission of inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea.

The U.S. has also played a leading role on initiatives related to Syria, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

While the HRC is not a perfect institution, the U.S. move to abandon ship does not help the Council either, Paul noted.

“I don’t think we should expect perfection over institutions, I think we should work to make them more perfect…simply walking away because it’s not going so well or because we are not getting everything we want isn’t actually the way to make things better,” he told IPS.

“They are taking themselves off the field and out of really important conversations and that’s something that is going to have reverberations for years to come,” Kumar reiterated.

And just because the U.S. is leaving the Council also does not mean that the North American nation should leave behind its commitments to human rights.

“At some point, we will be back at the table. And in the meantime, we will be doing everything we can to hold our own government to account,” Paul concluded.

The U.S. joined the HRC in 2009, previously refusing to be involved under the Bush administration due to concerns over the body’s members.

Among the HRC’s members are Burundi, the Philippines, and Venezuela.

It is the first time a member has voluntarily withdrawn from the Council.

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

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Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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“A Map and Plan”: When Greener Pastures End in a Blazing Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 00:22:12 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156070 “Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara […]

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The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonians who had attempted to relocate in Europe to reintegrate back into Cameroon - Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

“Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara in search of greener pastures.

He told IPS that when the desert winds get too wild, the smugglers take refuge inside and under their vehicles, while passengers perched on luggage in overloaded pickup trucks are left at the mercy of the deadly, dust-filled wind.

Njoya is one of over 1,300 returnees that IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has repatriated to Cameroon since it started its operation in sub-Saharan Africa in June 2017. Boubacar Seybou, IOM Chief of Mission in Cameroon, told IPS the European Union has set aside 3 million Euros for its migrant reintegration operation in this country.

The operation is carried out in collaboration with officials of the EU Delegation in Cameroon, Cameroon’s ministry of external relations, the ministry of public health, ministry of social affairs and ministry of youth and civic education.

The program was planned to run for three years, facilitating the socioeconomic reintegration of 850 returnees at a cost of 3 million euros. Now Seybou said the program needs to be reviewed as more than 1,000 returnees were registered barely six months after the operation began.

The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonian returnees to reintegrate safely back into Cameroon - Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Njoya graduated from the Francoise Xavier Vogt football school in Yaounde but never played in a professional club. He claims one is obliged to know someone or pay a bribe to be recruited into a good football club. “That is why I decided to try my luck abroad, especially as a strange illness had attacked my father, causing our family business to crumble. I had to make it on my own,” he said.

Like many of the one million sub-Saharan Africans who have migrated to Europe since 2010, he had a map and a plan. He had high hopes as he navigated his way from Cameroon through Chad, Niger and Benin, until the night he curled up on a street corner in Algeria to sleep. Only then did he realise illegal migrants were not welcome. Like many others, he was forced to leave the country.

“The police arrested many of us and dropped us off at the border in the desert. Many people who walked with us died as I walked on.”

Dubious agents

“Along the trajectory from Niger to Morocco are agents called ‘passeurs’. They offer three possibilities. They can help you get to the Mediterranean where you cross into Spain. They can take you to a detention facility and call your parents for ransom. Or [they will] rob you and abandon you in the forest,” Njoya told IPS.

He was fortunate to get passeurs who helped him travel. He met another migrant from Burkina Faso whowas Spain-bound before being forced to make a U-turn in Algeria. They both struggled to make it to Niamey where the IOM help them return to their various home countries.

But Ramanou Abdou, who was also heading to Spain from Cameroon, told IPS he was not as lucky. The agents, always heavily armed and noted for raping women, drove them into a Savanah forest, robbed them and zoomed off. They all had to struggle to find their way to Niamey where they could get help from IOM, he said.

Like Njoya and others who returned to Cameroon with the help of IOM, Ramanou was offered a package that would facilitate his reintegration. He chose to return to school. He currently studies geography in the University of Dschang.

“I am grateful for the help they offered. I wish they could continue until I obtain my bachelors degree. I also wish they could help me get medical care for the protracted skin disease and stomach problems I returned with. I am still suffering,” he said.

Besides illnesses, Ramanou says many people have a negative impression of those who return from abroad. “Most of my classmates think I am thief. Some think that all returnees are hoodlums or something. Few of them treat me well.”

Like Ramanou, Njoya equally thinks the assistance provided returnees should be stepped up. He was given about 800 euros to start a business which crumbled within a couple of months. He now loads vehicles at a motor park for a living.

“I am saving money to travel abroad through the right track. My dream is still alive and I will make it the right way. I pity those who have left again to follow the same road to perdition in the name of traveling to Europe by land,” he said.

Besides Njoya and Ramanou, another returnee used his seed capital from IOM to start a small business is Ekani Awono. He opened up a coffee shop, but now tells IPS the money was too little to keep his business alive.

The beneficiaries who spoke to IPS say their peers who left the IOM office in Niamey and returned to the Ivory Coast claim to have been given as much as 3,000 euros to start sustainable businesses.

“But in Cameroon, we are constrained to submit business plans for funding limited to FCFA 500,000,” said one of them who preferred not to be named.

But Boubacar Seybou of OIM says the business plans are approved by a steering committee consisting of the funder and government ministries. He told IPS that IOM makes sure reintegration packages are sustainable. He also pointed out that there are many returnees whose businesses are doing well.

Apart from financial aid, IOM and the government provide medical check-ups and psychosocial assistance to returnees when they arrive home, according to Edimo Mbappe of the ministry of social affairs.

“Some women who were raped in the forest, deserts and camps and get here pregnant. Alongside traumatised boys and girls, they are given psychosocial support before we let them move into the community,” she told IPS.

IOM and the government has organised a series of activities, including radio and TV shows, photo exhibitions and musical concerts to dissuade would-be migrants from attempting to travel abroad illegally. They are equally trying to educate the public to absorb returnees and reject the stereotypes that make them feel uncomfortable.

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Zimbabwe’s Long Road to Gender Parityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity/#respond Tue, 29 May 2018 12:12:18 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155965 Zimbabwe goes to the polls in July for the first general election since the departure of Robert Mugabe, and the jockeying over who will represent the country’s major political parties is in full throttle. Primary elections are internal processes by political parties to allow aspiring candidates to contest among themselves with the eventual winner being […]

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Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, May 29 2018 (IPS)

Zimbabwe goes to the polls in July for the first general election since the departure of Robert Mugabe, and the jockeying over who will represent the country’s major political parties is in full throttle.

Primary elections are internal processes by political parties to allow aspiring candidates to contest among themselves with the eventual winner being the one who will represent the party at national elections.“It’s evident that the political space, despite constitutional provisions, is overall not conducive for women and intra-party violence against women is very high." --Glanis Changarirere

As soon as the political parties announced the primaries in April this year, thousands of candidates submitted their names, with sitting parliamentarians also having to contest in what the ruling party Zanu PF said was a sign of democracy.

However, from the lists that were released by Zanu PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the roster was dominated by men, with women largely staying away.

This at a time when there is a huge global drive towards realising the United Nations-driven Planet 50-50 by 2030 gender equality campaign in public office positions by year 2020.

One female Zanu PF legislator, hoping to retain her parliamentary seat, complained last month that she was being intimidated by aspiring male candidates, reporting that the men were going around telling prospective voters not to vote for a woman.

She eventually lost the election to a male candidate.

It was one of many troubling reports concerning women aspiring for public office, with political parties accused of failing to address these concerns.

Glanis Changachirere, Team Leader at the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD), which lobbies for women’s participation in political processes, says women seeking public office are still marginalised by political parties and discouraged from participating because of widespread political violence.

“It is worrisome that as we enter the second term of the Constitutional provision for gender parity, women’s political representation is under threat,” Changachire told IPS.

“Leads from Zanu PF primary elections are indicating a regression in women’s representation. Women only constitute 8 percent of that party’s parliamentary and senatorial candidates. There are examples in some provinces where there was not a single woman elected in the primaries,” she said.

The ruling Zanu PF announced the final list of parliamentary candidates on May 3, revealing that the preliminary results where dominated by men with women who were seeking re-election failing to make the cut.

Some of the losers, who again were dominated by men, contested the results in 10 constituencies, citing among other things political violence against their supporters, forcing the party to call for a re-run.

“It’s evident that the political space, despite constitutional provisions, is overall not conducive for women and intra-party violence against women is very high,” Changarirere said.

Perhaps highlighting the extent of the odds stacked against women, Oppah Muchinguri, Zanu PF’s first ever female national chairperson, who was elevated to the post last year and sought to retain her parliamentary seat, was one of the heavy casualties in the primary elections.

Under the Zimbabwe constitution adopted in 2013, 60 uncontested seats are reserved for women in the legislature in what is termed proportional representation where political parties nominate female candidates based on the number of seats the party won in the general elections.

In the 2008 elections, only 34 women made it to the 210-member parliament, and a decade later political parties are still struggling to make up the numbers that meet their commitment to global standards.

In 2013, the number grew to 86 elected female legislators, an increase of 39 percent, according to UN Women statistics.

According to Morgan Komichi, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) national chairperson, the party has set aside 50 percent of parliamentary seats for women, but from the number of women who have expressed interest in actually contesting the primaries, Zimbabwe’s main opposition could well be lagging behind in realising its own gender balance benchmarks.

“The patriarchal and primitive thinking of women playing second fiddle roles — for example, women are expected to sing and ululate and provide care work roles in political parties — are still entrenched. No deliberate mechanisms [exist] to ensure proportional presentation of women in key leadership positions and government line-up,” Changachirere said.

However, the political opposition MDC national spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo told IPS that the MDC had ratified the Women’s Charter as set out by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development targeting 50 percent women’s representation in decision making and already has provisions to allocate gender in the party, but it was up to the women to take up the mantel.

“There is a belief that women should be handed political office. They should go out there and work for it. There are constitutional provisions to meet these standards, my question is who lobbies who to get those numbers,” Khumalo told IPS.

One-time deputy prime minister and former MDC vice president Thokozani Khuphe, who was expelled from the party in March, has since formed her own splinter political party, accusing rivals of denying her the constitutional right to lead the country’s largest  opposition political party.

Khuphe accused her rivals of sexism, saying it was clear they did not want a women to lead, vowing that a woman is also constitutionally empowered to lead Zimbabwe.

Former Deputy President Joice Mujuru, also expelled from Zanu PF, and once considered by some as former President Robert Mugabe’s successor, now leads the National People’s Party (NPP), with smaller parties led by women such as Lucia Matibenga’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and rallying behind Mujuru as the sole female presidential candidate for the July national elections.

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, 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. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

The post We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Economies Flourish and Traffickers Profit from the Struggles of Low-Skilled Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:42:14 +0000 Agnes Igoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155668 Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy

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Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

It is estimated that 40.3 million people are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Agnes Igoye
KAMPALA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

I was 14-years-old the first time I came face to face with a human trafficker. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided my home. Ruthless, they demanded virgins and young girls. In a horrifying escape, I endured a treacherous, long journey that ended in an internally displaced people’s camp. I was lucky. Many Ugandan children were not. By the end of the nineteen years’ civil war, UNICEF estimated that the LRA had abducted some 20,000 children.

Human trafficking is still a problem today. Recently, the Nigeria government confirmed 110 school girls are missing, abducted by Boko Haram in Dapchi, in northeastern Nigeria. This follows a similar attack in April 2014 when Boko Haram abducted 276 school girls from Chibok, Borno State.

Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

Trafficking is lucrative, generating $150 billion in annual profits from forced labour in the private economy, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In its report Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, two-thirds of the $150 billion is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while $51 billion comes from forced economic exploitation

While the LRA and Boko Haram kidnap, most human traffickers employ deceit as a recruitment tool. They target those who are low-skilled, mostly women and children. Lured with promises of gainful employment, the 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage indicates women and girls account for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors, including domestic work.

Many of them experience exploitation. Complaints of abuse of Ugandan low-skilled workers in the Middle East, include physical and racial abuse, no pay or underpayment of wages, denied medical help, sexual abuse and long working hours. In Libya, there have been gross human rights abuses in the form of auctioning of migrants.

Trafficking is lucrative, generating $150 billion in annual profits from forced labour in the private economy, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In its report Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, two-thirds of the $150 billion is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while $51 billion comes from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work and agriculture. The reality is, as low-skilled migrants suffer exploitation, human traffickers become richer.

Profiting from slavery is immoral. And it is time to craft creative solutions to solve this issue.

I have worked to stop human trafficking for almost a decade. I’ve helped build a rehabilitation center for survivors, trained law enforcement to recognize and investigate it, and I advocate globally for the rights of victims. What I have learned is that it is not enough to tell unemployed people about the dangers posed by human traffickers. Instead, we must focus on safe migration and ways to find gainful employment free of exploitation.

We should start by urging more countries to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. So far, only 51 countries, mostly migrant-sending countries, have ratified the convention. Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) and bilateral agreements between migrant-sending and receiving countries will only be effective when driven by respect for migrant’s rights.

Another tactic is for governments and policy makers to recognize and regulate sectors that attracted low skilled workers like domestic work. The lack of contracts/guidelines of what domestic work entails increases the vulnerability of those employed in the sector. Where contracts do exist, statements like ‘any other duties that your employer will assign from time to time’ have been exploited by traffickers to enslave their victims. In my interviews with survivors, ‘any other duties’ have included providing erotic massage to their employers — women and men alike. One victim was severely beaten for giving the massage without a smile.

Discriminatory migration policies and overly stringent visa regimes also must be altered. When policy makers don’t facilitate the humane movement of low-skilled migrant workers, they feel their only option is to listen to deceptive traffickers. Policies can be crafted to meet the needs of countries but also take away the power of traffickers to deceive and continue to draw victims.

 

Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

Agnes Igoye

 

While these solutions could help reduce the trafficking of people who are seeking a better life, other tactics are needed to prevent kidnappings like the one I almost experienced. Rather than concentrate resources to military options, governments should tackle the root causes that drive youth to join the ranks of violent extremist organizations. The UN 2015 Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism prescribes dealing with poverty and youth unemployment that make extremist organizations an attractive source of income and belonging.

Governments and development partners also should do more to allocate resources to implement this plan to ensure employment facilitation, skills development, entrepreneurial support, youth involvement in decision-making, mentorship programs, as well as improved education. The World Bank Vice President for Africa Makhtar Diop warned this education should have practical application to improve young people’s productivity to match the demands of a fast changing labour force.

These solutions are key to unlocking the potential of the youth, such as those who raided my home, and now those who belong to Boko Haram and who continue to kidnap girls.

Indeed, these policies are part of the solution to the unemployment crisis that is fueling international human trafficking.

Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @AgnesIgoye.

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Excerpt:

Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy

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Protecting the Health & Rights of People on the Movehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protecting-health-rights-people-move/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protecting-health-rights-people-move http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protecting-health-rights-people-move/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Dr. Natalia Kanem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155624 Dr. Natalia Kanem is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

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Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UN Population Fund. Credit: UNFPA

By Dr. Natalia Kanem
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 2018 (IPS)

A staggering 258 million people migrated internationally in 2017.

While many of these migrants chose to leave their home countries in search of jobs, education, or to reunite with family, many others had no choice but to leave–to escape poverty, violence or a dearth of opportunities for a better life.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, recently interviewed young migrants in the gateway cities of Beirut, Cairo, Nairobi and Tunis, as part of a multi-city research project. They were drawn to those cities because of insecurity and unrest where they grew up.

And these young people were very honest with us: They faced serious risks and abuses during and after their moves, and things are much harder than they had expected. Even so, they almost universally say – they would do it all over again.

Regardless of what drives migration, benefits can accrue to both countries of origin and destination.

In 2016, migrant workers’ remittances to their home countries totalled more than $400 billion, four times the total amount of official development assistance that year. Remittances enable families in home countries to have better housing, education and health care.

Destination countries stand to gain from the science and technology skills of some migrants and from the unskilled labour of others. Migrants pay taxes, which fund host nations’ social security, health and education systems. Migrants have the potential to drive and sustain economic growth.

And because most international migrants are young when they move, continued migration can contribute to the workforce, to slowing population ageing and to postponing population decline in host countries.

There is ample scope for governments to enhance the benefits and dispel misperceptions or myths about costs of migration. Many of these misperceptions are grounded in racism and xenophobia, which must be tackled head-on.

The first United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is to eliminate poverty. Governments can make headway against poverty and spark economic growth by increasing and sustaining investments in the health, education and rights of young people, especially girls. The social and economic boon from these investments can be significant.

Poverty reduction coupled with successful and inclusive development can provide more individuals with the security, capacity and means to reach their fullest potential at home. Because development expands people’s horizons and aspirations, it provides the means for mobility. This is why, despite what many think, people from the poorest countries are significantly less likely to be found outside their countries of origin.

As people move, they face hazards along their journey. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to violence and discrimination. When migrants are separated from family and support networks, the chances of exploitation, violence and human trafficking become much higher.

Sexual and gender-based violence, already the most common human rights abuse, only increases with disruption and displacement. And far too much evidence shows that child, early and forced marriage increases as well.

Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care is a major contributing factor to death, disease and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age.

We all have an interest—and obligation—to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all people—women and men, girls and boys. This must include migrant and mobile populations during their journeys and on arrival.

Governments, international development partners, civil society and individuals all have roles to play in eliminating negative drivers of migration and building more resilient societies. Fundamental to this are investments in education, health and employment opportunities for young people, especially adolescent girls, who are too often excluded from the benefits of development.

High quality data and information are also critical to help governments understand the motivations, and life circumstances, of migrants, and to locate those in need. UNFPA works to improve the collection and analysis of population data so that investments can be better directed to truly reach the furthest behind first.

Protecting the rights of migrants, especially women and girls, is essential. Human rights are universal and thus apply to everyone, whether they are in their home countries, a host country, or somewhere in between.

UNFPA remains committed to being at the forefront of efforts to protect the rights of migrants, and all people, and to ensure that they have access to the sexual and reproductive health services they need and can live in dignity and safety, free from violence and discrimination.

The post Protecting the Health & Rights of People on the Move appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Natalia Kanem is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

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Mothers & Children: Addressing Disappearances through a Gender Perspectivehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective/#respond Wed, 02 May 2018 10:13:51 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155577 Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared in protest march.

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2018 (IPS)

At the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials, Justice Robert Jackson, the Chief Prosecutor, charged the world that submitting the enemy to the judgment of the law is “one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”

Any effort to address missing persons during and after conflict takes this one step forward. It attempts to provide justice after death. However, what constitutes “Reason” must be seen through the lenses of both women and men.

In a fractured and divisive community post-conflict, the nature of “ Reason” is a complex and elusive concept. But how we restore dignity to a disappeared victim and the family and promote “ Reason” and psychological healing is far less contested and helps a broader reconciliation agenda that helps address structural sources of injustice.

The Offices of Missing Persons legislation and institutions set up after conflict can play a particularly important role in reaffirming the right of relatives of those disappeared. However, it is important that we develop new ways of conceiving of accountability mechanisms that provide a more gender sensitive experience of justice.

We need to stretch our moral imagination in order to develop syncretic approaches to transitional justice that are both borrowed from other jurisdictions but deeply rooted in context. A feminist perspective can enrich the construction of the transitional justice field on missing persons. Women’s contributions and experiences and women’s activism must be reflected in framing the initiatives.

In many countries in conflict and post- conflict, the presence of women, from the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina to the Mothers Front in Sri Lanka, women have altered the contours of transition justice. The Offices set up to address the missing must expose the harms to women as women, mother, wife and grandmother- thereby ignoring the specific harms shared by women or the specific economic and social status of women.

Often, gender crimes are seen only in terms of violence against women but there are other forms of atrocity that impact women in unalterable ways such as the disappearances of family members. A Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) Paul-Henri Arni sums up the importance of the committee’s work thus:. “The worst wound of war… the only wound that gets worse with time is when a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, a husband or a wife does not come for dinner and simply vanishes. We humans are not designed to resist such mental torture.”

In Argentina, among the 30,000 people who were disappeared during the “Dirty War” were an estimated 500 pregnant women and young children. Argentina has taken steps passing legislation to regulate the situation of the disappeared and their families. In 1994, Law No. 24.321 defined enforced disappearances and regulated the process for obtaining a judicial declaration of disappearances Law No. 24.411 established the right to pecuniary reparation for families of the disappeared.

Very early on, as disappearances increased and fear permeated the country, a small group of grandmothers banded together. In April 1977, at the peak of the disappearances, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, wore white head scarves embroidered with the names of their missing relatives, and marched to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

The mothers now grown to be grandmothers remain a public presence as they march along with other relatives of the disappeared in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace, to search for their disappeared children who were kidnapped by the military dictatorship.

The mothers and grandmothers or the Las Abuelas lobbied nationally to develop legal precedent to establish the use of DNA in establishing biological identity and pressured the government to support the development of a national genetic database that would allow all relatives of missing children to submit a blood sample for genetic testing. Established in 1989, Argentina’s database continues to be instrumental in the investigation of disappeared children.

The Argentine genetic database set an important precedent and enabled the expansion of genetic tracing as an important tool in accounting for the disappeared and providing a remedy for victims. National and international funding for the database has been budgeted until the year 2050 and has expanded to Guatemala and Peru.

In April 2017, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Marked 40 Years of Searching for the Disappeared. The Mothers are also building a wall with the faces of thousands of disappeared people, to raise awareness of the disappeared during the country’s dictatorship from 1976-1983.

What this shows is that we have to go beyond the tired notions of transitional justice. What is needed is a fuller concept of restorative justice that move away from criminal law formulations of sanctions to reimagining the possibility of restoring a lost social balance through a localization of the international practices and norms of transitional justice.

*Rangita de Silva de Alwis was recently appointed by UN Women and IDLO to the High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice.

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Excerpt:

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

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Myanmar Unlikely to Resolve Rohingya Problem Without International Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:53:14 +0000 Trevor Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155462 Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

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

By Trevor Wilson
CANBERRA, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

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

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

Trevor Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Myanmar Unlikely to Resolve Rohingya Problem Without International Help appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geetika Dang

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

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

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

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

Vani S. Kulkarni

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

Raghav Gaiha

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

Published in the Sunday Guardian, 22nd April 2018

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here is a four-tier approach

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

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

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

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

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

The post The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time’s up.

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

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

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

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

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

Geetika Dang

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

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

Vani S. Kulkarni

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

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

Raghav Gaiha

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

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

This story was originally published by Sunday Guardian

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Excerpt:

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

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