Inter Press Service » Gender Violence http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 10 Dec 2016 06:40:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 India Steps Up Citizen Activism to Protect Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/india-steps-up-citizen-activism-to-protect-women/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:34:28 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148122 Red Brigade, a female-only collective, equips Indian women and girls with self-defence techniques and targets males who have committed sexual assault. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Names have been changed to protect their identities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rally against violence to women in 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNICEF campaign on Zika response © UNICEF/UNI183007/Quintos

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 22 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ini Ekott
ABUJA, Nov 11 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Rose Delaney
LONDON, Nov 6 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They are blindly just beating this woman.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul has gone on to write about infanticide for IPS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Journalist Murders: The Ultimate Form of Censorshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2016 20:34:56 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147595 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/journalist-murders-the-ultimate-form-of-censorship/feed/ 0 Boko Haram: Recruited by Friends and Familyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/boko-haram-recruited-by-friends-and-family/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boko-haram-recruited-by-friends-and-family http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/boko-haram-recruited-by-friends-and-family/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2016 00:32:35 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147312 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/boko-haram-recruited-by-friends-and-family/feed/ 0 Yazidi Survivor of ISIL Appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:31:35 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147033 Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

Yazidi Nadia Murad – who survived being kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by ISIL – was honoured by the UN on Friday September 16 for her work to help human trafficking survivors.

At a ceremony held ahead of the International Day of Peace Murad was appointed as the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She is the first survivor of human trafficking to hold the position.

In early August 2014 Murad’s home town of Kocho in Northern Iraq was attacked by ISIL – also known as ISIS or Daesh.

Murad, who belongs to the Yazidi minority religion, described ISIL’s impact as “a nightmare that has struck our society.”

ISIL executed men and older women from the village in the attack, including Murad’s mother and six of her brothers.

Murad and other women and children were captured as “war-booty” and trade merchandise.

ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis have been described as attempted genocide, since ISIL aims to kill all Yazidis which it describes as infidels.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” -- Nadia Murad.

Murad later escaped in November 2014 when her captor left the door unlocked and a neighboring family smuggled her to a refugee camp, Duhot, in northern Iraq before she sought and was granted asylum in Germany.

Murad’s advocacy against ISIL’s trafficking of Yazidis later led her to testify before the UN Security Council in December 2015.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” Murad said, describing the Islamic State’s action as an orchestrated “collective genocide against Yazidi identity” and religion.

She called for the case of genocide against the Yazidis to be brought before the International Criminal Court and for an international budget to compensate Yazidi victims to be established.

Murad also expressed her wish to witness the liberation of occupied Yazidi territory and urged states to open their societies to Yazidi refugees.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on ISIL’s June report, some 3200 women and children are currently enslaved by ISIL.

Murad would “bring much needed attention to international efforts to end human trafficking and help keep it on the Security Council’s agenda,” US Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council Sarah Mendelson said.

The international response should be “commensurate with the scale of human trafficking” said Mendelson, noting that human trafficking generates an estimated 150 billion dollars in revenue annually with over 20 million victims.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Murad as a “fierce and tireless advocate for the Yazidi people and victims of human trafficking everywhere.”

Ban also described the crimes against Yazidis by ISIL as possible genocide.

“The crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq against the Yazidi may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide.”

He called for the immediate release of thousands of Yazidis being held in captivity.

Human rights barrister, Amal Clooney, who represents Murad, described ISIL’s violence towards the Yazidis as a “bureaucracy of evil on an industrial scale.”

ISIL have released a pamphlet entitled ‘Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves’ which describes acts such as beating female slaves, raping female slaves who have not reached puberty, buying or selling or gifting female slaves.

Clooney also expressed her disappointment in the UN’s failure to stop the ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis.

“I am ashamed as a supporter of the United Nations that states are failing to prevent or even punish genocide because they find their own interests get in the way.”

“I am ashamed as a lawyer that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it.”

“I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia can have their bodies sold and used as battlefields.”

“I am ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help,” said Clooney.

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From Where I Stand: Nahimana Fainesihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 10:28:54 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146981 Nahimana Fainesi [Finess], 30, fled her native Burundi in July 2015 and has since been living in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. She works as a farmer in a UN Women cash-for-work programme there, which is funded by the Government of Japan. Her work is directly related to Sustainable Development Goal 2, which seeks to end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular people in vulnerable situations, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food; and SDG 16, on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. ]]> Nahimana Fainesi in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Catianne Tijerina/UN Women

Nahimana Fainesi in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Catianne Tijerina/UN Women

By UN Women
Sep 19 2016 (IPS)

“This is my second time living in communal camps, second time running away from civil war to protect myself. What made me leave [Burundi] was the problem of random people invading others’ homes, attacking those without husbands. They would enter with knives. Before they kill you, they would first rape you. When I saw those attacks, and people dying, I left with my one-year-old son. I didn’t have the chance to get all my children because it was a case of everyone for themselves, running for their lives.

When I got to the Lusenda Camp (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), I had no hope. UN Women gave me hope, motivation and empowerment. After some time, I was appointed committee member of the women’s group. I found a job [through a cash-for-work programme] and that money helped me cross back to get my children. I have five children—four girls and one boy.

Camp life is another challenge. Two of my children have now matured into young women. When they go walking around, I remain in constant fear, because at any time they could get raped. The food is also insufficient and gets depleted even before the next ration.

I survive by farming to get a little cash. Women farm together, growing several types of crops. Once they are ready to be harvested, we sell the produce. One must always think about how you can get your hands dirty to attain your goals and feed your family. Happiness begins with you.”

This story, part of the “Where I am” editorial series, was replicated from the UN Women website <http://www.unwomen.org/>. IPS is an official partner of UN Women’s Step It Up! Media Compact.

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In Host Country Lebanon, Refugee and Rural Women Build Entrepreneurship, Cohesion and Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/in-host-country-lebanon-refugee-and-rural-women-build-entrepreneurship-cohesion-and-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-host-country-lebanon-refugee-and-rural-women-build-entrepreneurship-cohesion-and-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/in-host-country-lebanon-refugee-and-rural-women-build-entrepreneurship-cohesion-and-future/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 16:44:32 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146967 Women entrepreneurs from refugee and host communities in Lebanon are using their unique skills and creativity to build their own model of social stability in Lebanon while launching economically viable businesses.]]> Refugee and rural women in host country, Lebanon, learn to create, brand and commercialize high-quality handicrafts, organic and agro-food products as part of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality project. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Refugee and rural women in host country, Lebanon, learn to create, brand and commercialize high-quality handicrafts, organic and agro-food products as part of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality project. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

By UN Women
Sep 16 2016 (IPS)

“When we were forced to leave our country, I never thought that a community in Lebanon would accept and treat me as an active member, the way I have been at the Kfeir Women’s Working Group,” says Hiba Kamal, an 18-year-old refugee from Syria who travelled to Lebanon with her family five years ago fleeing instability in her own country.

Kamal is among more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria and its neighbouring countries, hosted by Lebanon. The massive influx of refugees accounts for 25 per cent of the total population in Lebanon and puts unprecedented pressure on the Lebanese economy. There is an ever-increasing demand for public services and significantly stronger competition for limited resources and employment.

Hiba Kamal, a Syrian refugee, learns needlework technique from a Lebanese woman at a workshop by Amel Association, supported by UN Women Fund for Gender Equality. Photo courtesy of Amel Association

Hiba Kamal, a Syrian refugee, learns needlework technique from a Lebanese woman at a workshop by Amel Association, supported by UN Women Fund for Gender Equality. Photo courtesy of Amel Association

The protracted refugee and migrant crisis has led to increased tensions between host and refugee populations, especially in the poorest areas, where refugees tend to concentrate. There is a higher risk of insecurity, sexual and gender-based violence [1].

Women, both Lebanese citizens and refugees, often suffer more discrimination due to the prevalence of prejudiced laws and cultural stereotypes. They are frequently either restricted at home, or relegated to finding low and unstable income within the informal sector without social protection.

To improve women’s access to employment and markets, the Amel Association, a grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, implemented a three-year project from 2012 – 2015 in the south of Lebanon and the suburbs of Beirut. The project has impacted over 1,000 rural and refugee women, who have learned how to create, brand and commercialize high-quality handicrafts, such as embroidery and accessories, organic and agro-food products, following the highest quality and sanitation standards.

By mixing traditional techniques, materials and designs, the participants of the MENNA project create unique and marketable products under the MENNA brand. The interactive workshops where refugee and Lebanese women learn and work together has also created spaces for dialogue and coexistence. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

By mixing traditional techniques, materials and designs, the participants of the MENNA project create unique and marketable products under the MENNA brand. The interactive workshops where refugee and Lebanese women learn and work together has also created spaces for dialogue and coexistence. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Through interactive sessions, where refugee and Lebanese women learned and worked together, the programme also created spaces for dialogue and coexistence to build social stability. “The [Lebanese] women started teaching me their traditional needle work and I was genuinely happy to share with them all the traditional practices that I had learned from my mother and grandmother in loom work,” shares Kamal. By mixing traditional techniques, materials and designs, participants link their cultural heritage and history with the products, making them unique and highly marketable.

“We started seeing real results of our work when some of the women started creating their own products and started exhibiting them. They grew stronger, more confident and set inspiring examples for other women in the area,” says Safaa Al Ali, Programme Manager at the Amel Association.

The organization facilitated an alliance with 13 other civil society organizations and cooperatives doing similar work to create the first economic network for women in Lebanon, called “MENNA” (meaning “from us” in Arabic language). Today, more than 300 refugee and rural Lebanese women producers sell soaps, candles, accessories and handicrafts directly to the public in a shop in Beirut also named MENNA.

“I came to Lebanon as the crisis began in Syria five years ago…it was hard to find a suitable job as a refugee and I could not access the formal business sector,” shares Mona Hamid, a 51-year-old Syrian refugee living in the suburbs of Beirut. “By joining the MENNA network at Amel, I gained skills to sell and promote my items at local businesses and also showed them at exhibitions.”

The success of the initiative prompted Amel to create a MENNA catering service in February 2016, opening up more income-generating opportunities for women.

Over 1,000 rural and refugee women have learned to create, brand and commercialize their products. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Over 1,000 rural and refugee women have learned to create, brand and commercialize their products. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade


The MENNA brand has brought together Lebanese and refugee women in a way that has benefited entire communities. “The importance of this project is that it respects the culture and skills of refugee women and assists them in integrating into the host community. It is a model that works, not only to make women agents of their own economic empowerment in a fragile context, but also as a way that brings them together to work for a common goal, thus building social stability and sustainable peace,” notes Rana El-Houjeiri, Programme Specialist for UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality in Lebanon. The Fund is now building upon the success of this project by supporting similar initiatives in Lebanon and other countries in the Arab States region.

Notes
[1] Amel Association International (2013). Unpublished study on “Gender analysis of Host Communities affected by Syrian Refugee Crisis”

This story was replicated from the UN Women website <http://www.unwomen.org/>. IPS is an official
partner of UN Women’s Step It Up! Media Compact.

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Economic Growth in Bangladesh: Challenge and Change for Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/economic-growth-in-bangladesh-challenge-and-change-for-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-growth-in-bangladesh-challenge-and-change-for-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/economic-growth-in-bangladesh-challenge-and-change-for-women/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 12:10:25 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146955 In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Sep 16 2016 (IPS)

A recent research study “Bangladesh: Looking Beyond Garments” conducted by the Asian Development Bank ADB has revealed that the positive economic turnaround in Bangladesh is largely due the rising presence of women in the workplace.

In a country where the ready-made garment sector has resulted in the employment of roughly 4 million nationals, new opportunities arise.

As the vast majority of the RMG sector is made up by women, the female dominance of this industry can be said to have lead to a new form of economic autonomy, particularly to those who are accustomed to living under the strict restrictions of a traditionally patriarchal society.

The economic “liberty” entices women from poorer backgrounds, eager to provide for their families and free themselves from the heavy chains of impoverishment.

However, many soon come to realise that the garment industry is riddled with contradictions and disappointments. Failure to comply with basic workers rights leads many women down an industrial path paved with false promises and the threat of exploitation.

In a desperate bid to secure employment, women readily subject themselves to harsh working conditions and informal employment in the hopes of one day availing of a fixed contract.

Many may question as to why the exploitation of vulnerable women in the workforce prevails in Bangladesh.

Is it the consequential result of ignorance? Has the hierarchical system of education failed working-class women?

Can lower class women realistically rise above the status of “underpaid laborer” in a country that predominantly regards them as worthless as a result of their gender and “pitiful” economic status?If the labour force participation for women was raised to the same rate as for men, the labour force of Bangladesh would be increased by 43%.

Does anyone truly believe that in a developing country like Bangladesh , poverty-stricken women and girls can alter their circumstances and become economically prosperous in their own right?

Will the perils of exploitation and corporate greed continue to hinder their personal and professional development?

The only thing certain now is that the exploited female workers of Bangladesh are in dire need of solutions.

The ADB “Looking Beyond Garments” report emphasises that in spite of the robust growth of women in the labour force, gender disparities persist. The findings also suggest that while there has been in a significant increase in employment in recent years, the impact left on the labourers has been a far cry from the life-altering opportunity they initially envisioned.

As unsafe working conditions, low earnings, and informal unemployment cease to discontinue in the fast paced, export-oriented garment sector, the ADB urges for a diversification of production.

The ADB believes the exploitation in the garment industry may be weakened if a demand rises for female laborers in the now male-dominated agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

In this way, women could avail of enhanced employment opportunities in workplaces that value their fundamental right to a decent wage and safe working conditions.

Although a high number of Bangladeshis perceive the new wave of female workers as a stepping stone to empowerment, many women are still tied down by the setbacks of “Purdah”, a religious and social practice which restricts their mobility in spite of the economic “independence” work may bring them.

Purdah is defined as the broad set of norms and regulations that advocate for the seclusion of women and enforce their exclusion from public places. The practice of Purdah also entails the segregation of the sexes in the workplace.

A study conducted in rural Bangladesh revealed that women who practiced Purdah spent 60% of their time engaged in household work, whereas men spent the majority of their time engaged in crop cultivation and wage labor.

Women were only granted access to labour in times of hardship, in the fields picking chillies and potatoes when demand for male labor was high.

There are two sides to the argument. On the one hand, employment outside of the home contributes positively to some measures of autonomy for women, on the other, entering the world of labour presents many risks to women in a country plagued by gender-based violence and harassment in all sectors of society, even the workplace.

A further challenge presents itself through the perceived female threat to masculinity. As tradition requires males to take on the status of “sole breadwinner” in the home, many men feel frustrated over the rapidly evolving economic status of women in Bangladesh.

In some cases, the possibility of domestic violence increases as unemployed men experience feelings of humiliation and self-hatred due to economic dependence on their wives or female relatives.

In Bangladesh, this issue is particularly critical as the base level of gender-based violence is extremely high by international standards.

Although many women have secured employment, encouraged by the economic necessity of their families, the setbacks of the age-old tradition of “Purdah” persist.

Oftentimes, women’s paid work is regarded as a temporary measure during a period of financial struggle. Even under these circumstances employment is widely considered as “undesirable” and unfit for a woman whose intrinsic occupation lies within the safe walls of her home.

In lower-class areas, many women who travel to work on a daily basis still require permission from their husbands or other male relatives to travel elsewhere.

In a survey conducted in an urban slum dwelling, 60% of married women who worked outside of their residential area said that they still needed spousal permission to visit a friend.

The problem of restricted mobility is still rampant in many rural areas of Bangladesh today with 44% of married women aged between 20-24 claiming they are not free to make their own decisions about visiting their relatives.

This is why many men fear the autonomy a growing economy can bring to the women of Bangladesh. In urban areas, the fervor for female empowerment has already spread at a steadfast rate. Women are no longer willing to accept the repression tied to traditions past.

A recent research study found that urban women engaged in formal work outside their residences had higher measures of independence, in terms of mobility and decision-making power within the household.

Women in urban areas have increased access to employment. A vast array of employment opportunities results in higher female labour force participation rates, increased accessibility to education and an active decision to marry and conceive children later.

In fact, education levels are drastically improving across the country and the future of Bangladesh’s next generation of empowered women shines bright.

What’s more, Bangladesh has easily reached the Millennium Development Goal of primary and secondary school gender equality: in 2011, there were 110 girls enrolled in primary and secondary schools for every 100 boys, a report by the World Bank confirmed.

As long as this positive trend in education advances and the government of Bangladesh continues to focus on the improvement of conditions for women in the working place, women from all socioeconomic backgrounds will be granted more and more access to information about their rights.

Eventually, the respect they deserve in the workplace will no longer be a privilege, but, a guaranteed right.

It is time we break the barriers blockading the male-dominated working world and recognise the positive contribution women will add to Bangladesh’s economy.

As the ADB “Looking Beyond Garments” report confirms “if the labour force participation for women was raised to the same rate as for men, the labour force of Bangladesh would be increased by 43%.”

With an increased desire for female empowerment coupled with the female-led government’s thirst for equality, soon, the majority of women will not be confined to menial household duties, rather, they will become the driving force behind Bangladesh’s growing economy.

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Myths, Secrets and Inequality Surround Ugandan Women’s Sex Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives/#comments Sun, 11 Sep 2016 00:14:40 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives/feed/ 0 The Lesser Sexhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lesser-sex http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:22:39 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146672 The threat of violence knows no bounds for women and young girls in Bangladesh.

The threat of violence knows no bounds for women and young girls in Bangladesh.

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Aug 24 2016 (IPS)

Sakina’s  glare is empty. Her defeated, glassy eyes scan the room passively. The subdued silence and withered frame expose her fragility.

As a young girl, she endured both the physical and emotional trauma that had aged her into a state of lifelessness.

Sakina’s childhood innocence had already been ruthlessly beaten away. She was only 12 years old.

Sakina’s expressionless stare showed indestructible detachment.

As hard as a rock, her inner turmoil had obligated her to push her emotions aside and live in a state of heartless survival.

However, once encouraged to voice the perils of her childhood, Sakina’s face softened.

The gushes of tears that flooded her eyes remind one of a  coursing river that has burst at its banks, wild, chaotic and finally free of limitations.

Sakina  articulated her experience of what can be considered years of irreversible trauma and abuse in her family home in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“I remember my mother’s crushing custom of spitting venom. Her vicious words wounded me more than the beatings.  Somehow, her malicious remarks  always seemed to cut deeper than the whip.”

However, the root of Sakina’s abuse is not founded in ignorance or poverty.

The cause of her mother’s fury stemmed in her being a “kalluni”, a dark-skinned girl. She would never fare well in  a marriage market  so focused on the South Asian standard of “fair” beauty.

In spite of having grown up in a privileged manner,  attended to by dozens of servants in a household  of plenty, violence was  rife within the four walls of what appeared to be “paradise” for those who could not look inside.

“I recall being locked in the bathroom for 2 days , deprived of food and water as a punishment for my disobedience. Most of the time, I felt like ending my life in that suffocating bathroom, I couldn’t take it any longer.” Sakina said.

The grotesque image of my blood spattered on the wall will never leave me
When she was not being made to starve or dehydrate, she endured severe physical punishment under the wrath of both her mother and father, her younger brother never failing to report on the shame she brought on to the family  once he discovered Sakina’s exchange of love notes with a local boy.

“There is one nightmarish memory that refuses to leave my mind. I shudder in fear when I think  of it. It comes back to me in the form of a recurring dream, my mother’s snarling expression as she  takes out a one and a half metre long whip , freshly chiselled from the branch of a “kadam” tree, thrashing me with it mercilessly, for hours on end.”

She paused to compose herself.

“The grotesque image of my blood spattered on the wall will never leave me” she stated.

Although  Sakina’s tragic story happened over five decades ago, has Bangladesh made any radical change for the better in terms of female security and development?

It appears the great lengths the local government has gone to eradicate violence against women and young girls have not stretched far enough.

Even today, cases of abuse and violence against women and girls are  commonplace  in male-dominated Bangladeshi society.

Recently, a woman was reported to have been caned 101 times in rural community in Bangladesh for what was considered to be a shameless “extramarital affair” by the local village arbitration committee.

In reality, the “affair” was a case of breaking and entering as the woman shamefully  labelled “adulteress” fought off a neighbor who entered her home by force.

In spite of this violation of privacy and act of male-perpetrated violence, the woman as the “weak” scapegoat was obligated to take the blame for the man’s reckless  behaviour.

As a direct consequence, she was relentlessly beaten in the presence of 400 villagers. The final court ruling obligated her husband to conduct the caning.

Readers  of the Daily Star Bangladesh report commented on the sheer barbarity and sexism of the caning as the  male perpetrator of the attack’s sole punishment was 20 lashes.

Young women and girls in Bangladesh are punished for the crime of being the “lesser sex” on a daily basis. They are pushed into child marriages, slain for dowry and subjected to severe familial and marital acts of  gender-based violence.

In many ways, young girls and women are seen as nothing more than “financial burdens” on the family.

There is far less investment in education and healthcare for young girls and women across Bangladesh and once they reach puberty, their mobility is heavily restricted.

As the high number of child marriage, gender-based acts of violence and adolescent motherhood soars, it is clear this growth surpasses the setbacks of social disparity and lack of education.

The UNICEF country programme document states that in spite of significant progress in the reduction of poverty and  gender equity in the education system up to secondary level, gender bias still exists.

The   document emphasises that “the low socio-economic status of women is reflected in the poor health services provided to them, their inadequate food intake and their limited decision-making authority. Early marriage, dowry practices and sexual harassment, as well as violence against children and women continue because of social acceptance and gender norms”.

In this sense, Sakina, in spite of her prestigious family name and affluent background, is just as much a victim of violent brutality as the isolated village woman who was mercilessly caned.

In South Asia and elsewhere, ruthless violence against young women knows no bounds, it unleashes itself in  all classes of society, from the marginalised to the elite, like a  threatening plague.

In most cases, the abuse is rooted in the home where girls decision-making power is most limited.  Women’s  “intrinsic role” relegates  them into a position of subservience.

Violence within the home perpetrated by women who target other vulnerable young women and girls, much like in the case of Sakina and her abusive mother, are by far the most difficult cases to tackle as few have the courage to condemn and speak out against the actions of their own families.

In a recent research study, more than half of women interviewed aged between 15-49 experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in their homes.

Ironically, UNICEF has reported that even in the wealthiest quintile of society,  13 percent of girls are underweight, possibly due to food deprivation as a form of punishment.

Acid throwing, whipping, and sexual harassment are also common forms of violence perpetrated against women and young girls.

The rampant culture of violence and abuse has led many young women to contemplate suicide, as UNICEF reports suicide to be most common among girls aged between 14 and 17 in Bangladesh.

The need to implement gender-equal initiatives with the outcome of delimiting women and young girls mobility is vital. Through innovative education, the perpetrator of violence in Bangladesh will benefit just as much as the victim.

Through the widespread implementation of  anti-violence initiatives, those most affected by abuse will come to realise that brutal castigation is by no means embedded in the national culture, nor is it an acceptable manner of monitoring and “controlling” female behaviour.

It is time women in Bangladesh and elsewhere speak out in the face of violence and realise that the open condemnation of abuse is key to addressing the entrenched discrimination against women and girls that dominate the nation.

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Breaking the Silence on Gender-Blind Transporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 18:34:58 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146634 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/feed/ 0