Inter Press ServiceGender Violence – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:36:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Ethiopian Domestic Workers Battle for Survival in Saudi Arabiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/ethiopian-domestic-workers-battle-survival-saudi-arabia/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:08:47 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157714 Marjani F, 44, spent 8 years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital working as domestic help. “My husband was killed by the military after being accused of organizing a protest. I have four children and there was no way I could pay the bills staying there,” she says. For nearly a decade, she lived and worked […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Asa Torkelsson
DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

*Not their real names

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 27 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

And life remains difficult for the children in these camps.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Names changed to protect the identity of the children.

Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg.

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

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

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Aug 22 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

Facts

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

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

NRC is working in Myanmar and through partners in Bangladesh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, he did not idealise it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 2 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most targeted

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, almost half of the minors were sexually exploited 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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Latin American Migrants Targeted by Trafficking Networkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/latin-american-migrants-targeted-trafficking-networks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-migrants-targeted-trafficking-networks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/latin-american-migrants-targeted-trafficking-networks/#respond Sat, 28 Jul 2018 00:35:18 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156934 The rescue earlier this month of 12 Venezuelan and three Colombian women from a prostitution network that recruits migrants in Peru is an example of the complex web where migration and human trafficking often involve victims of forced labour and sexual exploitation. The sex trade ring that preys on migrants was dismantled by police in […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geetika Dang

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

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

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

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

Vani S. Kulkarni

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

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

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

Raghav Gaiha

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacqueline Mogeni

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

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

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

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

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labour appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dubious agents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, May 29 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

She eventually lost the election to a male candidate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amb. Amina Mohamed

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

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

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

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

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

Siddharth Chatterjee

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

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

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

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

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

By Agnes Igoye
KAMPALA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Agnes Igoye

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

A staggering 258 million people migrated internationally in 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared in protest march.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Mothers & Children: Addressing Disappearances through a Gender Perspective appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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

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

By Trevor Wilson
CANBERRA, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

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

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

Trevor Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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