Inter Press Service » Gender Violence http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 30 Aug 2016 19:56:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 The Lesser Sexhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lesser-sex http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:22:39 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146672 The threat of violence knows no bounds for women and young girls in Bangladesh.

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

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Aug 24 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

Sakina’s expressionless stare showed indestructible detachment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She paused to compose herself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Breaking the Silence on Gender-Blind Transporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 18:34:58 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146634 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-blind-transport/feed/ 0 Peruvians Say “No!” to Violence Against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/peruvians-say-no-to-violence-against-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peruvians-say-no-to-violence-against-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/peruvians-say-no-to-violence-against-women/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 14:13:15 +0000 Aramis Castro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146561 A group of demonstrators with black crosses, symbolising the victims of femicide in Peru and other countries of Latin America, march down a street in the centre of Lima during an Aug. 13 march against gender violence. Credit: Noemí Melgarejo/IPS

A group of demonstrators with black crosses, symbolising the victims of femicide in Peru and other countries of Latin America, march down a street in the centre of Lima during an Aug. 13 march against gender violence. Credit: Noemí Melgarejo/IPS

By Aramis Castro
LIMA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Peruvians took to the streets en masse to reject violence against women, in what was seen as a major new step in awareness-raising in the country that ranks third in the world in terms of domestic sexual violence.

The Saturday Aug. 13 march in Lima and simultaneous protests held in nearly a dozen other cities and towns around the country, includingCuzco, Arequipa and Libertad,was a reaction tolenient court sentences handed down in cases of femicide – defined as the violent and deliberate killing of a woman – rape and domestic violence.

The case that sparked the demonstrations was that of Arlette Contreras, who was beaten in July 2015 by her then boyfriendin the southern city of Ayacucho, Adriano Pozo, in an attack that was caught on hotel cameras.“We want justice; we want the attackers, rapists and murderers to go to jail. We want the state to offer us, the victims, safety.” -- Arlette Contreras

Despite the evidence – the footage of the attack – Pozo, the son of a local politician, was merely given a one-year suspended sentence for rape and attempted femicide, because of “mitigating factors”: the fact that he was drunk and jealous. When a higher court upheld the sentence in July, the prosecutor described the decision as “outrageous”.

“We want justice; we want the attackers, rapists and murderers to go to jail. We want the state to offer us, the victims, safety,” Contreras told IPS during the march to the palace of justice in Lima, which was headed by victims and their families.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Peru is in second place in Latin America in terms of gender-based killings, and in a multi-country study on sexual intimate partner violence, it ranked third.

“Enough!”, “The judiciary, a national disgrace”, “You touch one of us, you touch us all”were some of the chants repeated during the march, in which some 100,000 people took part according to the organisers of the protest, which emerged over the social networks and was not affiliated with any political party or movement, although President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and members of his government participated.

Entire families took part, especially the relatives of victims of femicide, who carried signs with photos and the names of the women who have beenkilled and their attackers.

“My daughter was killed, but they only gave her murderer six months of preventive detention,” said Isabel Laines, carrying a sign with a photo of her daughter. She told IPS she had come from the southern department of Ica, over four hours away by bus, to join the protest in Lima.

Other participants in the march were families and victims of forced sterilizations carried out under the government of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). In 2002, a parliamentary investigation commission estimated that more than 346,000 women were sterilised against their will between 1993 and 2000.

In late June, the public prosecutor’s office ruled that Fujimori and his three health ministers were not responsible for the state policy of mass forced sterilisations, and recommended that individual doctors be charged instead.

The ruling enraged those demanding justice and reparations for the thousands of victims of forced sterilization, who are mainly poor, indigenous women.

Over the social networks, the sense of outrage grew as victims told their stories and discovered others who had undergone similar experiences, under the hashtags #YoNoMeCallo (I won’t keep quiet) and #NiUnaMenos (Not one less – a reference to the victims of femicide).

“After seeing the video of Arlette (Contreras), and the indignation when her attacker went free, a group of us organised over Facebook and we started a chat,” one of the organisers of the march and the group Ni UnaMenos, Natalia Iguíñiz, told IPS.

In the first half of this year alone, there were 54 femicides and 118 attempted femicides in Peru, according to the Women’s Ministry. The statistics also indicate that on average 16 people are raped every day in this country.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynskitook part in the march against gender violence in Peru, where 54 femicides and 118 attempted femicides were committed in the first half of 2016 alone. Credit: Presidency of Peru

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynskitook part in the march against gender violence in Peru, where 54 femicides and 118 attempted femicides were committed in the first half of 2016 alone. Credit: Presidency of Peru

Between 2009 and 2015, 795 women were the victims of gender-based killings, 60 percent of them between the ages of 18 and 34.

Women’s rights organisations complain that up to now, Peruvian society has been tolerant of gender violence, and they say opinion polls reflect this.

In a survey carried out by the polling company Ipsos in Lima before the march, 41 percent of the women interviewed said Peru was not safe at all for women and 74 percent said they lived in a sexist society.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of men and women surveyed believed, for example, that if a woman wears a mini-skirt it is her fault if she is harassed in public areas, and 76 percent believe a man should be forgiven if he beats his wife for being unfaithful.

Since Kuczynski took office on Jul. 28, the issue of gender violence has been put on the public agenda and different political leaders have called for measures to be taken, such as gender-sensitive training for judicial officers and police, to strengthen enforcement of laws in cases of violence against women.

“The problem of gender violence is that the silence absorbs the blows and it’s not easy for people to report,” said the president before participating in the march along with several ministers, legislators and other authorities.

Iguíñiz said the march represented the start of a new way of tackling the phenomenon of violence against women in Peru, and added that the momentum of the citizen mobilisation would be kept up, with further demonstrations and other activities.

“Thousands of people are organising. We’re a small group that proposes a few basic things, but there are a lot of groups working culturally, in their neighbourhoods, in thousands of actions that are being taken at a national level: districts, vocational institutes, different associations,” she said.

In her view, the call for people to get involved “has had such a strong response because it is so broad.”

The movement Ni Una Menoshas organised previous demonstrations against violence against women in other Latin American countries, like Argentina, where a mass protest was held in the capital in June 2015.

“We are in coordination with people involved in the group in other countries,” said Iguíñiz.“We’re going to create a platform for petitions but we’re planning to do it at a regional level, in all of the countries of Latin America.”

The private Facebook group “Ni UnaMenos: movilización ya” (Not one less: mobilisation now), which started organising the march in July, now has some 60,000 members, and was the main coordinator of the demonstrations, although conventional media outlets and human rights groups later got involved as well.

In addition, hundreds of women who have suffered abuse, sexual attacks or harassment at work began to tell their stories online, in an ongoing process.

Peruvians abroad held activities in support of the march in cities like Barcelona, Geneva, London, Madrid and Washington.

With reporting by Alicia Tovar and Jaime Vargas in Lima

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Pan African Parliament Endorses Ban on FGMhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/pan-african-parliament-endorses-ban-on-fgm/#comments Sat, 06 Aug 2016 18:14:05 +0000 Desmond Latham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146419 Female genital mutilation (FGM) traditional surgeon in Kapchorwa, Uganda speaking to a reporter. The women in this area are being trained by the civil society organisation REACH in how to educate people to stop the practice. Credit: Joshua Kyalimpa/IPS

Female genital mutilation (FGM) traditional surgeon in Kapchorwa, Uganda speaking to a reporter. The women in this area are being trained by the civil society organisation REACH in how to educate people to stop the practice. Credit: Joshua Kyalimpa/IPS

By Desmond Latham
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 6 2016 (IPS)

After years of wrangling and debates among African leaders, the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM) is gaining real momentum, with a new action plan signed this week by Pan African Parliament (PAP) representatives and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) to end FGM as well as underage marriage.

The UNFPA has already trained over 100,000 health workers to deal specifically with aiding victims of FGM, while tens of thousands of traditional leaders have also signed pledges against the practice.

The agreement followed a PAP Women’s Caucus meeting with UNFPA representatives in Johannesburg on July 29-30.

Kicking off the meeting, PAP President Roger Dang said, “PAP is determined to help and be part of stakeholders to come up with solutions to this practice. This is in line with the mandate of PAP to defend and promote gender balance and people living with disability.”

The PAP is the legislative organ of the African Union, and has up to 250 members representing the 50 AU Member States.

In some African countries, girls as young as eleven and twelve are forced to marry much older men. This has led to an increase in serious health problems, including cervical cancer and a host of social problems.

UNFPA East and Southern Africa Deputy Regional Director Justine Coulson said if the current trend continues, the number of girls under 15 who had babies would rise by a million – from two to three million.

“If we do nothing, in the next decade over 14 million girls under 18 years will be married every year,” she said.

There are believed to be at least seven million child brides in Southern Africa alone. While underage marriage and childbirth is a major health risk, the Pan African Parliament UNFPA workshop also heard how FGM had led to an increased likelihood girls and women would be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The cause of this can be traced back to contaminated cutting instruments, hemorrhages requiring blood transfusions, and injurious sexual intercourse causing vaginal tearing and lesions.

Globally, an estimated 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. In Africa, FGM is practiced in at least 26 of 43 African countries, with prevalence rates ranging from 98 percent in Somalia to 5 percent in Zaire.

The buy-in of African political leadership is crucial if this latest move is to succeed, with up to 140 million women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa who’ve been forced to submit to the practice of cutting their genitals. The aim is to influence people on the ground as well as effect legislation banning the practice.

The procedure intentionally alters or injures a girl or woman’s organs for non-medical reasons. There are no health benefits in the process and it can cause severe bleeding, problems urinating, cysts, infections and a host of childbirth complications.

There are four types of genital mutilation. Type 1 is a clitoridectomy which is where the clitoris is cut out. Type 2 is known as excision which is the totally removal of the clitoris and inner folds of the vulva. Type 3 is infibulation, which is the tightening of a a vaginal opening while, Type 4 is all other harmful procedures which includes piercing, cauterising, scraping and stitching the vagina.

The PAP also agreed to work with the UNFPA in seeking to overturn the practice of marrying off children under the age of sixteen.

In June, the UNFPA worked with Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum representatives at a meeting in Swaziland which voted through a Model Law on eradicating child marriage.

Coulson said moves such as these seen in SADC are beginning to show tangible results.

“Girls and women of Africa need your support to end female genital mutilation. We need to act now. All it requires is our engagement, passion and dedication to uphold the human rights of women and girls,” she told attendees at the workshop.

Now the PAP has setup a working group which will oversee the moves towards a similar law. The areas of priority include laws and legislation, engaging the community, mobilising resources, advocacy and implementing the plan at regional and national levels.

Dang also called on men to step up and join the fight against FGM, saying, “We have double responsibility to defend girls against this human rights violation.”

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The Right to Not Disappearhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-not-disappear http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 20:59:26 +0000 Asha Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146415 By Asha’ar Rehman
Aug 5 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It goes something like this: there’s a murder in the name of ‘honour’ in a village somewhere in Pakistan. The story is reported and journalists are inspired to look for more such instances to cover. They disperse in all directions and no matter where they go searching, they return with more such murder cases to dump on the ‘honour’ killing pile.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

With time, the subject is replaced by, say, something as horrifying as gang rape. The media corps, its first line comprising the low-paid local correspondent with a finger on the market’s pulse, spreads afar and returns with a series of cases where only one would have been enough to ensure perpetual shame for all of us.

All the media, with its wide influence, needs is a cue to deliver on demand. It can unleash in relentless supply the most brutal of stories of exploitation, at workplaces, inside houses, of a sexual nature, et al, at a few hours’ notice. It can report on a story that had long been there. It can break it when it chooses, or it can hold on to it for unspecified durations, finally letting it out with a bang without bothering to explain the delay in the conveyance of the message.

How is the police file recording children’s disappearance different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque?

Those who live close to a mosque in Lahore would vouch that children do go missing in this city: from children as small as toddlers who are barely able to tell their names, to those who are driven by the reputation of adolescence to be suspected of playing a hand in their own disappearance. The mosque’s loudspeaker is regularly used to announce the disappearance and to seek help in the recovery of those who go missing, an overwhelming majority of whom are children.

There may be sometimes an urge to find out if those who had been unaccounted for did return. No one has ever heard the respected maulvi sahib celebrate a reunion of the missing with their family by issuing a statement of congratulations through the public address system.

So regular are these announcements about the missing that now nobody seems to be too bothered about them. People hear them, say tauba, and go about their work without any grand show of emotion. The same trend that begins from the streets around the mosque is then reflected at various levels, creating many layers of indifference that the most knowledgeable amongst us believe is essential to life as it is.

Just think about it: how is the police file recording the cases of children’s disappearance in a specific period different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque? Like these calls, these numbers have been compiled year after year, with little in terms of action to ensure a safer world for our children.

A typical such file will take you over a familiar route. The spots from where children are more likely to be picked up are highlighted, such as the darbar or shrine of the most revered saint or the tower built to mark independence or the bazaar named after the beloved damsel torn between Akbar and his son Saleem. A child may be abducted from all these places or from a park or a hospital or a mere bus terminal. The police’s book diligently counts these incidents. The self-indictment comes when these cold figures are not accompanied by any plans – not even a pledge — of just how serious our law enforcers are to safeguard these vulnerable young citizens against the cruel hands of a long grown-up society.

Missing had been the story about just how hazardous the streets of Lahore — or any other place in Pakistan — were for those we must never tire of calling as our future. A series of stories about the children missing or kidnapped has opened the floodgates on gushing fears pegged on both real and imagined incidents. The warning letters have been written, about how the children can be– how they are, says the chorus — duped into following their abductor like the rats followed the Pied Piper.

The imaginary stuff would have been easier to deal with had the ‘real’ stories not been packed with the horrors of the most fearsome kind. Imagine… no do not imagine but try and come to terms with the unearthing of this racket where a food catering contractor apparently bought young boys and then employed them as slave labour. Try and come face to face with the recovery of the disabled young girl whom the members of a beggars’ ring had abducted out of here and taken deep into Sindh.

The labour camp, the beggars’ mafia, are just two manifestations; the stereotype is kept alive in so many of our responses. Not the least most painful among them is how Lahore as the venue for these disappearances has left some people typically aghast. They must show mock surprise at the wonder-city that hogs funds and official patronage but is so oblivious to the plight of the young ones in its charge. It is the same smirk that had previously been displayed when Lahoris were found to be eating donkey-meat or when they were being preyed upon by a killer mosquito. Little does the envious crowd realise that where the development projects are grand, the likelihood of serious everyday issues suffering neglect is that much greater. The missing resolve on children is proof.

These stories come in steadily, each one of them bringing back the sensation we experienced when as a young, learning soul we were given our earliest lessons in how to keep our distance from the big bad world we were such an integral part of. There was nothing more serious, more nightmarish than being lost in a world we were required to explore, to tame and to conquer. The way we have failed to deliver on the basics — such as a young, and old, soul’s right to not disappear — shows we have all been long lost.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.
Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Up the Creekhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/up-the-creek/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=up-the-creek http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/up-the-creek/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 17:21:22 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146309 By Faisal Bari
Jul 29 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

On July 19, newspapers reported that a married man who was having an affair was killed in an ‘honour killing’ allegedly by the relatives of the woman he was involved with. One report described the murder thus: “A man died on Monday after five attackers chopped off his arms, lips and nose, taking away his severed limbs with them.”

Faisal Bari

Faisal Bari

A few days earlier, social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, was strangulated to death by her brother who confessed his crime. Again, the reason given was ‘honour killing’. The brother did not like some videos which showed her dancing in revealing outfits and disapproved of her recently surfaced photos with a cleric. Up until now he had no problem living off the money she made but his ‘honour’ was challenged by the latest set of video and photo revelations.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that more than 1,000 women were murdered in the name of ‘honour’ in 2015.

Two questions arise: why does ‘honour’ get provoked so easily in Pakistan and why does it lead to murder so often?

There have been attacks against many on the basis of who they are and what they stand for.

Feudal roots, illiteracy, the domineering position of overt religiosity in society, weak institutions and a wobbly law and order situation are all factors but these have been around for a long time. The new entrants are the rising intolerance and the narrowing of the mainstream of thought in Pakistan. Anger is triggered by the slightest deviation from the ‘norm’ and from what is expected of a person in a given situation. Some overarching ‘sense’ is outraged. The higher ‘principle’ invoked might vary from situation to situation, but the general trend remains. Something somebody says or does offends someone’s sense of sanctity of honour, tradition, morality, religion, sect, ethnicity, tribe, gender, nationality, patriarchy, or family. At the minimum they rant and rave on social media about how they are ‘outraged’, but, quite often, they take matters into their own hands and want to teach a lesson.

If many people are angry and they happen to be together, violence ensues easily. About six years ago, two teenagers were beaten to death by an angry mob in Sialkot. People thought, at the time, that these kids were robbers. They were not. But even if they had been robbers, is that any reason for beating them to death? Morality was invoked and the resulting anger, easy to see in the videos of the event, led to the merciless and cruel beating of the two boys. Policemen stood by and watched the whole incident.

There have been attacks against many on the basis of who they are and what they stand for. Women, the transgender community, religious minorities, ethnic groups and certain sects have all faced the brunt. We have lost more than 50,000 people to incidents of terror. Our mosques, mausoleums, schools, colleges, shopping malls and bazaars have been attacked. The cost of ‘outrage’ has been monumental.

Why does it matter if one person or even if many people feel outraged at what another has said or done? Unless there is an imminent physical threat, incitement to hatred/violence, why should a person’s or even a nation’s outrage matter? And if it does, there are laws and legal institutions for prosecution. How did we come to the point where people feel they can take the law into their own hands?

This is where I believe the rot has happened over a long time and where all of us are guilty: we have led and followed each other down this path. When people raised issues about not having Urdu as the only national language, we responded by calling them unpatriotic and resorted to violence. When people asked for provincial autonomy, we did the same. We decimated the left after calling them anti-Islamic. We did and do the same to secularists. When the state responded to a situation through violence, whether through illegal detentions, disappearances, custodial deaths or pre-emptive strikes, we stood by quietly.

We have used religious sects, political parties, and different ideologies against each other to further the aims of the state (national unity/ strategic depth). How can we today expect that all of this will not lead to a narrowing of the mainstream, rise in intolerance and a resort to violence when an ‘outrage’ is perpetrated?

Not only are legal and other institutions of the state weak, they stand compromised. We do not expect neutrality from them. If we are a ‘favoured’ sect or group, we expect active protection and support of state institutions when we commit violence in the name of any ‘larger’ objective that the state, tacitly or directly, endorses. I, as an individual, know state institutions for justice and law & order are weak and I have a good chance of getting away with murder. In any case I know my actions will not be condemned by a sufficient number. They may actually be supported by many similar-minded people. Violence and even murder become an easier option under the circumstances.

Media and educational institutions could have offered us a way out and been a paddle for us. But, at the moment, they are a part of the problem. Media, though quite free, in the race for ratings sensationalizes and adds to the frenzy. Our education system, based on poorly written textbooks, rote learning and dependent on teachers who have come through the same system, produces narrow-minded individuals. If there is going to be a change, media and educational institutions will have to be in the vanguard. But the question is: how will change come?

Lest we forget, the problems are not just the lack of deterrence effect of punishment or probability of getting away with the crime, the self-righteousness of individuals/groups, narrowing of the limits of acceptable behavior, reduced tolerance and the acceptance of outrage as a justification of violence are the culprit. The latter have happened over decades and with the connivance or acquiescence of most people in the country. We are reaping what we have, so carefully and willingly, sown.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.
Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Honour & Deviancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/honour-deviance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=honour-deviance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/honour-deviance/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:33:33 +0000 Nazish Brohi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146280 By Nazish Brohi
Jul 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

You either stay in your sanitised comfort zone, or you step out and get inured to contempt for women. Some events, though, still leave an imprint.

Nazish Brohi

Nazish Brohi

Like the time the local administration in Multan decided to regulate women acting in popular, frequently seedy, theatre plays. The district government’s monitoring committee issued guidelines on dance moves and demanded that all actresses named after women in Islamic history legally change their identities because they were an insult to their namesakes.

When these women went to register their protest, they were told to first to do wuzu (ablution) before meeting the committee because they were paleet (impure) and were about to appear before the pak (pure).

That was over a decade ago. The court case demanding Qandeel not use ‘Baloch’ as her name because of the disrepute she brought to the ethnicity shows continuity, though none of the thousands who use Baloch as a surname took issue with it. That a country that is an avid consumer of pornography would condemn risqué behaviour in others is not surprising. The gaze of judgement seldom turns inwards.

The honour code earlier was a governance code.

Some years ago, Afiya Zia and I co-authored a paper on honour killings for which playwright/ director Khalid Ahmed translated Shailendra’s song Kaanton se kheench ke anchal. Cavorting in a truck laden with hay, Waheeda Rehman flung out a clay pot, shattered social conventions and immortalised the song in the Indian movie Guide. But embedded in the jubilance was the price she was willing to pay. This is the decision many women across Pakistan have to make when they tear through social conventions. The jeenay ki tamanna and marney ka iraada is congruent: the desire to live (as they want) requires the will to die.

Placing women on a continuum of purity and impurity is a recurring trope across many cultures: the virgin and the harlot, the home and the street, the pedestal and the brothel. Both ends, however, exist exclusively for fulfilling male desires. Women deemed impure cannot gain respectability. The pure ones live their lives in fear of being pushed down to the other side. There are caveats though. Resort to religion can help make the disreputable respectable, and class privilege can protect against the label of the prostitute.

The honour code earlier was a governance code in the absence of state supervision. However, in its current incarnation, it frees men from responsibility because honour lies not within their own actions but elsewhere. Like in folk tales across the world, men’s life, soul or strength was outsourced: the magician’s life in a parrot in a faraway land; Ravanna’s life placed in a box and given to a hermit before he left for war; the giant whose heart was in an exotic egg.

Hence in the general perception honour killing is not aggression but reaction. The perpetrator is recast as the victim of a moral crime and the killing is an act of the restitution of honour. Some years ago, I spoke to Hukumdin during the trial hearing of his son, who had bludgeoned his sister to death. He said of his daughter, “She was like a suicide bomber. She pursued what she wanted without thinking of anyone else, and it killed her and destroyed everyone around her in the process.” When I questioned him about the nebulous ‘it’ that killed her, he answered “Khudi” (selfhood).

There is a change though. Two decades ago, parliament declared honour crimes a cultural prerogative. Now with the Pre¬vention of Anti-Women Practices law passed and additions made to the Pakistan Criminal Code that disable forgiveness for family members, the prime minister himself has pledged to pass a specific law on honour crimes.

Earlier, the state itself reserved the right to punish women for sexual transgressions under the Hudood Ordinance. Now not only can that no longer be invoked, the state has registered itself as a complainant in some recent cases of women being punished for sexual transgressions.

Previously, women have been killed inside the court premises while the judges looked on; now people have been sentenced with the maximum punishment for honour killings. In the past, people have looked to religion as justification for honour crimes whereas now most religious authorities condemn such murders. And earlier communities were unequivocal about their condemnation of women accused of bringing dishonour. But before burial, henna was applied on Qandeel, which in her home district of Dera Ghazi Khan is symbolic; it is meant for girls and women who die without having sinned, free from accusations of wrongdoing.

The earlier mode of collective, interdependent living made conformity to community standards necessary and public performances of honour desirable. That mode is finishing. Social structures are in a fight for survival of the status quo. In the long term, it won’t work. But in the interim, women’s lives will remain the battleground.

The writer is a researcher and consultant in the social sector.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Falling Short-Police Apathy to Rape in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/falling-short-police-apathy-to-rape-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=falling-short-police-apathy-to-rape-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/falling-short-police-apathy-to-rape-in-india/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 06:49:57 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146257 Siddharth Chatterjee is Kenya representative for the UN Population Fund. ]]> A protest in New Delhi following the savage gang rape of a 23 year old woman in December 2012 which shocked the entire country. Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

A protest in New Delhi following the savage gang rape of a 23 year old woman in December 2012 which shocked the entire country. Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NEW DELHI, India, Jul 27 2016 (IPS)

India, a country best-known for its rising economic might, is the worst place to be a woman.

On Sunday, 25 July 2016, an Israeli woman was gang raped in Manali, India.

The incident is a gruesome reminder of the uncomfortable truth that India is not prepared to deal with the deluge of crimes perpetrated against women daily – a woman is raped every 22 minutes.

Consider this. Reports emerged this month that a young woman was gang-raped by the same men who had raped her three years earlier in Rohtak, Haryana in North India. Frankly law enforcement authorities should be ashamed of themselves. That the criminals were free all along and had the temerity to repeat the crime on the same victim can only point to the abysmal failure by Indian law enforcers to deal with rape crimes.

Clearly, the attackers’ decision to track the victim and repeat the crime was meant to thumb their noses at her family and authorities, fully aware that they would get away with it again.

There have been other equally disturbing cases. A mother and daughter in Kerala whose complaints of stalking were disregarded by police until the daughter was raped, mutilated and murdered. Or the father whose pleas for investigation into his teenage daughters’ disappearance were ignored by police only for the girls to be found hanging from trees after being gang-raped.

Women in India have been let down by the very institutions that should protect them against crimes like rape, and it is not surprising that that the country is now known as the rape capital of the world.

Despite societal outrage and widespread media spotlight on the crimes, law-enforcement institutions have been slow to act, and at times lethargic. When will the state machinery wake up? What more needs to happen before the police react to crimes against women promptly?

To the credit of the authorities, significant steps have been made in reviewing outmoded laws regarding violence against women. However, these statutes must be accompanied by the will and resources for implementation on the ground. While legal reforms must be upheld, especially to speed up and assure prosecution of offenders, even more urgent is to change the attitude of Indian men towards women.

From a Trotsky perspective ‘the police is after all a copy of society and suffers from all its diseases’. The patriarchal, misogynistic Indian culture invariably condones, covertly or explicitly, violent acts like rape. Then there is the legacy question of class – the law and society favour the wealthy over the poor. Victims from lower castes and poor backgrounds are routinely threatened by families and allies of the accused from higher castes.

In fact, the victim in the most recent case in Rohtak was forced to move after the first attack due to threats and pressure ostensibly because of her status as a Dalit (lower caste). The victim in Kerala was also of a lower caste. Numerous victims have reported that if the family of the accused is of a higher caste or is wealthy, police go out of their way to avoid filing a First Information Report (FIR) which compels them to investigate.

Where a woman, against many odds, manages to file a complaint of rape or harassment, the law enforcement machinery is often shockingly apathetic towards the victim and her family, often displaying a unique eagerness to protect the accused and to disbelieve the victim. When they are not being discouraged, they suffer a double miscarriage of justice by being held somehow responsible for the rape. This cannot be allowed to go on.

India’s police is in urgent need for radical reform. The police must hire more women and ensure that female officers are present during reporting of rape crimes, samples are properly collected, kits secured and cases filed and investigated promptly. Assurance of speedy trials and prosecutions will deter criminals more than the harshest punishments that are never meted out.

Currently, because of low arrest and conviction rates, lack of confidentiality and fear they won’t be believed, only a tiny percentage of women report rape to the police.

Even with sensitivity training for the police force, there will still be need for engaging the wider community for civic policing. Resourceful individuals such as military veterans could be co-opted in this campaign, as they are respected by communities. These veterans or ex-servicemen, acting as citizen wardens, can be a powerful deterrent and role models.

The journey towards changing social attitudes, increasing the probability of punishment, improving reporting and taking better preventive measures will be a long one, but it is one that must be undertaken with urgency. For starters, from an early age, boys must be taught to desist from behaviour that objectify women, irrespective of their social standing. This must become mandatory learning in schools and communities.

A country whose women are oppressed is unlikely to progress. If India wants to be the next global economic power, the equality, dignity and safety of all women must be at the very top of its national priorities.

Siddharth Chatterjee is Kenya representative for the UN Population Fund. These are his personal views. Follow @sidchat1 on Twitter.

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Modern-day Slavery in Oman? Domestic Workers in Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:45:13 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146210 Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered  Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

In order to escape poverty and support their families back home, thousands of domestic workers from South and South-East Asia migrate to Oman with the promise of stable employment in local households.

Once they arrive in Oman, new employers often seize their passports so that they cannot depart when they want, ultimately, denying them their freedom of movement.

They are made subject to excessive working hours, sleep deprivation and starvation. Many suffer from verbal or sexual abuse.

All too often, the money they work so hard for is denied to them. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, a great number of female migrant domestic workers fall prey to such abusive employment, and become Oman’s modern-day slaves.

The country’s visa sponsorship system, known as kafala, as well as the absence of labour law protections for domestic workers make migrant workers highly vulnerable to exploitation.

The kafala creates an “unbreakable” tie between the migrant worker and their employer, which means that the migrant worker’s visa is directly conditioned by the employer.

This prohibits migrant workers from switching jobs, even if they face abuse at their workplace. At least 130’000 migrant domestic workers are affected by the kafala system.

Families in Oman acquire their services through recruitment companies, employing them to take care of their children, cook meals, and clean their homes.

The recruitment companies typically ask for a fee to be paid for the mediation, and several migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers demanded they pay them back the recruitment fee in order to be released from their service.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse”, Rothna Begum, a Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, confirms.

A report from Human Rights Watch also stated that women who decide to escape their abusive employment often face legal penalties.

Asma K., a domestic worker from Bangladesh, told Human Rights Watch that she was not only “sold” to a man, her passport had also been taken away from her, and she was forced to work 21 hours a day tending to the needs of 15 people.

Asma was both sexually and verbally abused, denied of her right to a fair wage in addition to being deprived of food. Many other female domestic workers share Asma K.’s story.

Once a migrant worker has escaped an abusive employer, very few options remain. If the women go back to the agencies that recruited them, the agents often beat them and forcefully place them into new families.

The Omani police offers little help, usually dismisses the domestic workers’ claim, and returns them to the family they came from, where in several cases, the workers are assaulted by their employers, Human Rights Watch says.

Some women risk getting reported as “absconded”, an offense which can lead to their deportation or even a criminal complaint against them.

While several Omani lawyers confirm that they have no confidence in Oman’s labour dispute settlement procedure or courts for redress for domestic workers, some embassy officials dissuade domestic workers from even fighting for their case, due to the lengthy process and the high probability of facing defeat.

This process eventually leads to workers returning to their home countries without pay, with the dream of providing for their families shattered and no hope for justice.

In order to protect its nationals from abusive employment, Indonesia has banned migration to Oman, as well as other countries with a similar history of migrant labour abuse.

However, such bans often have an opposite effect, leaving those most desperate for work vulnerable to traffickers or forced labour as they try to sidestep their own country’s restrictions.

Human Rights Watch states that several countries do not protect their nationals against abusive employment, nor do they provide help to those who fall victim to trafficking, abuse and mistreatment living abroad.

In 2012, Oman promised the United Nations Human Rights Council to look for alternatives to the kafala system, however, Human Rights Watch states that no concrete proposal has since been made, and up until now, Oman’s labour law does not protect domestic workers.

In April 2016, a Ministry of Manpower official stated in the Times of Oman that Oman is considering protecting domestic workers under its labour law, however, when requested for information on possible law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers, the Omani government remained silent.

Human Rights Watch states that Oman was further criticized by the United States government for not demonstrating increased efforts to address human trafficking.

In 2015, there were only five prosecutions on sex trafficking, with no prosecutions on forced labour at all.

In order to provide protection for domestic workers, Human Rights Watch urges Oman to revise the kafala system, and advises it to cooperate with the countries of origin to help prevent exploitation.

Instead of punishing migrant domestic workers for escaping their appalling conditions, they should be granted justice by means of fair prosecutions against those who manipulated, scorned and abused them.

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Why we Failedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/why-we-failed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-we-failed http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/why-we-failed/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:13:56 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146184 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jul 22 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Qandeel Baloch’s horrific murder in the name of ‘honour’ is testimony to the failure of the women’s movement to overturn patriarchy in Pakistan. Against the backdrop of the spate of anti-women violence, comes a report by Dr Rubina Saigol written for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation. Titled Feminism and the Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Actors, Debates and Strategies, this excellent document should provide much food for thought.

57912e07d04f6__The author, an eminent sociologist, touches the heart of the issue — especially in cases like Qandeel’s — when she points out that there are “silences” (neglected subjects) that surround questions of family and sexuality, the mainstay of patriarchy and women’s subjugation. These have generally not been addressed by the women’s movement and she recommends that they should be.

But that is not all. More than these silences, the author points out, feminists have failed to devise a successful strategy to empower women and create public spaces for them. That accounts for their inability to make a profound impact.

Feminists here never tried to be inclusive.

Dr Saigol observes that today there is “a deafening disquieting quiet in the women’s movement”. She quotes a number of well-known feminists who contend that Pakistan lacks an autonomous vigorous movement, notwithstanding the vocal female protests against the oppression of women.

She substantiates her argument by pointing to the absence of a “common collective vision of a better world, agreed upon strategies to create such a world, and shared understandings of the world in which we live and work”.

One would agree with the writer who traces the history of the women’s struggle in Pakistan to show how it evolved in response to internal politics and external events along with the globalisation that began in the post-cold war age.

But to formulate a unified stance has not been possible given the many serious constraints that exist, many of which are deeply rooted in our socio-cultural values, such as a general trend towards glorification of patriarchy that is reinforced by religion, the adversarial relationship between feminists and the state, and the depoliticisation of the women’s struggle. The impression conveyed is that the feminist movement has been a victim of circumstances — be they the induction of donor-driven NGOs or extremist religious ideologues in the country.

However, the women’s ‘movement’ in Pakistan has always been bifurcated by great schisms. At no stage was a common platform created where women of all views could gather on a minimal common agenda. The fact is that feminists of all shades never tried to be inclusive. Hence no group had the numerical strength to assert a claim to supremacy. WAF had the greatest potential for leadership due to its financial and political autonomy. Yet it never brought in its fold non-professional disadvantaged women who constitute the bulk of Pakistan’s female population. It focused on them only in nuanced consciousness-raising and, to its credit, condemned strongly individual cases of abuse of underprivileged women.

This activism didn’t go very far although it pushed the women’s issue on the national agenda. Some laws were changed but never implemented. The lives of the majority of women didn’t change. Though they support large families, as Qandeel did, they have to bow before patriarchy. They have no time to be mobilised to learn about their rights which they know would never be actualised.

However, the same women are willing to respond to a call which offers them services that to an extent facilitate them in fulfilling some of their basic needs. That is why various development NGOs working in the education and (reproductive) health sectors — even the donor-funded but honest ones — have been able to achieve more than the feminists in creating awareness of women’s rights.

Many of them have taken the indirect, but more effective, route to empower women and instil in them a vision of a better future. They understand the importance of female participation to create awareness in them. The next generation of women definitely show the promise of being more skilful in negotiating their way through rough patriarchal waters.

Had the advocacy groups tried to link up with the services groups they would have reinforced each others’ work. I remember the iconic development worker, Perween Rahman, lamenting the inability of the women’s movement to mobilise huge numbers to protest against injustices inflicted on women. She recognised the fact that women’s development was possible only if their rights were given full recognition. “But we are so busy attending to the basic needs of men and women that we have no time and resources to do advocacy. If the women’s rights movement were to join hands with us, we would definitely support them as that is what we also want.”

What needs to be recognised is that human development is an integrated and holistic process. To be effective, rights activists must address all areas and classes of human development simultaneously.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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There is No Honour in Killinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/there-is-no-honour-in-killing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=there-is-no-honour-in-killing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/there-is-no-honour-in-killing/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:06:00 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146178 By Rose Delaney
ROME, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

“Honour” is a paradoxical word. Initially, it draws to mind characteristics of integrity and dignity combined with an all-knowing air of greatness.

However, tradition has conditioned many men into the association of being “honourable” with an assertion of superiority over their female counterparts.

The recent honour killing of Pakistani social media star, Qandeel  Baloch, has triggered global outrage and spread the message that there is no "honour" in the practice of  ruthless murder.

The recent honour killing of Pakistani social media star, Qandeel Baloch, has triggered global outrage and spread the message that there is no “honour” in the practice of ruthless murder. Photo: Twitter

“Honour” also seems to entail the adoption of a “strong” masculine image one must project onto the public sphere, and a means of justifying acts of repressive control.

Historically speaking, the world over, women have been indoctrinated into the belief that their sexuality is somehow dangerous, a shameful secret that must be kept hidden for fear of “indecent exposure”.

Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star, who came from a society with a deep-rooted fear of female sexuality, attempted to break free from the status quo.

However, did Qandeel’s rebellious actions in the face of male-perpetrated oppression trigger any radical social change? In other words, did her suggestive Facebook photos do no more than make her another product of the “meat market”? Or did her “honour-death” raise the global awareness so desperately needed by women from her region?

Ultimately, did Qandeel’s definition of “sexual liberation” only result in the dishonouring of her family, and her eventual murder?

In the aftermath of Qandeel Baloch’s death by suffocation, the cold-blooded murderer was revealed as no less than her own flesh and blood brother. Upon his arrest, he stated that “he had no regrets” as his sister’s behaviour was “intolerable”.

Somewhere along the line, his societal upbringing ingrained within him the ideology that he not only had the power to control and suppress women but also condemn and punish them for their “indecent” actions too.

While Qandeel took her final breath of life, her brother’s outburst of violent frenzy was somehow self-justified. Deep down, his subconscious drove him to take a woman’s life in the name of dignity and “honour”.

He is one of many young men across the world, especially in South-Asia, who view murder as a reasonable resolution to “de-shaming” the family name from the stain of “dishonour”.

What’s more puzzling in the Qandeel Baloch case is the contradiction surrounding her parents outrage towards her murderous brother’s actions.

Qandeel’s father, Muhammad Azeem, recently expressed his disgust by stating that his son should be “shot on sight”.

Ironically, Qandeel’s father considers the further perpetration of violence as the only solution to his daughter’s murder.

In this sense, has Qandeel’s murder only deepened the vicious circle of vengeance surrounding honour-based violence? Or, will her parents public shaming of their son’s brutality act as a catalyst for change in Pakistan?

Pakistani journalist and activist, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy emphasized the fact that honour killings are an ongoing epidemic. “It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country and you can walk off scot-free”.

Legitimized by the perpetrators as a fundamental duty to follow a timeless “code of honour”, familial killings are commonplace in many, particularly rural, regions of Pakistan.

Whilst Qandeel Baloch’s murder exploded across global media outlets and her killer was relentlessly castigated, for another Pakistani woman like Samia, with no fame or fan base behind her, the path to justice was a predestined failure.

Samia ran away from her abusive husband and filed for divorce. When her family met with a lawyer to finalize the documents, a stranger was lurking nearby.

This man later revealed to be a hit man hired by her husband, pulled out a gun and shot a bullet into Samia’s head before she could fully legalize the separation and regain her freedom.

The police refused to prosecute the murderer as they justified the horrific incident as an “honourable” killing.

Both Qandeel and Samia’s narratives represent the thousands of women who have been ruthlessly murdered in the name of an “honour” that appears to be nothing more than a form of bloodthirsty misogyny.

We now must pose the question as to whether the international media pickup of Qandeel’s honour killing will shine a light on the atrocities happening on a daily basis to conventional women like Samia who, most likely, have limited access to social media networks and fear voicing their concerns will only lead to grave consequences.

In the aftermath of Qandeel’s merciless killing, will society place more of an importance on the need to condemn the perpetrators of honour-based violence? Only time will tell.

As of yet, the international organization Honour-Based Violence Awareness network estimates roughly 1,000 women a year are killed in honour killings in Pakistan.

The practice of “honour killing” is no contemporary trend, it dates back to earlier times when Arab settlers occupied a region a known as Baluchistan in Pakistan.

The Arab settlers had patriarchal traditions such as live burials of newly born daughters which is still practiced even today in many parts of the world.

The settlers also enforced the belief that a woman should have no say when it came to the matter of her virginity.

In their view, her sexuality belonged to the family. Undoubtedly, The importance placed on virginity and purity during this time still dominates the ideology of many countries in South Asia.

The very definition of masculinity, particularly in rural villages of the region, also contributes to violence against women. In certain communities, violence is closely linked to honour and the assertion of masculine status.

The resistance to give into western ideals of gender equality also contributes to the persistence of patriarchy in the South Asia region. Many are reluctant to abandon traditional customary practices such as honour killings.

Unfortunately, the future appears grim for the thousands of women subjected to honour-based acts of violence.

South Asian women’s lack of empowerment and economic independence will be of no help in their strive for the eradication of gender-based atrocities.

As long as women remain financially dependent in a male-dominated economy, they will continue to suffer from the violence and misogyny that traditional societies justify as a “code of honour”.

In light of ongoing honour-based violence and murder, Qandeel Baloch’s refusal to conform to repressive societal norms should inspire suppressed women across the world to practice their right to the freedom of speech.

It’s time to redefine the definition of “honour” and rise in the face of violence. Now, we must put the practice of patriarchal “codes of honour” to a halt, and demand the universal right to justice and equality.

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Feminism Slowly Gaining Support at United Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:22:27 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146150 Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2016 (IPS)

Achieving gender equality has long been one of the United Nations’ top priorities yet the word feminism has only recently begun to find its way into speeches at UN headquarters.

Croatia’s Vesna Pusic, one of 12 candidates for the post of UN Secretary-General, explained why she thought her feminism made her suitable for the UN’s top job, during a globally televised debate, on 12 July.

“I happen to be a woman, I don’t think this is enough, I happen to be a feminist and I think this is (important),” Pusic said, to applause from the diplomats and UN staff filling the UN General Assembly hall.

Pusic joins other high profile feminists at the UN including British actor Emma Watson, whose September 2014 speech about her own feminism gained worldwide media attention.

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at a UN meeting in March 2016 that there shouldn’t be such a big reaction every time he uses the word feminist.

“For me, it’s just really obvious. We should be standing up for women’s rights and trying to create more equal societies,” he said.

Perhaps more significant though than these speeches is Sweden’s recent election to the UN Security Council on a feminist foreign policy platform.

“I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.” -- Emma Watson

Sweden will join the 15-member council for two years in January 2017, the same month that the new Secretary-General will take office. There are hopes that the UN’s ninth Secretary-General, will be the first woman to lead the organisation, with women making up half of the 12 candidates currently under consideration.

“There could be a lot of elements coming together to finally create some momentum for progress,” Jessica Neuwirth, one of the founders and Honorary President of Equality Now told IPS.

Even the number of female candidates running represents a change for the UN, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK told IPS.

“Not only has no woman ever held the UN’s top job, but just three of 31 formal candidates in previous appointments have been female.”

The push to select a female Secretary-General has seen all candidates, both male and female, eager to show their commitment to gender equality.

Whoever is selected will be continuing on work already started by current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Neuwirth, who believes that Ban has shown a commitment to gender equality at the UN, even if he may not use the word feminist to describe himself.

“I’m not a person who really lives or dies on the words, I think what people do is really much more important than what they call themselves,” said Neuwirth, who is the director of Donor Direct Action, founded to raise funds for frontline women’s groups.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard (Ban) use the word feminist, definitely not to describe himself,” she added. “On the other hand as somebody who had the privilege of working at the UN during his tenure I did see first hand the efforts he made to increase the representation of women at the UN at the highest levels, he made a very conscious effort to increase those numbers.”

“It’s still not 50:50 and it’s even slid backwards which is disappointing, but he showed that one person can make a big difference.”

Samarasinghe also noted that even if the word feminist is not explicitly used at the UN, its meaning is reflected in the UN’s many objectives for achieving gender equality.

“Feminism is about women and men having equal opportunities and rights – something reaffirmed countless times in UN documents, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights onwards.”

However Samarasinghe noted that the word feminist remains controversial. The UN’s 193 member states include many countries which lag far behind outliers such as Sweden and Canada on gender equality.

“Being a feminist is a complete no-brainer. It’s like having to explain to people that you’re not racist. But clearly the word is still controversial so we have to keep using it until people get it,” she said.

Emma Watson noted in her high profile UN speech, that the word feminist is not as easy to use as it should be.

“I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

“Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even,” said Watson.

In late 2015, some media reported that Watson had said she had been advised not to use the word feminist in her speech.

Neuwirth who was present when Watson made her speech told IPS that Watson’s choice of words ultimately had a strong impact.

“That was an incredible event, I mean the level of emotion in that room was so high it was kind of shocking to me.”

“There were so many diplomats there, which was a good thing, and it was just really a powerful speech that she made, and it moved them, you could just see visibly that it moved them,” said Neuwirth.

However since Watson’s speech, progress on gender equality at the UN has not always been easy.

Media organisation PassBlue, which monitors gender equality at the UN, has noted that the number of women appointed to senior UN positions has been slipping.

When Sweden takes up its position on the Security Council, it will have big strides to make on both improving women’s representation in decision making positions at the UN and enacting policies which promote gender equality more broadly.

In fact, it is anticipated that all 15 permanent representatives on the UN Security Council in 2017 will be men, unless the United States chooses a woman to replace Samantha Power, who is expected to leave her post by the end of 2016.

Sweden hopes to use its seat on the Security Council to increase women’s involvement in negotiating and mediating peace agreements, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at a media briefing hosted by Donor Direct Action on 30 June.

Neuwirth welcomed Wallstrom’s comments, noting that in Syria, for example, women continue to be shut out of peace negotiations.

Syrian women “are trying to play a meaningful role in the negotiations over Syria, which are totally a mess,” she said, “yet these women really just are struggling so hard to get even inside a corridor let alone to the table.”

“Why wouldn’t they just give these women a little more of a chance to see if they could do better, because it would be hard to do worse?”

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Kashmir on Firehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/kashmir-on-fire-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kashmir-on-fire-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/kashmir-on-fire-2/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 16:10:17 +0000 TAIMUR ZULFIQAR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146147 By Taimur Zulfiqar, second secretary embassy of Pakistan Manila
Jul 19 2016 (Manila Times)

Kashmir is bleeding once again. Many innocent civilians have been brutally killed and many more injured by the Indian security forces. Surprisingly, there is a deafening silence in the local media. No views, no comments whatsoever have appeared. Strangely, the media, which is otherwise very active and springs into action on the slightest violation of human rights, kept mum as if Kashmiris are not human, their blood carries no importance and is cheaper than water. Many nowadays are voicing serious concerns about the rights of drug addicts killed by the police but not a single word for Kashmiris.

Views and opinions apart, there was a complete blackout in the local print media about the recent incidents of human rights violations in the Indian-occupied Kashmir by the Indian military and paramilitary forces against those protesting the killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani, who was extremely popular among the masses. As a result, dozens of innocent Kashmiris were killed, over 2,100 have been injured, 400 of whom critically. People have been denied access to basic emergency services and right to health. There have been incidents of violence, harassment and shelling of teargas in hospitals to prevent access to hospitals and restrict the movement of ambulances. The brutality can be gauged from the fact that Indian Security Forces used pellet guns above waist-height, resulting in many injured, including those who lost their eyesight.

The use of excessive force against innocent civilians, protesting over extrajudicial killings, is deplorable and a blatant violation of the right to life, right to freedom of expression and opinion, right to peaceful protest and assembly, and other fundamental human rights. In fact, Indian forces have since long employed various draconian laws like the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act in killing the Kashmiri people, and for the arbitrary arrest of any individual for an indefinite period.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian-controlled Kashmir. In its July 2, 2015 report, Amnesty International highlighted extrajudicial killings of the innocent persons at the hands of Indian security forces in the Indian-held Kashmir. The report points out, “Tens of thousands of security forces are deployed in Indian-administered Kashmir … the Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows troops to shoot to kill suspected militants or arrest them without a warrant … not a single member of the armed forces has been tried in a civilian court for violating human rights in Kashmir … this lack of accountability has in turn facilitated other serious abuses … India has martyred 100,000 people. More than 8,000 disappeared (while) in the custody of army and state police.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, after his visit to India in March 2012, called on the government of India to continue to take measures to fight impunity in cases of extrajudicial executions, and communal and traditional killings. In his report he stated, “Evidence gathered confirmed the use of so-called ‘fake encounters’ in certain parts of the country … the armed forces have wide powers to employ lethal force.” A high level of impunity enjoyed by police and armed forces exacerbate such a situation, owing to the requirement that any prosecutions require sanction from the central government—something that is rarely granted. “The main difficulty in my view has been these high levels of impunity,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.

India has been justifying these atrocities under various pretexts, such as by portraying these as internal affairs, stating that Kashmir is part of India. In addition, it tries to equate Kashmiris’ struggle with terrorism and blames Pakistan for fomenting militancy.

India is wrong on both counts. First of all, Kashmir is not and had never been part of India. It is a disputed territory with numerous UN Security Council Resolutions outstanding on its agenda. A series of UNSC Resolutions have been issued reiterating the initial ones issued in 1948 and 1949. Calling it an internal matter to India is a violation of UNSC Resolutions. The current situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and the indigenous movement for self-determination, which is going on for a long time in IOK, is a manifestation of what the Kashmiris want. They are resisting against the Indian occupation of their territory and want to exercise their right to self-determination. They want UNSC to implement Resolutions on the Kashmir dispute and fulfill their promise.

In addition, the disputed status of Kashmir is also supported by the Indian leadership in the past. Prime Minister Nehru, of India, in his Statement on All India Radio on Nov. 3, 1947, said: “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”

Later, while addressing the Indian Parliament, on Aug. 7, 1952, he said, “I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir; it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. …

“I started with the presumption that it is for the people of Kashmir to decide their own future. We will not compel them. In that sense, the people of Kashmir are sovereign.”

There are plenty of statements by Indian leadership and the UN to the effect that Kashmir is a disputed territory and its future is to be decided by seeking the wishes of the Kashmiris through a plebiscite under the auspices of the UN.

India’s portrayal of Kashmiri’s struggle as terrorism is another farce, which unfortunately has been taken at face value by the international community. Most probably, such a stand is driven by economic/commercial and other similar interests in total disregard of the moral principles contained in their Constitutions, the UN Charter, etc.

None seem to have asked India as to what necessitates deployment of more than 600,000-strong army in the occupied Kashmir with a population of 10 million, i.e., one soldier for every 16.6 natives. And why such a huge deployment, despite its repressive policies, has been unable to check the freedom struggle. As per some estimates, more than 80,000 have died and thousands are missing since 1989. Moreover, it is a fact that every year, when India celebrates Independence Day on Aug. 15, Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control and the world over observe it as Black Day, to convey the message to the international community that India continues to usurp their inalienable right to self- determination. This very day is being marked by complete shutdown, as deserted streets, closed businesses and security patrolling the streets could be seen in the Indian-held Kashmir. To express solidarity with Pakistan, Kashmiris hoist the Pakistani flag on Aug. 14, the Pakistan Independence Day. Indian-occupation authorities often impose stringent restrictions in Srinagar and other towns, and deploy heavy contingents of police and troops to prevent people from holding anti-India demonstrations on these days. All this is a clear manifestation that the struggle is predominantly indigenous, and equating it with terrorism is nothing but a gross injustice on the part of India. India should realize that such tactics would never be able to change the basis of the just struggle that has been waged by the Kashmiri people since 1947. Had India fulfilled its duties toward the Kashmiri people, all these killings would have been avoided.

Pakistan unequivocally extends political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination. Pakistan’s principled position on the issue of Kashmir is that it should be resolved according to UN Resolutions. Kashmir is a universally recognized dispute with numerous UNSC Resolutions outstanding for almost seven decades. Wars have not succeeded in resolving the issue of Kashmir. Dialogue is the best option to amicably resolve all issues between India and Pakistan, including the dispute of Kashmir. Pakistan remains ready for dialogue. It is for the international community to urge India to resolve issues through dialogue.

Kashmiris are resisting against the Indian occupation of their territory and want to exercise their right to self-determination. Nothing can deter the Kashmiris’ resolve to continue their struggle. For a people alienated and wronged for decades, any provocation will set them aflame. India should realize that the Kashmir dispute will not vanish unless their aspirations are met. Oppressive brutalities and inhuman measures cannot stop them from claiming their right to self-determination, in accordance with the UNSC Resolutions.

The international community should rise from its slumber and tell India that the treatment being meted out to the Kashmiris is simply unacceptable. India should honor its human rights obligations, as well as its commitments under the UNSC Resolutions to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful manner.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Bangladeshis among Domestic Workers Trapped in Oman: HRWhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/bangladeshis-among-domestic-workers-trapped-in-oman-hrw/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladeshis-among-domestic-workers-trapped-in-oman-hrw http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/bangladeshis-among-domestic-workers-trapped-in-oman-hrw/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 15:46:56 +0000 Star Online Report http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146031 By Star Online Report
Jul 13 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Many migrant domestic workers including Bangladeshis are trapped in abusive employment in Oman with their plight hidden behind closed doors, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today.

A migrant domestic worker watches over a child playing in the Magic Planet, City Centre Muscat, a shopping mall in Oman. Photo: Human Rights Watch

A migrant domestic worker watches over a child playing in the Magic Planet, City Centre Muscat, a shopping mall in Oman. Photo: Human Rights Watch

The New York-based rights organisation stressed in the report that Omani authorities should take immediate steps to reform the restrictive immigration system that binds migrant workers to their employers.

They should provide the domestic workers with labour law protections equal to those enjoyed by other workers, and investigate all situations of possible trafficking, forced labor, and slavery, it added.

The 68-page report, “‘I Was Sold’: Abuse and Exploitation of Migrant Domestic Workers in Oman,” documents how Oman’s kafala (sponsorship) immigrant labour system and lack of labour law protections leaves migrant domestic workers exposed to abuse and exploitation by employers, whose consent they need to change jobs.

Those who flee abuse – including beatings, sexual abuse, unpaid wages, and excessive working hours – have little avenue for redress and can face legal penalties for “absconding.”

Families rely on migrant domestic workers to care for their children, cook their meals, and clean their homes. Yet many migrant domestic workers, who rely on their salaries to support their own families and children at home, face cruel and exploitative conditions, the report said.

Employers rarely face penalties for abuse: Researcher

“Migrant domestic workers in Oman are bound to their employers and left to their mercy,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse,” she said.

At least 130,000 female migrant domestic workers, and possibly many more, work in the sultanate. Most are from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Ethiopia, the report said.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 59 migrant domestic workers in Oman. In some cases, workers described abuses that amounted to forced labor or trafficking – often across Oman’s porous border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Employers typically pay fees to recruitment agencies to secure domestic workers’ services, and several workers said that their employers told them they had “bought” them.

Some employers demand that workers reimburse them for recruitment fees for their “release”, the report said.

“Asma K,” from Bangladesh, said she went to the UAE to work there, but that her recruitment agent “sold” her to a man who confiscated her passport and took her to Oman.

He forced her to work 21 hours a day for a family of 15 with no rest or day off; deprived her of food; verbally abused and sexually harassed her; and paid her nothing.

“I would start working at 4:30 a.m. and finish at 1 a.m.,” she said. “For the entire day they wouldn’t let me sit. When I said I want to leave, he said, ‘I bought you for 1,560 rials (US$4,052) from Dubai. Give it back to me and then you can go.’”

The HRW said migrant domestic workers in Oman are bound to their employers and left to their mercy.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse, the rights organization said.

Most of the workers said their employers confiscated their passports. Many said their employers did not pay them their full salaries, forced them to work excessively long hours without breaks or days off, or denied them adequate food and living conditions. Some said their employers physically abused them; a few described sexual abuse.

The situation is so dire that some countries, such as Indonesia, have banned their nationals from migrating to Oman and other countries with comparable track records.

The bans, however, are ineffective, and can put women at heightened risk of trafficking or forced labor as they and recruiters try to circumvent the restrictions. While some countries have increased protections for their nationals who work abroad, others do not fully protect workers against deceptive recruitment practices or provide adequate assistance to abused nationals abroad, the report said.

Domestic workers and kafala system

The report said Oman’s restrictive kafala system, also used in neighbouring Gulf countries, ties migrant domestic workers’ visas to their employers. They cannot work for a new employer without the current employer’s permission, even if they complete their contract or their employer is abusive.

In 2011, Oman told members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that it was “researching an alternative to the [visa] sponsorship system,” but Human Rights Watch said itis not aware of any concrete proposals made since.

Oman’s labour law explicitly excludes domestic workers, and regulations issued in 2004 on domestic workers provide only basic protection. In April 2016, the Times of Oman quoted a Ministry of Manpower official stating that Oman is considering including domestic workers in its labour law, it added.

The Human Rights Watch said the Omani government did not respond to its requests for information on law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers’ rights.

Bangladesh Embassy in Oman’s reaction

Talking about the report, Zahed Ahmed, counsellor (Labour) at Bangladesh embassy in Muscat, admitted that there are some incidents of abuses like work-load, passport confiscation and irregular salary payment.

“Like other Middle Eastern countries, domestic workers including Bangladeshis are also facing different abuses. As the domestic helps are being hired individually or privately, it is difficult to assess all the employers,” he told The Daily Star from Oman over phone today.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Fighting Violence Against Children as a Global Problemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 04:06:02 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146020 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fighting-violence-against-children-as-a-global-problem/feed/ 1 Latin American Development Depends On Investing In Teenage Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:23:23 +0000 Estrella Gutiérrez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145995 Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

By Estrella Gutiérrez
CARACAS, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

Latin America’s teenage girls are a crucial force for change and for promoting sustainable development, if the region invests in their rights and the correction of unequal opportunities, according to Luiza Carvalho, the regional head of UN Women.

“An empowered adolescent will know her rights and will stand up for them; she has tools for success and is a driving froce for positive change in her community,” Carvalho told IPS in an interview from the regional headquarters of UN Women in Panama City.

Adolescent girls and boys will have a leading role in their societies when the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development has been completed, she said. One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is gender equality. Investing in today’s girls will have “a great transformative impact in future,” she said. “Investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as wellas for promoting gender equality” -- Luiza Carvalho.

The world today has a higher proportion of its population aged between 10 and 24 years old than ever before, with 1.8 billion young people out of a  total population of 7.3 billion. Roughly 20 percent of this age group live in LatinAmerica and the Caribbean, Carvalho said.

According to data given to IPS by the regional office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 57million of the region’s 634 million people are girls aged between 10 and 19, living mainly in cities.

The theme for this year’s World Population Day, celebrated July 11, is “Investing in Teenage Girls”, on the premise that transforming their present situation to guarantee their right to equality will not only eliminate barriers to their individual potential but will also be decisive for the sustainable development of their countries.

Women Deliver, an international organisation, has calculated the benefits of this investment in financial terms. For every additional 10 percent of girls in school, national GDP rises by an average of three percent; for every extra year of primary schooling a girl has completed, her expected salary as an adult grows by between 10 and 20 percent.

This is fundamental because, as Carvalho pointed out, “lack of economic empowerment, together with generalised gender discrimination and the reinforcemet of traditional stereotypes, negatively affects the capability of women in Latin America and the Caribbean to participate on an equal footing in all aspects of public and private life.”

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

That is why “investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as well as for promoting gender equality,” she said.

Teenage women, she said, “are an especially vulnerable group who face special social, economic and political barriers.” Their empowerment in the region may come up against difficulties such as unwanted pregnancy, forced early marriage or union, gender violence and limited access to education and reproductive health services.”

As an example of these obstacles, the regional director of UN Women said that a Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) study of women aged 15-49 years in 12 countries of the region “reported that for a substantial proportion of these women, their first sexual encounter had been unwanted or coerced.”

Carvalho stressed that “early marriage or union imposed on girls is a major concern in the region, and it significantly affects the exercise of adolescent girls’ rights developing their full potential.”

“It is a form of violence that denies them their childhood, interrupts their education, limits their social development, curtails their opportunities, exposes them to the risk of premature pregnancy at too young an age, or unwanted pregnancy and its possible complications, and increases their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus),” she said.

It also increases the girls’ exposure to “becoming victims of violence and abuse,” Carvalho said.

In Carvalho’s view it is very positive that all the countries inthe region have established minimum ages for marriage in their laws, but on the other hand, the laws fix different minimum ages for boys and for girls, and in certain cases such as pregnancy or motherhood, girls may legally marry before they reach the minimum age.

In Latin America, far from diminishing, teenage pregnancies have increased in recent years, due to cultural acceptance of early sexual initiation. As a result, the region ranks second in the world for adolescent birth rates, with an average of 76 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, second only to sub-Saharan Africa.

Furthermore, 30 percent of Latin American teenage girls do not have access to the contraceptive care services they need, according to UNFPA. Sexual and reproductive health face especially high barriers in this region because of patriarchal,culture, the weight of conservative sectors and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In contrast, the region has a good record on education. Over 90 percent of its countries have policies to promote equal access by teenagers to education. Ninety percent of teenage girls have finished their primary school education, although only 78 percent go on to secondary school, according to UNFPA.

The greatest educational access barriers are faced by rural and indigenous teenage girls, who have difficulties for physical access to some education centres. In the case of indigenous and Afro-descendant girls, this is added to inappropriate curricula or the absence of educational materials in their native languages (mother tongues). 

Carvalho highlighted as a positive element that education laws, especially those that have been reformed recently, “have begun to recognise the importance of establishing legal provisions that promote and disseminate human rights, peaceful coexistence and sex education.”

However, she regretted that “direct connections with prevention of violence against women and girls are still incipient.”

In her view, the school curriculum plays an essential role. Including contents and materials “related to human rights and the rights of women and girls, non-violent conflict resolution, co-responsibility and basic education about sexual and reproductive health,” will potentiate more non-violent societies, inside and outside of the classroom, she said.

Carvalho quoted a 2015 study carried out in 13 Latin American countries by UN Women and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which concluded that education systems are failing to prevent violence against girls.

“This is something that must be improved, because it is in the first few years of early childhood that egalitarian role modelling between girls and boys can occur and lay the foundations of the prevention of violence, discrimination, and inequality in all its forms,” she emphasised.

Carvalho said changes should start with something as simple as it is frequently forgotten: “Girls, teenagers and women are rights-holders and entitled to their rights.”

If girls are given “equal access to education, health care, sexual and reproductive education, decent jobs, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes, sustainable economies would be promoted and societies, and humanity as a whole, would benefit,” she concluded. 

Edited by Verónica Firme. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Time for tough action to stop sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/time-for-tough-action-to-stop-sexual-exploitation-by-un-peacekeepers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-for-tough-action-to-stop-sexual-exploitation-by-un-peacekeepers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/time-for-tough-action-to-stop-sexual-exploitation-by-un-peacekeepers/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:02:58 +0000 Lt-General and Major Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145994 Lieutenant-General (retired) Daniel Ishmael Opande, was Kenya's Vice-Chief of General Staff and had served as the Force Commander of the United Nations Missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Major (retired) Siddharth Chatterjee is Kenya representative for the UN Population Fund and had served in the Special Forces of the Indian army. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1]]> Gender needs to be "mainstreamed" across peacekeeping. A member of a Ghanaian female peacekeeping unit in Liberia (2009). UN Photo/Christopher Herwig

Gender needs to be "mainstreamed" across peacekeeping. A member of a Ghanaian female peacekeeping unit in Liberia (2009). UN Photo/Christopher Herwig

By Lt-General (retired) Daniel Opande and Major (retired) Siddharth Chatterjee
New York, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

“Gentlemen, there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers”, said Napoleon Bonaparte to his military staff after they complained that the poor quality of soldiers was inhibiting success on the battlefield. We as former Army officers, totally believe in the sage words of Napoleon.

In the face some vile and sickening allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation among United Nations (UN) peacekeepers, puts to question the moral integrity of some people who are commissioned to be protectors, but who end up abusing the trust bestowed on them. Thus tarnishing the reputation of the entire UN.

UN peacekeeping missions perform a crucial service in resolving conflicts, saving lives, building peace, restoring and rebuilding broken states. Their humanitarian services have been meritorious on all counts.

However, incidents where troops seconded to the UN by member states under its command become sexual predators to the helpless civilians under their care have continued to present a cyclical challenge to the United Nations.

The Secretary General of the UN, Mr Ban Ki-moon recently called the rogue peacekeepers “a cancer in our system.” He added that, “a failure to pursue criminal accountability for sexual crimes is tantamount to impunity”.

According to recent reports from UN, allegations of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse by United Nations peacekeepers rose by from 52 in 2014 to 69 last year. There are currently 16 peacekeeping missions worldwide, out of which 10 were subject to allegations last year.

The allegations involve military personnel, international police, other staff and volunteers. Sadly, there does not seem to be much reason for optimism that most of these allegations will ever be investigated and concluded with any degree of closure. This can be illustrated by the case of the Central African Republic, where there has been only one criminal charge filed in the 42 cases of sexual abuse or exploitation that have been officially registered in the mission.

UN rules forbid sexual relations with any persons under 18 and strongly discourage relations with beneficiaries of assistance.

In a December 2015 report responding to latest claims of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, the UN recommended investigations to identify weaknesses in enforcement and mandated that a component on sexual exploitation and abuse be included in training for peacekeepers. It also called for harsher penalties for the peacekeeping units to which the abusers belong.

In 2015, the post of Special Coordinator on improving the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse was established. Mr Ban named Ms Jane Holl Lute, a US military veteran with wide-ranging UN experience, to coordinate efforts to curb the scourge.

The report also asked member states to provide a fair investigation process for both staff and military personnel, to provide better reporting mechanisms for victims and staff, and to take action on those in positions of responsibility who turn a blind eye or cover up.

For the first time, the organization also introduced a “name-and-shame” policy for countries whose soldiers are accused of transgression.

Still, structural weakness mean that the slow pace of investigations into abuses is set to continue. Under UN rules, it is up to the country that contributes the peacekeepers to investigate and prosecute any soldier accused of misconduct while serving under the UN flag. In many cases, those governments conduct only half-hearted investigations and only a smattering of convictions has been documented.

It is time to raise the scales of preventive and punitive measures. An unequivocal message needs to be sent to every member state and troop contributing countries that only personnel who see the protection of human rights as their mission will continue to serve as UN peacekeepers.

For starters, those that are accused of sexual misconduct must face the full force of justice in the mission area. The military chain of command should set up court proceedings without delay and award punishments comparable to the gravity of offences committed. Commanders at all levels must be held responsible for the discipline of their troops. A message of “zero tolerance” be clear and unambiguous.

In most countries where UN peacekeepers are deployed there is no proper functional government or rule of law in place. Therefore independent arbitration organs should be established in mission countries not only to expedite cases but also to provide confidential avenues for conscientious staff and soldiers to report abuse without fear of victimization or reprisals. This will hopefully serve to end impunity. Therefore, Napoleon’s counsel be heeded: military leaders at all levels of command should assume the onus of ensuring that every soldier going on mission is properly trained and prepared to deal with the stresses of peacekeeping.

The abuses will only be prevented if the military command in the operation decides to enforce the law without equivocation and without fear or favour. All soldiers, at pre-deployment training, be instructed that peacekeeping includes the power to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.

More skilled and trained female peacekeepers can only be an asset to peacekeeping operations. UN resolution 1325 emphasizes the vital role of women in conflict resolution, and calls for more women in decision-making positions. Gender needs to be “mainstreamed” across peacekeeping and for more women to participate in field operations in military roles as police and as human rights observers. A training course piloted in India aims to equip female military officers in peacekeeping missions to tackle sexual and gender-based violence.

Ambassador Samantha Power, the US Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, said that there is a “great deal of horror, outrage and a sense of collective failure“. She’s spot on. Member states have to take responsibility, big or small, rich or poor.

UN peacekeeping missions must be seen as the standard-bearers for human rights in fragile states and those recovering from the ravages of war and conflict.

Otherwise the work of UN agencies, such as UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, UN Women, UNAIDS, OHCHR, who are working tirelessly every day to end gender based violence, advance gender equality and child rights, promote women’s rights and empowerment of all women and girls, risks being jeopardized. And their moral authority undermined.

This article reflects our personal view as military veterans & former peacekeepers.

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Closing the Gaps in Sexual Education for People with Disabilitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/closing-the-gaps-in-sexual-education-for-people-with-disabilities/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 20:27:20 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145967 Melody Kemp/IPS

Melody Kemp/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

From forced sterilisation to sexual abuse, young women and men with disabilities are much more likely to have their sexual and reproductive health rights violated than other people.

However despite the increased risks they face, young people with disabilities are also much less likely to get the sexual health education that they need.

Sometimes this is because well-meaning caregivers fail to realise the sexual desires and needs of people with disabilities, Malin Kvitvaer who works for the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) told IPS.

“They see only the deafness and forget that there is a young person there too,” said Kvitvaer who works on a special project aimed at improving sexual education in sign language and is herself deaf.

Parents and caregivers can forget that young people with disabilities also have questions about their bodies and thinks about sex, just like any other teenager, said Kvitvaer.

Even where young people with disabilities do have access to sexual health education, it can be incomplete or inadequate due to access barriers, Kvitvaer added.

“Young people with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and face greater barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and education,” -- Leyla Sharafi, UNFPA.

“There are many instances where the teacher, not being fluent in sign language, does not know how to teach sexuality education in sign language and either teaches a very compromised version, or skips it altogether,” she said.

Communication barriers can have an even greater impact, when abusers take advantage of the fact that it is harder for young Deaf people to report abuse.

“In the history of the Deaf community there is a history of young Deaf girls – boys too, but mostly girls – who were subjected to sexual abuse by the adult men around them, such as teachers, Deaf priests and so on.”

“Many times they also knew that the girls’ families did not speak Sign language and so they wouldn’t be able to tell (their families) about the abuse,” said Kvitvaer who was also the Swedish youth delegate to the United Nations in 2011.

We Decide, a new initiative launched last month by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) aims to address the gaps in sexual and reproductive health services, education and information which disproportionately effect young people with disabilities.

Leyla Sharafi. Gender and youth specialist at UNFPA told IPS that adolescents and youth around the world struggle to access appropriate sexual and reproductive health services and that for young people with disabilities the barriers are even greater.

“Young people with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and face greater barriers when accessing sexual and reproductive health services and education,” Sharafi told IPS.

“UNFPA and the We Decide program is advocating that all young people with disabilities enjoy their human rights, including living a life free of violence and discrimination.”

Sharafi added that the program was designed in collaboration with young people with disabilities, taking into consideration their wants and needs.

To this end, Kvitvaer notes that sexual education should not just focus on the negative aspects of sex, but also the positive aspects.

“I also think it is important to not only focus on problems that sex can cause – such as unwanted pregnancies, STDs, but also that sex is a good thing when consensual and that is just as ok to want to have sex, as it is to not want to have sex.”

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which Sharafi notes “is one of the only conventions that explicitly talks about access to sexual and reproductive health.”

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First Independent Expert To Tackle LGBTI Discrimination: “Historic Victory”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/first-independent-expert-to-tackle-lgbti-discrimination-historic-victory/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 19:48:48 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145910 Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 1 2016 (IPS)

Human rights groups have described the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) decision on Thursday to appoint an independent expert to target the ongoing discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people all over the world as a “historic victory.”

“For LGBTI people everywhere who have fought so hard for this victory, take strength from this recognition, and let today represent the dawn of a new day,” OutRight International’s executive director Jessica Stern said. OutRight International was one of 28 non-governmental groups which welcomed the resolution with a joint statement.

More than 600 nongovernmental organizations helped ensure that the HRC in Geneva adopted the resolution to “protect people against violence & discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

The establishment of an expert-position for these problems is a significant step since not all of the UN’s 193 members see eye to eye on LGBTI issues. “A UN Independent Expert sends a clear message that violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are a concern for the international community and need to be addressed by Member States,” John Fisher of Human Rights Watch told IPS.

With regard to compliance, Fisher said: “Of course, some States will decline to cooperate, which only underlines the need for the outreach work that an Independent Expert will conduct. Members of the Human Rights Council are required by a GA (General Assembly) resolution to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the biggest defenders of LGBT rights in the United States, expressed its approval, too. Jamil Dakwar, ACLU’s International Human Rights Director, told IPS the HRC resolution “is yet another affirmation that the promise of universal human rights leaves no one behind.”

"Transgender persons face laws which deny their fundamental self-defined gender identity." -- John Fisher

He also emphasized that “even in a country like the United States, where some LGBT rights are legally recognized, recent events, including the tragic mass shooting at an LGBT club in Orlando and the post-marriage equality legislative backlash against transgender people, confirm that the human rights of LGBT communities are in dire need of attention and protection.”

Indeed, although many states are making progress, LGBTI people still face discrimination and violence. According to studies, between half and two thirds of LGBTI students in the US, UK and Thailand are bullied at school and thirty percent of them skip school to avoid the trouble.

Fisher said to IPS that “discrimination is faced in access to health, housing, education and employment, transgender persons face laws which deny their fundamental self-defined gender identity.”

In the past years, violence, particularly against transgender people was shockingly common. For example, the 2014 report of the Anti-Violence Project showed that police violence was 7 times more likely to affect transgender people than non-transgenders. The 2015 report, released this June, revealed that 67 percent of victims of hate violence related killings of LGBTQ people were transgender.

A study released this week shows that there are 1.4 million transgender persons living in the United States: Twice as many as previously estimated. Although the US is slowly addressing some issues related to LGBT rights, such as removing barriers for transgender persons in the military some states have begun banning transgender people from using the bathroom according to the gender they identify with.

Human Rights Watch and others are happy to witness progress in states like the US and many Latin American countries. There was a clear pattern in the voting behavior of Thursday’s HRC meeting, too. No African and few Asian countries (only South Korea and Vietnam) voted in favor of the resolution. The 18 votes against the new resolution came among others from Russia, China and various Arab States.

The non-governmental actors who supported the resolution, however, also came from developing countries. “It is important to note that around 70 percent of the organizations are from the global south,” Yahia Zaidi of the MantiQitna Network said.

The resolution builds on previous HRC decisions in 2011 and 2014. In the newest draft, the independent expert is the most important innovation. Still, other parts of it were debated, too:

“Some amendments were adopted suggesting that cultural and religious values should be respected; these amendments could be interpreted as detracting from the universality of human rights. The resolution does, however, also include a provision from the outcome document of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, affirming the primacy of human rights,” Fisher reported from the council in Geneva.

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Breaking the silence on Gender Based Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-based-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-the-silence-on-gender-based-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/breaking-the-silence-on-gender-based-violence/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:14:08 +0000 Sicily Kariuki and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145905 CS Sicily Kariuki visits a maternity center at Kilifi Hospital supported by UNFPA Kenya. Photo Credit: @unfpaken

CS Sicily Kariuki visits a maternity center at Kilifi Hospital supported by UNFPA Kenya. Photo Credit: @unfpaken

By Sicily K. Kariuki, CBS and Siddharth Chatterjee
KILIFI COUNTY, Kenya , Jul 1 2016 (IPS)

The Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is establishing and strengthening sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) recovery centres in the country. One such center was launched at the Kilifi County Hospital on 01 July 2016 in collaboration with the Kilifi County Government.

It must rank as among the most confounding realities that SGBV, though acknowledged globally as one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, is also one of the least prosecuted crimes.

It is a crime that cuts across all races, income-levels and religions and it continues to be largely visited upon one half of humanity.

When four in every ten women in Kenya have suffered one form of violence or another from a close partner, it must be clear that the silence on violence against women and children must end now.  It is the time to stop seeing SGBV as an issue for gender activists, but as a prerequisite for sustainable development.

Evidence abounds about the tremendous wide-ranging effects of violence against women and children. These are effects that remain not only with individual women and children directly violated, but they can pass from one generation to another.

When four in every ten women in Kenya have suffered one form of violence or another from a close partner, it must be clear that the silence on violence against women and children must end now
Violence against women and girls is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and systemic gender-based discrimination. The right of women and children to live free of violence depends on the protection of their human rights and a strong chain of justice.

The patriarchal system in many parts of the world combined with absence of rights at the household level have made women and girls vulnerable to sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual violence.

These dated attitudes manifest themselves though practices such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, wife inheritance and disinheritance of women and girls.  They are pervasive attitudes that have propagated the false paradigm that women are mere chattels, fated to rank second to men and boys.

Kenya has enacted various laws related to on violence against women.  These include the Sexual Offences Act (2007), the FGM Act (2011) and the National Policy towards Prevention and Response to SGBV (2014).  Considerable programmes have been established for facilitating enforcement of those laws.

As much as punishment of crimes is crucial, other programmes must be put in place, especially towards victim support.

Survivors of sexual violence such as rape must for instance have rapid access to a health clinic that can administer emergency medical care, including treatment to prevent HIV and unintended pregnancies and counseling. A woman who is beaten by her husband must have someplace to go with her children to enjoy safety, sanity and shelter.

Victims of violence must have confidence that when they file reports with the police report, she will receive non-accusatory justice and the perpetrator will be punished.

Despite initial challenges, considerable momentum has gathered towards putting the above in place, not only be large agencies and government, but also by grassroots players.  It is extremely heartening for instance to hear of groups of women such as Komeni group, who are taking leadership towards the elimination of child marriage in Pokot. Through their merry-go-round club, they have put up a shelter for girls escaping from forced early marriage and are collaborating with the local administration to arrest and prosecute offenders.

The clarion call is for more hands to be put on deck.  The Ministry is keen to work with such community initiatives and to provide national leadership in coordination of the SGBV programme.  This includes the comprehensive 5P approach; Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, Programming and Partnership, that will facilitate the achievement of Gender Equality (SDG 5).

Some of the key issues highlighted in the 5P are awareness creation in communities on SGBV, hotlines for survivors to report, and the establishment of SGBV Centers for survivors and survivors’ protection through prosecution of perpetrators.

The launch of these centres will help to link the community, hospitals and the different sectors that offer SGBV response services such as legal, psychosocial and security.

Going forward, the longer term view must obtain if the country is to begin to defang the structural drivers of gender violence.  The status of women’s health, their participation in the economy and their education levels must be priority in the development agenda.  Where gender gaps in these areas prevail, women will always be subjected to violence.

The entire gamut of development actors must now come together to ensure that every home is safe and free of every form of violence.

This is the only way to ensure truly sustainable peace and progress in which everyone of us has a stake.

Let’s speak out loudly and call for an end to the scourge of sexual and gender based violence.

 

 

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