Inter Press Service » Gender Violence http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:15:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 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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Civil Society Under Serious Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-under-serious-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:51:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145847 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/feed/ 0 Women’s Health Takes Center Stage at UN Population Awards   http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145796 By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

Social Scientist, Carmen Barroso and Polish Organisation, Childbirth in Dignity received the United Nations Population Awards here Thursday for their outstanding work in population, improving individuals’ health and welfare, and specifically for their decades-long leadership in women’s rights.

“I dedicate this award to anonymous health providers everywhere, who day in and day out help women to exercise their rights and preserve their health,” said Barroso on accepting the award.

Barroso has been actively involved in reproductive health and population issues for more than forty years. She was selected for her leadership in developing programmes, funding and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for mobilising the voices of people in the South around those issues.

In 1966, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country rising under the weight of a military dictatorship, Barroso was a 22 year old college student living off of her husband’s meagre salary. Committed to achieving social justice, they did not plan to start a family for many years, and had a very important vision of their future.

On birth control for a long time, she was becoming uncomfortable with the hormones she was putting into her body. A doctor offered her an alternative: IUDs. When she started, she began having copious periods of painful cramps, but she decided to wait in hope they would go away. But they didn’t. One day, she missed her period.

She froze with horror: “All of a sudden, the castle of my future came crashing down.”

At the time, abortion was a taboo subject. She never thought it was something that would happen to her, but now she knew that was what she wanted, and went to the doctor.

He performed the abortion, telling her to keep it secret and cover it up as a miscarriage.

“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of a doctor operating under restrictive laws. Because of him, we were able to live the future we dreamed of.”

Later Barroso became a senior researcher with the Chagas Foundation, where she pioneered innovative evaluation methods and later created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center, despite protest from colleagues who saw it as an “imperialistic import of feminist ideology.”

Dr. Barroso became the first non-American to be appointed as director in the US MacArthur Foundation, and she recently resigned from her tenure as Director of Planned Parenthood International, Western Hemisphere.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation

Twenty years ago in Poland, pregnant women had little freedom to choose the environment in which they gave birth. Lack of privacy, loneliness and inadequate support were the rule, with women having to go through mandatory episiotomies, and other arcane procedures such as not having time with their newborn child immediately, or having their significant other in the room during childbirth, made the experience far from joyful, in fact, humiliating in many cases.

A nationwide campaign, “Childbirth with Dignity” which empowered women to share their stories, caught international attention, causing government legislative action like Perinatal and Postnatal Care Standards in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Partners are now allowed in the delivery room, mothers can have visitors, and newborns are able to breastfeed, being placed in the mother’s arms to bond right after being born making childbirth an easier experience for mothers.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation was awarded for their strong advocacy and support of the rights of women and newborns for over 20 years, and for empowering women, as patients, to demand their rights in relation to childbirth.

Both laureates were chosen from among several international nominees, by the Committee for the United Nations Population Award chaired by Paraguay, and including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Poland. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as secretariat for the award.

Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Allan Rosenfield, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council.

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Bringing Back Our Girls Is Not The End of The Storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:08:13 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145779 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/feed/ 0 Lords of the Campushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/lords-of-the-campus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lords-of-the-campus http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/lords-of-the-campus/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:11:39 +0000 Rafia Zakaria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145775 By Rafia Zakaria
Jun 23 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Thomas Pogge is a professor of philosophy at Yale University, one of the most eminent educational institutions in the world. From there he directs the Global Justice Centre, which advocates, among other issues, the premise that the wealthy countries of the world have a moral and ethical responsibility towards providing aid to poorer nations.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

In a dog-eat-dog world, Dr Pogge, at least on the face of it, stood for what is right.

But appearance and reality rarely coalesce, as an investigation by Buzzfeed News revealed last month. Pogge is also allegedly a sexual harasser. In 2010, a Yale graduate student named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar accused Dr Pogge of sexually harassing her and then retaliating against her for refusing him by rescinding a fellowship offer.

When the incident first took place, Aguilar, who is a foreign student, went to the Yale authorities to report what the professor had done. According to Aguilar, Yale University not only did not investigate her claim, but tried to buy her silence by offering a payment of $2,000. When she refused, a panel was finally convened to investigate the matter. Their report found that while it was clear that Prof Pogge had behaved in an unprofessional manner, there was insufficient evidence that the professor was guilty of sexual harassment. Pogge was permitted to keep his post, and teach at and direct the Centre for Global Justice.

All of that happened in the years 2010-2011. More recently, the Buzzfeed investigation revealed, Yale has been confronted with more evidence of Pogge’s alleged sexual harassment in his interactions with students from other institutions. In addition, in 2015, Fernanda Aguilar, whose case had been so deftly dismissed by Yale’s internal investigation, chose to file a federal lawsuit against Yale University for violating Title IX of the Equal Protection Act, under which educational institutions like Yale are responsible for eliminating hostile environments and taking action against sexual harassment. She has also filed a claim under Title VII, which prohibits racial discrimination.

Educational institutions offer excellent opportunities for power plays and harassment, whose targets are often, if not always, women.

Some of the allegations reveal the common modus operandi of most harassment situations: offers of better opportunities. In one illustrative incident, when Aguilar and Pogge were supposed to attend a conference together, she arrived to find that he had booked them not in separate rooms as she had expected, but only one room.

Yale University may be far away from Pakistan, but the issue of sexual harassment in the campus context is not. One recent case involves a pattern ironically quite similar to that of the esteemed Dr Pogge of Yale University. In March of this year, there was a news report about a case of sexual harassment filed at Karachi University against a member of the visiting faculty.

The complainant was a young assistant professor who said that the faculty member had barged into her office and behaved inappropriately with her. It was alleged that she was later subjected to similarly inappropriate behaviour, involving physical contact, by the same teacher in the office of another, senior faculty member.

In this case, like Fernanda Aguilar of Yale University, the teacher who alleged inappropriate behavior chose to do what most women do not: make a complaint. She is said to have first gone to the person in whose office the latter incident is supposed to have taken place and whom she believed would be supportive of her situation. When, as reported, he refused to take action, she filed a complaint with the vice chancellor. It took a month and a student protest for the university to form a three-member investigative committee.

The committee issued its report, stating that “there is no conclusive evidence available to the committee based on which the charges levelled by [the teacher] can be proved” and that she “took this incident too far ahead”. If it was not enough to dismiss a complaint that had allegedly taken place in the office of a senior professor, the investigation committee chose to level a charge of its own, saying that the complainant had “previous handshakes with him in the past”.

The tone of the report comes across as dismissive and accusatory, and is an indication of just the sort of obstacles that confront working women who insist on demanding a workplace that is free of harassment. Even while the investigation committee had to be formed under the Protection of Women against Workplace Harassment Act 2010, it appears that the members seemed determined to permit a culture of harassment to continue. In the words of an investigative reporter, such is the entrenched nature of sexual harassment that even dismissive comments by investigative committees have not been considered sufficient to establish that an inquiry could well have been biased.

Educational institutions, their formats of instruction and advancement, are by design hierarchical. Being so, they offer excellent opportunities for power plays and harassment, whose targets are often, if not always, women. In the case of Pakistan, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that allegations against progressive-minded professors are quickly co-opted by members of religious groups who want to ban women from the workplace and from educational institutions altogether.

All of it comes together to create a situation where men, religious or progressive, remain the lords of campus, their bad behaviour, their misogyny, their failure to respect women, all tolerated, promoted and considered entirely and completely acceptable.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy. rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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UN Staff Unions Demand Stronger Action on Sexual Abusehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:04:35 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145767 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/feed/ 0 Fearing Violence, LGBT Refugees Rarely Seek Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 04:28:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145751 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/feed/ 0 An Elite Club of Suicide Bombershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:50:10 +0000 Editor Dawn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145729 By Editor, Dawn, Pakistan
Jun 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It is always baffling, isn’t it, to see the yawning difference in our responses in South Asia to a gathering communal threat, for instance, as opposed to the catastrophic prospect of nuclear annihilation? Only recently, Pakistan toggled between public outcry and terrified whispers when teeming mourners showed up at the funeral of an executed religious zealot, the savage killer of a popular provincial governor.

57682f60102e5_In India, the sight of glistening, unsheathed swords or trishuls used to disembowel helpless people, as happened in Gujarat in 2002, evokes outrage from the middle classes among others. The remorseless lynching of men, women and children and an almost formulaic public gang rape of women that accompanies such abhorrent outings fill us with horror. It all horrifies us because we abhor bloodshed and hurting innocents. We are outraged because we see the rule of law collapsing; we see injustice ruling, where women bear the brunt of a hideous mob.

Remember the piles of bodies on military trolleys in Jaffna? They included the sexually tortured cadavers of women from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. We acknowledged at the time that though the LTTE included ruthless killers in its ranks, the military response was even more inhuman. Some of the cases we petitioned before international arbiters.

The middle classes that quake at the thought of gore and fascist hordes seem incorrigibly sanguine about a nuclear calamity.

So one thing is clear. We abhor bloodshed or at least most of us do. We are not inclined to accept organised mass rape or torture and targeted lynching as an occurrence we have to learn to live with. In fact, even laden with our unending grief and sorrow, as glimpsed in the case of Zakia Jafri and her doughty supporter, Teesta Setalvad, we want the severest retribution for our killers but not capital punishment.

What goes wrong when it comes to the prospect of nuclear annihilation? Why do we go silent or even appear indifferent? The middle classes that quake at the thought of gore and fascist hordes seem incorrigibly sanguine about a nuclear calamity. The cavalier way in which we behave towards our own or someone else’s nuclear arsenal is clearly not the standard global response to weapons of mass destruction, not even to nuclear power. Are we thus behaving like the third world that we are, people who are so busy warding off starvation and so on, that we don’t have the time or inclination to reflect on a major existential issue? Or is it because very few among us believe that a nuclear exchange, say between India and Pakistan, or between India and China, is really possible?

Examine: India joining NSG will escalate nuclear race in South Asia: US senator

We hear ever so often from nation-first analysts who try to assure us that the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) is adequate to deter a nuclear war. If Pakistan, for example, targets India then Pakistan would be made extinct by India, or so goes the doctrine. In which case the world should relax. There cannot be war. Yet there is that lingering doubt. What if the Pakistani ruler or the man with the trigger control says enough is enough, it’s time for all the faithful to go to heaven? And he or they pull the trigger? This is a common and pervasive fear across the world. North Korea could do it. Vladimir Putin could. Donald Trump, if he succeeds in his presidential bid will only be a shade more fraught than Hillary Clinton in posing a global threat. That’s a given.

In the cluster of those that are genuinely sensitive to the ticking of the Doomsday Clock are New Zealand and South Africa. They have opposed the US-backed move to include India in the elite club called NSG, the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

But why should India or Pakistan or Israel, which would be the ultimate beneficiary of the current dogfight between India and Pakistan over the NSG bone, be indulged? What does it signal to the rest of the world — that we are ready to honour two more or possibly three new members to the elite club of suicide bombers? That is what they are, nothing less. Suicide bombers. How are they different — the so-called P5 from those that wear belts to blow up people? To suggest that India’s participation in the club of bombers would make the world more stable or secure is to ignore history. The NSG was barely a decade old in 1983 when the presence of mind of a Soviet officer manning the early warning system prevented a nuclear war and thereby the end of the world. India and Pakistan will not have the luxury of the time gap that may have saved us in 1983.

Read: Nuclear leak in Gujarat may be more serious than the Indian government is claiming

That doesn’t answer the question though. Why are we in South Asia, laden with the potential to destroy ourselves many times over, so blasé about the issue? One Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union sent shivers down the spine of the world. I was in Tokyo the day the Fukushima calamity took place in Japan. It was scary. But I have to say something about the discipline of the Japanese, the way they trooped out of their offices and schools and homes and forded through the crisis without treading on the toes of the person next to them.

The mile-long lines to the telephone booths moved steadily, with everyone sure they would get their chance to send a message to their folks. Consider the melee that occurs in our patch at the drop of a hat. So many crushed in a stampede in such and such religious fair. Can we even begin to imagine the stampede if and when a nuclear calamity takes place? It rained exploding missiles at a military arms depot in Maharashtra the other day. It was an accident. There have been several close calls at our nuclear facilities as well. That somehow doesn’t frighten us as much as fidayeen suicide bombers and unsheathed swords do. Why?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi. jawednaqvi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Case for Overcoming the Ostrich Syndromehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:30:09 +0000 C R Abrar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145707 refugee_day__

By C R Abrar
Jun 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The final week of May 2016 was a grisly one. More than 700 asylum seekers and migrants died as three boats attempting to carry them to Italy sunk in the Mediterranean, and the death toll for the year crossed 2000. A week ago, Unicef reported a doubling of the number of unaccompanied children arriving as asylum seekers this year. The report also highlighted that these children are subjected to sexual violence, forced prostitution and other forms of abuse.

UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, informs that, of the 157,574 arrivals in Europe in 2016, 90 percent were from the top 10 refugee producing countries of the world — fleeing war, violence and persecution in their countries of origin, and were in need of international protection. A breakdown of the total reveals almost 90 percent of the cases were from three countries: Syria (49 percent), Afghanistan (25 percent) and Iraq (14 percent). These figures debunk the myth that most are economic migrants, who have left their own countries by choice in search of economic opportunities.

The magnitude and nature of the global refugee situation has changed considerably over the last few decades. It has become increasingly ‘protracted, politicised and complex’. This has made the task of finding a durable solution further challenging.

Evidence is replete that states are not only reluctant to uphold ethical standards of refugee protection, but also that they are actively contributing to the erosion of the principle and practice of asylum. Refugees are increasingly been seen as subjects of charity. There is little acknowledgement that the principle of non-refoulement, the cornerstone of international refugee protection, is now a provision of customary international law, binding even on states that are not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Over time, many Western states, particularly those of Europe, have introduced measures to reduce the number of individuals seeking asylum in their territory through non-arrival policies, diversion policies, an increasingly restrictive application of the 1951 Convention and a range of deterrent policies, such as detention of asylum seekers and the denial of social assistance; on the other hand, some states, like the UK, have openly advocated for dismantling of the 1951 Refugee Convention and instituting of a new international refugee regime, premised on containing of refugees within their region of origin.

This two-facedness of the western states has placed significant burden on asylum countries of the South, especially of Africa and Asia. This, in turn, has led some of the Southern countries to close off their borders to prevent arrivals, push for early and unsustainable return of asylum seekers to the country of origin and, in a few instances, forcibly expel entire refugee populations.

There is little recognition that protracted refugee situations do not remain confined to the host states of the South and have major regional and international implications. A UNHCR commissioned survey on Somali refugees has indicated that the absence of durable solutions and effective international protection in the first country of asylum is a major motive for secondary migratory movements to Europe and elsewhere.

There is a propensity in most quarters to view the refugee problem as a humanitarian problem. However, protracted refugee situations require more than humanitarian engagement. They entail meaningful and sustained engagement of peace, security and development actors. A comprehensive and holistic approach is perhaps the only way forward.

Thus while there is an urgent need to work out creative solutions to the global refugee problems, the international community appears to be hanging on to the old approach, premised on the concept of national security. This has been evident in Europe’s pursuit of Operation Sophia in dealing with the current refugee inflow. The next part of this essay will explicate how ill-conceived the strategy was.

In October 2014, Italy abandoned its ‘search and rescue’ Mare Nostrum operation that prevented mass drowning of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean. This resulted in an increase in the number of deaths of migrants trying to seek asylum in the continent. The demand for re-launching of the operation was met with stiff opposition and, on April 23, 2015, the European Council adopted a British-drafted resolution vowing to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy (refugee) vessels”. This was a palpable shift from humanitarian commitments to a military solution. It is worthwhile to note that British fascist Nick Griffin made the proposal five years earlier.

The European border agency Frontex reported that since its adoption 14 vessels have been destroyed and 69 ‘suspected smugglers’ were apprehended. The strategy was modelled to impede the human smuggling syndicates and limit the opportunities for would be refugees to flee to Europe. There is a little evidence that the new strategy worked at all. In the period from September 2015 to January 2016, the marginal drop of 9 percent in the Mediterranean flow was supplemented by the opening up of the ‘Balkans route’ to Europe. In order to minimise ‘significant financial loss’, the human smugglers amended their business model and replaced expensive wooden or fibre-glass boats by cheap mass produced Chinese inflatable rubber dinghies that have less carrying capacity and are more limited by sea conditions. In addition, as the borders became more challenging to navigate, migrants turned to more sophisticated smugglers to facilitate their crossing.

All these led the UK House of Lords EU Committee to observe, “The Mission (Sophia) does not… in any meaningful way deter the flow of migrants, disrupt the smugglers’ networks, or impede the business of people smuggling on the Mediterranean route”. The House of Lords report quotes Amnesty International’s Steve Symonds that the EU’s reinforcement of external borders policing had brought about “the movement of ever larger number of people around different routes by different journeys, usually at greater danger and cost to them, and so of greater profit to smugglers”. The opening sentence of the report quoted Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute, “migrants in the boat are symptoms, not causes, of the problem”.

The challenge, therefore, for the international community is to acknowledge that refugees constitute an overwhelming bulk of the flow and they are fleeing protracted conflict conditions that needs urgent political solution. Pursuing unworkable policies would only be acting like an ostrich.

Recently displaying a life jacket used by a Syrian girl who died while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos to a group of youngsters, Pope Francis explained, “Migrants are not a danger – they are in danger”. It’s time the policy makers of Western nations paid heed to the pontiff.

The writer teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka. He writes and researches on rights and migration issues.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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