Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Scaling up and integrating HIV with sexual and reproductive health services

A massive scale-up of comprehensive and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and HIV services for young women and adolescent girls should be planned and rolled out, taking into consideration rapid population growth. Looking at projections for urbanization, these services need to be focused increasingly on urban areas and in particular to reach poor urban women and girls. The type of service is important. Condom programming designed to reach young people, such as through schools, can increase accessibility and confidence among those who are sexually active (48, 49). 

In addition, removing barriers such as parental and spousal consent, which further institutionalizes sexual and reproductive rights violations, is critical for scaling services and ensuring access. For young women living with HIV, access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, including screening for and treating reproductive cancers, preventing and addressing violence, and HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, has proven to be life-saving. Studies from southern Africa found that access to such services and peer support groups helped young people adhere to antiretroviral treatment (50, 51). Ensuring that young women and adolescents have access to good-quality contraceptive services and antenatal care is essential to reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and new infections among children. (52, 53)
Leer más...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Strategies to keep girls in school and comprehensive sexuality education

Education confers higher knowledge about HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights and leads to better health outcomes for young women and adolescent girls (32, 33). It lowers exposure to gender-based violence and increases women’s and girls’ chances of being financially secure and independent. Compared with girls who have at least six years of schooling, girls with no education are twice as likely to acquire HIV and do not seek help in cases of intimate partner violence, which can increase the risk of HIV infection by 50%, according to a South African study (60, 16). The longer a girl stays in school, the greater the chances that she will use modern contraception if she does have sex and the lower her chances of giving birth as an adolescent (9). 

Some of the most powerful structural interventions for HIV risk reduction among adolescent girls across Africa are those that aim to keep girls in school (34-37). These interventions include making education free of charge for girls (38), supporting orphans and other vulnerable children to stay in school (39, 40), and conditional cash transfers that reward parents for keeping their daughters in school (41). When young women and adolescent girls have access to comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education before becoming sexually active, they are more likely to make informed decisions about their sexuality and approach relationships with more self-confidence (42, 43, 44). Critically, school-based comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education is also known to increase young girls’ condom use, increase voluntary HIV testing among young women, and reduce adolescent pregnancy (45, 46, 47). The 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa reaffirmed the commitment of Africa’s leaders to ensure that all adolescents are equipped with “life skills-based HIV and sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services”, demonstrating a clear dedication to addressing the specific needs of young people and their right to their own agency, in the context of HIV and sexual and reproductive health.
Leer más...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

State responses to address domestic violence

Over the last two decades, Latin American countries have implemented several kinds of responses to the high numbers of domestic violence cases, and citizens have seen major advances in public interventions to tackle domestic violence. The continent has followed a shared human rights based framework with the adoption of the Belem do Para Convention in 1994. This Convention establishes a variety of measures to prevent, protect, address and sanction violence against women, which are adjudicated to the state. Articles 8 and 9 determine that the state must adopt a very large range of legislative, administrative and institutional programmes to combat violence against women. The approach taken in the Belem do Para Convention reflects the position of third wave of feminism which considers that “the personal is political” and opens the whole of social and private life to state intervention, independently of the types of states that exist in the countries. This position pays insufficient attention to power relations between state and society, and especially social groups in vulnerable situations, and ignores the fact that the law is also an instrument of the state to maintain and reproduce a given social order based on race, class and gender differences. In the case of justice institutions, several studies (Fries, 2008; Lagarde y de los Ríos, 2005; Inter American Commission on Human Rights, 2011; Tiroch, 2010) showed that these state authorities are “prejudiced by gender-based stereotyping to the extent that public officials adopted stereotypical attitudes and blamed the victims themselves, as well as their relatives, for their fate”. Again, instead of protecting and guaranteeing women’s rights, gender bias in institutions re-victimize women through institutional violence which in the end represents the main obstacle for women to get access to justice

 In the Latin America region, there are no studies that have identified trends regarding the way domestic violence is conceptualised and addressed. There are only partial studies, focused on a specific country, and on specific state policies to address domestic violence against women. The criminalisation of domestic violence is the most common response of state authorities, pushed and relayed by international legislation, jurisprudence and institutions. 

But the criminalisation of domestic violence is a major point of contradiction and discussion between academics, policy-makers and activist groups. The supporters of the criminalisation of domestic violence consider it an essential step because of the symbolic value of ‘punishment’. The imprisonment of aggressors is considered to be the most efficient way for the state to protect women. The main opponents of this position see it as an instrument by the ruling class to maintain its power, block the emancipation of women and also victimize women who suffer violence (Alvarez 2003)8 . Among the countries that have included domestic violence in their criminal codes, to different extents, are Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Brazil (CONAVIM 2009a). Another legal mechanism that has been implemented by some Latin American states consists of treating domestic violence through systems of alternative justice. These include ‘community-based mediation or arbitration projects to new specialized or fast-track courts, all aimed at increasing access to justice, especially for the low income population’ (Macauley 2005: 212). An example is the specialized women’s police stations (JECrims) in Brazil, in which ‘the principles of speed, informality, self-representation, oral argumentation and direct plaintiff/defendant interaction with the judge’ are central (2005: 218). It was found that the bulk of domestic violence cases brought forward by women were considered ‘minor’ offences which could be resolved through conciliation. A major critique is that such a system decriminalises and normalizes violence, by suggesting that even the strongest forms of aggression conducted by one party can be resolved by conciliation. Another problem is the inclusion of the police as the first port of call for women victims: 30% of the cases do not get past the police station, and the extent of the violence is often toned down in official reports. The major critique by feminists of this more informal ‘second track’ in the judicialization of domestic violence, normally treated in lower-level courts, is that it does not take into account the gendered nature of domestic violence and fails to protect women from the full extent of the aggressions they suffer. Although the JECrims made domestic violence more visible by moving the conciliation process into the public arena, they have turned crime into an act of simple delinquency such as a ‘traffic fine (2005: 221)’. 

The methods of conciliation and mediation are another critical point of discussion. In the legislative frameworks of Argentina, El Salvador, Mexico and Nicaragua, the use of conciliation and mediation methods is explicitly excluded, whereas conciliation in other countries remains part of the set of possible state responses to domestic violence. Again according to Macauley (2005), in countries such as Chile, Colombia and Peru, conciliation strategies are strongly related to the influence of the Catholic Church and the consideration that family unity must be protected over and above the integrity of women. An evaluation of such conciliation measures in Colombia revealed them to be insufficient because the interventions did not tackle the question of the vulnerability of women in relation to state institutions, or the profound power inequalities between the sexes (Duque & Peña 2004). In Chile, the law of Intra-family Violence is conceived from a human rights and family perspective (Araujo et al. 2000), and does not include a gender-based approach, but in 2008 the Chilean State finally promoted special courts to prosecute intra-family violence crimes, and also created a division to protect victims of intra-family crimes (Larrain 2008). Until then conciliation through the Family Court was the main procedure to claim any abuse from family members. In terms of the provision of protection services, the Belém Do Pará Convention obliges states to create mechanisms to provide direct, free and specialised assistance to victimized women. These services should include legal support, emergency phone lines, psychological support and health care. As an example of this strategy to improve the treatment of victims, countries implemented protocols to train healthcare personnel to detect violence against women and provide the right type of support (Rioseco Ortega 2005; Castillo & Prado 2010).

Although Mexico for a long time had no formal legislation in the field of violence against women at all, it was together with Venezuela one of the first countries to adopt an ecological approach to address domestic violence in its legislation. This means that Mexico developed a comprehensive strategy to tackle domestic violence in which different institutions and mechanisms are put in place and expected to coordinate with each other, with a focus on measures in the fields of prevention, protection, attention and sanction. 
A specific intervention that has managed to incorporate this ecological approach can be found in the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free from Violence enacted in Mexico in 2007. The law presents domestic violence as a form of violence resulting from the predominance of a machista culture in Mexico which has permeated the interactions between women and men at the individual, community and societal levels. That is why the law establishes a set of measures aiming to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women; promote women’s human rights; transform the unequal and violent conditions in which women are living; and coordinate state responses at the federal, local and municipal levels (Martínez Vergara 2007; Pérez Contreras & de Montserrat 2008). 

The combination of interventions - at the individual, relationship, community and societal level - is expected to reduce more effectively the risk levels that leave women in a vulnerable situation that might lead them to have to face a gender-based violent situation. Today, ten countries in Latin America and the Caribbean9 have implemented a similarly comprehensive legislation (ECLAC 2014).

Leer más...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Domestic Violence as a policy issue in Latin America

The process for making domestic violence a relevant policy public issue in the Latin America Region has been strongly influenced by the activism of feminist and human rights organizations arguing that violence against women is not a private and domestic issue but a political, social and human rights problem that should be publilly discussed and addressed (Sagot 2008; Muñoz 2010).
 Feminist movements in Latin America have been characterized by a shared agenda, strongly influenced by the indignation about the widespread violence against women in society and the persistent gender inequality on the continent. Starting in the 1980s, feminists throughout the region joined forces in several regional conferences, identified a common approach and, thanks to the emergence of non-governmental organizations, furthermore found the adequate institutional channels to connect their demands and gain political relevance. Also, women in disadvantageous conditions were able to organise themselves, since both development agencies as well as government programmes to specifically assist the poor and marginalized groups included many women (Barrig 1998). Lemaitre (2014) has argued that the feminist movement in Latin America in this period was largely inspired by the radical feminism common in the Anglo-Saxon world and its emphasis on the relationship between sexual harassment, violence and power relations; as well as the proposition that masculine domination is paramount in relations between men and women, a state of affairs based on fear, and often expressed in intra-family violence, as described by MacKinnon (1983). These unequal power relations between men and women formed the basis for the public outcry of feminists in Latin America.

At the global scale, acknowledgement of domestic violence as a social problem began to gain ground in the public agenda, which also implied that the state should have an important role in addressing the violence (Rioseco Ortega 2005; Bosch Fiol & Ferrer Pérez 2000). Nevertheless, in the context of a region that has long been characterised by authoritarian states and persistent poverty, the role of the state in dealing with domestic violence has been a very polemical issue among feminists, since the state was considered by radical feminists as the principal proponent of the patriarchal system, of which the building blocks are the power of the few, men´s domination over women, and violence. (Lemaitre 2014; Conavim 2009.
  In contrast to feminist movements in the North in the last part of the last century, dominated by intellectuals, the Latin American movement consisted mainly of middle-class and poor women who sought to fulfill their basic rights, fighting against structural and institutionalised forms of inequality and poverty. The literature on domestic violence in the region is closely connected to the issue of poverty and a lack of full ‘citizenship’ for women, notably indigenous women (Frías 2008, CEPAL 2014; Rioseco Ortega 2005). As a consequence, both the literature and the activist politics of the feminists dealing with violence in Latin America is closely related to the political and economic conditions of women´s lives, and strongly embedded in larger discussions about structural inequalities between men and women as the main cause of violence against women. These debates were appropriated by international organizations whose discourse about discrimination against women was firmly articulated with broader issues of poverty, exclusion and violence against women. 

In 1992, the Committee of the CEDAW adopted General Recommendation 19, which defines gender-based violence as violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or that affects women disproportionately, and declares it to be “a form of discrimination against women that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men”. 

During the 1980s the inequalities between men and women have provided the broader framework for thinking about violence against women and putting the issue on the public agenda, and this is reflected in the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979.

After the end of the dictatorships and the return of democracy in many of the Latin American countries in the beginning of the 1990s, new governments became committed to undertake reforms which formally acknowledged political liberties and human rights, and this in turn led to legislative reforms in the field of domestic violence (Carosio 2014). Supported by the international community’s focus on the rights of women, feminist movements all over the world started to call upon the state’s responsibility to fulfill human rights, especially to socially excluded groups, which included many women. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (Vienna 1993), the International Conference on Population and Development5 (Cairo 1994), and the Fourth World Conference of Women (Beijing, 1995) represent milestones for feminist groups all over the world. They provided the framework necessary to turn principles into concrete instruments with which to push the governments to put an end to discrimination against women. These important discussions also paved the way for an international political consensus on states’ obligations to prevent, punish and eradicate every form of violence against women, including those which occur in armed conflicts, other public spaces but also those occurring in private spaces (Sullivan 1994).

The new legitimacy of human rights at the international level, the end of dictatorships and authoritarian political regimes in many countries of Latin America, and the renewal of political and economic liberalism, began to frame the debate in terms of human rights for women. Falquet sustains that “these institutions [international institutions], led by the United Nations organisations, provided moral legitimacy to the women´s and feminist movements, under the ‘consensual” development flag’ (2008: 49) of liberal globalisation. 

Since neoliberal politics imply reduced state intervention, in effect the substitution of the welfare state for a minimal state based on decentralization and population targeting instead of universalization and centralization, public action to tackle violence against women as a specific vulnerable group fits well this view of what the state should do, as García Otero shows for Colombia (2012). 

For the Latin America region, there is no study of the relationship between the neoliberal state and the policy of criminalisation of domestic violence, but the judicialisation of politics has been described and analysed by several authors (Sieder, Schjolden, Angell, 2011) as an extensive phenomenon since the 1990s. For the USA, Wacquant argues that at the end of the 20th century, “the neoliberal state strengthened and redistributed its surveillance, judicial and prison system to stop disorders caused by the diffusion of social insecurity based on class, and to stage an ostentatious discourse of of ‘law-and-order’ to confirm the authority of a government that seeks legitimacy for having dismissed its obligations of social and economic protection” (2014: 190). 

What is important here is that although violence against women is conceived as a social problem from the feminist point of view, and is referred to as such in the different international, regional and even national normative instruments, making a social problem something that can be resolved by legal means is only a partial and incomplete answer, since a problem that is social is reduced to a problem that is individual, a matter of individual rights to be defended, and no longer a broader question of social justice or social welfare. 

In 1994, the adoption of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belem Do Para Convention) by a large majority of Latin American states, and subsequent legislative reforms, shows that the focus is no longer on equality issues, which would imply more comprehensive social policies and measures, but only on gender-based violence against women in the context of a liberal and individualistic approach centred on human rights. Moreover, these new legal reforms rely largely on the judiciary or the police, who are less sympathetic to victims’ claims even if they are responsible for providing assistance to abused women (Fries 2008). The Inter-American Court found that the investigations made for the Cotton Field Case “were prejudiced by gender-based stereotyping to the extent that public officials adopted stereotypical attitudes and blamed the victims themselves, as well as their relatives, for their fate”.6 Instead of protecting and guaranteeing women’s rights, gender bias in institutions re-victimize women through institutional violence which in the end represents the main obstacle for women to get access to justice (Lagarde y de los Ríos, 2005; Inter American Commission on Human Rights 2011; Tiroch, 2010).
Leer más...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Domestic violence, gender violence and human rights in Latin America

In Mexico, the leading statistical resource to measure domestic violence, the National Survey on the Dynamics of Household Relationships (ENDIREH) indicates that in 2011, 47 out of 100 women had suffered some kind of violence in the household. This could either include emotional violence (43.1%), economic violence (24.5%), physical violence (14.0%) or sexual violence (7.3%). In Ecuador and Uruguay, two other countries that conducted similar large-scale surveys, 48.7% and 45.4% of all women respectively had suffered from violence from their partner or ex-partner. A dominant trend in the three countries is the predominance of emotional violence. 

Even if countries monitor the prevalence of domestic violence, the adoption of different methodologies which try to include of a variety of socio-cultural elements as well as different definitions of violence makes the precise measurement of this phenomenon, and therefore its comparability, difficult (Alméras 2004; Castro y Casique, 2012). As Castro says, even if surveys consider violence against women as a social phenomenon, and not just an individual issue experienced by some women, it is difficult to link independent variables (socio-demographic conditions, gender roles and household dynamics, among others) with dependent variables (that measure violence more directly). It is also difficult to separate out the category “violence against women from the intimate partner” from the more general category “violence against women”. The tendency is to return to more individual explanations of violence, due to the specific characteristics of women and their partner at given moments of their lives, and this misses the possibility of explaining violence as more of a social phenomenon, with dynamics and expressions which may change depending on individual characteristics but which share factors that are common to all (2012: 18). 

A first issue when studying violence against women is the scope of the very concept of violence. Is domestic violence the same as family violence? What is the relationship between domestic violence and gender violence? 

Structural violence against women looks at how the entire social order contributes to the oppression of women, and how this dynamic is constantly reproduced over time. The structural nature of violence is also systemic: women are at a disadvantage in terms of the material conditions of life, but are also at a disadvantage in the wider arenas of ideology, norms, traditions, language, religion, science, philosophy, how humour and eroticism are expressed, indeed in all forms of knowledge and expression that exist in a society. Understood in this way, structural violence against women refers to the domination of women in every spheres of social life and is at the origin of all the diverse forms of violence, including physical, sexual, emotional and patriarchal violence. But such an inclusive concept of violence presents difficulties. Where does masculine domination end and violence as such begin? Is it possible to identify the point where mistreatment turns into abuse? When should abuse be called violence?

 The majority of the legal definitions of violence refer to harm that is caused, contrary to the health definition of violence that is much broader and refers to the intention, independently of the result. In most legal definitions, then, harm is considered independently of sex or gender. Women, as well as children and husbands or men can be the victims of violence. The General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free from Violence, in its article 6 on psychological, physical and sexual violence, is specific on violence against women. For example, it defines psychological violence as “[...] any action or omission that harms the psychological integrity [of women], and that consists of: negligence, abandonment, repeated carelessness, jealousy, insults, humiliations, slights, marginalisation, indifference, infidelity, destructive comparisons, rejection, restriction to autonomy, and threats, which imply for the victim depression, isolation, low self- esteem, and even suicide”. 

Although these definitions of the different types of violence are included in a law that aims to eradicate and sanction violence against women, they can apply as well to children and men since the harm caused does not, ultimately, depend on the sex or gender of the victim. The violence referred to in these definitions in the law is not therefore gender based violence in the sense that these are not forms of violence whose causes are embedded in the sexual or gender identity of the victim.

These questions regarding the definition of violence, as well as what precisely constitutes gender violence and violence against women, are very polemical in the different studies. On the one hand, the family violence approach argues that intimate partner violence must be studied in the broader framework of the other forms of violence that exist inside the family, and it identifies potential aggressors and victims, independently of gender, as equal. The approach, developed in the 1970s to study domestic violence in the US, supports the theory that violence is transmitted from generation to generation. It hangs on the idea that there is a kind of gender “reciprocity” in intimate partner violence, in other words that violence is exercised by men on women but also by women on men. This view clashes with the feminist focus on violence against women. From the feminist point of view, intimate partner violence against women must be studied as a phenomenon related Photo 2: Fist Credit: Marcos Guevara to other forms of violence against women, such as the violence they suffer in the streets, at work, at school, and in their affective relations. It is not something that can be put into the same bag as other forms of family violence. 

This very interesting debate on intimate partner violence against women has been systematised by Anderson (1997) who shows that these approaches are not incompatible nor mutually exclusive, but that they do clearly reflect different agendas. One seeks to identify the determinants of all forms of family violence as the basis for formulating policies and programmes to eradicate it, whereas the other focuses on violence against women as if it were a stand-alone problem.

 But is violence against women the same as gender violence? Are they synonymous concepts or are they different? The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) states that “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life (UN, 1993). 

This definition focuses on women as victims, but some studies (Ward, 2002; 2004) show that gender based violence can be directed to men. The change here consists in focusing on the purpose of the violence and not on the sex of the victims. Gender violence is a form of violence exercised on the basis of culturally conditioned differentiations between men and women which it aims to strengthen restore or impose. In theory, such violence can be exercised both by men and women, and victims can also be both men and women. Therefore, in this line of reasoning, not all violence against women is necessarily gender based violence, even if it comes from their intimate partner. Johnson (1995) further proposed that we should differentiate between situational violence and patriarchal terrorism, depending on whether the intention to control women in traditional gender roles is explicit or not. 

These theoretical discussions are still open and important to keep in mind since they influence, explicitly or not, the type of methodologies used to investigate violence against women, and especially how surveys and other studies are conducted to measure and analyse intimate partner violence. They also influence the way domestic violence is discussed in public arenas as a policy issue, at international as well as national levels

Leer más...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Beyond Domestic Violence Laws in Latin America: Challenges for Protection Services for Survivors

The feminist and human rights movements in the Latin America Region have made public the discussion of violence against women as a social and multifaceted problem embedded in the private, public and collective spheres. Violence against women perpetuates gender gaps, highlighting the vulnerable situation of exclusion women face. In response, Latin American countries have put in place a variety of legislative and institutional mechanisms inspired by the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belem Do Para Convention), the first binding regional treaty that proposes a liberal and individualistic approach to dealing with violence against women, and establishes a variety of measures that states should adopt to prevent, protect and sanction this phenomenon. 

Despite these legalistic advances, responses to address domestic violence vary among the countries. A review of the literature finds that the influence of the neoliberal agenda, which focuses on population targeting in contrast to the universal Welfare State approach, has had a strong influence on policy responses in several of the countries. The issue is no longer one of social justice in a broad sense, but one reduced to the application of a discrete legal instrument which defines violence against women as an individual abuse of human rights. Criminalization and mediation strategies seem to be the two most common approaches to address domestic violence. These reflect a tendency to individualize a societal problem, thus limiting the space for a proper gender analysis of the issue.

 In this context of limited participation of the state in the public arena, a different trend however emerged in the late 2000s with a second wave of reforms that enacted comprehensive laws acknowledging different forms of violence against women, including domestic violence. Mechanisms to prevent, protect and sanction domestic violence were created. Mexico´s General Law on Women’s Access to Free Life (2007), for example, is a legal instrument unique in Latin America in its emphasis on strong inter-institutional coordination. Moreover, the law proposes a protection model for survivors of domestic violence which is presented as an integral part of the law´s strategy to tackle domestic violence. This legislation is implemented through a network of non-profit shelters, supported by public funds, as well as shelters run by the state. 

This study uses a series of in-depth interviews with survivors of domestic violence living in a Mexico City shelter, as well as with its staff, to analyse how survivors experience protection services. Although it only covers one shelter and thus constitutes only a partial analysis, it represents an innovative effort to understand a protection model from the perspective of the survivors. We look at the trajectory of survivors from the moment they decided to seek help from the institutions, to the period at the shelter itself, and finally the period after which they have left the shelter. We find that the public services have various deficiencies in terms of how their design is translated into practice. Indeed we find crucial failures in state institutions that have adopted the protection model, often resulting in a further victimization of survivors of domestic violence. Effective access to health services is still plagued by racism, misogyny, as well as the authoritarian habits of the medical staff (Herrera, 2013). Strategies to sensitize staff on gender and human rights, including women´s right to live free from violence, should be protected and guaranteed and integrated in protection (shelter) services. Attention to survivors of domestic violence should be removed from the criminal justice system, since it would appear to victimize women who are looking for help and does not respond to their protection needs. A creative effort should be made to come up with an institutional set up that genuinely decriminalises attention to survivors. Shelters should be thought of in a more flexible manner so that they could be more open to the outside and not demand that women suspend their lives, nor that of their sons and daughters, during their stay at the shelter. These spaces should also come up with creative ways to work with the community in order to promote a culture of prevention of violence against the women.

Leer más...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hansa Mehta

Hansa Jivraj Mehta (1897-1995) was a reformist, social activist, educator, independence activist, and writer from India. She has written many children's books in Gujarati and also translated many English stories, Gulliver's Travels being one example among others. She was a Nagar Brahmin by birth and daughter of Manubhai Mehta. She married Jivraj Narayan Mehta, an eminent physician and administrator. She organized picketing of shops selling foreign clothes, liquor and participated in other freedom movement activities as per the advice of Mahatma Gandhi. She was even arrested and sent to jail by the British.

She was elected to Bombay Schools Committee in 1926 and became President of All India Women's Conference in 1945-46. In her Presidential address at the All-India Women`s Conference convention held in Hyderabad, she proposed a Charter of Women`s Rights. She held different posts in India from 1945-1960 being the Vice-Chancellor of SNDT Women's University, member of All India Secondary Board of Education, President of Inter University Board of India and Vice-Chancellor of Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda among others.

UN Activities
She represented India on the Nuclear Sub-Committee on the status of women in 1946. As the Indian delegate on the UN Human Rights Commission in 1947-48, she was responsible for changing the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from "all men are created equal" (Eleanor Roosevelt’s preferred phrase) to all human beings,[3] highlighting the need for gender equality .She later went on to become the vice chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in 1950. She was also a member of the Executive Board of UNESCO.

She was given the Padma Bhushan in 1959.
Leer más...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Romania, labour market gender

As for Romania, the overall female employment rate decreased by 453,500 units (10.8%) in the reporting period. This trend affected all economic sectors but has been particularly relevant for: mining and quarrying (40%); construction (36.6%); electricity and gas (26.5%); manufacturing (24.5%); and education (27.1%). On the whole, male employment was less affected than the female one; the male employment rate decreased by 7.1%, with the most critical situation concerning the following sectors: agriculture and forestry sector (34%); electricity and gas (27.1%); mining and quarrying (24.3%); and healthcare and social services (22.1%). Female jobs have been seriously affected particularly in male-dominated sectors: this trend caused a serious increase in gender segregation.

 Regarding childcare, 6% of children under three years were covered by formal childcare services in 2013. The total coverage for children between three years and compulsory school age was 51% in 2013, while the coverage of formal childcare services for children from compulsory school age up to 12 years was 88% in 2013. 

As for the GEI, Romania has always shown a poor performance in gender equality: the score further decreased between 2005–2010 and 2010–2012 when the GEI score was 33.7. As for the Sub-index Work, the Romanian score is closer to the EU average even though the score dropped by 3.7 points in the reporting period (from 65.3 in 2005 to 61.6 in 2012). The downward trend was more relevant between 2005 and 2010 mainly due to the decrease in the gender segregation component of the Sub-index Work (-4.9 points). 

Leer más...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Poland, labour market gender

As for Poland, in terms of the impact of the crisis on the labour market, employment rates increased both for women (52.2% in 2005 and 53.2% in 2012) and men (66.1% in 2005 and 66.4% in 2012). Unemployment rates increased as well both for women (2.9%) and for men (2.7%): this led to an increase in the gender unemployment gap, which reached 1.6% (9.4% for men and 11% for women). The financial and economic crisis has affected job quality as well since the number of temporary and part-time contracts increased both for men and for women between 2008 and 2013. Moreover, the Polish anti-crisis measures package has produced an increase in measures favourable for employers without implementing measures targeted at easing the effects of the crisis on employees.

 In Poland, the economic sectors with the highest feminisation rates are: activities of households as employers (94%); human health and social work activities (81%); and education (78%). In the reporting period, the feminisation rate remained quite stable except for the service activities sector, whose feminisation rate increased by 4% (from 60.8% in 2005 to 64.7% in 2012), and in the real estate sector, whose feminisation rate decreased by 6% (from 59% in 2005 to 53% in 2012). Regarding childcare: the total coverage of formal childcare services for children under three years of age was 5% in 2013; the total coverage rate for children between three years to compulsory school age stood at 38% in 2013; for children from compulsory school age up to 12 years, the total coverage was 95% in 2013.

 As for the GEI, Poland’s score increased by one point in the reporting period (from 43.7 in 2005 to 42.7 in 2012): the overall score is far below the EU average, though. The score of the Sub-index Work decreased by three points (from 58.5 in 2005 to 55.5 in 2012): more specifically, the sub-component of participation increased by 3.3 points (from 67.8 in 2005 to 71.1 in 2012); the sub-components of segregation and quality of work decreased dramatically by 7.2 points. These data suggest that, while female participation in employment increased in the reporting period, the quality of women’s jobs worsened and job market segregation deepened. 

Leer más...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ireland, labour market gender

As for Ireland, data reveal that the impact of the economic and financial crisis on the unemployment rate has had a gender dimension: male-dominated economic sectors – such as agriculture, manufacturing, and construction activities – have suffered the most from the increasing unemployment rate, whereas female-dominated sectors – such as the public sector and health and education activities – have been sheltered from the recession at least in terms of layoffs (the female unemployment increased by 94% between 2008 and 2014). For this reason, the gender gap between employment rates for men and women has narrowed but with an overall levelling down due to the dramatic increase in male unemployment (127% increase between 2008 and 2014) rather than to the improvement in female employment rate. The differentiated impact of the crisis by sectors, mirrored in a reduction of the overall gender segregation rate by sector. Feminisation rates of single sectors over the considered period present a relevant decrease in the real estate activities (the feminisation rate was 55% in 2008, 48.2% in 2013, and 38.8% in 2014). 

Irish female workers are not provided with the necessary childcare facilities as Ireland has been estimated to spend less than half the OECD41 average on early childhood care and education; affordable childcare services are very difficult to access and, since Ireland has amongst the highest childcare costs in all OECD countries, this contributes to creating a relevant disincentive to work, especially for single parents. Consequently, family-based care is the most common form of childcare with less than 20% of children aged two in formal childcare settings in 2014. For low-income families, childcare can cost up to 40% of the total income; families with two children pay on average 24% of their income, which is double than the EU average cost. The Irish Government has implemented some measures in order to guarantee access to childcare services: the dominant form of support is the universal child benefit payment, which has been cut though from EUR 160 per minor to EUR 130 per minor over 2009–2013 and then increased up to EUR 140 in 2014–2015. A second contribution consists of a EUR 1,000 cash payment for 0–5 year-old children to accommodate parental care choices: this contribution as well was cut in 2009, abolished in 2010, and replaced with a free pre-school year. Nonetheless, an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme was introduced and in 2015 extended to a second year. The Government has announced that a new single affordable childcare programme would be introduced in 2017, reinforcing other existing affordable childcare schemes destined to low income mothers or community-based programmes. 

As for the GEI, the trend has shown a steady upward trajectory between 2005 and 2012; the sub-domain of work in particular reported a 10-point improvement between 2005 and 2010, enduring afterwards a slight decrease due to the general impact of the crisis on employment.

Leer más...

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Finland, labour market gender

As for Finland, the labour market composition shows a high degree of gender segregation by occupation and sector: 48% of female employees work in the public sector where men represent only 21% of the employees. Female employment has suffered from the economic crisis much less than male employment: the number of employed women decreased by 23,000 units between 2008 and 2014, whereas the number of employed men decreased by 61,000 units in the same period. Since the male employment rate decreased by 3.1 points (from 72.3% in 2008 to 69.2% in 2014), but the female employment rate only by 1.1 points (from 68.9% in 2008 to 67.9% in 2014), the narrow gender employment gap has further diminished. Most of the lost jobs were in the male-dominated sector of manufacturing (-85,800 units) and, at the same time, the employment rate clearly increased in the female-dominated sectors of education (11,900 more jobs) and in human health and social work activities (15,300 more jobs). For this reason, nearly half of the employed population is represented by women, whose labour participation increased between 2008 and 2014 by 7.7 points, reaching 48.8%, due to the relevant layoffs in maledominated sectors. Interestingly, the number of men employed in human health and social work activities increased much more than the number of women from 2008 to 2014. At the same time, the share of women employed increased in the following sectors: construction (0.7 points, 7.9%); wholesale and retail trade (+0.2 points, 50.4%); real estate activities (5.5 points, 48.1%); education (0.9 points, 67.8%); arts, entertainment, and recreation (1.4 points, 52.6%); other service activities (1.3 points, 70.5%); and activities of households as employers (14.1 points, 63.5%). Women’s participation in maledominated sectors by contrast slightly decreased, and so did it in some femaledominated sectors such as social work activities (from 89.35% in 2008 to 86.7% in 2014), accommodation and food service activities (from 74% in 2008 to 69% in 2013), and financial and insurance activities (from 66.2% in 2008 to 60.8% in 2014). Finnish mothers still are the main beneficiaries of family leaves and the subjects in charge of household chores. Men are getting more active though. 

According to national sources, 63% of children aged 1 to 6 years were in formal day care in 2013. In 2008, 35% of female employees as against 27% in 2013 reported that they do much more home chores than their husband; 23% of male employees in 2008, as against 19% in 2013, reported that their wife does much more home chores than themselves. 

As for the GEI, Finland scored the second highest in the total GEI in 2005, 2010, and 2012, and the value constantly increased. In the sub-domain of work, Finland scores the fourth-best result; the value considerably increased from 2005 to 2010 and then slightly decreased, being still much higher (by 5.3 points) in 2012 than 2005. This is mainly due to the remarkably progress in the sub-components of segregation and quality of work.

Leer más...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Spain, labour market gender

As for Spain, the financial and economic crisis originated from the construction sector due to the enormous ‘real estate bubble’ consequent to economic policy measures implemented in the years preceding the crisis outburst. In fact, between 2008 and 2010, 46% of the job layoffs concerned the construction sector; 33% were registered in the manufacturing sector, and 16% in wholesale and retail trade: all of these economic sectors are considered to be male-dominated. For this reason, 79% of total job losses were absorbed by men between 2008 and 2010. Afterwards, as the financial crisis continued to propagate between 2011 and 2013, other economic sectors were compromised as were female jobs, which absorbed 34% of the layoffs. As for traditionally female-dominated activities – i.e. education and human health and social work activities – these experienced an employment rate growth between 2008 and 2010 (4% and 8.6%, respectively) but endured the impact of the crisis between 2011 and 2014 (-4.5% and -3.1%, respectively). 

As for labour gender segregation, it diminished between 2007 and 2010 as a consequence of employment evolution in the sectors of construction, public services, social services, and other services, which represent the explanatory factor of 68% of total segregation. 

Formal childcare total coverage is at acceptable levels if compared to Barcelona Targets but it has slightly decreased for children up to the compulsory school age: by 4 p.p. for children aged 0-2, reaching 35%, between 2011 and 2013; by 2 p.p. among children aged 3-6 between 2012 and 2013. Furthermore, for children between 6 and 12 years old, there is a decreasing trend from 100% in 2011 to 97% in 2012. 

The total GEI improved between 2005 and 2010 (from 48.7 to 53.7) and slightly declined afterwards (53.6). Eventually, considering the Sub-index Work, it can be reported that it improved substantially between 2005 and 2010 (5.9 points) and further increased until 2012, although only by one point (reaching a 51.1 score). The segregation sub-index of the Sub-index Work experienced a relevant evolution from 20.5% in 2005 to 22.6% in 2010, reaching 23.6% in 2012. This seems to be related more to the impact of the crisis on maledominated sectors.

Leer más...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Greece, labour market gender

As for Greece, between 2008 and 2013, the employment rate dramatically decreased by 26.7%; unemployment increased by 15 points both for women and men. In 2014 the male employment rate for the age group 20–64 (62.6% in 2014) remained almost at the level of 2013 (62.7%) while unemployment rates showed a (timid) decline since the onset of the crisis (the female unemployment rate for the age group 15–74 decreased from 31.4% in 2013 to 30.2% in 2014, and the respective male rate moved from 24.5% to 23.7%). This trend caused a differentiated impact as men tended to move out of the labour market while women intensified their efforts to obtain a job. It should be noted that women are not supported in their efforts to participate in employment by formal childcare services. The coverage rate of children by formal childcare services in Greece is low when compared to the EU-28 average. In 2013, only 14% of children under 3 years of age and 69% of children aged 3-6 years attended formal childcare services (against 27% and 82%, respectively, in the EU-28 on average). The rate had increased only marginally from 2011 to 2012 for both 0-3 year-olds and 3-6 year-olds but decreased quite strongly in 2013.

 Female participation in female-dominated economic sectors remained substantially stable in the reporting period: activities of households as employers (-1%); professional, scientific, and technological activities (-0.6%); human health and social work activities (- 0.4%); and other services (-1.7%). In education and financial and insurance activities, female participation significantly increased, respectively by 1.7% and 4.2%. On the whole, women in 2014 represented a greater part of total employees, increasing their share both in sectors where they were underrepresented (manufacturing, construction, water supply, transportation, and storage) and in female-dominated sectors (such as education and financial and insurance activities). 
In gender equality terms, what the experts report is that, during recession and crisis period, the gender gap declined but the increasing trend of gender equality arrested if not reversed. As for the GEI, its score improved slightly between 2005 and 2010 and worsened afterwards due to the severe decrease in achievements, even though there have been significant improvements in the reduction of gender gaps. The Sub-index Work score recorded a significant decrease, by far the deepest among EU-28 countries40 

Leer más...

Friday, August 5, 2016

Germany, labour market gender

As for Germany, the economic and financial crisis does not seem to have caused a serious impact on employment and unemployment rates39 . This trend has characterised both men’s and women’s employment. In particular, in 2013, women’s employment rate was 72.3% (men’s rate was 81.9%); female employment rate increased from 67.8% in 2008 to 72.3% in 2013 (men’s rate increased from 80.1% to 81.5%); in 2014, the employment rate for women (20–64) was 73.1%, 0.6 p.p. higher than in 2013, but still below men’s employment rate (82.3% in 2014, up 0.2 p.p. from 2013). Women’s unemployment rate decreased from 7.7% in 2008 to 5.0% in 2013 (men’s rate decreased from 7.4% to 5.6%); in 2014, the unemployment rate (15–74) was 4.6% for women and 5.3% for men. Both rates saw a slight decrease compared to 2013 when it was 4.9% for women and 5.5% for men. From a qualitative point of view, women work part time much more often than men do: in 2013, the part-time rate for women was 47.3% compared to 10.6% among men; the share of part-time workers among women in 2014 was 47% (down 0.3 p.p. from 2013), compared to 10.8% among men (up 0.2 p.p. from 2013). This fact is due to the low level of childcare services, especially for children younger than three years: in 2013, formal childcare for children under three years had a total coverage of 28% of all children compared to a coverage of 13.6% in 2006. 

As for the sectoral composition of female work, the increase in women’s employment between 2008 and 2013 is mainly due to the increase of female employees in the following sectors: electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; and education and professional, scientific, and technical activities. In traditionally male-dominated sectors – such as mining and quarrying or construction – the share of female employees is very low, while some sectors – such as education, human health, and social work activities – still are strongly feminised (female employment being respectively at 70% and 77%). These figures show that gender segregation by sector is still far from being overcome in the country. 

As for the GEI, in 2012 Germany scored 55.3, ranking 10 among EU Member States. This score is significantly higher than those registered in 2005 (49.7) and 2010 (49.9), highlighting a reduction in gender gaps. As for the Sub-index Work, it is even higher than the general GEI, scoring 62.2 in 2012; the participation score was very high as well with a 75.9 score in 2012. Nonetheless, the segregation score was much lower (51.0 in 2012), reflecting the high level of labour market segregation and the higher part-time work rate among women rather than among men. 

39 On the whole, the overall number of employees has increased between 2008 and 2013 by nearly one million (from 38,541,500 in 2008 to 39,531,400 in 2013); the total employment rate consequently increased from 74% in 2008 to 77.1% in 2013; moreover, the unemployment rate decreased from 7.5% in 2008 to 5.3% in 2013.
Leer más...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pakistan – Curb Violence Against Women

A Written Submission to the 32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) would like to draw the UN Human Rights Council’s attention to the rise in violence against women in Pakistan. According to a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women after Afghanistan and Congo. The poll report has cited cultural, tribal, and religious practices that are harmful to women in Pakistan, as well as acid attacks, child and forced marriage, and punishment or retribution by stoning or other physical abuse as reasons for the ranking. The Report also states that 90% of women in Pakistan face domestic violence. Though the country is witnessing a surge in legislation meant to uplift the social and economic state of women, mere promulgation of law is not enough. In a country where the literacy rate is dismal as per UNESCO’s Report titled “E-Atlas of Gender Inequality in Education”, almost 16 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 are currently out of school, expecting the status of women to be elevated just by promulgation of law is wishful thinking.

2. The persistence of violence against women in Pakistan reveals the failure of the criminal justice system and the judicial system itself, which do not have capacity to deal with crimes against women. Some laws for the protection of women have been promulgated, but the public justice system is affected by a strong feudal system, religious and social taboos, traditions, customs, a homogeneous religious society, a vast gender gap, and a primitive policing system, as well as sexual discrimination in economic and social activities. Thus gender violence crimes, for instance (dis)honor killing crimes generally go unreported.

3. The Judiciary is predominated by male judges and Pakistan does not even have one percent female judges. This is also a major factor of violence against women. Virtually no perpetrator of violence against women or those holding illegal judicial system of Jirga have been punished by the Judiciary, on charges of honour killing, or violence against women. Mostly, the Judiciary takes shelter behind Islamic laws or traditions for the protection of perpetrators. The existence of Sharia courts seems to be for only this purpose.

4. The women from religious minority groups (other than Muslims) are the biggest victims of State sponsored violence, and where the State remains a silent spectator when Muslim extremists force the girls to convert to Islam, abduct, gang rape and parade them naked. The Judiciary is always looking for evidence which in almost all cases the prosecution fails to provide in fear of backlash from the extremists.

5. Domestic violence is rampant throughout the world. In Pakistan, however, female victims of such violence are left without reprieve, as they have to suffer the dogma of being labelled loose women if they decide to stand up to their abusers, who are usually male family members. According to a survey of ‘Aware Girls’, some 90% of the women face domestic violence but most of the perpetrators enjoy impunity. The finding suggests that men tend to use of domestic violence for compliance of gender roles expected from women, and upon the failure to fulfil these roles, the society accepts violence against women. So domestic violence is used as a tool to push women in gender boxes.

6. Very recently (28 April 2016), a brother mercilessly stabbed his 17-year-old sister to death in the name of so-called honor, in Karachi. The video of this cold-blooded murder on social media shows girl continuing to beseech the brother for her life but he let her bled to death right in front of a male crowd. In another recent dreadful incident (5 May 2016) of honor killing in a village near Abbottabad (KPK), the local Jirga (council of elders) ordered a 16-year girl to be burnt to death. The only fault young Amber committed was to help her friend elope with her lover.

7. Such level of violence against women in the name of customs and culture is nothing but barbarity. And it can’t be stopped unless the cruel patriarchal mindset is not changed. For the prevailing mindset, a woman’s body is nothing but a symbol of “honor” in society. This very concept encourages the (dis)honor killing under which the man feels it a duty to “kill” his wife, daughter, sister, or mother if she crosses “the line” and brings ‘shame’ to the family’s name, by exercising her right to marry.

8. Such level of violence against women in the name of customs and culture is nothing but barbarity. And it can’t be stopped unless the cruel patriarchal mindset is not changed. For the prevailing mindset, a woman’s body is nothing but a symbol of ‘honor; in the society. This very concept encourages the honor killing under which the man feels it a duty to ‘kill’ his wife, daughter, sister, or mother if she crosses “the line” and brings ‘shame’ to the family’s name, by exercising her right to marry.

9. Last but not least, there are chances that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and the religious clergy would be building more pressure in future to oppose the Anti-honor Killing Amendment Bill, the Anti-Rape Amendment Bill, presented in joint parliamentary session in March 2016 and as well as the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act.

10. More than 7,010 cases of violence against women have been reported in the year 2015. Pakistan’s performance in terms of the Gender Inequality Index (GII) is also one of the worst in the world.

11. The Protection of women against violence Act (PPWA) was passed in the two major provinces, Sindh and Balochistan. It provides rehabilitation and justice for women that are victim to domestic abuse, emotional or psychological violence, verbal abuse, stalking, and cybercrime. The law has attracted the ire of the orthodox clerics who have termed the Act to be against the injunctions of Islam and have vowed to use all mediums to oppose the Act. The government is also facing unfettered criticism from religious political parties who are terming the Act to be against the injunctions of Islam.

12. According to the statistics of violence against women contained in a report, by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights to the Parliament, there were 860 “honor” killings (mostly women), 481 incidents of domestic violence 90 cases of acid burning, 344 cases of rape/gang rape, and 268 incidents of sexual assault/harassment. And this is just the official toll. Less than half of the abuse is reported in Pakistan.

13. A rape occurs every two hours. Going by the statistics, each day 12 women suffer rape in the “land of the pure. Rape is the most common form of custodial torture against accused women. Law enforcement officials also force the accused to confess to a crime by raping his female relative in front of him, i.e. rape is used as a means of torture. It is not simply a matter of blaming a proportion of perverts in a society, when State functionaries are themselves indulging in rape with abandon.

14. A woman in Pakistan can also be punished with rape if she refuses to stop administering polio drops. There is a common misconception amongst the people from tribal areas – for instance in Khyber Agency – that polio drops are a conspiracy of the West to make their children impotent. On 5 January 2016 the AHRC reported on the gang rape of a lady health worker by police personnel who tried to pass themselves off as Frontier Corp personnel. The woman, a mother of five, was gang raped in front of her children and husband when she refused to stop administering polio drops to young children. As the chief culprit is well placed and influential, the police refused to register the victim’s first information report (FIR), and later, upon pressure from different quarters, registered a faulty FIR, which seeks to link her husband with drug possession. The woman has been running from pillar to post seeking justice, but has so far been unsuccessful.

15. The ALRC, through its sister concern, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), has been documenting several cases of violence against women by Jirgas, the parallel and illegal judicial system, in the name of customs and traditions. For instance, on 6 April 2016, the AHRC reported on the case of a 14-year-old girl from Umerkot District of Sindh Province who was gang raped by influential persons from a political party, the matter was settled with compensation of 1,200 kilograms of wheat through the illegal jirga system. The girl’s father says he had no choice but to accept the compensation, as the rapists were influential persons and he is simply a peasant. Following media attention, one of the perpetrators was arrested, while the other remains at large. The police have also taken no action against those conducting the illegal jirga. The girl’s family is living in fear from threats by influential persons.

16. In the light of the above, the ALRC appeals the Human Rights Council to urge the Pakistani government to:

a. To overhaul the criminal justice system particularly in context of providing justice to the survivals or family members of victims of violence against women including the victims of honour killings and Jirgas.

b. To increase the female judges, particularly in higher Judiciary, at least 30 percent of the total number of judges are needed immediately.

c. To abolish the Islamic Ideology Council and Shariah courts which have been remained as the strong hand against the women.

d. To increase the reserved seats for women at every tier of the governance up to 30 percent of the total numbers of seats.

e. Investigate and punish the perpetrators of honor killings. It is absolutely vital that even if the family pardons their brother, father, son, for the murder of the victim, the case must prosecute the culprit nevertheless. Under Pakistani law an accused of honor killing can get away with murder of his female relative because the family pardons him under Qisas and Diyat law.

f. Implement in earnest the women friendly laws promulgated to protect the rights and interests of the women of Pakistan.
Statement to the UN

Leer más...

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Remedies in instances in which the right to sexual and reproductive health is violated 16/16

64. States must ensure that all individuals have access to justice and to meaningful and effective remedy in instances in which the right to sexual and reproductive health is violated. Remedies include, but are not limited to, adequate, effective and prompt reparation in the form of restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition, as appropriate. The effective exercise of the right to remedy requires funding access to justice and information about the existence of these remedies. It is also important that the right to sexual and reproductive health be enshrined in laws and policies and be fully justiciable at the national level, and that judges, prosecutors and lawyers be made aware of that such a right can be enforced. When third parties contravene the right to sexual and reproductive health, States must ensure that such violations are investigated and prosecuted, and that the perpetrators are held accountable, while the victims of such violations are provided with remedies.
Leer más...