Sunday, July 27, 2014

Where Are the Afghan Women?

Declaration: Where Are the Afghan Women?

Afghan Women are concerned of their present status in the current political process in the country!

Kabul, Afghanistan - 23 July 2014 - The continuation of controversies and disputes over the second round of the Presidential Elections process in Afghanistan and news and analysis being published the opinions raised, in one hand has harmed the democratic elections process as well as it has increased many serious concerns among citizens of Afghanistan, especially women, regarding political games and decisions behind closed doors.
Afghan Women’s Network, its 117 member organizations and more than 3000 individual members has had visible contribution and accomplishments in awareness, mobilization and political participation of women during the last three election terms, Loya Jirga’s, Consultation Jirga’s. Looking into recent disagreements and conflicts over the 2014 Presidential Elections, AWN would like to emphasize on protecting the decades gains of women’s role in development and their political participation. Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) declares its position on the latest controversies in Elections as following:

* Afghan Women’s Network calls on the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Independent Election Complaint Commission (IECC) as legitimate authority institutions for conducting the elections process; to proceed the development within the legal frameworks in order to prove a fair, transparent, just and accountable process.

* Afghan women call on both candidates to avoid derailing the democratic process, wait for the final results announcement by IEC and prevent any pre-­‐judgmental statements and political bargaining before the final results.

* We call upon both candidates to respect the votes of Afghan citizens, specifically women, and not to forget women’s role and position throughout the entire political consensus and opinions.

* Afghan Women's Network and its members has been performing tirelessly in order to mobilize and encourage women to vote, which was very clearly observed during both rounds of the election, thus we urge both candidates not to disregard women’s contribution and waste their motive.

* We appreciate the role of media in both rounds of elections; meanwhile, there has been a serious observation about the negative role of certain media channels and outlets that has resulted in discrimination and social disorders.

* We urge for the commitment of all the aspects of public rule and democracy, any deal, which will be against the Afghan Constitution and other national laws shall not be acceptable.

* We very seriously call upon thegovernment, both candidates and all the politicians to respect and keep women’s constitutional rights and keep committed to the implementation.

* We have witnessed a complete disappearance of women from the political discussions that were facilitated by the international community particularly the United States and UNAMA. These discussions were extremely important on how the new Afghan government will set up. It has been once again men led.

* While Afghan women are half of the country’s population where they have equal rights and contribution to the development of the society. Despite huge uncertainty and lack of trust we call on both candidates and the national and international mediators for not forgetting women’s role in all the political, social, cultural and economic spheres.

* We call on all relevant authorities to strongly follow laws, commit to rule of law and democratic process.

* We strongly will stand against any fraud, discrimination and disrespect to law implementation.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Opportunities for women’s access and participation to official peace processe

Women gaining access to official peace processes through international support

In 2000, UNIFEM (now UN Women) convened an ‘All-Party Burundi Women’s Peace Conference’ in Arusha, Tanzania, where women drafted specific recommendations for the peace process. Women’s organisations approached and lobbied the conflict parties and Nelson Mandela – one of the chief mediators – to include women in the peace negotiations. Mandela publicly stated his support for women’s equal participation in the peace negotiations. Furthermore, women’s representatives urged the Ugandan President (who also participated in the peace negotiations) to make their voices heard.
The president received a delegation of 100 women and subsequently asked the former president of Tanzania and other chief mediators to push for the participation of women in Arusha. Consequently, seven women attended the talks. These women were not members of any political party; they were representatives of women’s rights organisations. During Kenya’s post-electoral violence in 2008, the mediator Kofi Annan, Chair of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities, along with his fellow panel member, Graça Machel, facilitated women's access to the negotiations. They encouraged women to draft recommendations for the peace process, which were subsequently presented to the Kenyan National Dialogue and Reconciliation
Committee charged with negotiating the terms of the peace agreement.

Women setting up their own peace fora to get access to the official peace process

When excluded from official peace processes, women can set up their own unofficial peace fora. A striking characteristic of these separate women’s peace platforms is that they work across class, caste and ethnic divides – often playing by and subverting established rules.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Persecution of Witches, 21st Century Style

Bill Bragg 


Most people believe that the persecution of “witches” reached its height in the early 1690s with the trials in Salem, Mass., but it is a grim paradox of 21st-century life that violence against people accused of sorcery is very much still with us. Far from fading away, thanks to digital interconnectedness and economic development, witch hunting has become a growing, global problem.

In recent years, there has been a spate of attacks against people accused of witchcraft in Africa, the Pacific and Latin America, and even among immigrant communities in the United States and Western Europe. Researchers with United Nations refugee and human rights agencies have estimated the murders of supposed witches as numbering in the thousands each year, while beatings and banishments could run into the millions. “This is becoming an international problem — it is a form of persecution and violence that is spreading around the globe,” Jeff Crisp, an official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told a panel in 2009, the last year in which an international body studied the full dimensions of the problem. A report that year from the same agency and a Unicef study in 2010 both found a rise, especially in Africa, of violence and child abuse linked to witchcraft accusations.
More recent media reports suggest a disturbing pattern of mutilation and murder. Last year, a mob in Papua New Guinea burned alive a young mother, Kepari Leniata, 20, who was suspected of sorcery. This highly publicized case followed a series of instances over recent years of lethal group violence against women and men accused of witchcraft.
“These are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country,” said the prime minister, Peter O’Neill. Last year, Papua New Guinea finally repealed a 1971 law that permitted attackers to cite intent to combat witchcraft as a legal defense. But progress is slow. Although the police charged a man and woman in connection with the 2013 killing of Ms. Leniata, no one has faced trial, a fact that drew protest from Amnesty International in February.
One of the ugliest aspects of these crimes is their brutality. Victims are often burned alive, as in Ms. Leniata’s case and a 2012 case in Nepal; or accused women are sometimes beaten to death, as occurred in the Colombian town of Santa Barbara in 2012; or the victims may be stoned or beheaded, as has been reported in Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa.
It is tempting to point to poverty in the developing world, as well as scapegoating, as the chief causes of anti-witch attacks — and such forces are undoubtedly at work. But while Africa and the southwestern Pacific have a long history of economic misery, much of this violence, especially against children, has worsened since 2000. The surge suggests forces other than economic resentment or ancient superstition.
In some communities, it is chiefly young men who take on the role of witch hunters, suggesting that they may see it as a way to earn prestige by cleansing undesirables and enforcing social mores. That many of the self-appointed witch hunters are men highlights another baleful aspect of the phenomenon: The majority of victims are women. The Rev. Jack Urame of the Melanesian Institute, a Papua New Guinean human rights agency, estimates that witchcraft-related violence there is directed 5 to 1 against women, suggesting that witchcraft accusations are used to cloak gender-based violence.
Another factor, particularly in Central Africa and its diaspora communities, is the advent of revivalist churches, in which self-styled pastor-prophets rail against witchery and demon possession. They often claim to specialize in the casting out of evil spirits, sometimes charging for the service. Many of those congregations have emerged from Western evangelizing efforts.
One of Nigeria’s most popular Pentecostal preachers, Helen Ukpabio, wrote that “if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.” As that implies, children in those communities are especially likely to be identified as possessed. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that most of the 25,000 to 50,000 children who live on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, were abandoned by family members who accused them of witchcraft or demonic possession.
The etiology of this epidemic is complex, but human rights observers point to overpopulation, rapid urbanization and the hardship of parents forced to relocate to seek work, as well as the sheer stresses of raising children amid dire poverty. Superstitions are stoked by local “healers,” who charge parents to exorcise evil spirits.
Witch hunting is far from limited, however, to acts of sadistic vigilantism or profiteering. Some legal systems even sanction the killing of accused witches.
In 2011, courts in Saudi Arabia sentenced a man and a woman, in separate cases, to beheading after convictions for sorcery. In 2013, Saudi courts sentenced two Asian housemaids to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison on charges of casting spells against their employers.
A Lebanese television psychic, Ali Hussain Sibat, was arrested in 2008, while on pilgrimage to Medina, by the Saudi religious police for hosting a television show in his native Lebanon, “The Hidden,” where he would make predictions and prescribe love potions and spells. After an outcry by Amnesty International and others, the Saudi courts stayed Mr. Sibat’s execution by beheading, but sentenced him in 2010 to a 15-year prison term.

As in Africa, the wave of anti-witch activity in Saudi Arabia is fairly new. The Saudi religious police devised an Anti-Witchcraft Unit in 2009, resulting in the arrests of 215 alleged “conjurers” in 2012. Some observers attribute this sudden interest in witchery to the royal family’s attempts to appease its religious inquisitors by keeping them busy targeting a handful of vulnerable individuals.
A final motive driving modern witch hunting may be more venal than spiritual: The police in Indonesia, where there were about 100 suspected witch killings in 2000, point to fraud and graft directed against vulnerable women, who, lacking family or community protection, fall prey to banishment or murder on slim pretexts, while their homes and property are seized by their accusers.
Globalization means that paranoia over black magic and spirit possession are no longer confined to developing nations. Mass migration has made this a pervasive problem. In January, a Queens, N.Y., man was arrested for beating to death with a hammer his girlfriend, Estrella Castaneda, 56, and her daughter, Lina Castaneda, 25; Carlos Alberto Amarillo told the police that the women were “witches,” who had been “performing voodoo and casting spells” on him. (Voodoo, more properly known as Vodou, is an authentic Afro-Caribbean faith based in deity worship and ritual, practiced in New York and many American cities. Other belief systems that retain or reinvent ancient nature worship and spell practices sometimes go under the names of Wicca or neo-paganism.)
It has not been confirmed whether the Queens victims had ties to Vodou (neither they nor the suspect were Afro-Caribbean). Accusations like those made by Mr. Amarillo, who is under psychiatric evaluation, often prove unreliable or are misreported in a sensationalist way. But the theme has nonetheless become alarmingly familiar in Western news coverage.
In 2012, The Guardian reported that London police had during the last decade investigated 81 cases of “ritual abuse” of children accused of possession or witchcraft, a phenomenon that British social agencies fear is on the rise, particularly within African immigrant communities. In 2010, a 15-year-old boy, Kristy Bamu, was tortured and killed in East London by his older sister and her boyfriend, both Congolese, who had accused him of sorcery after he wet his bed. In the wake of that case, the British police started to receive special training on witchcraft-related abuse.

Because anti-witch violence is rooted in the belief systems of traditional societies, it would be easy to slip into the fatalistic view that this crisis is a tragic repetition of ancient aggressions. But where local superstitions explode into violence or migrate across a wide range of settings and societies, we can and must act.
Western branches of Pentecostal and charismatic Christian congregations must work closely with the more fervent ministries of their denominations among African and immigrant communities to foster an understanding of how “exorcisms” can spiral into deadly abuse. No African congregation wants to feel dictated to by the West, but there is a place for exchange and cultural pressure. Western ecclesiastical bodies can specifically enact prohibitions against for-profit exorcisms.
Laws should be enacted against accusing children of witchcraft throughout the countries of Africa and the southwestern Pacific, as one Nigerian state has already done. And countries like the Solomon Islands that still criminalize witchcraft should strike down those statutes.
Police indifference to crimes of witch hunting must also be tackled, especially in societies where police officers themselves may share in traditional beliefs about “black magic.” A 2012 British government report on combating faith-based violence against children provides a valuable guide to instructing the police on signs of abuse, asking religious leaders to condemn violence and protecting vulnerable witnesses.
Legal efforts must be paired with increased social awareness. In a promising model, a 2010 Oxfam International report noted that some Catholic parishes in Papua New Guinea have been teaching congregants about the natural causes of death and illness (common triggers for anti-witch paranoia), providing shelter to accused witches and denying the sacraments to those who accuse others of sorcery.
Crucial, too, is that the United Nations and international human rights organizations start compiling yearly statistics on these crimes. We’re severely hampered in understanding the scale of this crisis when our most recent global data are already five years out of date.
Most important, witchcraft-related violence should be branded as hate crimes by international courts and by all jurisdictions where anti-hate statutes exist. This is vital to gaining wider recognition of this criminality and preventing it.

In too many places, the accusation of witchcraft has become an incitement to mob violence. It is time to lay the ghosts of Salem to rest.
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Monday, July 21, 2014

Turkey - Struggle with Femicide as Domestic Violence Increases

July 12, 2014 - Istanbul - On a single day three women were murdered by their husband in Turkey. The following day, a young woman was killed by her 16-year-old brother. Since then, there have been several murders of women by their husband or a close male relative. The Turkish government continuously fails to tackle the issue, and instead tries to defend itself from any responsibility or blame. This week, Sunday's Zaman spoke with several representatives from women's organizations in İstanbul and discussed the many facets of the nationwide femicide (killing of women).

The rate of murders of women in Turkey is increasing. There have been several murders in the recent weeks; on July 2, there were three in one day. All show one pattern: Women are being killed by the men who are closest to them. According to Bianet's 2013 report of murders of women, out of the 214 women that were murdered that year, 66 percent were slain by husbands, ex-husbands and lovers, and the rest by close male relatives: fathers, brothers, uncles, etc. Looking at the first six months of this year, there have been at least 139 murders of women.

Incidents that often start as a simple quarrel end up with the husband killing his wife, 54 percent of the time by gunshot. Other cases involve other weapons such as the recent incident on July 2, when an 81-year-old man identified as Ali Kahraman killed his 74-year-old wife, Adalet Kahraman, with an axe in the Yakutiye district of the eastern province of Erzurum. Afterwards, he went straight to the authorities to report himself.

Sunday's Zaman spoke with Gülsüm Kav, a representative and founding member of the We Will Stop the Murders of Women Platform. When asked why the number of murders of women is increasing in Turkey, she replied: “Turkey is going through a period of economic modernization, and this allows women to be more independent. They are making decisions for themselves; they are receiving more education, therefore earning their own financial stability. They are choosing how they would live to dress, for example. But most important, this independence allows them to choose to divorce.

She added: “The problem stems from women taking hold of their modern rights in a culture of male dominance. Right now, Turkey is going through a transition period; actually, I believe this is happening throughout the world, but what Turkey is experiencing is a very bloody transition. I believe the root of this is that men are finding courage at how easy this [killing women] is for them to do with the current government.”

According to Kav, the general Turkish female population does not have the support of the government. Instead, she said, men believe that what they are doing is accepted rather than reprimanded by the government.

A major concern for many representatives of women's organizations is the way the government is treating the issue. Family and Social Policies Minister Ayşenur İslam made statements last week concerning the murders of women last week after the killings of three women in one day. She said women who had received protection from government shelters were not killed.

Yet, the fact is that13 women killed this year were under government protection. In many cases, the husbands of women in shelters have been able to track them down.

In response to İslam's statement, Kav said: “How can she not count these deaths? Is she trying to say to the families that have lost their daughters that they do not count? This is a lie.”

Rather than suggest solutions to better protect women in danger, İslam in her press statement sought to absolve the government of its responsibility in the matter. Although she condemned the men for murdering their wives, İslam stated that the punishments for crimes against women are sufficiently harsh.

Sunday's Zaman also spoke with Gönül Karahanoğlu, chairwoman of the Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates (KA.DER), an organization that defends equal representation of women and men in all fields of life with a focus on political representation. When asked about her thoughts on the minister's statements last week, she responded: “It's not about someone saying, ‘Someone please save me,' and then the government goes and protects them. … The issue is not that superficial. We are not saying the government isn't trying to provide for the women who are looking for safety, but [the government is] not hitting the mark.”

According to her, the problem is more fundamental and the measures taken by the government are not preventative ones. Instead, the government is more concerned about sustaining families, while women are looking for ways out of being repressed by their husbands.

Women's Shelters

Mor Çatı Women's Shelter Foundation representative Esen Özdemir talked to Sunday's Zaman about state shelter protection for women, saying: “What the government understands as protection of women is actually to jail them, to take control of their phones, to record the times they come and go. They are imprisoning the women instead of punishing the men. So, of course, it is very easy to kill these women. Second, the government works with such a mechanism that they actually report whether a woman is being given shelter or not. They do not say which shelter the wives are in, but it is very easy for the men to find their wives.”

Şehnaz Kıymaz Bahçeci, from nongovernmental organization Women for Women's Human Rights, told Sunday's Zaman that “women's murders are the epitome of what the patriarchal social structure brings. But, unfortunately, it's not the only reflection of how women's rights are being violated in Turkey. Of course, the right to live is the most basic right, but there are other rights we have that are as inalienable, and we have to take this in a more holistic perspective in that sense."

Violence against women is a very deep problem in Turkey, according to her, but there is a lack of data. "It is the role of the state to provide the data for us. The most recent data we have by the state is from 2009. They should repeat this to see if the actions they are taking, the legislations they are amending are making any difference. Yes, there is a lot of legislation in place dealing with violence against women, there has been a new law since 2011 right after Turkey signed the İstanbul Convention of the European Council, but unfortunately the crimes [of violence] go unpunished. And this causes grave problems in the sense that people are not afraid to commit these violations of women's human rights,” she said.

The conclusion one draws after listening to these experts on women's issues in Turkey is that all of them are unsatisfied by the measures taken by the government for the protection of women in the country and outraged at how the government allows the repressive patriarchy to continue in society. All of them believe that if the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) stays in power, the trajectory for women will not go in a positive direction. They also agree that the issue of femicide is not a matter of basic politics, it is a deeply entrenched pattern of male behavior to try to keep dominance over women in Turkey's patriarchal society


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Sunday, July 20, 2014

American time spent doing domestic work.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

"MASKED" By Rita Loyd

At times I hide behind a mask,
disguising who I am
and the frailties that I possess.
But then
the voice of my spirit emerges
and reminds me that 
we all fall short of perfection.
And that those who appear perfect
are wearing a mask as well.
So, instead of hiding,
I am prompted to embrace 
my imperfections with love.
and with this inner shift
of self acceptance,
a radiance shines forth
surpassing any physical adornment
I could ever possibly hide behind. 

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

APWLD condemns attacks and threats against women human rights defenders in Burma / Myanmar targeted for opposing the Interfaith Marriage Bill


Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) supports our members, women human rights defenders and allied movements defending women’s rights in Burma / Myanmar and consequently opposing the Interfaith Marriage Bill[1]

According to information gathered by APWLD members, at least four activists have received threats after including their contact information in early May 2014 in a public statement objecting to the Interfaith Marriage Bill. Since then, they have received anonymous phone calls and online messages threatening them, including death threats. One activist was forced to change her handset over concerns about data security; while another is reluctant to connect to the Internet on her phone due to the threatening messages. The safety of these activists’ families are also a high concern..

If enacted, the Bill would violate the rights and fundamental freedoms of Buddhist women. It would force women to get permission from parents and government officials to marry non-Buddhist men. The Bill imposes a patriarchal concept of marriage that assumes women pass from property of the father to the husband, violating women’s rights to freely choose their religion, cultural beliefs and practices, partners, sexuality.This Bill has the potential to violate their freedom of expression, association and movement.

If read in its entirety – with all four proposed Laws – the Bill is designed to foster a nation of one religion and one ethnicity while marginalizing or even criminalizing others. Consequently the Bill systematically marginalizes women who belong to other religions or ethnicities.

It is evident that the Bill is dividing the community and inciting conflict, hatred and violence within the country. Further, the harassment, intimidation and threats against women human rights defenders attempting to engage in their democratic right to debate public policy violates their rights to expression, movement and safety.

We urge the Government of Myanmar to:
1.      Acknowledge and protect the legitimate work of women human rights defenders and other human rights communities opposing the Bill.
2.      Immediately conduct a comprehensive investigation into any incidents of threats and intimidation against women human rights defenders targeted for their action against the proposed Bill; and take action against the perpetrators.
3.      Abandon the Interfaith Marriage Bill in its entirety and protect women’s human rights including freedom of religion or belief, right to freely choose a partner, right to live free from violence, and make decisions over their own bodies and lives. 
4.      Amend or eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices as well as enact progressive laws that advance women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms with meaningful participation of women’s rights organizations and movements.
5.      Respect and implement obligations as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and other international conventions, as well as its own Constitution. 

What you can do:
We encourage fellow women human rights defenders, human rights community and civil society organizations to support the struggle by signing the online petition on, created by Women’s League of Burma. 
For more information: follow the links below:

1)APWLD is a leading network of over 180 women’s rights organizations and activists representing groups of diverse women from 26 countries in the Asia Pacific region.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Special Rapporteur on violence against women calls for urgent action to address the culture of impunity for crimes against women and girls to Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA (7 July 2014) – At the end of a eight-day mission to Honduras, which took her to Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, delivered the following statement:
“I have been mandated by the Human Rights Council to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to recommend measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Government of Honduras for extending an invitation to me to conduct this official country visit. I am grateful to all interlocutors, including State officials, representatives of civil society organisations, UN agencies, and in particular individual survivors of violence. During the mission, it was clear that there is a willingness by the Government to engage with the international human rights system, as regards the human rights of women. I commend the government on its responsiveness in this regard and also its commitment to engaging in open and transparent dialogues with me during this mission.
Current context
In the historical context of a legacy of poverty, underdevelopment and citizen insecurity, the military coup of 2009 further exacerbated the situation in the country and has negatively impacted Honduran society as a whole. The new Government has been in place since January 2014 and the country is currently in a state of transition. It is apparent that attempts are being made to build institutions; foster trust and confidence in the new government; and at the same time, address the climate of widespread and systematic crime, corruption and impunity.
Furthermore, the country is facing a financial crisis and this has led to decisions that aim to consolidate State institutions, as part of a larger goal to ensure cohesion, reduce fragmentation and costs, and also address the problem of duplication. For example, there has been a considerable reduction in the number of government ministries from 38 to 15, and also a reduction in staff and specialised services, including in the violence against women sector. The response to such developments is either a positive one that acknowledges the value of cost effective measures; or a negative one that views these measures as an attempt to weaken State institutions, and to further entrench the lack of accountability of the State in its responsibility to promote and protect human rights generally, and the rights of women and girls in particular.
Due to many factors, including the high homicide rate and alarming levels of other expressions of violence, including injuries, robberies and extortion, Honduras is reported to be among the most violent countries in the world today. Furthermore, the proliferation of small and light weapons, the drug trade, and the actions of violent gangs,further contribute to high levels of violence. The role and continuing influence of the military in general, but particularly in policing and education activities, is of concern to many interviewees, due to the experiences of people vis a vis the military, and the legacy of fear and mistrust of this institution.
Also, the reality of the lack of institution-building, the high turnover of staff in the civil service, and the politicization of appointment processes, further serve to impact negatively on the continuity and sustainability of Government policies and programmes. These issues are of deep concern, and the negative implications of such practices in the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law, need to be reflected upon by the current government of Honduras.  
Manifestations and prevalence of violence against women

In Honduras, violence against women is widespread and systematic and it impacts women and girls in numerous ways. It precludes the exercise of civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and development rights, and is thus a barrier to effective citizenship. The climate of fear, in both the public and private spheres, and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women, is the norm rather than the exception.
During the course of the mission, I noted numerous concerns as regards the high levels of domestic violence, femicide and sexual violence. In a context of contestation over verifiable empirical data with regard to all manifestations of violence against women, anecdotal evidence and also data from the State and non-state sector is highlighted here. Generally, it was suggested that incidents of violence against women are increasing. For example, it was noted that between 2005 and 2013, the number of violent deaths of women rose by 263.4%. According to the National Health and Population Survey for the period 2011-2012, 27% of women aged between 15- 49 years, and 37% of women aged between 45-49 years, have been subjected to physical violence at some point in their lives.
Statistics from the Public Prosecutor’s Office reflect approximately 16,000 reported allegations of numerous manifestations of violence against women for 2012, with 74.6% related to domestic and intra-family violence, and 20% related to sexual offences. From 2009 to 2012, it has been reported that 82,547 of domestic violence complaints have been filed, representing an average of 20,637 complaints per year, of which 92 per cent were filed by women. I was informed that in 2013, approximately 2,851 sexual violence complaints were filed, with the prevalence rate rising from 4.6 in 2008 to 8.6 in 2010.
I have also heard from interlocutors about the link between gendered violence, whether sexual, physical or other, and migration. The causes of migration of women and girls include fleeing because of violence, poverty, lack of opportunity and also a generalized sense of insecurity. The consequences of migration include violence, exploitation, disappearances, and forced displacement from families and communities. I note with concern the current context of reports of thousands of unaccompanied children, both girls and boys, who are migrating to the United States of America from countries in the region, including Honduras. These children, who are often unaccompanied, are fleeing rising levels of extreme poverty, extortion, risks of forcible recruitment into gangs in their local communities and schools, physical violence, domestic abuse and/or other types of insecurity.
Trafficking in persons for the purposes of sexual exploitation is another manifestation of violence against women that is underreported in Honduras, due to the hidden nature of the crime and also the prevalence of organized crime. It has been reported that the Public Prosecutor’s Office has registered 27 complaints for the crime of trafficking of women during 2013. Violence against human rights defenders, who work on issues linked to land claims, environmental protection, the rights of minorities, and various other human rights issues, was also highlighted in my meetings with members of civil society.
I am concerned about the situation as regards violence against indigenous and Afro-descent women and girls, and the issue of eviction of peoples from their lands in favour of corporate development projects, which places entire communities in situations of extreme risk and vulnerability, of which women and children bear most of the cost. I am also concerned at the violence perpetrated against members of the LGBTI community.
Furthermore, in Honduras, many women continue to be disproportionately over-represented in low paid, part-time and insecure work, as they are less likely to have the necessary skills and qualifications to engage in the formal economy. For instance, the maquila industry discriminates against women on the basis of their age and their physical ability to work long hours and under extremely hazardous conditions. The lack of, or minimal regulation of this sector, precludes protection from abusive practices as articulated in the labour laws. 
During my mission, I visited the National Penitentiary for Women in Tegucigalpa, the only exclusively female detention center in the country. According to official data from the National Penitentiary Institute, there are currently 292 women in the prison, which has a capacity for 200 women. The number of incarcerated women in Honduras is growing, with the major cause of incarceration being associated with gangs, extortion, and dealing in drug- related activities. A large number of women in detention have a history of being subjected to poverty, violence, coercion, and duress prior to being imprisoned.
In my view, the structural and root causes of incarceration; the violence experienced during incarceration; and the consequences of incarceration for women, are not being sufficiently assessed in Honduras. My interviews with detainees revealed that there is a lack of State support, including in terms of access to medical and social services; transport to and from the court to attend scheduled hearings; inappropriate legal representation; the length of pre-trial detention; the lack of effective investigation into cases, which results in disproportionate sentencing for certain crimes; and discrimination and bias within the criminal justice system.  
I also visited the Casita 21 de Octubre, a facility designed for vulnerable troubled adolescent boys who have never been in conflict with the law, but are considered as “troubled” and at risk. In this facility I met with young adolescent girls from the Sagrado Corazon de Maria detention center for adolescents in conflict with the law. These young girls have recently been transferred to the premises of the Casita 21 as an emergency measure, in response to various allegations that are yet to be investigated. I have noted numerous concerns as regards this transfer, including the lack of attention to the best interests of the boys who have been moved to a detention centre in close proximity to a youth offenders centre; the aggression and disobedience expressed by the girls who were moved at short notice and who have been physically and verbally assaulted by guards; the disrespectful and punitive treatment of youth offenders who are detained for crimes linked to gangs; and the imposition of a problematic solution on the staff of both facilities, in efforts to deal with a problem that they are not prepared to nor have the capacity to handle.
Legislative and institutional developments and challenges
At the national level, I noted the development of legislative and institutional measures including among others the recent amendments to the Penal Code to incorporate femicide as a specific crime, and, the adoption of a National Policy on Human Rights and its accompanying Action Plan covering the period 2013-2022. The adoption of the Domestic violence Law in 1997, and its amendment through Decrees No. 250/ 2005 and No.35 in 2013, has not led to an effective legislative response to domestic violence, and it remains the leading cause of reported crimes against persons at the national level. Significant challenges persist in the area of accountability for acts of violence against women and girls. For example, it is argued that there is a 95% impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes. In cases of domestic violence, the CEDAW Committee noted in 2006, that the resolution rate of domestic violence cases was 2.55%.
The main challenges identified to address violence against women include the lack of effective implementation of legislation, obstacles such as gender discrimination in the justice system, inconsistencies in the interpretation and implementation of legislation, and the lack of access to services that promote safety and also address prevention of future acts of violence. Moreover, corruption, the lack of political will, and the failure of authorities to exercise due diligence in investigating, prosecuting and punishing perpetrators of violence against women contributes to an environment of impunity, resulting in little or no confidence in the justice system.
The interviews also reveal high levels of cynicism as regards the functioning and ability of institutions that are in place to promote and protect women’s human rights. This then further fosters a culture of non-reporting of cases of violence by women and girls. Furthermore, many interlocutors indicated that they do not consider the justice system as a viable option to obtain remedies, due to numerous factors including inadequate police responses, the lack of adequate investigation of cases, the low levels of prosecution, lengthy periods for a case to be finalised, and the negligible conviction rates in cases related to violence against women.
As regards the provision of protective measures and also services, I am concerned at the lack of sufficient facilities, such as shelters for battered women, and safe houses for women who have to enter the witness protection program. I was shocked to hear of situations in which State officials disregard the safety needs of battered women, due to the practice of referring high risk cases involving battered women and also fearful witnesses, to shelters for victims of domestic violence. This disregard then places both the shelter institution, and also its staff and residents, in a state of extreme vulnerability and hinders their ability to effectively provide assistance to victims and to guarantee their safety. The State has a duty to provide differentiated and appropriate protection or assistance to women, and cannot justify imposing onto third parties, its primary responsibility to prevent acts of violence against women, and to protect victims. The ban on abortion and also emergency contraception is a source of concern, as it negatively impacts the sexual and reproductive rights of all women and girls in Honduras, including those who have been raped.
Efforts to provide services at the municipal government level include having a gender unit or department with professional staff to address the therapeutic and other needs of women. Unfortunately, such services are linked to donor funding and their sustainability is a source of concern. The closure or merging of investigation units has also led to concerns about the lack of specificity in prosecuting crimes against women, the lack of appropriate equipment and tools, and the lack of human resources - thereby further eroding the need for accountability for such crimes. A further source of concern, at both the central and municipal level, is the limited data collection on prevalence as well as data on outcomes of investigations and prosecutions, by these specialised units. This then raises questions about the basis of law, policy and programmatic responses.
It is crucial to recognize that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation that is rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities, and that it is strongly linked to the social and economic situation of women. The importance of accountability as the norm for acts of violence against women cannot be over-emphasised, more especially within a context of generalised impunity for violence in the public and private spheres. The lack of focus and effective measures to address women’s empowerment needs is also a factor that contributes to continuing insecurity and fear, and precludes the possibility of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. I have noted with concern, the ineffective measures to address social transformation through activities that are not sustainable and that do not meet the goal of addressing myths and stereotypes about gender roles and responsibilities.
It is also important to recall that Honduras has international legal obligations to meet, as set out in, among other treaties, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The State has a responsibility to act with due diligence to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. This responsibility includes the protection, prevention, investigation, punishment, and provision of effective remedies, including compensation measures. Furthermore, the State has a responsibility to hold accountable state authorities who fail to protect and prevent the violations of women’s human rights, due to a lack of response or due to ineffective responses. It is imperative that the best interests of all women and girls should guide the response of the government of Honduras.   
My findings will be discussed in a comprehensive way in the report I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2015.”
Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo is a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town.
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Together, we can change our world

The economic inequalities faced by women around the world today are severely impeding development.  It proposes a strengthened gender goal to help provide the right conditions for women to contribute fully to the economy (ActionAid asserts ). 

An overwhelming body of evidence shows that without women’s economic empowerment, a country’s development will be sluggish and shallow. Women – purely because they are women – face huge inequalities the world over. In terms of the economy, women do 66% of the work and yet earn 10% of the income and own 1% of property. This is a not just unjust to women; it is also blocking global development. 

Korto Williams, Country Director of ActionAid Liberia says:  “Women’s economic empowerment is held back by a lack of decent and equal work opportunities for women and by being denied the independence to make their own economic choices.  Women are also hugely disadvantaged by the unequal responsibilities of unpaid care work, by inadequate property rights and land ownership, and by the endemic violence they face at work.”

But Williams believes that women can and should be agents of change. “We know that closing the gender gap in employment could boost global GDP, improve family nutrition and increase agricultural productivity. For example, if women were able to contribute equally, the Eurozone could increase GDP by 13%, Japan by 16% and the US by 9%.”

 Williams concludes:  “the High Level Panel is tasked with finding a way to eradicate global poverty. We urge them to address the most obvious cause of poverty - gender inequality. This demands a dedicated gender goal and ensuring clear targets to eliminate the specific barriers faced by half of the world’s population.

 “Post-2015, the development world must tackle gender inequality head on.”
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Discrimination in marraige and family relations- India CEDAW Review of India 2 July 2014

 When will the right time come to get justice for women?''

I think India is at a critical moment, for better or worse, in relation to women's rights, especially in the area of personal status. Having worked with women's groups in India for over 20 years, I have concerns about the direction that their activism might take especially in the area of marriage and family relations. It is true that orgnaizations like Musawah and IWRAW Asia Pacific have remained on the sidelines, not taking a position and leaving it to the Indian groups to decide what would be the best in their context in relation to marriage and the family. The recent CEDAW review of India on 2 July being a case in point. The groups at the CEDAW review (there were about 30 individuals from various parts of India ) as on other occasions, chose not to raise issues of discrimination in personal status laws. The alternative NGO chapter on equality in marriage and family relations was an apology to article 16 of CEDAW. But my question is, when the rest of us decide not to take a position out of respect for the local groups, whose voices are we so supporting? For example, in the 2 July CEDAW review process, I did not see any Muslim woman engaged in reform of family law in India or any one from Bharitya Mahila Muslim Andolan ( BMMA) . I don't also see them and their struggle for equality and justice in the family integrated into the mainstream women's movement in India. The strongest voices in the mainstream movement are from highly educated, upper /middle urban women. While it is true that oppressed groups such as tribals and Adivasis, schedule and backward castes have found place in the movement , Muslim women who are engaged in their struggle for reform of personal status law are isolated. These women who are leading the fight for equality and justice in the Muslim Family Law (MFL) are not from the upper crust and they are fighting an impressive but lonely battle. I am not convinced that the mainstream movement's stand of ignoring the discrimination within marriage and family and doing nothing, out of fear that it may lead to an attempt by the BJP towards a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a strategic position to take. While the mainstream women's movement tells us that raising the issue of family law reform is not opportune, they do not tell us what then is the solution for the millions of women who suffer misery as a result of unjust family laws and its prejudiced application. When the BMMA released the draft of the new ‘Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act’, something they have been working on for 7 years, in Mumbai on June 18, they were asked,
''Is this the right time to release this draft, given the new government’s emphasis on the UCC? '' Noorjehan a leading activist in BMMA said, “We oppose the UCC. But we also want to know, when will the right time come to get justice for women?''

There is much discrimination in personal status laws of all communities in India. Those who are from the upper classes even if they are Muslim women are unaffected by such discrimination, the lower classes who form the majority suffer. Noorjehan from the BMMA pointed this out when she narrated the resistance to the campaign for reform of Muslim Family Law. She said,
“Middle class Muslims kept saying: ‘Don’t tamper too much with the shariat.’ They have well-off families and education to fall back on; the unjust decisions of qazis don’t affect them much,’’ She said, What kept the BMMA going was the response of poor women. ''

With regard to the situation of Muslim women in India we should work with them actively, support them in their struggle, strengthen their activism and if they are ready, help bring their voices to the international level even. The key is to enable the mobilization of a mas movement of women to make demands for justice. While the sophisticated and scholarly activism confined to a group of highly educated and elite women may have a place, it will not be sufficient to create long term change. Shanthi Dairiam
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Calls for the compilation and public dissemination of GENDER & AGE SPECIFIC DISAGGREGATED DATA

The International Federation of University Women (IFUW) calls for the compilation and public dissemination of GENDER & AGE SPECIFIC DISAGGREGATED DATA to monitor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) progress and as part of Post-2015 Development Goals
Geneva, Switzerland, 

08 July 2014 –The International Federation of University Women (IFUW) calls on all governments, regional agencies and other relevant bodies to incorporate a gender-specific perspective in gathering, analysing and publishing indicators of development, so that gender disparities and biases can be properly identified and addressed. The compilation and publication of data, which specifically examines the participation of girls and women in society, is needed immediately so as to track the progress being made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
IFUW President Catherine Bell emphasised that “it is not enough to show general, aggregated trends of development within countries. Given the increased vulnerability of girls and women in areas such as education, health and employment, we must have gender indicators that accurately reflect whether and to what extent progress is being made in closing gender inequalities.”
Both the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) have expressed concern that not all countries are using gender disaggregated data and thus “do not provide sufficient information about the situation of women and girls throughout their life cycle”.[1] Where gender disaggregated data does exist, the results provide concrete cause for concern in terms of the disparities between male and female empowerment. Gender statistics within education highlight the stark reality of inequality; of the 774 million people who are illiterate in the world, over two thirds are female, while there are 4 million more boys than girls enrolled in primary education.[2]
The International Federation of University Women (IFUW) is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and has an international membership. Founded in 1919, IFUW is the leading girls’ and women’s global organisation run by and for women, advocating for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality education and training up to the highest levels.
IFUW is in special consultative status with ECOSOC and is an NGO maintaining official relations with UNESCO. Learn about our grants & fellowships and our advocacy work. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (@IFUWomen)
For more information please contact: Aoife Hegarty, T: +41 22 731 23 80; Email:
[1] UN Commission on the Status of Women, ‘Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls: Agreed Conclusions’ 58th Session, 10-21 March, 2014 UN Doc. E/CN.6/2014/L.7.

2 UNESCO ‘Education for all Global Monitoring Report: Girls’ Education- The Facts’ October 2013
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Claiming the Rights of Indigenous People in South Asia: Exposing the Effects of "Development" & Militarization - Women & Girls

Sumshot Khular delivered the following speech at the 13th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNFPII), May 12–23, 2014. She spoke on behalf of the Asian Caucus, representing all Asian organizations registered with the UNPFII. She was supported by a grant of the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Indigenous Peoples. 

Respected Madame, Chair, I am Sumshot Khular and I am presenting a joint statement for South Asia, endorsed by Community Action for Research and Development, Asian Indigenous Peo-ples Pact, the Shimin Gaikou Centre, the Kapaeng Foundation, NEFIN, the Mallaya Foundation, and the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Ma-nipur. 

Madame Chair, South Asia is a home to more than 160 million indigenous peoples. However, only a few states recognize indigenous peoples, with some governments claiming that they have no indigenous peoples. The continual denial of recognition by states of their indigenous peoples as distinct peoples, who have been systematically discriminated and marginalized, is against the very principle of achieving social justice as affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

The non-applicability of the concept of indigenous peoples as recog-nized under international human-rights instruments remains a major and critical concern for millions of indigenous peoples. The idea that all citi-zens of a state are indigenous and thus entitled to the same rights has been used as a justification for denying recognition of particular indigenous peoples, as in India and in Bangladesh. These governments have rejected calls for the recognition of the collective rights by groups identifying themselves as indigenous. 

In Nepal, where a new constitution is soon to be promulgated, the indigenous peoples are campaigning for the right to self-government under a federal system of government in order to have control of their social, cultural and political development. However, in spite of the fact that at least 39% of the total population is recognized as indigenous peoples, and the government has ratified ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, they remain having the least meaningful political repre-sentation in the country, with their freely chosen representatives largely excluded from the constitution-making process. 

The Northeastern states in India are where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958) has been in place to subdue the indigenous peoples’ movement for the right to self-determination. The act formulated extraordinary provisions and powers for the armed forces, which were then applied to the so-called disturbed areas, resulting in human-rights violations with impunity, arbitrary killings, arrests, torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and forced disappearances. Moreover, new laws or amendments have been introduced, such as the Unlawful Prevention Act (UAPA), to retain the ban on the organizations proscribed under the repealed Prevention of Terrorism of Terrorism Act (POTA), including many indigenous minority groups from the Northeast. The launching of Operation Uttoron in the Chittagong Hills Tract has resulted in severe human rights violations among the Jumma indigenous peoples in Bangladesh.  

In South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and India, millions of indigenous peoples have been involuntary evicted, displaced and impoverished due to so-called development projects including coal and uranium mining and oil and gas exploration, without the free and prior consent of the indigenous peoples concerned. This is a direct denial of the universally established right to free, prior and informed consent, as outlined in several international human rights laws such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the recommendations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). 

Many countries in South Asia have refused to implement human-rights recommendations to advance indigenous peoples’ rights. For instance, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. James Anaya, strongly condemned the Mapithel dam construction project for the series of violations and the militarization process in and around the Mapithel dam building site in 2008. 

Article 11 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stipulates that no military activities shall take place in the lands of indigenous peoples, unless freely agreed upon by the indigenous peoples concerned. However, many indigenous territories across South Asia continue to be heavily militarized, and their prime lands, the source of their livelihood and survival, are conscripted for military infrastructures. 

False climate change information has been propagated across South Asia, resulting in, among other things, the construction of a series of mega dams as a source of clean energy with low carbon emission. Additionally, there is currently an aggressive push for biofuels plantations, leading to massive acquisitions of farmland and forest areas. The decision-making process regarding climate change solutions is often exclusive in nature. At the United Nations Climate Change Convention (UNCCC) recently held in Nepal, indigenous peoples from Nepal were not allowed to participate in the conference. 

Indigenous women, by virtue of their gender and ethnicity, face particular impacts and increased vulnerability from the consequent loss of traditional livelihoods, displacement, conflict and poverty. Violence against indigenous women is as intricately related to their collective and individual rights to their land, resources and territories as their wellbeing, cultures and identities are. The aggressive de-velopment models associated with intensive militarization have been ravaging not only our lands and resources but also our people, especially women and girls. 

In Nepal, thousands of young girls and women were trafficked to India and beyond for illegal prostitution. In 2013, the Free Kamlari Development Forum and the National Federation of Indigenous Nationalities stated that, since 2001, about 1,200 Kamlaris had been rescued from bondage, in conformity with the state’s Kamaiya Labour Prohibition Act. However, around 100 persons have reportedly fallen back into Kamlari servitude due to a lack of commitment and support services. An estimated 900 Kamlaris in the districts of Dang, Bake, Burdya, Kohlali and Kanchapur still remain bonded to their landlords. 

An increasing number of cases of sexual violence and rape have been reported in Chittagong Hill Tracks (CHT, Bangladesh). According to the Kapaeeng Foundation, an organization concerned with the human rights of indigenous peoples, 211 sexual crimes have taken place in the CHT since 2007. Of the 19 cases in the most recent four months, 12 included children being raped, and two rape victims were killed in Kagrachari. Where rape has long been used as a weapon of war, violence against indigenous women is now being used in connection with land grabbing. 

The ongoing armed conflict situation prevalent in the Northeast India has intensified the violence faced by women, taking the form of sexual, mental or physical abuse, killings and clashes. Although all members of the communities are affected by the armed conflict, the impact on women and girls is far greater because of their status in society and their sex. Under the shadow of conflict, the region has witnessed a resurgence of patriarchal values and norms that have brought with them new restrictions on the movement of women and what they are allowed to wear and but also more overtly physical violence such as rape, which is systematically used as a tactic against a particular community. All this is compounded by the long-lasting social, economic and psychological trauma caused by armed conflict.  

In all these countries, women have played a proactive role in peacebuilding within the communities. To mention a few examples: the Naga Women’s Union, the Naga Mother’s Association, Jumma women in CHT, and Nepalese women in their respective states. In conclusion, I would like to make the following recommendations. 

Recommendations for the Governments of South Asia: 

 Ensure the full recognition of and adherence to the principle and the practice of the right to self-determination of all indigenous peoples in South Asia. 

 Recognize the rights of indigenous peoples over their land, territories, waters, and resources and their self-determined development of their land and bodies of water in South Asian countries as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), 2007. 

 Review your state’s own national legal framework with a view to incorporate provisions of UNDRIP within your national instruments, especially those with regard to the right to lands, territories and resources, and the right to self-governance and cultural integrity, while at the same time re-pealing/revising laws and policies that are not consistent with the UNDRIP. 

 Stop mega development projects without the prior free and informed consent of indigenous peoples and without recognition of their self-determined development. 

 Repeal all emergency legislation that facilitates political subjugation and militarization in South Asia, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958) in Northeast India; 

 Implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 to stop the construction of mega dams in the territories of indigenous people, such as the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Dam project and the Chakpi HEP project in Manipur. 

 Implement the CHT Accord to demilitarize the indigenous areas of Bangladesh. 

 Ensure that international financial institutions and corporate bodies desist from financing and taking up projects in South Asia that would undermine the inherent rights of indigenous peoples over their land and territories and threaten the environmental integrity of the region. 
By Sumshot Khular *

*AuthorSumshot Khular 

Sumshot Khular is an indige-nous Lamkang Naga from the Chandel district of Manipur, India. She is an active human-rights and peace activist, at present serving as the Pro-gram Coordinator of Commu-nity Action and Research for Development, a grassroots organization based in Chandel district in Manipur, which works to promote education, human rights, gender, devel-opment, and peace. She has previously worked for the Centre for Social Development and the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF). She is current-ly a member of the Lamkang Snu Lop, Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN), the Indigenous Women’s Network of Northeast India (IWFNEI), Naga Women’ Union Manipur (NWUM) and Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR). She is actively in-volved in the peacebuilding and reconciliation processes after the Kuki- Naga conflict and has been engaged in me-diation at the local level. She was elected Vice President of the Naga Women Union last October 2013 for a term of three years. Khular holds an MA in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights from Essex University, UK. She participat-ed as a trainee in the WPP 2012-2013 Asia Training of Trainers Cycle “Together for Transformation: Gender-sensitive Nonviolence for Sus-tainable Peace”.

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