Sunday, November 29, 2015

Monitoring of the obligations relating to the content of education

77. The content of education as it relates to racial discrimination and religious intolerance falls within the purview of several bodies involved in the monitoring of international human rights treaties whose objects include education, either fully or in part. As we have seen, this is due to the crosscutting nature of the right to education and to the variety of fields in which it is implemented and of its beneficiaries.

78. In accordance with their mandates, the various committees set up by the relevant international conventions take the content of education into account in a wide variety of ways. Paradoxically, it is not the committees with the most direct competence that have had the most satisfying results. According to one study, only the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child take the content of education into account in their guidelines for periodic reporting by States.82 Even so, these guidelines merely recall the general principles set out in the two Conventions and recommend that States should indicate in their reports what steps have been taken to ensure that the aims of education are consistent with the relevant provisions (articles 7 and 29, respectively).83 On the other hand, the guidelines of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights make no reference whatsoever to the obligations of States regarding the content of education. This absence is all the more regrettable in that the Committee is the obvious body for the formulation of recommendations in this area: matters relating to education, and in particular, to its aims as set out in article 13, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, fall directly within the full competence of this Committee, and as such, its guidelines as well as the interpretations it has given would be extremely useful.

79. Finally, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights envisages no procedure like that established under article 41 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This is indeed regrettable and does nothing to enhance the protection of the right to receive education in conformity with the objectives of non-discrimination and tolerance set out in article 13, paragraph 1.86 It must be recognized, however, that the Human Rights Committee does not hesitate to monitor, through individual complaints, pursuant to article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, compliance by States parties with their commitments under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - in other words, under an instrument which does not fall self-evidently within its purview and which has its own monitoring body. In reality, the Human Rights Committee monitors, not the content of the right to be protected but rather, in an audacious manner, the right not to be subjected to discrimination in conformity with article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, even though the right in question is not covered in that instrument.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Scaling up social protection and cash transfers to reduce poverty and girl vulnerability to HIV

Strategies and action implemented at the community level to address intimate partner violence are critical to reducing young women’s and adolescent girls’ vulnerability to HIV. Two randomized controlled trials have shown positive outcomes. The Raising Voices SASA!3 kit was designed to inspire, enable and structure effective community mobilization to prevent violence against women and HIV  Community activists spearheaded a wide range of activities in their own neighbourhoods designed to decrease the social acceptability of violence by influencing knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours on gender, power and violence. When implemented in four communities in Kampala, Uganda, the SASA! kit was associated with significantly lower social acceptance of intimate partner violence among both men and women. It was also associated with lower incidence of intimate partner violence and more supportive community responses to women who experienced such violence .

SASA! has been implemented by over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa in diverse settings such as religious, rural, refugee, urban and pastoralist communities. The Safe Homes and Respect for Everyone (SHARE) project in Rakai, Uganda aimed to reduce physical and sexual intimate partner violence and HIV incidence using two main approaches: community-based mobilization to change attitudes and social norms that contribute to intimate partner violence and HIV risk, and a screening and brief intervention to reduce HIV disclosure-related violence and sexual risk in women seeking HIV counselling and testing. Evaluation of the project showed significant decreases in both intimate partner violence and HIV incidence. The SHARE model could inform other HIV programmes’ efforts to address intimate partner violence and HIV and could be adopted, at least partly, as a standard of care for other HIV programmes in Africa . In both approaches outlined above, engaging men and boys has been essential to tackle harmful masculinities and redress power imbalances in the private and public spheres.

These interventions also contribute to the broader goal of challenging cultural and social norms that are harmful to women and girls and communities as a whole. For example, MenCare+, a community-based intervention in Rwanda and South Africa, engages young men and women together in group sessions on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health, fatherhood and care, and uses reflection groups with men who have used violence with their partners. The One Man Can campaign, launched by Sonke Gender Justice, is another example of engaging men in advocating the elimination of gender-based violence and gender equality, while at the same time responding to HIV
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Core reasons why young women and adolescent girls are vulnerable to HIV

Every hour, around 34 young African women are newly infected with HIV. The reasons for relatively high rates of infection and low scale-up ofservices for young women in Africa are complex and interwoven.
 Changing the course of the epidemic requires addressing the root causes and understanding the core
conditions that exacerbate vulnerability. Seven core conditions stand out:
  • inadequate access to good-quality sexual and reproductive health information, commodities and services, in some measure due to age of consent to access services;
  • „ low personal agency, meaning women are unable to make choices and take action on matters of their own health and well-being;
  • „ harmful gender norms, including child, early and forced marriage, resulting in early pregnancy;
  • „ transactional and unprotected age-disparate sex, often as a result of poverty, lack of opportunity or lack of material goods;
  • „lack of access to secondary education and comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education;
  • „ intimate partner violence, which impacts on risk and health-seeking behaviour;

„Violence in conflict and post-conflict settings.
Individually or in combination, these factors severely inhibit the ability of young women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from HIV, violence and unintended or unwanted pregnancy. Gender inequality and lack of women’s empowerment or agency are key themes that cut across these drivers.
Women’s agency or empowerment is the ability to make choices and to transform them into desired actions and outcomes. Across all countries and cultures there are differences between men’s and women’s ability to make these choices. Women’s empowerment influences their ability to build their human capital. Greater control over household resources by women leads to more investment in children’s human capital, shaping the opportunities for the next generation . In sub-Saharan African countries, more than half of married adolescent girls and young women do not have the final say regarding their own health care and play a low decision-making role in the household .
Poverty is another overarching factor. Poverty can push girls into age-disparate relationships, a driver of HIV risk for young women and adolescent girls. For example, in South Africa, 34% of sexually active adolescent girls report being in a relationship with a man at least five years their senior. Such relationships expose young woman and girls to unsafe sexual behaviours, low condom use and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections . The risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation is also higher for young women and adolescent girls living in poverty . Poverty also increases the risk of child marriage, and girls in the poorest economic quintile are 2.5 times more likely to be married as children compared with girls in the richest quintile . In 2010, 67 million women aged 20–24 years had been married as girls, of which one-fifth were in Africa .
 In May 2014, after numerous national and regional commitments to address child marriage (including the 2005 Maputo Protocol, Article 6c), the African Union Commission initiated a 2-year campaign, starting in 10 African countries , to accelerate the end of child marriage on the continent by increasing awareness, influencing policy, advocating for the implementation of laws and ensuring accountability. Eliminating child marriage will decrease African girls’ greater risk of experiencing domestic violence, premature pregnancies and related complications, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. There are promising solutions, but the solutions today are not the solutions of yesterday. Fast-tracking the response is about being flexible and taking account of the rapid transition taking place in Africa today, looking at the new risks but also at the new opportunities.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Strategies to reduce intimate partner violence and reduce vulnerability to HIV

Strategies and action implemented at the community level to address intimate partner violence are critical to reducing young women’s and adolescent girls’ vulnerability to HIV. Two randomized controlled trials have shown positive outcomes. The Raising Voices SASA!3 kit was designed to inspire, enable and structure effective community mobilization to prevent violence against women and HIV  Community activists spearheaded a wide range of activities in their own neighbourhoods designed to decrease the social acceptability of violence by influencing knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours on gender, power and violence. When implemented in four communities in Kampala, Uganda, the SASA! kit was associated with significantly lower social acceptance of intimate partner violence among both men and women. It was also associated with lower incidence of intimate partner violence and more supportive community responses to women who experienced such violence . SASA! has been implemented by over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa in diverse settings such as religious, rural, refugee, urban and pastoralist communities. The Safe Homes and Respect for Everyone (SHARE) project in Rakai, Uganda aimed to reduce physical and sexual intimate partner violence and HIV incidence using two main approaches: community-based mobilization to change attitudes and social norms that contribute to intimate partner violence and HIV risk, and a screening and brief intervention to reduce HIV disclosure-related violence and sexual risk in women seeking HIV counselling and testing. Evaluation of the project showed significant decreases in both intimate partner violence and HIV incidence. The SHARE model could inform other HIV programmes’ efforts to address intimate partner violence and HIV and could be adopted, at least partly, as a standard of care for other HIV programmes in Africa . In both approaches outlined above, engaging men and boys has been essential to tackle harmful masculinities and redress power imbalances in the private and public spheres. These interventions also contribute to the broader goal of challenging cultural and social norms that are harmful to women and girls and communities as a whole. For example, MenCare+, a community-based intervention in Rwanda and South Africa, engages young men and women together in group sessions on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health, fatherhood and care, and uses reflection groups with men who have used violence with their partners. The One Man Can campaign, launched by Sonke Gender Justice, is another example of engaging men in advocating the elimination of gender-based violence and gender equality, while at the same time responding to HIV
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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Women’s agency, participation and leadership

Women’s collective agency is transformative for society. It shapes the institutions, markets and norms of a society. Empowering women as political and social actors can change policy choices and make institutions more representative of a range of voices . There has been progress in political participation. In Rwanda women make up 63% of all members of parliament, and in 11 other countries in the region women make up over 30% of lower house members .
The meaningful engagement and leadership of women living with and affected by HIV, in the HIV response, are critical elements to ensuring a response, which is effective and sustainable. Young women living with and affected by HIV must be involved and represented at all levels of policy and decision-making, including as members of parliament, as representatives in advisory groups for policy development, and in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of HIV policies. Young women should be recognized and included as decision-makers and not considered only as victims or recipients of assistance. It is only through significant improvements in the representation and meaningful participation of young women in these processes that HIV policies and programmes will be truly human rights-based.

All over the continent, women’s groups have mobilized in the AIDS response. In the Middle East and North Africa, MENA-Rosa, launched in 2010, is the first regional group dedicated to women living with HIV. Members of MENA-Rosa were among the first women living with HIV in the region to speak out openly about their lived experiences. The organization provides women living with HIV with the opportunity and platform to mobilize and advocate around key issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and empowerment.
 In 2011, MENA-Rosa solicited the views of 200 women living with HIV in 10 countries across the Middle East and North Africa, with their stories and voices being narrated in the UNAIDS report, Standing up, speaking out: women and HIV in the Middle East and North Africa.

Women’s participation in humanitarian situations is also important and feasible. Even though women are critical to reconciliation and reconstruction efforts, they have been underrepresented in peace processes and poorly involved in the establishment of post-conflict frameworks. Yet when women have been included in peace-building, such as in Sudan and Burundi, the specific needs and rights of women, including support for victims of sexual violence, services for widows, and education and health, were reflected in frameworks .
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 (the anniversary of the day of the murder of the Mirabal sisters) as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in commemoration of the sisters.
This day also marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days is December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Patria Mercedes Mirabal (February 27, 1924November 25, 1960), Maria Argentina Minerva Mirabal (March 12, 1926November 25, 1960) and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal (October 15, 1935November 25, 1960) — were natives of the Dominican Republic who fervently opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. A fourth sister, Bélgica Adela "Dedé" Mirabal-Reyes [1] was not assassinated the day her sisters were. As of 2007, she currently lives in Salcedo, Dominican Republic. She precedes in the sisters'natal house and works to preserve her sisters'memory through the "Museo Hermanas Mirabal" which is also located in Salcedos de Macoris and was home to the girls for the final ten months of their lives).

The Mirabal sisters grew up in an upper class, well-cultured environment. All became married, family women. The father of the Mirabal sisters was a successful businessman. When Trujillo came to power, their family lost almost all of their fortune. They believed that Trujillo would send their country into economic chaos. Minerva became particularly passionate about ending the dictatorship of Trujillo after talking extensively with an uncle of hers. Influenced by her uncle, Minerva became more involved in the anti-Trujillo movement. Minerva studied law and became a lawyer, but because she did not allow Trujillo romantic advancements he ordered that she was not to receive her title. Her sisters followed suit, and they eventually formed a group of opponents to the Trujillo regime, known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. Inside that group, they were known as "The Butterflies" (Las Mariposas in Spanish). They are known as Las Mariposas because that was the underground name that Minerva was recognized as in the political dealings. Two of the sisters were incarcerated and tortured on several occasions. Three of the sisters' husbands were incarcerated at La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo.
Despite these setbacks, they persisted fighting to try to end Trujillo's dictatorship. After the sisters' numerous imprisonments, Trujillo decided to get rid of the sisters. On November 25, 1960, he sent men to intercept the three women after the women visited their husbands in prison. The unarmed sisters were led into a sugarcane field, then beaten and strangled to death. Their car was later thrown off of a mountain known as La Cumbre, between the cities of Santiago and Puerto Plata.
Trujillo believed at the time that he had removed a significant problem. Having the three sisters killed backfired, however: the deaths of the Mirabal sisters caused a general public outrage in their native country. The resultant publicity of the deaths caused the Dominican public to become more interested in the Mirabal sisters and their cause. This public support and awareness contributed to Trujillo's assassination six months later in 1961.
The Mirabal sisters are buried in Ojo de Agua, an area outside the city of Salcedo in Salcedo Province. They are buried on the property of their second home, where they lived the last ten months of their lives. This home has also been turned into a museum in their honor and is open to the public. There is also a library, bookstore, and souvenir shop located on the property. The three sisters are buried together, and Manolo, Minerva's husband, is also buried with them.
The surviving sister, Dedé, lives near the museum. One of her sons, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, served as the vice-president during Leonel Fernández's first term as president of the republic between the years of 1996 and 2000. Minou Tavarez Mirabal, the eldest daughter of Minerva Mirabal has served as a Congresswoman since 1998 until 2006, and has recently been reelected for four additional years (until 2010).

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Maternal Mortality

Key Facts
  • Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
  • Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.
  • Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
  • Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%.

Maternal mortality is unacceptably high. About 800 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. In 2013, 289 000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.
Progress towards achieving the fifth Millennium Development Goal
Improving maternal health is 1 of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000. Under MDG5, countries committed to reducing maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have dropped by 45%.
In sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries have halved their levels of maternal mortality since 1990. In other regions, including Asia and North Africa, even greater headway has been made. However, between 1990 and 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (i.e. the number of maternal deaths per 100 000 live births) declined by only 2.6% per year. This is far from the annual decline of 5.5% required to achieve MDG5.
Where do maternal deaths occur?
The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the world reflects inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor. Almost all maternal deaths (99%) occur in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third occur in South Asia.
The maternal mortality ratio in developing countries in 2013 is 230 per 100 000 live births versus 16 per 100 000 live births in developed countries. There are large disparities between countries, with few countries having extremely high maternal mortality ratios around 1000 per 100 000 live births. There are also large disparities within countries, between women with high and low income and between women living in rural and urban areas.
The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls under 15 years old and complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries.1, 2
Women in developing countries have on average many more pregnancies than women in developed countries, and their lifetime risk of death due to pregnancy is higher. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15 year old woman will eventually die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 3700 in developed countries, versus 1 in 160 in developing countries.
Why do women die?
Women die as a result of complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these complications develop during pregnancy. Other complications may exist before pregnancy but are worsened during pregnancy. The major complications that account for nearly 75% of all maternal deaths are:
  • severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth)
  • infections (usually after childbirth)
  • high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia)
  • complications from delivery
  • unsafe abortion.
The remainder are caused by or associated with diseases such as malaria, and AIDS during pregnancy.
Maternal health and newborn health are closely linked. Almost 3 million newborn babies die every year4, and an additional 2.6 million babies are stillborn.5
How can women’s lives be saved?
Most maternal deaths are preventable, as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. All women need access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth. It is particularly important that all births are attended by skilled health professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death.
Severe bleeding after birth can kill a healthy woman within hours if she is unattended. Injecting oxytocin immediately after childbirth effectively reduces the risk of bleeding.
Infection after childbirth can be eliminated if good hygiene is practiced and if early signs of infection are recognized and treated in a timely manner.
Pre-eclampsia should be detected and appropriately managed before the onset of convulsions (eclampsia) and other life-threatening complications. Administering drugs such as magnesium sulfate for pre-eclampsia can lower a woman’s risk of developing eclampsia.
To avoid maternal deaths, it is also vital to prevent unwanted and too-early pregnancies. All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care.
Why do women not get the care they need?
Poor women in remote areas are the least likely to receive adequate health care. This is especially true for regions with low numbers of skilled health workers, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. While levels of antenatal care have increased in many parts of the world during the past decade, only 46% of women in low-income countries benefit from skilled care during childbirth6. This means that millions of births are not assisted by a midwife, a doctor or a trained nurse.
In high-income countries, virtually all women have at least 4 antenatal care visits, are attended by a skilled health worker during childbirth and receive postpartum care. In low-income countries, just over a third of all pregnant women have the recommended 4 antenatal care visits.
Other factors that prevent women from receiving or seeking care during pregnancy and childbirth are:
  • poverty
  • distance
  • lack of information
  • inadequate services
  • cultural practices.
To improve maternal health, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at all levels of the health system.
WHO response
Improving maternal health is one of WHO’s key priorities. WHO is working to reduce maternal mortality by providing evidence-based clinical and programmatic guidance, setting global standards, and providing technical support to Member States.
In addition, WHO advocates for more affordable and effective treatments, designs training materials and guidelines for health workers, and supports countries to implement policies and programmes and monitor progress.
During the United Nations MDG summit in September 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a Global strategy for women's and children's health, aimed at saving the lives of more than 16 million women and children over the next 4 years. WHO is working with partners towards this goal7.

1Conde-Agudelo A, Belizan JM, Lammers C. Maternal-perinatal morbidity and mortality associated with adolescent pregnancy in Latin America: Cross-sectional study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2004, 192:342–349.
2 Patton GC, Coffey C, Sawyer SM, Viner RM, Haller DM, Bose K, Vos T, Ferguson J, Mathers CD. Global patterns of mortality in young people: a systematic analysis of population health data. Lancet, 2009, 374:881–892.
3 Say L et al. Global Causes of Maternal Death: A WHO Systematic Analysis. Lancet. 2014.
4 UNICEF, WHO, The World Bank, United Nations Population Division. The Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME). Levels and Trends in Child Mortality. Report 2013. New York, USA, UNICEF, 2013.
5 Cousens S, Blencowe H, Stanton C, Chou D, Ahmed S, Steinhardt L, Creanga AA, Tunçalp O, Balsara ZP, Gupta S, Say L, Lawn JE. National, regional, and worldwide estimates of stillbirth rates in 2009 with trends since 1995: a systematic analysis. Lancet, 2011, Apr 16, 377(9774):1319-30. [in press, will be published 15 May 2014]
6 WHO. World Health Statistics 2014. Geneva, World Health Organization; 2014.
7 Ban K. The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. New York, NY, USA, United Nations, 2010.
Fact Sheet N°348 - Updated May 2014

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Monday, November 16, 2015

A Baby Girl Is Sometimes Thrown Away in a Box

Malika is an illiterate woman from Herat province.
Herat– I have heard a lot about women’s rights in Islam, but I never saw it being practiced by anyone in Afghanistan.

The revolution, the Taliban, and some other difficulties caused me to remain illiterate. During the Taliban reign, no girls were allowed to attend schools. They destroyed the girls’ schools so that most of the girls and women would remain illiterate. I am not eligible for human rights in my own life.
When I go to the bazaar or somewhere else, I wear my burqa. I am allowed to go out alone in my burqa and I feel safer when no one can see me but I can see them. At home I do all the house chores. Almost every Afghan girl does house chores. It is their obligation. We have children, husbands, and in-laws and we have to serve them. This is our job. We do not work outside the house.

If I were literate, I would have wanted to work for the government to help our people. I didn’t even have the right to choose my life partner. My family chose my husband for me, but now I am happy with him. I always had a dream to become someone in my life, to serve my people, as a doctor or a teacher or a nurse. In my view a Muslim woman should have the right to work, to study, to go to a masjid religious school, to serve the government and the people of her country.

Men and women are equal in Islam, but in Afghanistan they are very different. In rural families when a girl is born, the parents of the child are very sad. For example just a few days ago a baby girl was thrown away on the streets in a small box. She was newly born. These narrow-minded people make me regret being born a girl. My request for the government is to stop these bombings, save our innocent youth, and also create jobs for them. So much of the population is unemployed.
By Malika, as told to Storay

Sep 14, 2015 Leave a Comment
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Friday, November 13, 2015

Little Flowers - Poem

Little Flowers - Poem

We are little flowers,
don’t let us die,
we are fragile.
If you throw stones our
stems will break.
Don’t hit us, we are
precious in your life.

We are little flowers that can make your
garden beautiful.
We need shade,
love, care. Our dreams can make your life
sweet. We are strong, don’t force us to be
weak and die in the wind.

If you don’t make us cry, we will
make you smile.
Our colors and scents will
turn our land beautiful.
We are Afghan women, the
hope of our country!

Don’t sell us.
Don’t kill us.

By Shogofa

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fathers Rape with Impunity, Increasing Guatemala’s Teen Pregnancies

Photo by Sarah Bones - International Photojournalist

 In Guatemala, most pregnancies among girls under 14 are the result of rape at the hands of fathers or other relatives, but often it is the girl who is forced to leave the family home, and few perpetrators are punished, said a leading rights campaigner.

Nearly a quarter of all births in Guatemala are among teenage mothers - one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Latin America.

"In the majority of cases of sexual violence against girls, some as young as 10, most are committed by family members, mainly by the girl's father or stepfather," said Mirna Montenegro, the head of Guatemala's Sexual and Reproductive Health Observatory (OSAR).

In 2012, nearly 90 percent of all pregnancies among Guatemalan girls under 14 involved relatives, including cousins and uncles, of which 30 percent were the result of rape by fathers, according to Guatemala's human rights ombudsman.

Despite new laws passed in Guatemala to better protect against sexual violence, few who commit rape against girls are punished.

"Getting justice for girls who report crimes of sexual violence is still a big challenge for us. Often it's the pregnant girl who is removed from her home and placed in a refuge and not the perpetrator of the crime," Montenegro told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

According to a 2009 law, sex with a child under 14 is defined as rape, but of the 2,000 reported cases of under-14s getting pregnant in 2012, only eight resulted in convictions, Montenegro said.

Guatemala's children's prosecutor, Harold Flores, said the country's high teen pregnancy rate was a "scourge", and there were few convictions for rape carried out on girls under 14.

"We want girls, who have been victims of sexual violence, to remain in their home or be under the care of a relative. In some cases in the past girls were placed in government care and the aggressor wasn't arrested," he said from Guatemala City.

"It's deplorable that many of these cases are a result of sexual violence within the nuclear family: stepfathers, uncles, fathers, and grandfathers. We're reaching more and more girls as soon as we hear about a case and we have expanded our presence across Guatemala and rural areas," Flores said.


High levels of sexual violence against women and girls stem from the low status of women, especially indigenous Mayan women, in Guatemala's patriarchal and macho society.

"Machismo is about men believing a woman is their property and possession. We've heard fathers say 'She's my daughter and my property so I will do what I want with her," said Montenegro,

She said gender violence is also a legacy of Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war when rape was used as a weapon of war.

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second highest cause of death for 15 to 19 year-old girls globally, and babies born to adolescent mothers face a 'substantially higher risk' of dying than those born to women in their early 20s, according to the World Health Organization.

In Guatemala, teenage pregnancy is most common among uneducated indigenous girls, especially in poor rural areas.

"Girls in rural areas don't have or know other options in life. Their lives are limited to finding a partner, having children and looking after the home," Montenegro said.

Guatemala's high prevalence of child marriage, where girls can marry at 14 with their parent's consent, also fuels adolescent pregnancy, Montenegro said.

Guatemala's congress is considering a bill that would raise the minimum legal age for marriage to 16 for girls and 18 for boys, with the issue a debating point ahead of the country's presidential election run-off on Oct. 25.

"For this first time we've seen the issue of child marriage come up during the election campaign. The majority of presidential candidates have said they are in favour of raising the minimum age for marriage," said Montenegro, whose organisation is an alliance of universities, non-governmental organisations and lawmakers.

Last year, 5,100 girls under 14 became pregnant in the Central American country, up from 4,354 in 2013, according to OSAR.

One reason for the increase is because hospitals and health providers have to report pregnancies among girls under 14 under a law passed in 2012
Author: Anastasia Moloney 
BOGOTA, Oct 2, 2015 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

The Reproductive Health Observatories Network (OSAR), is a national network that monitors the implementation of Guatemala’s Universal Law for Family Planning and Sexual Education and the associated improvement of reproductive health outcomes in Guatemala

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Inkosi Kachindamoto

In June 2015, Senior Chief Inkosi Kachindamoto annulled 330 customary marriages – of which 175 were girl wives and 155 were boy fathers – in Dedza district, in the Central Region of Malawi. The objective was to encourage these youth to return to school, and continue a healthy childhood.

Bernadetta Matison, 17, was among them. Married at 15, she became pregnant the same year. “I dropped out of school because I got pregnant,” she said. “I’ve seen the evils of getting married at a young age. When I think about it now, I realize that getting married at such a young age isn’t a good thing. At the end of the day, we still lack the things that brought us into the marriage in the first place, like soap and lotion and other basic items. Some even get beaten, which isn’t right.”
Child marriage and pregnancy remain the main causes for their high dropout rates. The many young girls who have left school have few opportunities to earn a living, which leaves them exposed to various forms of gender-based violence. Though there are an equal number of boys and girls in lower grades of Primary School in Malawi, only 45 per cent of girls stay in school past standard eight (8th grade).
While civil marriages can only be terminated under civil law, customary marriages are regulated by custodians of culture. Therefore, UN Women Malawi has engaged with traditional leaders, including Chief Kachindamoto, to fight the cultural and religious practices that have allowed child marriages.
“I don’t want youthful marriages,” said Chief Kachindamoto. “They must go to school… no child should be found loitering at home or doing household chores during school time.”  The Chief clearly states that opportunities that the youth have today, were not readily available for her. Marrying early in her time was a norm.
In Malawi in 2012, one in every two girls was married before the age of 18 and according to the UN Population Fund, it has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, ranked 8th out of 20 countries considered to have the highest rates.
Through consistent advocacy efforts, UN Women and its partners have played an integral part in raising awareness on this issue and lobbying for legislative change. Efforts by UN Women included lobbying and training parliamentarians, engaging with traditional leaders and mobilizing civil society to advocate for the enactment of a law. More than 12 years in the making, Malawi’s Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, was passed by Parliament in February and enacted in April 2015. It raises the minimum age of marriage without parental consent to 18, but has no impact on young women and men already married.
Chief Kachindamoto’s decision was initially met with resistance from other community and opinion leaders, young couples and their parents—especially in marriages where a dowry had been involved—but she continued door-to-door campaigning  in the community with mothers’ groups, members of the Village Development Committee, faith-based leaders and NGOs-- lobbying, sensitizing and even annulling marriages.
Chief Kachindamoto also suspended village heads that had consented to child marriages, as the community’s bylaws forbade it, even before the new Marriage Act. Now that Chiefs have been recognized for their role in the new Act, it makes it easier for the suspensions to be regulated under this law.
“I talk to the parents. I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future,” said Chief Kachindamoto.
The new Act, and annulments have opened a new realm of possibilities for young women like 21-year-old Stella Kalilombe, who was married at 16 and endured an abusive relationship for many years. “I suffered, but I survived,” she says. “Which is why I decided to go back to school, to shape that future, a future of hope, peace and happiness for my family and I.”

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Monday, November 9, 2015



Valentina A. Mmaka – 26 September 2015

I wanted to talk about the psychological consequences of girls undergoing FGM and how they relate with others within their community. It was also important to determine what is needed, in this case in Kenya (but it can definitely fit other countries) to educate and train girls and women to end FGM. I spoke to Severina Lemachokoti. Severina underwent FGM when she was 13. She is a former primary school teacher and a psychologist working with Kenya’s Anti-FGM Board (under the Ministry of Devolution and Planning) in Samburu County. She is also the founder of Naretu Girls and Empowerment Program, a community-based organization focused on educating and empowering girls and women.

It’s important that Severina calls on all psychologists and teachers in the country to take action and create a network of support for those girls and women who have already undergone FGM and those who are at risk.


VALENTINA MMAKA - As a psychologist most of your work is done with girls and women who have undergone FGM and survivors, can you share with us how is you do this?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - As a Counseling Psychologist, I offer girls and women psycho-social support. This helps them come out of the trauma from the cut and the stigma they feel after learning about the effects of FGM. This is usually done after or during the trainings. When cases of FGM are reported at the hospital, I follow up to help the patients/victims. It’s a work full of challenges because there are no facilities that help the survivors to stay and get the necessary support they need in one place.

VALENTINA MMAKA - We all know the physical and psychological consequences of FGM but please share with our readers what are the most common psychological conditions manifested by the girls you work with in your community.

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - The girl’s self-esteem is lowered by the practice. A young Samburu girl is not supposed to answer back to the men. They are supposed to be submissive. The rituals that surround the cut force young girls to act like adults even when they are still at a tender age; this leads to early marriages. The trauma of the unknown pain follows the girl to womanhood. The pain is from the razor blade without any medication. Those women who have shared their stories and from experience say that the pain from FGM is worse than that of giving birth because of the veins that are cut (in the clitoris). The girls are not prepared for the cut/ceremony. It’s not like the boys who are prepared by the whole community. Therefore the girls are gripped by anxiety and fear of what awaits them.

In a situation where girls are married immediately after the cut and almost immediately after go to their husbands (whom they do not know beforehand) they fear the new environment. When infections or cysts manifest, women do not talk about it and they end up living with the pain and trauma.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Most girls undergo the cut during school vacation. How deep is this practice still rooted in the county you work in? How much do the girls acknowledge the consequences of being cut?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - Yes, girls are still cut during school vacation. Those who are not in school undergo the cut anytime as long as the parents are ready to have them cut. The practice is still deep-rooted in most of the communities in Kenya. Girls still fear to make decisions about saying No to FGM.

VALENTINA MMAKA - What normally happens at school when girls come back after the cut? How are they perceived from younger mates and, most of all, what is their real emotional and psychological state?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - Most girls feel good because they think they are more mature than the rest. They feel superior and accomplished with the cultural requirements (they are always told that they are ready for marriage). On the other hand, in schools where sensitization has been done, girls feel stigmatized and embarrassed upon realization of the effects of FGM and fear of what they might go through at a later stage in their lives ( womanhood/giving birth). They become anxious of their future and what fate might bring them.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Do they ever question why this is done to them in a more critical way a part from knowing that it’s a tradition? I mean have you ever encountered girls who would like to take a stand against FGM regardless to tradition?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - Most of the girls go through the cut as a cultural practice and a rite of passage. They just know that they have to go through it. Many girls would like to say NO but only a few, so far, have succeeded to stay without being cut (but still they fear speaking out about it). Others would like to, but their parents and family can’t allow them have the last decision. Most girls are not assertive.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Do you think there’s a difference, in terms of emotional and psychological stability, for a girl who lives in the west to be brought home to be cut during summer holidays, and a girl who lives in the village within her community? I mean to say, is there a difference in the impact that FGM has on the two in relation to their life experience?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - Yes, the girl from the west might be more informed of the effects she will suffer on an emotional and psychological level, but she might also have no idea of other cultural practices surrounding the cut, and this will traumatize the girl since she will not be ready for it. A girl who lives in the community is aware of the culture and the requirement. She might have a rough idea on when she will be cut, so she can prepare herself for the cut. Her trauma will be less than the girl living in a western country.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Living with a permanent physical and psychological scar like the cut is something that millions of women unfortunately have to deal with on a daily basis. What is the path to become self-conscious of themselves getting rid of the stigma and discrimination (especially if you live outside FGM practicing communities) in order to make impact despite the experience they had?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - A lot of sensitization is needed and psychological counseling centers to be put up. Counseling is needed for post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

VALENTINA MMAKA - How much the of trauma from the cut could lead to a mental health condition?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - This is something that we need to look into and do more research on.

VALENTINA MMAKA - We know Kenya has a lack of adequate psychologists and psychiatrists and services are often expensive or non-existent in many areas of the country. What could be the best strategy of support to help one who has undergone FGM?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - The campaigners should have basic skills of psychological counselling. Those who are already in the career should think of how to start centers that can help with cheaper services.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Teachers, not only in Kenya but worldwide, are not trained to deal with FGM survivors or girls at risk. How important would it be if teachers and school facilitators could be properly trained? How much of their training and preparation could make impact in a classroom?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - Teachers are key persons who could help girls understand their rights and help them realize the decision of saying NO. Their training is very important because most of them have the trust of the children (girls) and this gives them an opportunity to educate girls on the effects of FGM. Teachers will help girls love school more than the retrogressive cultural practice.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Immigrants often continue the practice while abroad, despite the fact they are confronted with a new culture, just to keep a tight the bond to their original culture. Migration is a tough experience for many and many communities feel that they don’ t want to change what has been in their culture for centuries. From the ground, how much is the real pressure of communities on their youth about FGM?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - I have not encountered any migrant who has undergone FGM but I only read about them. In most communities FGM comes with responsibilities of the traditions which make every youth to comply with the cultural laws. The youth have an obligation to fulfil in the community because they are the ones who will see the culture progress to the future generations.

VALENTINA MMAKA - Many young girls who don’t want to undergo the cut are often left alone, with no choice than to follow what the family requires from them, unless they run away from home. Addressing a message to these girls, what would you suggest? And to teachers?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - As much as the girls would like to run way from the cut, there are no places for them to seek for help. Counselling centers, educational centers or rescue centers are needed to help these girls. Teachers need to be trained so that they can be able to handle the survivors and the rescued girls.

VALENTINA MMAKA - What’s your opinion on how Kenyan institutions are handling FGM?

SEVERINA LEMACHOKOTI - Most institutions in areas where the practice is done have allowed the sensitization programs to be carried out but there is still a lot to be done. There should be a curriculum to guide institutions for FGM.

Valentina Mmaka is a writer and human rights activist advocating to end FGM. She is the author of the upcoming book, “The Cut: Global Voices for Change. Breaking silence on FGM.” (Dell’Arco 2015).

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Justice for Rokhshana

- Dozens of Afghan activists staged a protest in Kabul Friday to call for justice for a young woman stoned to death by militants after being accused of adultery in central Ghor province.

The woman, identified by local officials as Rokhsana and believed to be aged between 19 and 21, had been forced to marry and was caught trying eloping with another man.

She was placed in a hole in the ground as turbaned men gathered around and hurled stones at her with chilling nonchalance, footage released this week by broadcaster Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty showed.

On Wednesday, the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani ordered a probe into the stoning in a Taliban-controlled area just outside Firozkoh, the capital of Ghor. 

The incident, which local authorities believe took place more than a week ago, made international headlines with the footage going viral on social media, sparking strong criticism from within Afghanistan.

"We have come here to awaken the conscience of the Afghan people," Farahnaz Froutan, a female journalist, said at the protest in Kabul Friday. 

"Today this happened to Rokhsana, tomorrow it will happen to you. The question here is, why we are not standing against such crime and not raising our voice," she added.

Another protester, Asaar Hakimi, said negligence by the Afghan government in the death of another woman earlier this year had led to the stoning of Rokhsana.

In March a woman named Farkhunda was savagely beaten and set ablaze in central Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a Koran in an incident that triggered protests around the country and drew global attention to the treatment of Afghan women.

"If the government had seriously punished the murderers of Farkhunda, this incident would have not happened," Hakimi told AFP.

Demonstrators, including men and women, chanted slogans such as "Death to the Taliban! Death to criminals! Death to enemies of Afghanistan!" at the protest.

The brutal punishment meted out to Rokhsana highlighted the endemic violence against women in Afghan society, despite reforms since the hardline Taliban regime fell in 2001.

In September, just months after the death of Farkhunda, a video from Ghor appeared to show a woman -- covered head to toe in a veil and huddled on the ground -- receiving lashes from a turbaned elder in front of a crowd of male spectators.

The flogging came after a local court found her guilty of having sex outside marriage with a man, who was similarly punished.

Justice for Rokhshana, No to Killing of Afghan Women!

Killing of Afghan women, under any circumstance, is a crime. And perpetrators will be answerable in the court of law!!!
We condemn with highest indignation the killing of Rokhshana. She is a 19-year old Afghan woman from Firoz Koh of Ghor province who was stoned to death by Taliban on 25th October 2015. She was shot for escaping from home due to cruelty and violence against her. This act is barbaric, murderous, unlawful and can never be justified. Taliban cannot continue its barbaric treatment of women. We call for capital punishment to the perpetrators of this criminality against women. Rokhshana’s fiancee, a 23-year-old man named Mohammad Gul, was reportedly lashed by Taliban. The couple allegedly had fled from their families in a bid to find a place to be married.
This incident, like the many recent killings of Afghan women, reflects the Taliban’s lack of understanding that Afghanistan is already under the rule of law. In our new society, the killings of women that used to happen during the days of the Taliban already constitute a major crime that is meted with strong punishment. Communities should support the voice of women and condemn such assault to democracy.
Killings of women like this is also an indication that people are confused about the peace process of government that seeks to bring back the Taliban into the mainstream of national life. People should understand that the return of the Taliban under the peace process is subject to their submission to the rule of law and democracy. It does not mean reverting to the tyranny, despotism and lawlessness of the past. It does not mean that anyone can do barbaric treatment of women again. The Constitution declares that women are equal to men in rights and no Afghan citizen can change this fact!
We urge President Ghani and other senior officials of government to run a year- long ‘infomercial’ which will deliver the message that we are now living under the rule of law and extrajudicial trials of women by Taliban, individuals and communities will be prosecuted. The government should also continuously communicate to the people, especially in the rural areas, that their Taliban behavior and ways of dispensing justice have been outlawed and will never be condoned by the State. It is the duty of the government to ensure that its laws are understood by the people. Unless this is clear to Afghan citizens, women will continue to suffer from the ignorance of the law by self-proclaimed guardians of morality. Likewise, we hold the government accountable for all the adverse implications of its unholy alliance with Taliban in the name of the peace process.

We never support the return of the Taliban without making them answerable for their crimes against women. Peace without justice is not peace.We call upon the international community, defenders of human rights, and champions of democracy, to help us demand justice for Rokhshana and all the Afghan women who were helplessly assaulted and/or killed. Unless justice is served, half of our population will live in terror under the impunity of perpetrators and anti-human rights elements. It is worth to mention that violence against afghan women is increased by 34% and we express our deep concern on this.

By Dr. Massouda Jalal Founding Chairperson of Jalal Foundation and Former Minister of Women, Afghanistan

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Women's Movements in Post-"Arab Spring"

Unexpected and transformative revolutions broke off in North Africa and quickly spread to the Middle East and the rest of the world in 2010 and 2011. Spontaneous, leaderless, youth-driven, and backed by social media, these revolutions called for karamah (dignity) and democracy. Centering on women's movements before, during, and after the revolutions, Women's Movementsin Post-"Arab Spring" North Africa highlights the broader sources of authority that affected the emergence of new feminist actors and agents and their impact on the sociopolitical landscapes of the region. Until recently, studies of North African women's movements have focused on single aspects of women's achievements at a time. By providing a comparative analysis, this book for the first time sheds light not only on the role that these superstructures play in shaping women's experiences in North Africa, but also on the rich variety of women's responses to authority, and their potential contributions to African and global feminist thought. From the pre-history of the revolutions to their aftermath, the far-reaching historical and national scope of this collection expands the study of women's movements in North Africa beyond national borders, while still paying close attention to local characteristics. 

Fatima Sadiqi is Professor of Linguistics and Gender Studies at the University of Fez, Morocco. Her work focuses on women's issues in modern North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean world. She is author and editor of numerous volumes and journal issues, including Women, Gender and Language (Brill, 2013), Women and Knowledge in the Mediterranean (Routledge, 2013), and Moroccan Feminist Discourses (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 

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Friday, November 6, 2015

No Matter the Age, Women Are Always Victims of Violence

Fatima, 47, lives in Nangarhar.
Nangarhar– I am 47 years old. I am married and I have a girl and a boy. I don’t have a job because I am an illiterate woman. I only do the house chores and I am raising my children.
I believe human rights include rights for women, but women’s rights are not practiced in Afghanistan. If they were, women would be free from domestic violence. No matter what age, in our society, their husbands always beat women and women are always a burden for their brothers and fathers.
Women are always something like “something extra,” something without purpose. In our society, being a woman is like not being a human being. Human rights are not equal in Afghanistan. Women are treated badly.
By Fatima, as told to Majabeen
Photo: Canada in Afghanistan/Zakarya Gulistani
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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Freedom of Religion and Living Together in a Democratic Society

1. The Parliamentary Assembly notes that religion has gained renewed importance in European societies. Many beliefs and churches are developing in Europe alongside the religions which have influenced the history of our continent. The Assembly notes with great regret and anxiety that this continues to give rise to tensions, lack of understanding and suspicion, and even to xenophobic attitudes, extremism, hate speech and the most despicable violence. This vicious circle must be broken.

2. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is an established, universal and inviolable human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in international treaties at global and regional levels, and in national constitutions.

3. Churches and religious organisations are an integral part of civil society and must, with secular organisations, take part in the life of society. National authorities should take more account of religious communities’ potential to work for dialogue, mutual recognition and solidarity. For their part, those communities have a fundamental duty, which they must fully assume, to promote the shared values and principles which underpin “living together” in our democratic societies.

4. Those values and principles, which are non-negotiable, consist mainly of profound respect for human dignity and the fundamental rights protected by our democratic constitutions and by the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5) and its Additional Protocols, as well as respect for democratic principles and the rule of law, including the principle of non-discrimination between the different groups which make up our plural societies.

5. Religious affiliation is, for many European citizens, a key element of their identities. That affiliation is also expressed through worship and compliance with religious practices. Freedom to live according to those practices is one element of the right to freedom of religion safeguarded by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That right coexists with the fundamental rights of others and with the right of everyone to live in a space of socialisation which facilitates living together. That may justify the introduction of restrictions on certain religious practices; however, in conformity with Article 9.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to freedom of religion can only be submitted to those limitations which, as prescribed by law, constitute necessary measures, in a democratic society, in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. States Parties to the Convention should also strive to find a fair balance between conflicting interests resulting from the exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and other human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the right to respect for private and family life, the right to freedom of expression and the prohibition of discrimination.

6. Furthermore, the Assembly considers that the principle of secularity does not require the elimination of religion from social space; quite the contrary, this principle, properly interpreted and implemented, protects the possibility for the different beliefs, religious and non-religious, to coexist peacefully while all parties respect shared principles and values.

7. Legislatures and governments must take account of the fact that political decisions taken in the name of the “neutrality of the State” may, in practice, give rise to disguised discrimination against minority religions, which is incompatible with the right to freedom of religion and the principle of secularity. Worse, such decisions may give rise to a feeling amongst the members of the communities concerned that they are not considered full members of the national community. However, religious groups must be aware that any conviction or religious practice that violates human rights is not acceptable.

8. Certain religious practices remain controversial within national communities. Albeit in different ways, the wearing of full-face veils, circumcision of young boys and ritual slaughter are divisive issues and the Assembly is aware of the fact that there is no consensus among Council of Europe member States on these matters. Other religious practices may also provoke tensions, for example in the workplace. In this context, while it is aware that States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights have a wide margin of discretion in this field, the Assembly invites States to seek “reasonable accommodations” with a view to guaranteeing equality that is effective, and not merely formal, in the right to freedom of religion. States should ensure that their neutrality remains inclusive and diversity-friendly.

9. As far as circumcision of young boys is concerned, the Assembly refers to its Resolution 1952 (2013) on children’s right to physical integrity and, out of a concern to protect children’s rights which the Jewish and Muslim communities surely share, recommends that member States provide for ritual circumcision of children not to be allowed unless practised by a person with the requisite training and skill, in appropriate medical and health conditions. Furthermore, the parents must be duly informed of any potential medical risk or possible contraindications and take these into account when deciding what is best for their child, bearing in mind that the child’s interest must be considered the first priority.

10. Where ritual slaughter is concerned, the Assembly is not convinced that legislation prohibiting this practice is really necessary, or that it would be the most effective way of ensuring the protection of animals; legislation which imposes strict requirements, like that of France and Germany, achieves a balanced reconciliation of the legitimate concern to protect animals from unjustified suffering and respect for the right to freedom of religion The Assembly notes that the European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter (ETS No. 102) and the European Union’s Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing do not prohibit ritual slaughter.

11. The Assembly is convinced that education is the key to combating ignorance, breaking down stereotypes, building trust and mutual respect and promoting sincere support for the shared values of living together. In this respect, the Assembly is aware that many factors are influential in the formation of the individual personality. Families and media, as well as cultural and religious communities themselves, should support the development of open-minded individuals, capable of critical thinking and of constructive dialogue with others. It is crucial to fight against intolerance on the web. School should also be a meeting point and a place for constructive dialogue between individuals of different – religious or secular – beliefs.

12. Referring to its Recommendation 1962 (2011) on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, the Assembly reminds States of their obligation to ensure that all the religious communities which accept shared fundamental values are able to benefit from an appropriate legal status guaranteeing the exercise of freedom of religion. In the Assembly’s view, member States and religious communities should work together to promote coming together, dialogue and mutual respect: there is no better way of effectively combating all fanaticism and extremism, religious or anti-religious.

13. In this context, the Assembly recommends that member States:

13.1.      ensure that religious communities and their members are able to exercise the right to freedom of religion without impediment and without discrimination, in accordance with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and make sure, inter alia, that religious communities and their members are able, in compliance with the law, to:
  • 13.1.1.  practise their faith publicly and freely in places of worship designed for that purpose by themselves or in other places accessible to the general public, in accordance with their own rites and customs;
  • 13.1.2.  manage welfare institutions (hospitals, workshops for persons with disabilities, homes for elderly people, nursery schools, etc.), and schools and places of education;
  • 13.1.3.  make their opinion publicly known without being subjected to censorship and also exercise the right to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom to use media;

13.2.      promote the social integration of religious minorities and act at an early stage against those social, economic and political inequalities which affect those minorities, and resist their marginalisation and the instigation of hatred against them;

13.3.      put into practice a “secularity of recognition” and treat religious organisations as partners in the development of inclusive and mutually supportive societies, while respecting the principle of the independence of politics from religion and the rule of law; in this context:
  • 13.3.1.  develop projects in collaboration with religious communities to promote shared values and “living together”, and involve those communities in the combating of all extremism and fanaticism;
  • 13.3.2.  give encouragement to projects jointly developed by several communities, inter alia with non-religious associations, with a view to strengthening the social fabric through, for example, the promotion of inter-community solidarity, attention being paid to the most vulnerable people and the fight against discrimination;
  • 13.3.3.  ensure that public service media firmly oppose any form of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or beliefs and contribute not only to fighting stereotypes, but also to upholding the vision of a pluralist, intercultural and inclusive democratic society;

13.4.      promote in the school and extracurricular framework opportunities for people of different beliefs to meet and talk so that they can learn to express their religious identity without fear, but also without provoking others or prevaricating, and both open up to other visions of the world and learn to respect them even if they do not share them; in this context, co-operate with religious communities so that the teaching of religion becomes an opportunity for reciprocal listening and for developing critical thinking, including within the religious communities themselves.
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