In the experience of women’s rights activists around the world, religious fundamentalists strategically use physical and psychological violence to undermine those who oppose their policies. Fundamentalist violence can range from highly visible attacks against abortion doctors or LGBT people to the support of military actions to excusing domestic violence.

Religious fundamentalisms are on the rise in every region of the world, and can be found in every religion. In the experience of 8 out 10 women’s rights activists worldwide, religious fundamentalisms have had a negative impact on the rights of women. But activists are fighting back.

In a ground-breaking new publication, AWID presents feminist strategies of resisting and challenging religious fundamentalisms, based on research that draws examples from across regions and different religious traditions. Building on this extensive research, the report examines the factors that help religious fundamentalisms grow and the strategies fundamentalists use to promote their vision and strengthen their social and political power. It unmasks those strategies through feminist analysis and provides proposals and examples of how women’s rights activists and their allies in other movements can work effectively towards a future without fundamentalisms.

http://awid.org/eng/About-AWID/AWID-News/Towards-a-Future-without-Fundamentalisms-New-Report-Analyzes-Religious-Fundamentalist-Strategies-and-Feminist-Responses

Download the report “Towards a Future without Fundamentalisms” in pdf 1.23 MB http://awid.org/eng/content/download/93090/1041955/file/Towards%20a%20Future%20without%20Fundamentalisms.pdf

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, women’s human rights defender of Ciudad Juarez, was murdered while peacefully demanding the compliance of the sentence against the assassin of her daughter, Rubi Marisol Frayre Escobedo.

AWID joins hundreds of women’s organizations in denouncing the killing of women human rights defender Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and demanding justice and accountability from the Mexican Government for this act of violence, as well as uncountable others passed unnoticed und unpunished in the face of law.

“On 16 December 2010, a group of men arrived at the main square in the Chihuahua city, and approached Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, who was holding a peaceful demonstration for 8 days to demand that the authorities take action to detain her daughter Rubi’s assassin. She ran seeking refuge in the Government Palace; at its doors, one of the men shot her in the head, killing her.

The cause of this murder is the culture of discrimination and violence against women that the Mexican State has maintained in Ciudad Juarez and in Chihuahua over the past two decades. In the past 27 months, Marisela’s main activity was to demand justice for her daughter’s murder, denouncing the authorities as accomplices and negligent of femicide, and demanding that the justice system effectively guarantee women’s right to a life free of violence.

On 28 August 2008, faced with her daughter Rubi’s murder, Marisela began the process to denounce the murder and to demand that the authorities act in accordance with the law, as there were clear suspicions about the identity of the assassin.

Rubi Marisol, 19 years of age, was killed in Ciudad Juarez by her partner, Sergio Rafael Barraza, with whom she had a daughter. Barraza Bocanegra was abussive from the beginning of the relationship, increasing the violence until he killed her, burned her body and threw her in a clandestine trash dump and pig cemetery. He then fled to the state of Zacatecas, trusting that after some time his crime would remain unpunished, as are hundreds of other murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. His crime was not investigated, he was later absolved in the courts, and finally, since he had fled, was found guilty in appeals.

Given the grave irregularities and omissions on the part of the authorities involved in the ministerial investigations, Marisela had the tenacity to look for proof about the events, always within the limits of the law. Sergio Rafael Barraza, personally and in her presence, identified the exact place where he had dumped his victim, confessed to his crime, and asked for forgiveness in a hearing during the oral trial that took place. However, on 29 April 2010, the judges Catalina Ochoa Contreras, Netzahualcoyotl Zuñiga Vazquez and Rafael Baudib Jurado decided to acquit him.

The event shocked Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. The victims’ families and the local organizations, alongside national and international spaces and organizations, have acted since 1993 to document femicide, denouncing the negligence and complicity of the authorities, constantly presenting proposals and actions for the State institutions to act in accordance with their obligations with the citizens. Just a few months earlier, there was an important accomplishment towards this aim. In December 2009, the Inter-American Human Rights Court condemned Mexico for the disappearances, sexual violence, and murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. The Mexican State had argued in the Inter-American trial that the new justice system in Chihuahua did not repeat the impunity of prior decades. The assassination of Rubi and the impunity despite the weight of the evidence, demonstrates that the situation in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua was worse than in any previous year.

During 2010, every 24 hours a woman has been killed in the state of Chihuahua for reasons primarily to do with the fact that she is a woman. An unprecedented fact is that the vast majority of the cases are in total impunity.

The Inter-American Court also recognized that there is systematic harassment and aggression against families and defenders who demand justice for these cases, and it condemned Mexico for not guaranteeing their protection, allowing crimes to go unpunished and not compensating for damages.

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz always sought justice in a peaceful manner. She used her own resources, economic and human, to conduct the work that the authorities did not do. She conducted all of the investigations to learn the truth and to find her daughter’s murderer. She walked from Ciudad Juarez to Chihuahua to demand that the state Governor, at that time Jose Reyes Baeza, order the necessary actions to detain the assassin. After Sergio Rafael Barraza was acquitted, she initiated the appeal and managed to get the assassin condemned. However, since he was not held in custody, he fled again and began to threaten Marisela. In July of this year, she moved to the Alameda Central in Mexico City to demand that President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, seek out and arrest the murderer. In September she went to the National Feminist Gathering held in Zacatecas to call on the authorities to search for Barraza, because there were indications that he was in that state. In November of this year, she testified before the International Mission for Women’s Access to Justice.

She always affirmed that as long as Rubi’s assassin, and all assassins of women, remain free, they would continue to commit these crimes. Her consciousness of the need to take measures to ensure that these acts would not repeat themselves led to the creation of an Investigation Commission for Rubi’s case in the state of Chihuahua, with the goal of identifying the errors committed in the process and take action within the justice system to ensure that this impunity not be repeated. However, all of this was paralyzed during the change in state and municipal governments. On 16 December, Marisela was protesting because the new governor, Cesar Duare Jaquez, had not taken any action regarding her daughter – and other women who were disappeared and murdered – but he had mobilized the entire justice apparatus in support of the families of high-level State officials.

The organizations signing this statement will give continuity to Marisela’s voice and demands:

    * In her memory, we say no more simulation by the authorities.
    * We demand an end to femicide and impunity.
    * We demand compliance with all provisions of the “Campo Algodonero” Judgment, in which the Inter-American Court specifies actions to prevent, investigate and punish appropriately the disappearances, sexual violence and killings against women, and to investigate and punish those who harass and attack the families and organizations who seek justice for those acts.
    * Following the Inter-American Court, we demand guarantees for the integrity and security of all the families of victims of disappearances, sexual violence and killings of women, meaning, of femicide. This involves providing comprehensive care, researching the facts and proper compensation for damages, in an urgent manner for the Frayre Escobar family.
    * Given the very serious increase in violence against women human rights defenders, we hold the Mexican government responsible for any act against them, because so far the State has not investigated or taken action to ensure their basic life and integrity. This includes the police forces of the three spheres of government – federal, state and municipal – that have occupied Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua since 2008, without this resulting in improved safety for women.
    * We denounce that the current debate to approve the Chihuahua state budget resources has not incorporated resources to implement the state law for the right of women to a life free of violence, or to comply with the Campo Algodonero Judgment.

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was a human rights defender who, after her daughter’s murder, mobilized people and organizations, institutions and powers to put a stop to femicide, always by strengthening the institutions of justice, citizen action, and democracy. Her assassination reveals the criminal lack of protection that the Mexican State maintains against defenders and its lack of effective will to guarantee women a life free of violence.

For list of signatories go to http://www.awid.org/eng/Women-in-Action/Announcements2/Urgent-Statement-on-the-Murder-of-Marisela-Escobedo-Ortiz-women-s-human-rights-defender-of-Ciudad-Juarez

Sudanese police arrested dozens of women protesting last month against laws they say humiliate women after a video of a woman being flogged in public appeared on the Internet.

Floggings carried out under Islamic are almost a daily punishment in Sudan for crimes ranging from drinking alcohol to adultery.

But vague laws on women’s dress and behaviour are implemented inconsistently. One case sparked international furore when Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese U.N. official, invited journalists to her public flogging for wearing trousers.

The video, which was removed by YouTube, showed a crying Sudanese woman being lashed by two policemen in front of onlookers in a public place. She was made to kneel and the police laughed during the punishment.

“Humiliating your women is humiliating all your people,” the women shouted as they were being arrested on Tuesday.

Around 50 women sat down outside the justice ministry holding banners and surrounded by riot police telling them to move.

Three plain-clothed security men threw the BBC correspondent to the ground, confiscating his equipment.

All the women were arrested and taken to a nearby police station. Their lawyers were prevented from entering, but senior opposition politicians were allowed to go inside.

The women said they had tried to get permission for the protest but had been refused. The police declined to comment.

“The authorities here take the law into their own hands. No one knows what happens inside these police stations,” said one of their lawyers, Mona el-Tijani. “This video was just one example of what happens all the time.”

Sudan’s justice ministry said it would investigate whether the punishment was administered properly.

It was not clear what offence the woman being lashed had committed. Officials from the ruling National Congress Party offered conflicting explanations in the local press.

http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/sudan-police-arrest-women-protesting-at-flogging-video

When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote a year-end op-ed piece for an Australian newspaper, he talked about the future of a world body facing a new generation of threats: climate change, poverty, nuclear disarmament and human rights.

But, wittingly or unwittingly, he left out one of the biggest political success stories of the world body: the creation of a separate body, UN Women, to promote gender empowerment worldwide.

The new U.N. agency, armed with a projected 500-million- dollar annual budget and headed by Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet, began functioning at the beginning of the New Year.

But there has been no fanfare or political celebration inside the world body – even as the secretary-general is being accused of bypassing the importance of the landmark event.

“It would have been a tremendous opportunity to draw attention to UN Women … after all, the creation of an entirely new agency devoted to half the world’s population is something to be noted and celebrated,” said Paula Donovan, a co-director of AIDS-Free World, one of the early active campaigners for the new agency.

“But there’s not a word on UN Women,” she complained in a letter to Bachelet, jointly authored with Stephen Lewis, a former deputy executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF. “And that’s only the half of it. The other half provokes disbelief,” says the letter.

The agency was inaugurated on the first working day of 2011 at the U.N. since Monday was a New Year holiday.

In a paragraph that summarises the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the secretary‑general lists seven of the eight goals. “The only one left out is, astonishingly, the goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women. How is that possible?” the letter notes.

The creation of UN Women was hailed as a phenomenal success judging by the decades-old negotiations.

Asked to respond to the criticism, deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: “The secretary‑general has made clear his commitment to women’s issues, and he pushed strongly for the establishment of UN Women.” His commitment to UN Women can be seen through his efforts to win approval for that entity and his search for a strong leader for UN Women, which he found in Michelle Bachelet, said Haq. “He has spoken extensively on women’s issues, and its absence from one op-ed does not imply any lessening of his commitment on this crucial issue,” he declared.

In the op-ed piece, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald Dec. 31, Ban says the United Nations today leads what seems at times like a double life.

“Pundits criticise it for not solving all the world’s ills, yet people around the world are asking it to do more, in more places, than ever before ‑ a trend that will continue in 2011. It is not hard to see why,” he wrote. “The conventional wisdom will tell you that the MDG targets ‑ reducing poverty and hunger, improving the health of mothers and children, combating HIV/AIDS, increasing access to education, protecting the environment, and forging a global partnership for development ‑ are simply unattainable. In fact, we are controlling disease ‑ polio, malaria and AIDS ‑ better than ever, and making big, new investments in women’s and children’s health ‑ the key to progress in many other areas,” the article reads.

In her letter to Bachelet, Donovan says the greatest challenges for women will come from within. “And that was demonstrated, right at the outset of your tenure, by a classic act of unthinking negligence on the part of the secretary‑general himself. Alas, it is all too typical. Dr. Bachelet, you have your work cut out for you. And your work starts at the top,” says the letter, which carries the heading: “Can we help with your biggest challenge: educating the secretary‑general?”

Asked whether Ban was paying lip service to the cause of gender empowerment, Donovan told IPS: “I wish it were a fluke, but sadly, it’s been a pattern since he took office. I really wonder whether he believes that he’s ticking off the gender box when he makes a passing reference to maternal health – as though that were the sum total of women’s rights,” she added.

Article continues at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=54039

Civil society has warned of adverse social and health consequences after the Egyptian government ordered the removal of content related to male and female anatomy, reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) from the school curriculum last November.

“We know most of this material wasn’t being taught, but removing it from the curriculum is a big step backwards,” says Noha Roushdy, researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

Egypt’s education ministry has instructed schools not to teach lessons on “reproduction and propagation methods”, “pollination and fertilisation” genetics, and anatomical illustrations of the male and female reproductive systems. Teachers were ordered to disregard chapters on these subjects in existing biology textbooks, and new textbooks have been printed that omit the lessons.

The revisions, according to the independent weekly Al-Youm Al-Sabaa, affect students between the ages of 12 and 17. The paper quoted a ministry source as saying the deleted materials would be replaced by teacher-led classroom discussions that “incorporate the latest information on the subject from sources other than school textbooks.”

Lessons on reproductive health were first added to the Egyptian curriculum following the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. The conference asserted the right of all men and women to receive comprehensive information pertaining to reproductive health, and recommended including lessons on the subject in school textbooks.

The government’s decision to remove these lessons from the official curriculum could be the biggest setback in nearly two decades for civil society organisations working to improve public knowledge on reproductive health.

“Definitely there will be social and health consequences,” says Dr. Amal Abdel Hadi, an outspoken advocate of reproductive health rights. “There will be more misconceptions about sex, marital disharmony and sexual harassment… and the prevalence of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) will increase.”

Sex has always been a sensitive topic in Egypt, and society’s discomfort with discussing matters related to sexuality has impeded efforts to address health issues and control spiralling population growth. Abdel Hadi is particularly disturbed by what she sees as a growing conservative and religious trend that is putting piety and propriety ahead of people’s health and rights.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, when people discussed sexuality the focus was on good and bad relationships,” she told IPS. “Now it is only about what is halal (permissible) or haram (sinful), which moves the whole issue into the religious realm.”

Egyptian religious authorities have rejected the idea of educating school students about safe sex and STDs. When this came up for debate five years ago, one influential Islamic cleric insisted that students should learn about sex “in a way that doesn’t stir instincts, or offend public morality.”

Translated, that means sex should only be taught in a way that reinforces the morally accepted behaviour of abstinence until marriage and fidelity. In practice, when sex is discussed in the classroom at all, it is presented in a religious or biological context without ever exploring its social and psychological dimensions.

Surveys have shown that Egyptians, particularly young women, are poorly informed when it comes to reproductive health and safe sex practices. Most lack basic knowledge on anatomy, reproductive functions and STDs.

A public awareness study of HIV/AIDS conducted in 2008 revealed that less than two percent of women among the poorest fifth of Egyptians, and about 16 percent among the richest, knew the basic facts of the disease. Men were better informed, but less than a third of males in the wealthiest group were aware that a person could be HIV-positive yet still appear healthy.

Egypt is one of only five Arab countries to have included reproductive health in the public school curriculum. Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Bahrain teach basic sex education to secondary school students. In Lebanon, only private secular schools provide any instruction.

Dr. Mamdouh Wahba, chairman of the Egyptian Society for Family Health (ESFH), warns that removing lessons on reproductive health from school textbooks will perpetuate commonly held misconceptions about sex and undermine efforts to control STDs. He says in the absence of authoritative explanations of sex and reproduction, inquisitive youth will seek information from unscientific sources.

“They’ll end up learning about sex from their peers, the Internet and (pornography),” he says.

Egyptian media is playing an increasingly important role in educating the public on reproductive health, and the information stream is richer than it was just five years ago. Television programmes and radio talk shows frequently discuss sex-related issues, including previously taboo topics such as condom use, oral sex and masturbation.

The problem, says Wahba, is that poorly educated audiences are often unable to discern the quality of the information being presented. Facts and sound advice about sex-related issues are lost among the scores of programmes in which unqualified doctors and religious clerics dispense subjective or fallacious opinions.

Wahba says the ICPD established 16 years ago that it is the right of all youth to receive objective, scientific instruction on reproductive health and life skills.

“This could be done through extracurricular activities, but we need to reach all students, and in order to do that you must either make these activities obligatory or put them into the school curriculum,” he says. (END)

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53628

An opposition party push to amend the prostitution law, so providing more equality for women, has been rejected by the two ruling parties in the Iraqi Kurdistan government, who claim prostitution is not a big enough problem to discuss in parliament.

“Prostitution is not a phenomenon in Kurdistan,” said Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) lawmaker Dilshad Shehab. “If we said it was, it would be an injustice against Kurdistan.”

Opposition parties requested the discussion of a bill amending the prostitution law, but the Kurdish parliament rejected it. This follows the parliament’s 2009 rejection of another bill, designed to clamp down on prostitution, before it even got to the discussion stage.

Although there is general consensus among government officials, rights groups and the general populace in Iraqi Kurdistan that prostitution is not as widespread here as in other Middle Eastern countries, some say Iraqi Kurds have swept the issue under the carpet, often dismissing it as “an Arab problem.”

There are few statistics on prostitution in Iraqi Kurdistan available but, because of the high incidence of honor killing in Kurdish society, prostitution is a particularly high-risk occupation for women in Iraqi Kurdistan, and so, officials and observers say, the role is more often taken up by Arab and other foreign women.

However, Bilal Sulaiman, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG, known locally as Komal) – the party that drafted the amendment bill – told Rudaw that, through reading Kurdish author Khandan Hama Jaza’s 2007 book, “An Ocean of Crimes,” he had only recently become aware of the large number of prostitutes in Kurdistan and their “terrible” situation.

“We want to confront prostitution in Kurdistan,” said Sulaiman. “There is a shyness in Kurdistan around prostitution, but that is no reason not to discuss it.”

Ms. Hama Jaza, who had to flee Iraqi Kurdistan to live in Germany because of numerous threats to her safety, had revealed in her book the involvement of Kurdish officials and police in the country’s prostitution trade.

Sulaiman said the existing Iraqi government law, passed in 1988, had “some shortcomings” which needed to be amended, adding that any amendments would only apply to the semiautonomous Kurdish region.

“The law only talks about women,” he said. “We have proposed to include punishment for both women and men, which would include people selling prostitutes and their customers.”

However, the KDP’s Shehab said that, because the existing law “banned prostitution entirely,” no one of either sex was permitted to be involved in it.

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) lawmaker Gasha Dara Hafid – head of parliament’s Committee to Protect Women’s Rights – said there were legal gaps in the Iraqi law, as it only dealt with women and homosexual men and failed to make customers accountable.

“If you want to eradicate prostitution you must deal with both sides,” said Ms. Hafid, who, contrary to most PUK lawmakers, voted to discuss the bill. “If there is no body buyer, there will be no body seller.”

She said there was no legal justification for rejecting the discussion of the bill in parliament, and that the chief opponents to the bill – the ruling PUK and KDP – claimed the issue of men and customers involved with prostitution was covered by other existing laws.

“The bill only has a few amendments and will make no difference, so we don’t need it,” said the KDP’s Shehab. “There is not such a big problem with the existing law.”

However, Ms. Hafid pointed to Iraqi Kurdistan’s need to guarantee more equality between males and females, which the law amendments would have addressed.

“We need to make both women and men accountable,” she said. “Women’s souls should not be bought and sold. If the law had been amended it would have decreased prostitution.”

Both Ms. Hafid and the KIG’s Sulaiman stressed that the original law and its proposed amendments were chiefly about reform and the solving of social problems, rather than punishment and retribution.

“We want to reeducate [prostitutes] and teach them how to live normally again,” said Sulaiman. “We want to oblige the government to assist them.”

He said there were both social and religious reasons for the law amendment proposal.

“Prostitution exists because we have so many social problems in Kurdistan,” Sulaiman said. “According to Sharia law, prostitution is a crime, but Sharia is conditional on social problems…Our government should put money into solving these problems.”

Sulaiman said the amendment bill made a distinction between women who were forced into prostitution, whether physically or through poverty, and those who were “willing” to practice it.

“There are women who are rich and just want to be prostitutes,” he said.

However, author Ms. Hama Jaza said in October that, according to her own research interviewing over 1,300 Kurdish prostitutes, 98 percent of them were “victims,” who were forced into the profession.

Sherizaan Minwalla, country director of Heartland Alliance, a United States-based human rights group that is setting up Iraq’s first ever shelter devoted to human trafficking victims in Iraqi Kurdistan, also said people in Kurdistan often did not realize the coercive nature of prostitution.

“They view prostitutes as criminals, [or] think that women do this because they like it,” said Ms. Minwalla, adding that she had seen Iraqi Kurdish girls as young as 14 who had been forced into prostitution.

“There are some cases [in Iraqi Kurdistan] of husbands or fathers forcing their wives and daughters into prostitution,” said Ms Minwalla. “It is almost impossible to reintegrate these women back into the family in Kurdish society.”

Ms. Minwalla stressed that, because of the social importance of the Kurdish family unit, a lone female forced out of the care of her family was extremely vulnerable to human trafficking.

“There’s nowhere to go,” said Ms. Minwalla. “She might even say she wasn’t forced [into prostitution], but was she sexually abused and then had to run away from her family?”

The PUK’s Ms. Hafid agreed that most Kurdish people did not have compassion for prostitutes.

“If a man in this society goes to a prostitute, he doesn’t think of himself as bad; he just looks down on the woman,” she said. “Kurdish society in general, including women, contributes to this looking down on prostitutes. Men are not held accountable for prostitution because there is no law holding them accountable, but in Islam it is clearly stated that both male and females are accountable.”

The KIG’s Sulaiman said he believed there were political goals for the ruling parties rejecting the bill’s discussion.

“All the opposition parties supported it,” he said. “Maybe there are other political reasons too, but that is only my opinion.”

But the KDP’s Shehab denied any political agenda behind the bill’s rejection.

“Some KDP lawmakers voted for the bill,” he said. “There was only a two-vote majority, which is a good indication that there was no political motivation behind it.”

Ms. Hafid said a further attempt to discuss the bill in parliament would be made after some adjustments to the bill had been completed.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurds/3392.html

The number of sexual harassment cases among civil service employees rose 40 percent last year, according to the annual report released by the Civil Service Commission’s disciplinary division.

Over the year, 125 sexual harassment files were opened compared with 90 the year before. As recently as three years ago, the annual figure was 65. Of the 125 cases filed last year, 20 were filed with the disciplinary court for civil service employees.

The executive director general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Michal Rozin, said highly publicized cases encourage victims of sexual harassment to file complaints. Such cases include the allegations of sexual misconduct against police commissioner candidate Uri Bar-Lev, and the trial and conviction of former President Moshe Katsav on rape and other charges.

“We have seen this reflected in a substantial way in the flood of phone calls to rape crisis centers and to our emergency hotlines beginning on Thursday morning when the verdict in the Katsav case was announced,” Rozin said. “We have just been swamped with calls in the past several days.”

Some observers say more complainants came forward in 2010 after Orly Innes’ complaint filed with the Civil Service Commission. Innes said she was sexually harassed by the outgoing director general of the Public Security Ministry, Hagai Peleg.

The report from the Civil Service Commission, which was recently provided to the Justice Ministry, shows that the Education Ministry suffered the largest number of complaints in 2010. That year, 26 files were opened, compared with 12 the year before.

The Health Ministry had the second largest number of complaints, 23, followed by the Israel Postal Company and the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which each had eight.

Agencies with smaller numbers of complaints included the court administration, the Nuclear Research Center and educational television, with one each. The Prime Minister’s Office was the source of two complaints.

Rozin said high-profile sexual misconduct cases such as the Katsav case or the case involving former minister Haim Ramon’s kissing of a female soldier revive painful memories among victims. Many of these victims then feel the need to talk about what they went through.

Rozin said the Katsav case had a major impact. She said that a survey conducted in 2010 showed that 40 percent of women experience sexual harassment at the workplace.

Attorney Rachel Toren, who represented Innes, agreed that media coverage of sexual misconduct cases encourages other victims to come forward. She cautioned, however, that not every complaint is well-founded.

Innes not only filed a complaint against Peleg, but also went public with allegations against Uri Bar-Lev, who withdrew his candidacy as police commissioner following allegations of sexual misconduct by Innes and another women.

Tziona Koenig-Yair, who heads the equal employment opportunity commission at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, said publicized cases involving sexual harassment cause an increase in the number of complaints filed. But some people dispute this, she said.

“The message that has come from labor courts over the past year and from the judicial system as a whole is a message encouraging women to file sexual harassment complaints,” she said.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/sexual-harassment-cases-in-israel-s-civil-service-rose-40-in-2010-1.335064

Women in south Sudan have been targeted in a string of abusive attacks by police cracking down on Western clothes. Many of the attacks over the Christmas period were by newly graduated members of southern Sudan’s police force.

Thousands of new cadets have finished police training courses backed by the United Nations, coinciding with the first reports of abuse in the southern capital, Juba, often directed at women wearing shorts and miniskirts.

The north eastern African country held a referendum on January 9 over whether its mostly Christian south should become independent from the Muslim north which is ruled by the strict Islamic sharia law.

But foreign women have also been targeted by police. On Wednesday, an non-uniformed man ordered a German woman to go home because she was wearing a dress that he decided was too revealing. He said: “If I see you like that pass here again, I will take you,” she told the International Herald Tribune newspaper.

Over the Christmas weekend, Joseph Lubega and his wife were out shopping when a uniformed police officer slapped his wife across the face, he said. The officer slapped her again. Then a third time.

“The reason, he said, was the blouse,” said Mr Lubega, a motorcycle driver from Uganda working in the southern Sudanese capital. “It had an open back.”

Talking about the attacks, Information Minister Benjamin Marial said: “In southern Sudan, you can dress in anything, everyone is free.” He said that the attacks were unjustified and that the officers involved have been set right. “This is not the policy of the government of southern Sudan, and we have taken the preliminary measures,” he said. “Sometimes police get out of control. These were individuals.”

A southern Sudanese army officer said that the police had been told to ‘counsel’ women on their dress, and that the officers had “mistaken the advice they were given.”

“Police have arrested women and girls for their dress on many occasions,” said Human Rights Watch researcher, Jehanne Henry. She added that in the past, police commissioners had authorized arrests of people with “bad behaviour,” which also included men wearing low-slung jeans and dreadlocks. “Police have a lot of work to do to educate and train officers in the applicable laws,” Ms Henry said.

January’s referendum was the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of fighting between north and south over religion, way of life and oil that killed two million people.

http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/women-attacked-by-clothes-police

One year after the earthquake which killed 230,000 people and injured 300,000 on 11 January 2010, more than one million people still live in appalling conditions in tent cities in the capital Port-au-Prince and in the south of Haiti, where women are at serious risk of sexual attacks. Those responsible are predominately armed men who roam the camps after dark.

More than 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after January’s earthquake, according to Amnesty International’s 39-page report, Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti’s camps. (Download as a pdf file http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_21131.pdf)

One year on, rape survivors continue to arrive at the office of a local women’s support group almost every other day.

Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International Haiti researcher, said: “Women already struggling to come to terms with losing their loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the earthquake, now face the additional trauma of living under the constant threat of sexual attack. For the prevalence of sexual violence to end, the incoming government must ensure that the protection of women and girls in the camps is a priority. This has so far been largely ignored in the response to the wider humanitarian crisis.”

Sexual violence was widespread in Haiti before January 2010 but this has been exacerbated by the conditions since the earthquake, said Amnesty. The limited assistance the authorities previously provided has been undermined by the destruction of police stations and court houses. This has made it more difficult to report sexual violence.

Over 50 survivors of sexual violence shared their experiences with Amnesty International for the study.

One 14-year-old girl, Machou, lives in a makeshift camp for displaced people in Carrefour Feuilles, south-west Port-au-Prince. She was raped in March when she went to the toilet. She told Amnesty:

“A boy came in after me and opened the door. He gagged me with his hand and did what he wanted to do… He hit me. He punched me. I didn’t go to the police because I don’t know the boy, it wouldn’t help. I feel really sad all the time…I’m afraid it will happen again.”

One woman, Suzie, recounted how she was living in a makeshift shelter with her two sons and a friend when they were attacked around 1am on 8 May. Suzie and her friend were both blindfolded and raped in front of their children by a gang of men who forced their way into their shelter. Suzie told Amnesty:

“After they left I didn’t do anything. I didn’t have any reaction… Women victims of rape should go to hospital but I didn’t because I didn’t have any money… I don’t know where there is a clinic offering treatment for victims of violence.”

Suzie lost her parents, brothers and husband in the January earthquake. Her home was also destroyed.

Amnesty’s report highlights how the lack of security and policing in and around the camps is a major factor for the increase in attacks over the past year.

The response by police officers to survivors of rape is described as inadequate. Many survivors of rape have said that when they sought police help they were told officers could do nothing.

Gerardo Ducos added: “There has been a complete breakdown in Haiti’s already fragile law and order system since the earthquake with women living in insecure overcrowded camps. There is no security for the women and girls in the camps. They feel abandoned and vulnerable to being attacked. Armed gangs attack at will; safe in the knowledge that there is still little prospect that they will be brought to justice.”

Amnesty is calling for the new Haitian government to urgently take steps to end violence against women as part of a wider plan to address the humanitarian effort. Amnesty’s report insists that women in the camps must be fully involved in developing any such plan.

Immediate steps should include improving security in the camps and ensuring that police are able to respond effectively and that those responsible are prosecuted.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19163

Joint Action Group For Gender Equality (JAG) is greatly concerned with recent announcement in Star (Dec 29) that the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) intends to take action against Azwan Ismail for posting a video on YouTube entitled “I’m Gay, I’m OK” as part of a video campaign launched in response to accounts of suicides and attempted suicides by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) teenagers and adults.

We are appalled that government authorities have not condemned the threats of murder and violence against Azwan Ismail and other members of Seksualiti Merdeka who were involved in the campaign, but instead have fanned violence and hatred with homophobic and discriminatory statements.

Women have never been strangers to discrimination. That is why women’s groups seek to uphold Article 8 of the Malaysian federal constitution that clearly guarantees that, “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law.”

JAG stands by Seksualiti Merdeka’s attempt to reach out to Malaysians who face overwhelming feelings of loneliness, fear or hopelessness resulting from the stigma and discrimination against them for being LGBT. They should not be persecuted for trying to address a human issue with understanding and compassion.

JAG is deeply concerned with the culture of hatred and intolerance bred in Malaysian society today against those who are different, be it on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This demonisation of the “other” goes against the true inclusive and tolerant spirit of being Malaysian.

As Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated:

“Neither the existence of national laws, nor the prevalence of custom can ever justify the abuse, attacks, torture and indeed killings that gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender persons are subjected to, because of who they are or are perceived to be.

“Because of the stigma attached to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, violence against LGBT persons is frequently unreported, undocumented and goes ultimately unreported and unpunished. Rarely does it provoke public debate and outrage. This shameful silence is the ultimate rejection of the fundamental principle of universality of rights.”

Azwan Ismail is not the first gay Muslim man in Malaysia nor will he be the last. Being gay is not a crime, however, hate speech as per Sections 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and making threats to commit acts of violence as stated in Section 503 of the Penal Code are crimes under Malaysian laws.

We urge Malaysians to stand up to such hatred and violence and reach out to all those who are discriminated against in peace and compassion.

Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) comprises Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) and Perak Women for Women Society.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/152034

The Fiji Women Crisis has recorded the highest number of domestic violence cases this year compared to the last five years.

According to the statistics provided by the Crisis Center their Suva Office dealt with a total of 882 cases this year compared to 760 cases last year and the most significant increase in reported cases was domestic violence which increased from 371 last year to 553 this year.

Deputy Co-ordinator, Edwina Kotoisuva said this is the highest number of recorded cases for domestic violence over the past five years and that while they believe more women are coming forward to report such crimes there is a possibility that the levels of violence are increasing.

Kotoisuva said while there has slight increase in rape and sexual harassment cases recorded at the center, there has been a decrease in what they called Other’s category due to the fact that women are able to access information and support.

http://www.fijivillage.com/?mod=archivedstory&id=3012109acaa5ecc1917690a4f53121

Women’s rights organizations expressed relief over the conviction of former president Moshe Katsav on rape and indecent assault charges.

When the details of the verdict became known, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel reacted to the verdict by saying it was a sad and difficult day for the country.

“It is a day on which the truth that convicted him and his true face came to light, after the four difficult years the victims have gone through, [after] the deficient conduct of the prosecution and the defamation campaign waged by Katsav and his attorneys against the victims,” they said.

Ronit Ehrenfreund-Cohen of the Women’s International Zionist Organization called the verdict a substantial advance on the victims’ behalf, saying the court had recognized that the testimony of the victims could lack coherence and could at times even be contradictory, “because that is an inseparable part of the pathology of victims of crime, but it is still the truth.”

“An additional painful point is that it now turns out there were many who knew what was happening for years and didn’t do or say a thing and even led to [Katsav’s] election as president not uttering a word. They have a lot of soul-searching to do,” said Ehrenfreund-Cohen, who directs WIZO’s division for the advancement of the status of women.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers said the handling of the case against Katsav by the prosecution was problematic. It termed the conduct of then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz in the case “flip-flopping” and said it was difficult for the victims.

The group said the case had trouble, “from the declaration that the president is a serial sex offender to a problematic plea bargain agreement that deprived the victims of their right to testify and [would have] prevented the presentation of evidence in court. They also ignored other prior testimony due to the statute of limitations … The Katsav case will remain forever as a festering wound for the public, etched into the collective memory as a story of abandonment and the failure of the Israeli legal system.”

Rape crisis centers reported a marked increase in the number of calls received by their emergency hotline yesterday. Keren Shahar, who directs the rape crisis center in Rehovot said among the women calling yesterday there were those that wondered how the verdict would affect their own cases. Some said it made them relive their own experiences.

Shahar said most of the callers said the verdict was a great relief, however.

The Rehovot center’s volunteer coordinator, Hava Pik, said there were others who deliberated over whether they wished to undergo what the victims experienced in the trial.

“There is great hope,” she added, “that the verdict will constitute a milestone and strengthen women who are deliberating over whether to file a complaint and that even instances of ‘just a kiss’ or ‘just a touch’ have received recognition as sexual harassment.”

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/women-s-groups-slam-problematic-trial-despite-satisfaction-at-outcome-1.334385

Campaign in Turkey about Women’s paid & unpaid labor

We would like to inform you about a campaign started in Turkey, in 5 different cities including Istanbul. The campaign will take one year and will be run by Socialist Feminist Collective http://www.sosyalistfeministkolektif.org/

Main theme of the campaign is to highlight women’s double shift between unpaid and paid labor and clarify our demands from men, capitalists and state. Below you may find the video of preparations and the public announcement in English http://picasaweb.google.com/filizfilizkk

We want back the hours, Days and Years we have spent on housework! We want back our due in the house!

We are calling on women to stop doing any housework until we are paid back our due. We want housework to be men’s work. Cooking, laundry, ironing, dish washing… Let men do the housework, day in and day out, for hours on end.

Let the fathers care for their children: Prepare them for school in the morning, prepare their meal in the evening and help them with their homework. When the kids are ill, let the fathers leave work and run home to look after them.

On the weekend, let the fathers take the kids to their leisure activities, go searching in the markets for cheap, healthy, nourishing food, go back to pick them back with their arms loaded.

Let sons care for their elderly mothers and fathers. Let them look after their parents when they are ill; let them remember to remind them when to take their pills; let them remember to give them baths…

While we women are watching TV in the evening, let men put the kettle on, put the kids to sleep and make the necessary preparations for he next day.

Let men learn how to share other people’s problems and to establish proper relations with their own fathers and sons.

We want back our due in the house!

We are calling on women to stop doing any housework until we are paid back our due. We want housework to be men’s work. Cooking, laundry, ironing, dish washing… Let men do the housework, day in and day out, for hours on end.

Let the fathers care for their children: Prepare them for school in the morning, prepare their meal in the evening and help them with their homework. When the kids are ill, let the fathers leave work and run home to look after them.

On the weekend, let the fathers take the kids to their leisure activities, go searching in the markets for cheap, healthy, nourishing food, go back to pick them back with their arms loaded.

Let sons care for their elderly mothers and fathers. Let them look after their parents when they are ill; let them remember to remind them when to take their pills; let them remember to give them baths…

While we women are watching TV in the evening, let men put the kettle on, put the kids to sleep and make the necessary preparations for he next day.

Let men learn how to share other people’s problems and to establish proper relations with their own fathers and sons.

We demand from the bosses!

We refuse to work exclusively in low paid, insecure and flexible jobs. Women also have the right to be unionised and to have access to social security.

Are men better in weaving, cutting out, sewing and designing? We want equal pay for equal worth!

We know very well that when parental leaves are transferable and optional, men prefer not to use them. We want non-transferable leaves for fathers.

We want crèches in all work places which hire more than fifty workers irrespective of sex! We want our children to go the crèche in their father’s work place.

We also demand neighbourhood crèches. Bosses hiring less than fifty workers should make financial contributions to the neighbourhood crèches in proportion to the number of their workers.

You have been privileging men for centuries. We want positive discrimination when we apply for jobs, while we work and in professional training courses. We demand quotas in “male jobs”!

The streets are not safe for women. We want safe transportation for 24 hours to and from work.

We demand from the state!

We demand the right to retirement pension at fifty, in return for the domestic labour we have spent on our husbands and companions. Retirement pension for housewives!

Although we run our households for years on end, when we go out to look for work, we are counted as unqualified labour.

We want to be paid unemployment fees once we start looking for a job, until we get one.We are only offered training courses in “female skills”.

We demand quotas for women in technical skill courses.We refuse to be deprived of social security when we do home-based work, work as care workers or cleaning ladies, or when we work on land for practically nothing.

We don’t want to have to count on our fathers or husbands when we are ill; we do not want to live on the street with an empty stomach. The right to individual health security and a decent shelter for all women!

We work both at home and in the work place. We do double shifts. We want early retirement!

When we say “enough is enough” and want to get a divorce, we want unconditional alimony payment: We refuse to be preached on decency, virtue and morals. The state should pay the alimony when the divorced husband fails to do so.

Is it only our responsibility to care for the elderly? We want professional public care for old people if they prefer to go on living in their own homes. We also demand good quality homes for old people.

Craigslist has closed down its adult services ads on a worldwide basis, just four months after shutting down the listings in the U.S. due to prostitution complaints.

The classifieds web site, started by entrepreneur Craig Newmark (pictured), came under intense pressure because many of the ads were thinly veiled prostitution solicitations. In September, Craiglist took down the adult services listings in the U.S. In doing so, it replaced the listings with the word, “censored.”

Opponents of the sexually-charged listings claimed victory. Evidently, it’s hard for companies that want to be recognized as legitimate to have any kind of association with something unsavory. That’s why companies such as PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and Amazon have also dropped WikiLeaks, which has come under fire for releasing diplomatic secrets.

Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal confirmed that the adult services section is shut everywhere and he said, “This worldwide shutdown of erotic services sections on Craigslist is a victory in the fight against sexual exploitation of women and children and human trafficking connected to prostitution.”

Blumenthal fought the removal of the adult services from Craigslist after Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was accused of killing Julissa Brisman in April. Police said the killer found the woman through her Craigslist ad. Craigslist has not offered comment yet.

Newmark was ambushed in an Aug. 13 interview by CNN reporter Amber Lyon, who asked him what Craigslist was doing to protect young girls who advertised in the adult services section of the site. She told him that a number of child protection advocates have told her that Craigslist is the “Wal-mart of child sex trafficking.” Under further questioning, Newmark stared at her and referred Lyon to the company’s blog.

Lyon put Newmark on the spot, saying he was the “Craig in Craigslist” and was responsible. In a subsequent blog post, Newmark said that Jim Buckmaster, chief executive, has been running the site for the last 10 years and that his role is as a customer service rep. Newmark said he should have just referred Lyon to Buckmaster, but, instead, he froze on camera and looked “uncaring.” CNN aired the piece dozens of times. Buckmaster, meanwhile, lashed out at Lyonand wrote how Craigslist was trying to do the right thing, manually screening ads in its adult services site since May 2009. It has also pointed out how similar ads on eBay go unnoticed.

http://venturebeat.com/2010/12/22/classified-interruptus-craigslist-shuts-down-adult-services-worldwide/#

For earlier stories see http://womensphere.wordpress.com/?s=craig+list

Domestic violence among North Korean defector couples is much more serious than that among South Korean couples, according to the Gender Equality and Family Ministry, Tuesday.

The frequent violence in marriages is because of the patriarchal custom back in North Korea where domestic violence is connived, it said.

The ministry’s research based on 302 defectors from the North — 102 men and 200 women — showed that 85.2 percent of defector families experienced some sort of violence between husbands and wives over the last 12 months.

Most of the couples are comprised of both a North Korean defector wife and husband, while the rest are made of a defector wife and a South Korean husband, or vice versa. In most cases, violent acts were carried out by men on women.

The percentage of domestic violence was much higher than the 53.8 percent for average South Korean couples.

When multiple replies were allowed, 51.3 percent of the defectors said they had suffered physical violence, and 75.5 percent suffered from emotional violence, meaning verbal abuse, threats of physical violence or destruction of the spouse’s property.

It showed 43.8 percent had endured “economic violence” — not giving living costs to a spouse or disposing property without the partner’s consent; 33.6 percent suffered from sexual abuse; and 59.5 percent suffered from negligence.

“Compared with average couples, every type of domestic violence took place more frequently between North Korean defector couples. The frequency of physical violence between those couples was three times higher than the average,” Kim Kwang-yun, the ministry official, said.

“The frequent violence stems from North Korea’s patriarchal custom. The society accepts violence especially towards women,” he said.

At the resettlement center of Hanawon, defectors receive education on South Korean etiquette, but Hanawon instructors say it is not easy to change North Korean men’s macho character, according to Kim.

“Those from the North, especially women, learn about the wrongfulness of domestic violence after coming here. But only about half of them are aware of the law preventing domestic violence and other ways to help them. We’ll try to boost the awareness and propose Hanawon educate the women more on domestic violence,” Kim said.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/12/117_78788.html

Katha Pollitt admires Julian Assange for his work on WikiLeaks, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that he has committed sex crimes

The problem is not that many WikiLeaks supporters question the zeal with which Swedish authorities are pursuing Assange. Maybe it’s true that an ordinary guy, faced with similar accusations, would have been allowed to slip away quietly once he left Sweden rather than become the subject of an Interpol red notice. (Maybe not, though. The 11 Swedes on Interpol’s public red list include people wanted for fraud and other non-spectacular crimes. Much has been made of the fact that only one of these, an alleged child molester, is charged with a sex crime. But the vast majority of wanted people are privately listed, so actually there’s no way of knowing if Assange’s case is exceptional.)

Given that US politicians, from Joe Biden to Sarah Palin, have called for Assange’s head, it isn’t paranoid to suspect that he is being singled out in order to extradite him to the United States. But it could also be that Sweden is following up because law enforcement officials get mad when world-class celebrities flee the country and then thumb their noses at them – cf Roman Polanski.

What’s disturbing is the way some WikiLeaks admirers have misrepresented the allegations, attacked the women and made light of date rape. It’s been known for some time that Assange was accused of using his body weight to force sex on one woman, ignoring her demand that he use a condom, and penetrating the other woman while she slept, also without a condom, despite her wishes; yet writer after writer has treated the whole thing as a big joke.

Appearing on Keith Olbermann’s show after he put up $20,000 to help bail Assange out of a British jail, Michael Moore – apparently an expert on Swedish rape law – called the case “a bunch of hooey”: “the condom broke during consensual sex”.

The heroic Sady Doyle, a blogger at Tiger Beatdown, gets lots of credit for starting a Twitter campaign that forced Moore and Olbermann to – sort of – back off their sexist chortling. But it’s too late: the “revelations” that Sweden has laws against condomless sex and that “Ms A” is a CIA “honeytrap” are all over the left blogosphere.

And it isn’t just men who are spreading it. On the Huffington Post, Naomi Wolf posted a satirical letter to Interpol, aka the “world’s dating police”, repeating the broken-condom falsehood and adding that Assange’s crimes include “texting and tweeting in the taxi… while on a date and, disgustingly enough, reading stories about himself online” in the cab. Is this the same Naomi Wolf who wrote a 2004 New York magazine cover story accusing Harold Bloom of putting his hand on her thigh 20 years before? Wolf argues that the accusations against Assange demean the seriousness of rape.

In fact, Swedish law does distinguish among degrees of rape, with Assange being accused on one count of the least grave kind. In a much-cited letter to the Guardian, Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape argued that Sweden’s low rape conviction rate proved that Assange was being set up – in 2006, she claimed, only six people were convicted out of 4,000 reported. Not so.

“I don’t know where they got those figures,” Amnesty International’s Katarina Bergehed told me by phone from Sweden. “In 2006 there were 3,074 rapes and 227 convictions.” (Sweden tracks rape by individual acts, not by number of victims, so the prevalence of rape is less than it looks.) Bergehed should know: she wrote the Swedish section of the Amnesty report on sex crimes in the Nordic countries that Assange supporters cite as proving that Sweden is the worst place in Europe for rape victims.

One reason the Swedish rape conviction rate is low is that – thanks to 30 years of feminist progress – the law defines sexual violence and coercion broadly but, as in other countries, police and juries often do not. The same seems to be true of large swaths of the American left.

WikiLeaks is revealing information citizens need to know – it’s a good thing. Assange may or may not have committed sex crimes according to Swedish law. Why is it so hard to hold those two ideas at once?

Extracts from a longer comment piece at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/27/rape-left-julian-assange-swedish-law-wikileaks

See also: http://www.fugitivus.net/2010/12/22/dear-second-and-third-wave-feminists-with-publicly-recognizable-names/

Sexual harassment against Pakistani women, particularly rape and gang rape incidents have increased to an alarmingly rate of over 13 percent across the Punjab with the provincial capital and the Gujranwala regions the most vulnerable.

According to statistics, available with TheNation, about 110 women out of total 271 and 358 out of 2,427 women were victimized of gang rape and rape respectively in the Lahore region with an increase by 12.5 and 13.5 percent during the first 11 months of current year as compared to the corresponding period of 2009.

By analysing the official documents, it seemed that the provincial police comprising on above 1,80,000 police officers/officials have nothing to do except to secure their own skins in front of judges and senior offices if any case was discussed.

Gang rape: About 271 incidents of gang rape took place in 35 districts of the Punjab in 2010 with the difference of 13 percent as compared to 2009 in which only 136 unpleasant incidents had occurred.

In the DG Khan region – the districts of Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Layyah remained at the lowest level as only two incidents of gang rape took place in Layyah during this span of time.

The pathetic situation regarding gang rape was observed in Lahore with 49 incidents, 30 in Sheikhupura, 25 in Kasur, 16 in Gujranwala, 11 each in Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

The provincial police however claimed to apprehend only 385 rapists out of 643 while 48 cases of gang rape are still under investigation. About 125 challans were sent in the courts and the Punjab police cancelled 47 cases besides furnishing different pleas.

Rape: About 2,427 women/girls were victimised of rape during the 11 months of 2010 with 12.5 percent increase as compared to the same era of the last year in which above 2,184 women were raped, with the Bahawalpur region the most susceptible as many as 496 incidents occurred there.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Lahore/27-Dec-2010/Rape-incidents-up-13pc-in-2010

When a woman volunteers for the military, she gives up the comfort, safety and freedom of civilian life. This she expects, as do men.

Serving her country shouldn’t mean doubling her likelihood of being sexually assaulted, or, if she is, lowering the chance that the offender will be punished. But that’s what the military means for women, according to the Service Women’s Action Network.

What the Pentagon gives out in the way of this sort of information shows only a slice of reality, says Anuradha Bhagwati, a former Marine and the executive director of the servicewomen’s group, which is based in New York.

Her group has gone to court with its claim that the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are stonewalling its request for more data.

A Defense Department press officer, Maj. Monica Bland, wouldn’t address the litigation specifically but acknowledged the problem.

“Much work remains to be done,” Bland said by e-mail, and “the Department is committed to the goals of preventing sexual assault, increasing reporting, and improving DoD response to the crime.”

The servicewomen’s group puts it this way in its lawsuit: “Sexual assault pervades the ranks of the American military.” The American Civil Liberties Union and its Connecticut chapter are also plaintiffs in the case, filed in federal court in Connecticut.

They want records, on mistreatment ranging from sexual harassment to rape, that will better reveal the frequency and circumstances, the prosecution of cases and the treatment given victims, who often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The various branches of the armed forces define, count, track and report incidents differently. Because of that, the annual reports Congress requires of the Defense Department can’t tell the full picture. Letters from the servicewomen’s organization to agencies within Defense and the VA produced few records, so the group filed suit last week.

The idea that members and veterans of the military would have to go to court to get this information is astounding. Where is Julian Assange when he’s really needed?

Even incomplete, the numbers that are available are disturbing enough.

Surveys in recent years show that roughly one in three servicewomen say they were sexually assaulted during their time in the military. Of those who say they were raped, 14 percent said they were gang-raped, according to a survey reported by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2003.

As hesitant as sexual-assault victims in civilian life are to report the crime, it’s worse in the military. Fear of reprisal, uncertainty over what will result, and the military structure and mindset all discourage victims from reporting.

Still, either reporting is getting better or sexual predation is getting worse in the services. A Defense Department report released December shows sexual assaults at the military service academies are up.

And, citing Defense Department figures, the lawsuit says the number of sexual assaults within the armed services rose 73 percent from 2004 to 2006 and 11 percent from 2008 to 2009.

While the government has made it easier for servicemen and servicewomen to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder, the improvements won’t do much to help victims of sexual mistreatment, according to Bhagwati. The veteran with combat- related PTSD no longer has to prove a precise link between his condition and a specific episode. But victims of sexual assault have to show they were assaulted, hard to do in a system where records are often not kept.

And yet, 71 percent of female veterans seeking VA disability benefits for PTSD have been sexually traumatized, says the lawsuit.

Already we know enough to recognize a very serious problem. And it seems to be getting worse, even after high-profile promises to protect service members against sexual predators, increased reporting and more educational programs, and recommendations to standardize reporting and create environments where victims feel safe to report and offenders fear the consequences.

So it’s no surprise that while about 40 percent of those accused of sexual assault in the civilian world get prosecuted, only 8 percent of military sex offenders do.

Consider the case of three enlisted sailors who were discharged from the Navy after the rape of a female midshipman enrolled at Annapolis.

During a cruise with classmates, she and nine other midshipmen left the ship for a party in a sailor’s apartment. The other midshipmen eventually left her behind with three enlisted sailors, at least one of whom raped her, according to the new report on sexual violence at military academies.

The sailors’ punishment was discharge, not civilian prosecution.

Surely the worldwide sex scandal involving some Catholic priests taught that you can’t handle these things internally and let the predator move someplace else to prey on the unaware.

Protecting servicemen and servicewomen from sexual mistreatment, whether harassment, assault or rape, is hard enough when you know precisely what’s going on.

But until there’s enough information to know that, it simply can’t get much better.

And no one signs up for that.

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/12/rape_victims_ask_military_wont.html

Malta’s strict anti-abortion laws will not be affected by the recent judgment of Europe’s supreme court relating to abortion in Ireland, according to a Maltese judge who sat on the case.

The European Court of Human Rights last week found that a sick woman’s human rights were breached when she sought an abortion in Ireland but was forced to go to the UK instead.

However, Judge Giovanni Bonello, one of the judges deciding on this case, told The Times the judgment had “no relevance at all” to Malta.

Although Ireland, like Malta, has strict anti-abortion laws, its Constitution allows abortion if the pregnancy puts the woman’s life in danger. It is this exception which the Strasbourg court had to evaluate because the woman claimed she was unable to obtain proper medical advice to terminate her pregnancy.

“The violation consisted in Ireland denying the woman a personal right guaranteed by the Constitution of her own country,” Judge Bonello said.

The case concerned a woman who underwent chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The cancer was in remission when she got pregnant. Before realising she was pregnant, the woman had undergone some tests contraindicated during pregnancy.

She feared the tests would have harmed the foetus and the cancer would reappear if she carried the baby to term.

According to Judge Bonello, the Irish state had not put in place any legal and practical structures through which a woman could actually make use of a legally recognised right to abortion if her life was in danger.

On the contrary, in Malta, he added, the law criminalised all forms of abortion, even those intending to terminate a pregnancy that threatened the life of the mother.

“The Strasbourg court did not have to face this issue and said absolutely nothing about it. Nothing has changed in so far as Malta is concerned,” Judge Bonello said.

Human rights lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia believes the difference in legislation between Malta and Ireland will make it very difficult for either the pro-life movement or those who favour abortion to use this judgment for their cause.

This has not stopped pro-life lobby group Gift of Life renewing its call for the Constitution to be changed to ensure the right to life is protected “from conception” so as to make it very difficult for abortion to ever be made legal at some point in the future.

As expected, the Strasbourg court’s judgment on such a sensitive issue created a media sensation. However, Judge Bonello lamented what he described as a “radical misinterpretation and distortion” of the judgment.

“Nowhere does the judgment suggest that there is a right to abortion, much less that abortion is a fundamental human right,” he said.

The judgment concerned three women, two of whom desired to have an abortion in Ireland for reasons of “well-being” but could not have it performed in the country. The third concerned the sick woman.

Irish law does not allow abortions for reasons of “well-being” and the court dismissed the request of the first two applicants.

Judge Bonello said the court decided the issue of abortion was one which involved “grave moral, ethical and religious considerations” and as a result an international court should not interfere with domestic regulation.

However, Dr Comodini Cachia said the European court’s decision on abortion cases involving women who had to terminate their pregnancy for health reasons did raise pertinent questions about the fate of Maltese women who may find themselves in similar circumstances.

“The message seems to be that even if there is a risk to her life the woman will not be given any assistance or even advice related to termination of pregnancy. Essentially her life is at risk and that is it,” Dr Comodini Cachia said, dreading the prospect of being a doctor who is faced with a situation of having his hands tied by the draconian law.

“While the State is provided with a lot of discretion as to issues of morality and values, yet one may wonder whether that same State would be fulfilling its obligations in respecting the life of the woman and the family life of her partner and other children where there is clear evidence that a pregnancy would jeopardise her life and health,” Dr Comodini Cachia said.

This conundrum has not been resolved by the European court and yet even if a case ever makes it to Strasbourg the outcome is anything but a straightforward decision.

In Malta, abortion is a criminal act that punishes the woman and the doctor. There are no legal provisions that permit abortion if the woman’s life is in danger.

The criminal code states that anyone found guilty of inducing a miscarriage or consenting to an abortion faces a prison sentence of between 18 months and three years.

Doctors who perform an abortion or prescribe medicines to cause an abortion face a prison term of between 18 months and four years and perpetual interdiction from the profession.

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20101221/local/abortion-ruling-not-relevant-to-malta

The government has proposed a cash-incentive plan to encourage families to have girls.

As India’s middle class grows, more families are using modern technology to ensure they have a boy, according to gender and population experts. Confronted with a decrease in the number of girls born, the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has decided to crack down on the illegal practice of so-called female feticide.

India outlawed the practice of doctors using technologies like ultrasounds to tell patients the sex of their unborn child in 1994. Abortion based on certain grounds is legal, but having one based on sex is not.

Despite the law as well as gains in girls’ education and employment opportunities across India, the practice has continued and even grown as more people have access to ultrasounds. The child sex ratio, the number of girls to every 1,000 boys in the 0 to 6 years age group, dropped from 945 girls in 1991 to 927 girls in 2001, according to data from the United Nations Population Fund based on the census. When just looking at the sex ratio at birth [2], for the period 2006-08, the ratio drops to 904 girls per 1,000 boys.

Sex determination leads to a missing 500,000 to 700,000 girls across India each year, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

The state government has since announced a proposal to encourage families to have girls [4] by providing cash incentives. On the birth of a girl child, 5,000 rupees ($114) will be deposited into a bank account under her name, according to local media reports. Once the family ensures the girl completes her schooling and does not marry before the age of 18, she will have access to the money. The finance department has not yet approved the program, which would initially be for families living below the poverty line, according to the Times of India.

Cash incentives have similarly been used in India to encourage women to give birth in hospitals or other medical institutions and have been credited with an increase in institutional deliveries.

However, social activists in Mumbai question the effectiveness of providing cash incentives to encourage women to have a girl child when the families that need to be targeted are not the poor but rather the middle class and affluent.

Poor families ensure they have a boy by having large families, whereas the middle and upper classes now want fewer children and therefore resort to sex determination, according to Sayeed Unisa, a professor with the International Institute for Population Sciences, a Mumbai-based training and research center in the area of population studies.

There is a long-held belief in many Indian communities that at least one boy is needed to support the parents when they can no longer work and to light their funeral pyre. Girls, on the other hand, can be viewed as a burden given the rising costs of dowries and weddings.

Social activists say the skewed sex ratio shows how little girls and women are valued in many segments of Indian society. Many families still invest less in girls, affecting everything from their nutrition to their education and employment opportunities.

Discrimination occurs throughout a girl’s life in India, and sex determination represents the worst form of it, said A.L. Sharada, program director of Population First, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization working on population and health issues.

Studies have shown that female feticide is not a result of families being against having a girl child, but more that they feel they must have at least one boy. Birth order therefore has a deep impact on female feticide as the sex ratio becomes more skewed when a family already has one or two girls and is trying for a final boy child.

A study by the Christian Medical Association of India found that if a family already had two girls, the chance the third child would be a girl reduced to 219 girls for every 1,000 boys. The study was based on births at a public hospital in Delhi for the year 2000-2001.

The skewed sex ratio has become so bad in certain communities that families have resorted to buying wives from poorer areas. A young bride was bought for less than $25 in Haryana, one of India’s worst affected states, according to a recent report in London’s Daily Telegraph.

Such trafficking for marriage is becoming more common as sex ratios worsen. Some families, she added, can only afford one bride and share her among multiple family members.

To combat female feticide, social activists say there must be more monitoring of clinics and implementing the law against sex determination, the judiciary and medical professionals need to be sensitized to the issue, and an environment must be created where people can come forward to complain about non-compliance with the law. In addition, there must be more spaces and opportunities in communities to question gender stereotypes.

Extracts from a longer article at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/101216/female-feticide-sex-selective-abortions-gender-ratio

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