Archive for January, 2008
Briefing Meeting And Reception
February 6th 2008 from 6.30pm – 8.30pm
MacMillan Room, Portcullis House
Funding cuts and policy changes are leading to a loss of expertise and services dedicated to the needs of women and children from BAMER communities and endangering the lives of women and children
Imkaan, is a small organisation which provides advocacy, training and support to the National Network of BAMER women’s refuges. Imkaan and our members are critically concerned that despite a strong commitment from the Government in seeking to eradicate domestic violence through reforms to the Criminal Justice System and provisions within the Domestic Violence Act the Government has overlooked the needs of BAMER women and children who require access to specific housing and support services. These services are essential in helping and supporting women to leave situations of violence and abuse and are often present a key support and safety mechanism prior to women seeking any remedies through the CJS.
Introduced in April 2003, Supporting People (SP) has ‘decommissioned’ many BAMER women’s refuges built up by grassroots feminists with enormous effort over the last thirty years, slashing the funds of others and not supporting specialist outreach services which are lifelines for the many women and children trapped and often literally prevented from going out of their homes.
This is happening against a background of cuts in legal aid, reductions in social housing, increasing inequality and an acute shortage of services for BAMER women facing domestic violence – for example, there is only 1 specialist refuge in East England where according to the 2001 Census the BAMER population is 4.88% of the total. Recent research by the Women’s National Commission, End Violence Against Women campaign, 2007 highlights that less than 1 in 10 local authorities currently has specialist BAMER for women facing familial and or partner violence and it is this limited but in demand provision that is under threat.
We are now seeing an increasing number of specialist services who are being given no option but to merge with generic bodies and as a consequence services specific to the needs of BAMER women and children are being reduced. Ironically, community organisations which serve established community needs are being destroyed in the name of ‘community cohesion’. At the same time ‘mainstreaming’ – the new buzz word – means that specialist areas are being lost and agencies without skilled staff or expertise are being given the impossible task of meeting the very different needs of a large number of diverse groups. The effects of SP-style ‘mainstreaming’ means that many of the surviving BAMER women’s organisations are no longer able (because of funding cuts) to provide support to women facing domestic violence who also have mental health or substance misuse needs. They are being expected to pass these women’s cases to other organisations who are neither able to cater for BAMER women nor understand specialist domestic violence issues.
Imkaan has launched a campaign and an Early Day Motion (EDM) has been tabled by Linda Riordan MP in support of these concerns. You can access this on the following link: http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=34848&SESSION=891
We would be very grateful if you could support us by passing this e-mail onto other MPs who you think would be willing to sign-up to the EDM.
We are holding a public meeting, hosted by Linda Riordan MP and John McDonnell MP, to highlight these issues on February 6th 2008, MacMillan Room, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA at 6.30 to 8.30pm and we hope that you can lend your support by attending. The meeting will consist of a panel discussion from key domestic violence organisations in the sector including Imkaan, Southall Black Sisters, Newham Asian Women’s Project and the Nia Project.
Lunch at the House of Lords on Monday 10th March 2008
To celebrate International Women’s Day
Guests should arrive from 12 pm for seating at 12.30 pm. Baroness Uddin of Bethnal Green has once again kindly agreed to sponsor the event.
We are delighted to advise that this year’s speaker is Anne Owers, CBE, Chief Inspector of Prisons. As with past events, all money raised will be donated to a charity nominated by Baroness Uddin.
For £70 per person we are offering three courses with wine and coffee and a pre-lunch drink. You can reserve a table for 10 at £650 per table or, if you prefer, you may book individual places.
To secure your place you need to complete and return a booking form available from Claudia Newsam at Central & Cecil Housing.
Reservations will be made on a first come first served basis on receipt of your cheque.
This is a very popular event, so we recommend early booking to secure your place.
After you make your booking we will send out a formal invitation. Due to security arrangements at the House of Lords, it is essential that you bring the innvitation with you on the day
IKWRO provides a wide range of services for women and children who have experienced gender violence. These include information, advice, casework and advocacy.
The following vacancy is available and is funded by the Tudor Trust:
Advice coordinator (Female)
Full Time (35hrs/week) including some evenings and weekends
Starting Salary: £26,277 (NJC 29-31)
To have experience to coordinate frontline support services in providing information, advice, casework and advocacy services for Middle Eastern women at risk of “honour” killings, forced marriage and domestic violence.
Excellent understanding of the issues facing Middle Eastern refugees and migrant women living in the UK is required, together with fluency in English with ability to converse in at least two of the Farsi, Kurdish and Arabic languages.
For application pack, please either write to: IKWRO, 90 Central Street, London EC1V 8AQ, or email. An application pack can be downloaded from http://www.ikwro.org.uk (Reference: IKWRO-ACO/01/2008) but only hard copy signed applications can be considered.
Closing date for applications: 20th February 2008
The invitation for interview will be by post.
Interviews will take place on: 29th February 2008
Section 7(2) (e) Sex Discrimination Act 1975 applies.
IKWRO is also supported by: City Parochial Foundation, Local network Found, London Borough of Islington, Capital Community Foundation
Registered Charity no. 1104550
Concerned about Domestic Abuse?
Central Manchester Women’s Aid is a Charitable organisation providing services to women and children who are experiencing domestic abuse.
We are recruiting enthusiastic, committed women volunteers to join our Management Committee to oversee the Refuge and associated services. We particularly welcome applicants with experience of managing Charities, fundraising, law, finance and HR.
For an application pack please send an A3 SAE marked ‘m/c application’ to: CMWA, P.O. Box 10, Manchester, M13 0RJ or e-mail
the nia project provides a wide range of services for women and children who have experienced domestic violence and other forms of gender violence.the nia project is currently recruiting for the following posts:
The following vacancies are available within our Family Support Services Team funded for 3 years:
the nia project have developed a new and exciting pan-London Family Learning Project working with mothers/carers and their children (0-16 yrs) from Black, minority ethnic and refugee communities, in particular Turkish-speaking, Vietnamese and African families. We therefore seek applicants with appropriate community languages.
Family Learning opportunities will be offered to enable women, mothers/carers and their children to learn together, developing new skills such as cookery, crafts and IT, whilst also developing parenting skills.
This project is funded by: The National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund
Senior Family Learning Worker REF No: S001
Full Time (35hrs/week) including some evenings and weekends
NJC 31-34 £28,499 – £30,773
You will lead on this new exciting initiative, managing the project as well as having a hands-on role in its delivery.
Experience in project management as well as family support work, preferably with mothers/carers and children who have experienced domestic violence and/or are from BMER communities is essential.
Family Learning Worker (two posts) REF: F002
Full Time (35hrs/week) including some evenings and weekends
NJC 27-30 £25,301 – £27,724
You will be working as part of a team to enable mothers/carers and their children to learn new skills together as well as to promote the development of parenting skills and the parent-child relationship. You will also be responsible for delivering programmes across London. Enthusiasm, creativity and excellent family support skills are essential
Family Learning Childcare Worker REF: F003
Part Time (16hrs/week) including some evenings and weekends
£7.00 per hour)
You will work with the team to provide childcare for children of all ages (0-16 years). You will have a relevant level three qualification and excellent work experience of supporting mothers/carers and working with vulnerable children.
2 Part Time Under 5s Play Workers (up to 18 hrs per week)
£7.00 per hour REF: C004
You will work as part of a team to assess the support needs of individual children aged 6 months to five years and devise play sessions that encourage their play & development needs. You will also work in partnership with mothers/carers to work towards the best outcomes for each child. Strong communication skills and a relevant qualification are essential, as are experience and knowledge of supporting vulnerable children in a play environment.
The following vacancies are available within the Housing Services Team:
1 Full time Support Worker (35hrs) REF: F005
Some evening work may be required for this post
NJC scale 27 – 30 £25,301- £27,724
An organised and efficient worker is required within the Housing Services Team to provide/facilitate advice, support and advocacy services to women living in our refuges.
You must be experienced in dealing with very sensitive issues within a supported housing/refuge setting. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are a necessity, as are common sense and attention to detail. You will also have the ability to work independently as well as part of a team.
Housing Services Manager REF: H007
Full time (35 hrs per week) Some evening work may be required for this post
NJC Scale 36 – 39 £32,098 – £34,785
As a Manager you will be responsible for and have sound knowledge and experience in the management and maintenance of Housing Services, including staff management in conjunction with the organisation’s policies and procedures and in line with the requirements of Supporting People.
Knowledge of gender violence and experience of providing advice on issues such as welfare benefits and housing are essential. You must also have experience in developing and managing budgets, strong communication skills at various levels, and excellent organisational skills.
The following vacancies are available within the Advocacy and Training Team:
Advocacy and Training Manager (two posts) REF: A008
Full time (35 hrs per week) Some evening work may be required for these posts
NJC Scale 36 – 39 £32,098 – £34,785
Two managers are required to ensure the effective and efficient operation and management of the Advocacy and Training Team.
You will be responsible for the management, development and maintenance of the Advocacy and Training services, including the management and supervision of staff in conjunction with the nia project’s policies and procedures. A sound knowledge of gender violence is essential as is the ability to communicate effectively at various levels.
You will have experience of casework, risk assessments, monitoring, working in partnership and preparing and delivering training on a wide range of gender violence issues.
All posts will be subject to an enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau
To request an application pack you can either send a large A4 SAE (value to 98p) to HR Administrator P.O. Box 58203, London N1 3XP, quoting the relevant reference number or visit the downloads page . CV’s will NOT be accepted.
The closing date for all posts is 11th February 2008 at 5pm
Section 7(2) (e) of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act applies to all posts.
the nia project is also supported by: Supporting People, Children in Need, Comic Relief, London Councils and London Borough of Hackney
Registered Charity no. 1037072
In the first of a three part series, News at Ten has exposed the extent of Britain’s secret brothels and the suffering that goes on inside them (shown 28th January 2008).
They aren’t just in our big towns and cities but in villages and they are being used by all kinds of men – people you may even know.
The demand for younger and cheaper prostitutes is being satisfied by thousands of women and underage girls from Eastern Europe.
Some are even sold by their parents and trafficked to Britain by criminal gangs.
As part of a special assignment, News at Ten correspondent Chris Rogers set up a bogus brothel on the internet before travelling to Romania to trace the story of the girls enslaved in Britain’s brothels.
The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the charity Stop The Traffik – a global coalition of over 900 organisations in 50 countries, raising awareness of people trafficking and promoting practical action through a global declaration, chocolate campaign, events, celebrities and projects around the world.
Through its web site http://www.stopthetraffik.org it provides information, resources, film downloads and suggestions for individuals to become involved and to make a difference
ITV video: Human Traffic – Chris Rogers reveals how he made the special News at Ten report on prostitution can be seen at http://www.itv.com/News/default.html
The shocking truth about the vice trade: Girls of 14 working as sex slaves
* Tells the story of Monica, first ‘sold’ by her parents at the age of 9, and then trafficked to the ITV reporter for £500 to be taken to work in a brothel in the UK. Up to 75 per cent of known brothels across the UK offer Eastern European girls. One in ten British men admits to using prostitutes.
Pleas for help from victims of domestic violence to a national helpline have risen by almost 100 each day – and the trend is reflected in Calderdale.
January is one of the busiest times of the year for domestic violence services according to the charity, Women’s Aid.
They have seen the number of calls to their helpline increase from an average of 345 to 443 each day, a rise of 28 per cent, in the first three weeks of the year.
The Calderdale Women’s Refuge Centre has witnessed an influx of women seeking help and advice.
A spokeswoman said: “New Year can be a very busy time for domestic violence services.
“It’s definitely true we see more women come to us in January for advice or shelter.
“This year, the month started off quite quiet but in the last few weeks we have seen a surge.
“Women, especially those with children, want Christmas to be a happy time and want to keep it all together, so we often see fewer women in December.
“Once it’s all over, things often come to a head and the violence can flare up again or the woman feels it’s time to seek help or leave home,” she said.
There are 3,600 reports of domestic violence in Calderdale each year and of these, 43 per cent are repeat victimisations.
Detective Sgt Sally Fletcher, domestic violence co-ordinator for Calderdale police, said: “There are a lot of good reasons why domestic violence services do see an increase in January.
“No one wants to report such crimes over Christmas for fear of splitting up the family or causing more tension at home, at a time which is often more stressful for women with violent partners,” she said.
“And often, it is more difficult to report incidents during the festive season because the family is at home together.
“By January, women feel more able to come forward and report incidents because the tension has reduced and they have more time and privacy to seek support.”
* Prosecution fears after guidelines thrown out
* Conscientious objectors also lose legal rights
Midwives in Northern Ireland are threatening to stop performing emergency abortions because of fears they are vulnerable to criminal prosecution.
The Royal College of Midwives has spoken out after the assembly rejected proposed guidelines on terminations at the end of last year, leaving no legal framework to support the procedure. This also means that health workers opposed to abortion have no legal right to object.
The dismissal of the guidance, ordered under a court of appeal ruling in 2006, was led by the fiercely anti-abortion Democratic Unionist party, leaving Northern Ireland as the only part of the UK were the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.
The issue is highly sensitive, with clinics which give abortion information to pregnant women picketed regularly and hate mail sent to those working in the field.
Breedagh Hughes, of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in Northern Ireland, said her 1,300 members were in a state of fear: “They are in an invidious position on two fronts. Firstly, those midwives who oppose abortion have no rights under law to conscientious objection. Under the 1967 act they do have that right.
“Perhaps more serious still is that any of our members in Northern Ireland who take part in terminations are vulnerable to criminal prosecution. As things stand any woman who in the future regretted a termination could come back at the medical team that carried out that abortion. She could in the current circumstances have that medical team charged under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. They could face criminal charges.”
Hughes said the number of terminations in Northern Ireland hospitals was far higher than the official figure of about 80 a year. Emergency terminations are allowed if a woman’s life is in immediate danger.
“Those figures are nonsensical. From anecdotal evidence through our members, the numbers are far, far higher.”
She said most of Northern Ireland’s terminations took place at about 20 weeks, which is when severe abnormalities would show up in a scan. “These women are in no fit condition to travel to England and have an abortion there. They have to have the termination here.”
The British Medical Association supports the extension of the 1967 act to Northern Ireland, although the Northern Ireland branch has no position on the issue and would not discuss it.
The Family Planning Association in south Belfast is one of the organisations targeted by anti-abortion groups such as Precious Life. Before moving out of the city’s university area, the FPA faced daily pickets outside its front door.
Dr Audrey Simpson, the FPA’s director in Northern Ireland, sympathises with the midwives, saying they were “damned either way”. She criticised the local BMA for failing to take a stance on the question.
“Even in the Irish Republic there are pro-choice forums among doctors, and that is in a society where abortion is completely illegal.”
She said whether a woman had to travel to Britain or was allowed an emergency abortion in Northern Ireland depended entirely on arbitrary decisions by individual doctors.
“We dealt with a case last year where a woman was told that if she went ahead with her pregnancy she might go blind. She had a complex medical condition. She was refused an emergency abortion here because doctors said the threat to her was only a probability. The minister’s guidelines would have not only protected midwives, but also helped women like her. She in the end had to travel to England even though she was in a very distressed state.”
Michael McGimpsey, the Northern Ireland health minister, said that redrafted guidelines would be drawn up and put to the Stormont health committee in the first half of this year.
Although Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply, a limited number of abortions are carried out there every year. Successive British governments have refused to use their executive power and extend the act to Northern Ireland.
All political parties represented at Stormont oppose extending the act. Only one party, the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist party, has a pro-choice policy. An estimated 1,500 women from Northern Ireland travel to England each year for abortions at a minimum cost of £450
Both the Catholic church and the Free Presbyterians oppose abortion in all circumstances.
Under the Bourne judgment of 1938, legal abortions take place in cases where the woman’s mental or physical health is deemed at risk.
fpa defines sexual health as the capacity and freedom to enjoy and express sexuality without exploitation, oppression, physical or emotional harm. Abortion is a crucial aspect of the sexual health of many women, as shown by the over 5 million abortions performed in England, Scotland and Wales since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed. See full policy statement at http://www.fpa.org.uk/attachments/published/346/Abortion.pdf
Two Quebec groups who promote women’s rights hailed the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion on Monday, but warned that the battle is far from over.
La Fédération du Québec pour le planning de naissances (FQPN) and the Féderation des femmes du Québec (FFQ) drew attention to the landmark ruling of Jan. 28, 1998 that made abortion legal in Canada, but said that certain conservative groups have started to make inroads to turn back the clock.
Now is not the time to sit back and become complacent, said spokespersons for both women’s groups. The fight for a woman’s legal right to decide what to do with her body is by no means over despite the passing of two decades.
“There is a current of new conservatism,” said Monika Dunn, coordinator of the FQPN. “It is wrong to think that the right to abortion is set in stone.”
Pro-Life groups like the US-based Focus on Family have set up a Canadian base and begun lobbying politicians said FFQ president Michele Asselin.
Dunn and Asselin pointed out that while free, legal and safe abortions are widely available in large metropolitan centres like Montreal, people in other provinces and even in remote areas of Quebec do not have the option.
“There are no clinics in Prince Edward Island,” Dunn said.
Both women urged supporters of pro-choice to remain vigilant and fight to keep the rights granted by the Supreme Court in 1998.
“We would also like to keep pushing for more sexual education in schools, more access to contraception and better discussions about sexuality with young people,” Asselin said.
Practitioners and all parties that consent to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are liable to imprisonment to not less than five years and not more than 10 years as stipulated in the Constitution Amendment Act 741.
Mrs Chris Dadzie, Policy Analyst for Gender and Human Rights of ISODEC said the Act which came into being on August 7, 2007 changed the name from female circumcision, which predisposes an ordinary circumcision to Female Genital Mutilation which showed the gravity of torture that the victims went through.
She said the amendment was as a result of hard work of women’s groups that fought for the elimination of FGM which was considered a violation of human rights and a violation of the image of women and that offenders would be dealt with according to the law.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as constituting all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or any other non therapeutic reason.
Mrs Dadzie, who was speaking at an FGM workshop for media practitioners on Thursday, said the 1992 Constitution, the Criminal Code and the Children’s Act made it a responsibility for the state and parents to ensure that they provided the children education, shelter, health-care and protect them from all sorts of harm.
She said the 1979 Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) also talked against violence against women and discrimination against women
Mrs Dadzie said since FGM was basically cultural, there was the need to translate the laws into practical policies as well as making the institutional arrangements necessary to ensure that the practice was totally eliminated in Ghana. Currently Ghana had an FMG prevalence rate of 9-15 per cent.
Dr. Isaac Koranteng of the Obstetrics and Gyaenacology Department of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital who touched on the effects of FGM said 99 per cent of patients who were victims of FGM that reported to the hospital for delivery had to go through caesarian section since the baby could not come out through natural means as a result of damage to the genital region.
Other effects are deaths as a result of shock and bleeding, infections, fistulas, and damage to the baby’s brain due to prolonged and difficult labour.
Mrs Florence Ali, President of the Ghanaian Association for Women Welfare (GAWW), organizers of the workshop, said the practice took place in secluded areas in the Upper East, Upper West, Northern and Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions and that migrants from countries like Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger practice FGM in Ghana.
She said FGM covered a spectrum of procedures including Clitorisdectomy (partial or total removal of the clitoris), Excision, where the clitoris and labia minora were removed, Infibulation, that was the complete removal of clitoris and inner surface of the labia majora and the unclassified referring to the application of other substances to the genitals.
The major reason for going through FGM was to reduce the sensitivity of the woman to sexual intercourse to make her faithful to her husband. GNA
Public Agenda (Accra) 28 January 2008 http://allafrica.com/stories/200801281198.html
GENEVA, Jan 28 – A United Nations human rights expert will travel to Saudi Arabia to assess the status of women there, following a U.N. panel’s tough questioning of Riyadh’s adherence to an international convention barring discrimination.
Yakin Erturk, the Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on violence against women, has been invited by Saudi Arabia for a Feb. 4-13 visit, the office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said in a statement on Monday.
The Turkish sociology professor will meet government officials, rights advocates and women who have been victims of violence during her trip to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam “to gather first-hand information on the question of violence against women in the country,” the statement said.
A Saudi court provoked an international outcry in November when it condemned a gang rape victim to 200 lashes. The woman was pardoned by King Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia ratified a 1979 international bill of rights for women in 2000, with the proviso that Islamic law would prevail if there were any contradictions with its provisions.
In its first appearance before the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women earlier this month, the conservative kingdom came under repeated fire for its system of male guardianship which requires women to seek permission to travel, work, or see a doctor.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are forbidden form driving. Saudi women can face harassment from the religious police if they are not accompanied in public areas by a male relative who acts as her “guardian”.
The U.N. committee is due to issue its conclusions on Saudi Arabia’s compliance with the international pact on Friday. Erturk, who serves as an independent envoy, will also report to the Human Rights Council following her trip to the kingdom. (Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Jonathan Lynn)
The Federation of Women Lawyers of Kenya (FIDA) is worried about the increase of sexual assault cases directed at women and children since the outbreak of post-election violence.
In a statement released Friday 25th January 2008, the FIDA chairperson, Ms Violet Awori, said more attention was being given to issues such as chaos, injuries, deaths, destruction of property and the economy, while victims of sexual violence were neglected.
“The Government should step up security in all parts of the country to avoid further escalation of sexual and all other forms of violence, particularly in the slum areas and settlement camps where women and children remain targets for sexual abuse and assault,” said Ms Awori.
She said in this era of HIV and Aids, sexual violence requires urgent attention to stop further spread of the disease.
Ms Awori said many rape cases have gone unreported because the victims have other pressing issues affecting them.
Both women and children have remained easy targets during chaos.
“It is worrying that many of the attacks have taken the form of gang rapes with the targeted areas being slums and violence-prone areas where the attackers have taken advantage of the breakdown of law and order to commit these crimes,” she said.
Ms Awori advised all survivors of rape and sexual assault to report the crimes to the police to enable provision of support and security.
“We call upon all survivors of rape and sexual assault to urgently seek medical attention and other support services available for the purposes of ensuring their physical, psychological and emotional health,” she said.
Almost half of domestic abuse victims in Northamptonshire are repeat complainants who are forced to report the crime to police more than once.
Figures have revealed that during 2007, a total of 4,607 people reported incidents of domestic abuse at the hands of their spouses or partners, or members of their families.
Of those almost 50 per cent – 2,222 in total – were repeat victims who had already alerted police to the crime at least once before.
Northamptonshire Police has vowed to cut the number of persistent attackers by more than 350 in 2008, and in March, will set up a new policing unit dedicated to tackling the issue.
Insp Mark Behan, the force’s lead on domestic violence, said there would be a “sea-change” in coming months in the way this type of crime was investigated.
But he added: “Because picking up the phone and calling the police is such a big step, it’s very likely that most victims will be repeat victims, and we are now actively encouraging people who contact us to do so every time this kind of abuse happens. That’s a very important step.
“We want to encourage victims to report incidents of domestic abuse, by letting themknow that we can do something about it to improve their lives.”
The force already works closely with local authorities, Victim Support and the Sunflower Centre, which helps victims of domestic abuse in the county, to try to cut the number of men and women who fall victim to violence in the home.
In March, a new Public Protection Unit (PPU) is to be created which will tackle domestic violence, child abuse and help manage dangerous offenders in a co-ordinated approach to this type of crime.
Glynis Bliss, manager of Northamptonshire Victim Support, said: “The nature of domestic abuse is so complex, because we are talking about relationships. People who report it often have to give up an awful lot to get out of that situation, so they need to know they have support from as many agencies as possible, be it the police, Victim Support, or housing.”
Why do defence advocates prefer to see a majority of women jurors in rape trials?
Surveys consistently find a significant proportion of the Scottish population hold views that blame women for rape if they have been drinking, flirting, dressing in revealing clothing or putting ourselves in “risky” situations. It would be naïve to assume female jurors would, by virtue of their gender, be intrinsically supportive to women giving evidence about being raped while any of these circumstances were present. Women have perhaps even more of an investment than men in believing rape myths: “If it was me, I’d fight to the death, so she can’t have been raped because there isn’t enough bruising or injury.”
Understandably, women want to believe they can avoid rape by following the rules we are brought up with: don’t go home with someone you don’t know; don’t provoke men by dressing or behaving provocatively; don’t walk home alone at night; and don’t sleep around.
Juries in rape trials make decisions based on the evidence presented, but can we be confident the evidence itself isn’t prejudicial? Not according to research published last year by the Scottish Government into the use of sexual history and character evidence in sexual offence trials, which found seven in ten women giving evidence in rape trials will be asked about their sexual history or character. This includes questioning on the number of sexual partners a woman has had, whether her children have the same father, at what age she started drinking or whether she has ever used sex toys.
Antiquated notions about how women should behave, particularly in relation to sexual matters, are alive and flourishing in rape trials. This type of so-called evidence is deliberately designed to give the impression women claiming to have been raped are actually highly unlikely to have refused consent to sex to anyone. It is illegal to conduct research directly with juries. However, research using mock trials gives us an increasingly clear picture of the role that attitudes might play in decision-making. Professor Vanessa Munro of Nottingham University has conducted research involving a number of mock rape trials, and found gender stereotypes and rape myths have a profound effect on jury decisions.
The Scottish criminal justice system has a poor record in responding to women alleging rape. Only 3.9 per cent of reports of rapes to the police lead to a conviction. It is not credible to argue more than 96 per cent of women reporting rape are lying, therefore there is clearly a significant justice gap for women in Scotland who have been raped. The vast majority of reported rapes – more than 90 per cent – never make it to court. Of the few cases that do, women frequently talk of the experience as being similar in terms of trauma and humiliation to actually being raped.
Will the Scottish Law Commission’s (SLC) proposals to reform the law on rape and sexual offences make any significant difference to this? Many of the SLC’s proposals represent a sensible clarification and tidying up of the existing common law. The broadening of the definition of rape to include oral and anal rape is welcome, as is the move to define consent as free agreement. Given the misconceptions that can surround this issue, it’s important the law is as clear as possible. One area likely to provoke heated debate is the recommendation relating to alcohol – the SLC is recommending that, in rape cases where someone (female or male) has taken or been given alcohol resulting in them lacking the capacity to consent, then consent should be considered to be absent.
This has already been characterised by one commentator as criminalising drunken sex. There appears to be an enduring notion that women frequently engage in drunken sex, wake up, regret it and “cry rape”. Practically, there is little possibility this type of situation would ever make it to court but, more importantly, why would women make a complaint of rape in these circumstances? Given how horrendous the legal system is for complainers of rape, why would anyone put themselves through this unless they had a very genuine reason?
There is no evidence to support the idea false allegations in rape cases are any higher than for other crime. The SLC’s proposals are not about criminalising drunken sex: some men target women who are very drunk because they know they are unlikely to be able to refuse consent. The law must provide protection in these circumstances.
By Sandy Brindley – national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland.
Both south Belfast and the North West have been shown as the areas where women are most at risk of rape.
Government figures just released have revealed a 50% increase overall in rape cases in Northern Ireland over the past six years.
There were more than 450 reported or attempted rapes in 2007 alone.
But, the highest number of rapes was in the Foyle area where 40 assaults were reported last year, with south Belfast a close second with just one less – at 39 reported incidents.
The figures were revealed by Justice Minister Paul Goggins in response to a parliamentary question from DUP MP Nigel Dodds who described the figures as disturbing.
He said that women must be reassured that they will be supported in any allegation of rape and to see that the crime is severely dealt with in the courts.
Mr Dodds said the figures were “quite disturbing”.
“We need to restore confidence in law and order. As a society we need to get back to a point where the community has faith in our justice system,” he said.
NIO Minister. Mr Goggins said the government was committed to improving the rates of successful prosecution in rape cases.
“Specialist police units, staffed by highly skilled and trained personnel, are dedicated to enhancing the service to victims of rape and sexual assault,” he said.
“Both PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service are seeking to develop models of best investigative practice so that more offences can achieve the threshold for prosecution.”
Lap dancing clubs and strip bars inevitably result in the rise of human trafficking, a conference on the issue heard yesterday.
And those who start out working in the legal end of the sex trade — such as lap dancers — often end up selling their bodies for sex, Gerardine Rowley of Ruhama, the organisation that works with women caught up in prostitution, told the public meeting in Kilkenny city yesterday.
She said women, often in desperate financial situations, were groomed to become sex workers.
“This industry is about the grooming and normalising of prostitution. The competitive element of lap dancing, where one girl has to give a better dance than the next, means boundaries are lowered and women find themselves sliding into prostitution.”
Ms Rowley said few people saw the link between trafficking and sex clubs and if they were more aware, it would discourage their use.
Said Ms Rowley: “I would support any group or individual who protests outside these clubs. This is a serious issue. Don’t be afraid to say ‘we don’t want this’.”
She said the sex industry objectifies women, has been shown to have links to organised crime and results in a heightened risk of sexual assaults.
The conference, Human Trafficking and the Sex Industry, was organised by the city’s Mayor, Marie Fitzpatrick, and Labour Women, the women’s section of the Labour Party.
It was attended by the party’s former leader, Pat Rabbitte, as well as Labour Women chair Sinead Ni Chulachain.
Mr Rabbitte said he welcomed the upcoming Human Trafficking Bill, which is currently before the Dail and will deal with the criminalisation of those involved in it.
But he said the Bill fails to address the protection of those who are victims of human trafficking and, as a result, it will mean few victims come forward as they will fear deportation and worry about their security.
“The Government has said it will deal with that aspect in the Immigration Bill, but we feel trafficking of young women for the purpose of exploitation is an entirely separate issue to immigration,” he said.
United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking website http://www.ungift.org aims to be an extension of UN GIFT activities worldwide. We would like it to evolve into a vibrant online community where people exchange views, showcase their work, talk about their experiences and strengthen the fight against human trafficking. With your help we can make it a valuable resource and a tool to take this fight forward. The organized crime of human trafficking needs a fitting organized response.
United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) was formally launched in London on 26 March 2007. It is designed to have a long-term impact to create a turning point in the worldwide fight against human trafficking. 27 million people are trafficked each year.
UN.GIFT intends to take action against human trafficking in all its manifestations – commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labour, organ trade, camel jockeying, forced marriages, domestic labour, illegal adoption, and other exploitative work – through creating partnerships at a global level with all sectors of society. The ultimate goal of the Global Initiative is to contribute to ending human trafficking- estimated to have a total market value of about $32 billion worldwide.
UNODC has a two-pronged strategy for achieving this goal – increasing public awareness of the problem and coordinating existing but disparate efforts by international and national groups, governments and non-governmental organizations and by concerned individuals to end the practice. Numerous regional GIFT events will culminate in Vienna with a Global Forum against Human Trafficking from 13th to 15th Feb 2008.
The objective of The Vienna Forum is to raise awareness, facilitate cooperation and partnerships among the various stakeholders. It will bring together representatives from Member States, UN system organizations, other regional and international organizations, the business community, academia, non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society. The Forum will allow for an open environment to enable all parties involved to take concrete steps to fight human trafficking, within their spheres of action.
The Forum will be a catalyst for solution-seeking ideas and address three overriding themes on human trafficking:
1. Vulnerability: why does human trafficking happen;
2. Impact: human and social consequences of human trafficking;
3. Action: innovative approaches to solving complex problems. ·
It is time to join forces to prevent human trafficking.
Give this global problem a global solution.
Rally under the banner of the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
Get involved! Together we can save people and put traffickers behind bars.
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“The men don’t deserve respect” Beatriz gonzález president of the associatión of emancipated women
The Emancipated Woman Association has been working in the area of prostitution and women for many years, using re-insertion and awareness programmes. Its president is in favour of the abolition of an activity that is based on inequality between men and women.
Q: What do you think of the possibility that the Malaga City hall will decide to penalise prostitutes’ clients?
It seems to me to be a good idea. It is a way of abolishing the practice of prostitution, which attempts to penalise those people who use the services of prostitutes rather than the victims themselves. The women are in it out of necessity. In Spain, the current law attempts to penalise those who induce women into prostitution, but it is never applied in practice. The police know where these so-called clubs are, and they know who works in them, but when it comes to doing something about it…
Q: Do you believe that the idea that women choose to become prostitutes of their own free will still persists in society?
A certain kind of feminism believes that prostitution should be regulated, based on the idea that women should be free to do what they want with their own bodies. I believe this is no more than feminism misunderstood, supported by people who are not conscious of the transmitted roles of men and women over centuries past. If women were free of this scourge, then they would really be free to do what they wish with their bodies, but on equal terms with men, with no exchange of money taking place. The submission of the woman in private in times gone by has now moved into the public arena. Prostitution is an activity in which women have to be submissive. When there is such a need to survive economically, and men prepared to alleviate this need in exchange for sex, then there is inequality.
Q: You have been working with prostitutes for many years. What is the reality of prostitution?
It is practised by poor immigrant women who are also often drug traffickers. They are sexual objects, used by men who have never given any thought to sexual equality. The women have probably not thought about equality either, because all they want is to be able to earn enough money to get themselves and their families out of the poverty they live in.
Q: Have studies been carried out on clients of prostitutes?
We don’t have any such studies, but we know they tend to be people who raise their voices with women, who hit them and do not help out in the home or look after their children. However, there are some men who use prostitutes because of psychological problems in their relationships with their partners.
The Czech Republic has long been a destination for sex tourists from the West. Brothels line the road in some border towns and hordes of stag partygoers have filed through Prague’s numerous sex clubs.
Now a nonprofit group has teamed with the government to expose a side of the industry some customers would rather not think about – or don’t know about – and to seek help from them.”
The customer might be for the victim of human trafficking the only connecting link to the outside world and the only person who can primarily help her,” said Kristina Klepková of the nonprofit group International Organization for Migration (IOM). Klepková led a three-month program, called Together Against Human Trafficking, which ended last week, to raise awareness of sex slavery in the Czech Republic. The 950,000 Kč ($53,855) initiative, financed by the Interior Ministry, included posters at Prague Ruzyně International Airport and in city metro stations featuring a troubled woman and the phrase “Don’t be afraid to say it for her!” in English. On the poster were numbers people could call anonymously when they suspected human trafficking. Informational postcards were handed out at German and Austrian border crossings.
IOM received 24 e-mails and 30 phone calls during the campaign. The police are following up by investigating all possible crimes, Klepková said, but so far there is no information that a criminal case has been filed.
“Usually everything depended on the person who told us aboxut the particular case of human trafficking and on his willingness to tell us the details,” she said.
Although some details may not be known, the general picture of sex trafficking in the Czech Republic follows a pattern, according to IOM information. Women forced into prostitution are often lured here by seemingly legitimate jobs such as cleaning or babysitting. After they arrive they have their personal papers taken away and their will broken by rape, beatings and threats. They are then told that they have a debt to repay and are sold from trafficker to trafficker, thereby increasing the amount owed to impossible levels.
They often come from countries that used to belong to the Soviet Union and the former Eastern bloc, and some are from Vietnam and China.
IOM said that 300,000 to 500,000 people are trafficked every year in Europe. This includes all trafficking, not only sexual slavery. Human trafficking brings its organizers profits comparable with drug dealing or arms trading but without nearly the risk because catching traffickers is more difficult due to the complicated issue of forced compliance among victims, according to IOM.
The crime started in the Czech Republic in the 1990s, when, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, women from Eastern Europe became the chief export to the West European market.
Today the Czech Republic is an attractive target country for traffickers and it can be hard to spot which prostitutes are trafficked, IOM said. “Among all prostitutes, whether on the street, in clubs, or in houses of prostitution, there are women who have been forced into doing this,” IOM information states.
For more information on sexual trafficking in the Czech Republic, visit http://www.say-it.cz
The true story of a trafficked woman
The following case of Marja, a young woman from Lithuania, is one of several stories of rescued women that IOM has helped.
Marja, who was 19 at the time she was trafficked, now works with the nonprofit counseling organization La Strada.
After Lithuania joined the European Union, in May 2004, Marja traveled across Italy. After about two weeks, due to unexpected expenses, she ran out of money. This is when her friend, also originally from Lithuania, offered her a well-paid job in Prague. They traveled to the Czech Republic in another friend’s car. Since they were now both EU citizens, crossing the borders was smooth and easy. Late in the evening they reached a town, whose name Marja didn’t notice at the time. They were both tired and decided to stay overnight.
In the morning, Marja discovered that the doors to her room were locked and that her papers and mobile phone were missing. A stranger entered her room, a man, who told her in Russian that she owed a lot of money for the transport and accommodation. There was a customer already waiting for her downstairs. When Marja realized that she was expected to work as a prostitute, she pointedly refused. On that day she was, for the first time, brutally beaten and raped numerous times.
In the following weeks, death threats to both her and her family in Lithuania, beatings and food deprivation, for even the slightest misbehavior, became part of Marja’s life. She can’t say for exactly how long this went on. She started following the orders of the nightclub owner. She even pretended to be happy. As she puts it, all that she felt inside was the desire to survive and to not be hit anymore.