Archive for March 18th, 2008

A frightened Redbridge mother has called for an end to forced marriages after she escaped from a loveless nightmare of domestic violence at the hands of her brutal husband.

The mum-of-three, known only as Sadia,’ took her children to her native Pakistan last year in a desperate attempt to break free from the hell of life with her husband’s family in Ilford.

The 36-year-old, who has since returned to Redbridge, says the Asian community must face up to the consequences of forced marriages, which she says are ruining the lives of women and children across the borough.

Her plea comes after recent government figures showed more than 2,000 children are missing from school registers across the UK, with MPs concerned that many have been taken abroad as a result of forced marriages.

Sadia, who has begun a legal battle with her husband for custody of their children, says she knows many other women in Redbridge and neighbouring boroughs who are suffering the same misery as she experienced.

She said: “Forced marriages are bad for women and for their children. I was born in Pakistan, and sent to England by my family, in 1997, to marry a man I didn’t know. I didn’t speak very good English, so I was stuck in the house with his family, not able to do anything but cook and clean for him. I kept going because of my children, but he was abusing me every day, and it was too much to take when he moved his girlfriend into the house with us. I took the children to Pakistan, but came back to fight for custody of them. I don’t want them to have to live with him anymore.”

Sadia has had to live in hiding since returning to the UK, after suffering intimidation from her former husband’s family, including being threatened with a gun in Ilford High Road.

Shukri Mohamed, of the Redbridge-based Somali Welfare Trust, said women forced into unhappy or violent marriages should seek help from teachers, social workers or the police.

http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/topstories/display.var.2121094.0.redbridge_forced_marraige_victim_speaks_out.php

Each year, it is believed, thousands of young British Asian women are forced into marriages against their will. Those who resist face ostracism – or far worse. So why, do we hear so little about them?

The All Women’s Centre in Luton is a small brick building set back from the main road. They like it like this, say the women who work there, because it’s hidden away. Although they offer advice on everything from welfare and childcare to exercise classes and language lessons, almost all the women who use the centre have been affected by forced marriage. There is a poster about forced marriage on the wall, and security locks on the door. They hear all sorts of stories here, from women who have been sent abroad to marry a cousin, been raped and realised the only way to get home to the UK is to get pregnant, to grandmothers who have brought up five children and quietly admit at a coffee morning that they were forced into marriage when they were 16. When the All Women’s Centre tried to set up a support group for domestic abuse, it immediately encountered difficulties. “When you have a tight-knit community like the Asian community here, people don’t come forward,” says Sarita Jain, who helps to run the centre. “Bring them to a coffee morning, and the same issues we wanted to explore in a support group would come out there.”

Luton was once voted the UK’s “crappest town”, which seems a little unfair. Its latest distinction is that this week its Asian community was thrust into the spotlight over the issue of forced marriage, until now as hidden from national attention as it was in the groups in which it occurs. A study by Dr Nazia Khanum, who chairs several community groups in Luton, showed that the number of forced marriages had been greatly underestimated. Each year, the Forced Marriage Unit, set up by the government in 2005, helps around 300 British people (85% of them women) taken abroad for marriage, but Khanum believes the true figure may be 4,000. “There could be more,” she says. “The data collection is appalling and we’re never going to see the whole picture until it is improved. Maybe we will never know how prevalent it is, but at least we can get some idea if we monitor it properly.” What is known is that the majority of women forced into marriage have roots in South Asia, although it also happens in Somali, Turkish, Kurdish, Nigerian and Chinese communities. With victims among Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, as well as Muslims, it is not an issue of religion but of tradition, and the idea that a family’s “honour” rests on the shoulders of the women.

Forced marriage was once taken quite seriously by Luton’s authorities – the Bengali Women’s Project, a community group, had a dedicated adviser on forced marriage, paid for by the council, but the post was abolished a few years ago in funding cuts. Naseem Khan, who works at the All Women’s Centre, has her salary guaranteed only until next year, even though she has a wealth of experience of dealing with women who have been through or are threatened with forced marriages. “We are living hand to mouth,” she says.

“It’s all very well having the Forced Marriage Unit and lots of legislation and guidelines, but hardly anybody knew about these things,” says Margaret Moran, MP for Luton South, who commissioned Khanum’s report after seeing 100 young women a year (and some men) who were victims of forced marriage. “And what’s the use anyway if there isn’t community-based support for people when they need it? We’re going backwards on that rather than forwards. I’m trying to persuade the government to spend much less time and money [on legislation]. They need to put their money where their mouth is now.”

Almost 20% of Luton’s population is of Asian origin, mosly from Pakistan. “Some families here are stuck in a time trap,” says a shopkeeper in the largely Asian district of Bury Park. “The parents want to practise the customs of the south Asia they left in the 60s. They don’t realise that India and Pakistan have moved on since then.” There are signs, says Khan, that second-generation British Asians are more prepared to stand up to their parents, but this is where conflict arises; before, women would quietly go along with the marriage.

Forced marriage is often used to “correct” some kind of behaviour that a family is not happy about, including drug and alcohol use, promiscuity, having a boyfriend from another ethnic background, or the fear that a teenage daughter has become too “westernised”. It is inextricably linked to bullying, suicide (rates among young British Asian women are three times the national average) and “honour” violence, including murder. There have been a number of horrific cases in recent years. Banaz Mahmod, a 19-year-old Kurdish-born woman from south London, had been forced into marriage when she was 16, but left her husband and started a relationship with another man. She told police that her father had threatened to kill her and gave them a list of names of local men she feared he would hire to do the job, but they didn’t listen. Her body was found buried in a garden in Birmingham; she had been strangled with a shoelace and packed into a suitcase. In January, a coroner ruled that Shafilea Ahmed, 17, from Warrington, had been murdered – she was found next to a river in 2004 – but nobody has been charged. The inquest was told that she had tried to run away before, telling a local youth support service that she feared her parents would force her into a marriage (they have denied this) and, on a trip to Pakistan, drank bleach in an apparent suicide attempt.

Shazia Qayum, 28, who grew up in Birmingham, knows some of what they have been through: she was forced to marry her cousin when she was 17. “It started when I was 15. I came back from school one day and my mother showed me a picture of my cousin in Pakistan and said I was going to marry him. I was told that saying no wasn’t an option and that if I did, I wouldn’t be allowed to finish my education.” She was taken out of school anyway, and her parents kept her imprisoned at home. “I didn’t think they would be able to get away with it. I thought the school authorities or social services would come looking for me, but nobody did. I remember once a friend came round, asking where I was, and I heard my father tell her that I was in Pakistan, but I was in a back room.”

Qayum was kept at home for a year, then her parents stopped talking about the marriage and she thought perhaps they had changed their minds. She was allowed to get a job in a factory, and when she was 17, she was told the family was going on a holiday to Pakistan. “I was born and raised in Britain,” she says. “I had never even been abroad, so I was quite excited. We got there, and a wedding was being planned. I asked who was getting married and my parents said: ‘You.’ ” They told her she would be disowned and left in Pakistan if she refused, and that her grandfather was ill and it would be her fault if he died.

“I went ahead with the marriage,” she says, “but I told my now ex-husband that my parents had forced me to marry him. He said he didn’t care, that he just wanted to come to the UK. My parents left me in Pakistan and said the only way I could come home was if I sponsored my husband’s visa.” She was allowed to return to the UK before him, and started working, saving money in a secret bank account. She wrote to immigration officials saying she didn’t want her husband to be given a visa and that she had been forced into the marriage, but her letters were never acknowleged.

“When he came over, I realised I had two choices: to live a lie to keep my parents happy, or to leave and live my life.” She called the police, who escorted her out of her home, but their support ended there. “They told me to make my own way; I had no idea where to go.” For five years, Qayum lived in refuges, moving because her father was following her. She now runs the young persons’ team at Karma Nirvana, a support service for victims of forced marriage and “honour” violence, and her family have disowned her. “I’m dead to my family,” she says.

In Luton, as elsewhere, there is a shocking lack of support for women who find themselves in Qayum’s situation. A few get places at a specialist refuge for Asian women run by Luton Women’s Aid, but last year this was able to accommodate only 34 women. What happens to the rest? Sometimes they are forced to go back home, or are helped by friends. “Sometimes we never know,” says Jenny Moody, who set up the refuge 12 years ago. “We thought it would take a while to fill up, but within a week we were full,” she says. “And we’ve been full ever since. I’ve seen so many women frightened of what would happen to them if they were made to go home. And it is real fear.” She has seen cars full of men – husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, in-laws – driving around trying to find the refuge.

Last year, Luton Women’s Aid helped 179 women in connection with forced marriage. Often, these women will not go to the police or social services because they don’t trust them or they are too frightened. “We have very strict laws on confidentiality; they don’t have to tell us their name or address,” says Moody. “We will attempt to encourage them to go to the police, but not all do.”

Some police officers are not as understanding as they could be, she says. She remembers one instance when a woman’s passport had been taken and locked away by her family. This was reported as a theft, and the woman even told the police which cupboard it was locked in. When the police went round, however, the woman’s father said she was lying and the complaint wasn’t taken any further.

One of the problems Moody has come across is that some women from repressive backgrounds are kept in the dark about the realities of the rest of the world. “You can explain English laws to them, and how they can achieve freedom, but this is meaningless unless they actually know what freedom means,” she says. “I remember asking one woman what she thought love meant, and she said, ‘It means doing what your family and husband tell you to do.’ ”

Jasvinder Sanghera, who escaped a forced marriage herself, runs Karma Nirvana, which is based in Derby but gets calls from all over the UK. The organisation takes 15 new cases a week relating to forced marriage and “honour” violence. “It’s not an exaggeration to say there are thousands of victims and thousands of potential victims of forced marriages,” she says.

Last week, the home affairs select committee into forced marriage and “honour” violence was told that 33 children in Bradford alone could not be traced after disappearing from school records. The fear is that at least some of these have been victims of forced marriage.

“I’m sure that hundreds of girls have been removed from school. This time of year is particularly dangerous, with parents preparing to take girls overseas during the summer holidays,” says Diana Nammi, director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation. “We work with schools and provide teachers with training and information.” She says she is aware of girls going missing from schools she has worked with, but “The government and education authorities are not following these cases up.” It is obviously a sensitive subject, and none of the schools I contacted would talk to me.

“If an Asian child goes missing, I do not believe that their case would be investigated as fully as if a non-Asian child fell off the school roll,” says Sanghera. “I’ve heard teachers say they think it is part of the child’s culture to be taken abroad for an extended length of time; they think they are being culturally sensitive. But I had this girl who was 12 when she was taken out of school, taken to Pakistan when she was 14, forced to marry, and raped. She came back to the UK and gave birth to a child in this country, as a minor. Nobody ever asked her any questions about her situation. I believe that of these unaccounted-for children, there will be victims of forced marriages. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

There are some signs that the government is taking forced marriage seriously. This autumn, the Forced Marriage Act will allow courts to intervene if someone makes a complaint that they are being forced into a marriage. The select committee on forced marriage and honour violence is also expected to report its findings soon. But whatever new legislation is passed, campaigners repeatedly say that it is no good if the women it is intended to help have no idea that it is there.

Khanum made a wide range of recommendations in her report. “Many schools and colleges,” she says, “have to really pull their socks up and detect signs that a young woman is being forced into a marriage – such as depression, truancy, a downturn in her grades – and find out why. GPs don’t ask why a woman might be depressed and just prescribe antidepressants.”

There also needs to be more funding for dedicated workers and counsellors. “You have to educate parents, because so much of this goes on behind closed doors,” says Khanum. “If a neighbour is bullying his daughter, how would I know if all I see is him being very polite and considerate outside the home? Educating parents is vital, and especially men, because it is predominantly men who are the perpetrators – they have to be influenced. They may not even know that they are breaching the laws of this country.”

Raising the age of compulsory education to 18 could help, as it would buy young women time and help them to become more self-confident, but this would only work if schools and colleges followed up absences. Agencies need to be trained to have a greater understanding of the issues: Khanum says some have sought help from community or religious leaders, believing this to be the culturally sensitive thing to do, whereas it often placed the women in more danger.

Sanghera, meanwhile, believes there needs to be a distinct criminal offence of forced marriage. The government did consider this, but decided not to legislate; one of the reasons given was that women wouldn’t want to criminalise their parents and it would force the practice underground. The fact is, forced marriage is already largely underground. Sanghera sees the criminalisation of forced marriage as parallel to the introduction of domestic violence legislation. “We had the same debate with that: people were saying, ‘It won’t work, women won’t want to get their partners into trouble.’ But we created legislation, empowered victims, raised awareness, put in special measures. The same would apply to forced marriage. It would create the recognition that this is a crime; I have never met a victim who believed that what was happening to them was against the law. You are groomed into understanding that your life is mapped out for you. You’re not thinking, ‘It is against the law for you to do this to me.’ Making forced marriage a crime in itself would send out a strong message of unacceptability.”

It is time, she says, to put aside what some people believe is cultural sensitivity and start seeing forced marriage and “honour” violence as the crimes that they are. “I’ve met well-intentioned police officers, teachers and GPs who have a fear of getting it wrong and a fear of being called racist. There is so much denial. I can cope with denial in the community – they can get on with it – but I can’t cope with denial from those statutory agencies that have a responsibility to treat these women the same way they would treat any other”.

Karma Nirvana can be reached at http://www.karmanirvana.org.uk or on 01332 604098

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/14/race.gender

The statistics were gathered over the Christmas period, as part of Operation Lantern, a joint initiative between police, South Tyneside Council and domestic abuse agencies, aimed at raising awareness of the issue.

The festive season was chosen to launch the four-week campaign – which was supported by the Gazette – as it is often a peak time for abusive partners to lash out.

Police said the rise shouldn’t be seen as a negative result, but one which shows that more victims are now making a stand against their abusive partners.

Last December, 303 victims reported emotional, physical or sexual abuse by their partners – up from 285 the same month in 2006.

And six more people than in 2006 – 59, up from 53 – were referred by police to other agencies, to help them move on with their lives.

As more victims come forward, police today warned domestic abusers that they face prosecution – even if their victim doesn’t want to press charges.

Detective Inspector Arthur Cowell, of South Tyneside Area Command’s public protection unit, which deals with incidents of domestic violence, said: “South Tyneside Area Command and our Safer South Tyneside partners are committed to building trust and confidence in survivors of domestic abuse.

“Those suffering at the hands of an abusive partner can be sure their complaint will be taken seriously, and dealt with sensitively, but nonetheless robustly.

“Not all cases will result in a prosecution. However, there is a range of support services available to assist the survivors through any court proceedings, and beyond if necessary.

“I urge anyone who is suffering domestic abuse to take that first step, and speak out against the abuser, either to the police or to our partners.”

South Tyneside Council’s lead member for safer and stronger communities, Coun Joanne Bell, said: “I am pleased the message is getting through to victims of domestic violence, that they do not have to suffer in silence.

“For too long, domestic violence has been behind closed doors, but now that there is more awareness being raised, more and more victims are coming forward to break the cycle.

“There are some really good support services available in the borough to help victims cope with the devastating affects of domestic violence.”

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/Police-get-tough-on-domestic.3871997.jp

Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) are to be held monthly to identify and share information about those women and men who are believed to be in the most danger. Interventions and individual support plans will then be put in place to help manage and reduce the risks to the victim and any children involved.

Each MARAC will be attended by representatives from agencies such as the police, probation service, NHS, social services, housing and education. There will also be people there whose job it is to represent the voice of the victim. This can be a support service or one of the new Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), who only work with high risk victims of domestic violence. Depending on the individual case, other agencies such as CAFCASS, local drug and alcohol support services and specialist projects supporting those from black and ethnic minority communities may also attend.

Interventions can include a prompt arrest and police investigation, as well as measures such as installing an alarm, strengthening locks and windows, getting help with money or benefit problems, home help for people who are struggling or in some cases a change of address or refuge provision.

Leicestershire Constabulary’s Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator, Detective Sergeant Pete Williams, said: “This is a real step forward both in terms of multi-agency working and protecting victims. We will deal with the highest risk cases where immediate intervention is needed to stop repeat victimisation and increase the safety and well-being of the victim and their family.

“It is important to point out that the Independent Domestic Violence Advisors that will support the MARAC are truly independent and intended to be the ‘voice of the victim’. They will be the link to the agencies that can help and will represent the thoughts and wishes of the victim so that they are not overlooked. The well-being of the victim will be at the heart of everything the MARAC implements.”

The first MARAC for Leicestershire and Rutland was held on Wednesday March 12, with the City version launching in April.

Stephanie McBurney, Co-ordinator for the Leicester Domestic Violence Forum Partnership, said: “This is a great new resource that will help us to improve safety quickly, with a lead contact for those high risk victims, a better sense of who’s doing what and an avenue to follow if it’s not achieved. It’s an exciting time where big pieces of work to improve our response to domestic violence are coming together.”

Lucy Hodge, Domestic Violence Reduction Co-ordinator for Leicestershire County Council, said: “The MARAC provides an excellent mechanism to bring together information held by the many agencies in the County to provide comprehensive support to victims, particularly those in rural areas.”

Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of sexuality, gender, age or ethnicity. If you are concerned about someone who may be experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence, or are a victim yourself, please contact the following numbers for information and support.

The Domestic Violence Integrated Response Project (DVIRP) – 0116 255 0004
Leicestershire Constabulary – 0116 222 2222 (in an emergency dial 999)
National Domestic Violence Helpline (24 hours) – 0808 2000 247
Crimestoppers – information can be provided anonymously by calling 0800 555 111

http://www.inloughborough.com/news/2008/03/10593_abuse.php

Women’s Aid has launched a new section on our website called the Domestic Violence A-Z which gives info about domestic violence according to topic area.

We’ve also launched a brand new topic area called Survivors’ Voices

This contains lots of articles which focus on the kinds of questions women in domestic violence situations may ask, such as:

Will my partner change?

Can I take my pets into a refuge?

My partner reads all my text messages and checks the calls I’ve made. Is this abuse?

Why do I always get involved with abusive men?

On Sunday 30th March 2008 Honor Blackman will be reading the BBC Radio 4 Appeal to raise funds and awareness for the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge).

The Appeal will be aired on BBC Radio 4: 92.4 – 94.6 FM and 198 LW at:
– 7.55am and 9.26pm on Sunday 30th March 2008
– 3.27pm on Thursday 3rd April 2008

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/religion/radio4appeal.shtml

You can also listen again online for a week after the first appeal broadcast. Please help us to raise as much money as possible by listening in and helping to spread the word!

Spare five minutes of your day to listen to the Appeal and forward this information to as many friends and family as possible.

The 24 week time limit for abortion is under threat

MPs and organisations who oppose abortion are going to use the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently going through parliament to try to stop women from having an abortion.

Their strategy is to attack the current time limit for abortion. They’ll try and pass laws slashing it from 24 weeks to 20.

But this is strongly opposed by all the main health organisations in the UK including fpa, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, Antenatal Results and Choices, Brook, Marie Stopes International and bpas.

After an exhaustive evaluation of women’s health and the survival of babies born under 24 weeks, the Science and Technology Select Committee also could not find any scientific evidence for reducing the time limit.

Why do women need an abortion after 20 weeks?

There are many reasons and they include:
* Problems with the woman’s pregnancy may only have just been identified.
* She may have encountered NHS delays stopping her being referred for an abortion.
* She may not have realised she was pregnant.
* She may have gone into denial about the pregnancy.
* She may be in a personal crisis, for example experiencing homelessness or unemployment or her partner might have left her.

But babies born between 20 and 24 weeks can live can’t they?

Sadly babies born this prematurely are too underdeveloped and fragile to cope with life outside the womb. Epicure, the large, most comprehenisve study of the survival of premature babies, shows that at:
* 20 weeks no babies survived
* at 22 weeks 2 per cent survived
* at 23 weeks only 11 per cent survived.

Women need time to make the right decision.

You can help us protect women’s right to choose

There are many easy things you can do that only take a few moments:
* Sign the petition http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/protecttheabortiontimelimit/ to keep the 24 week limit.
* Write to your MP and let them know that if they are pro-choice, they must support women having the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks. fpa has produced a sample letter http://www.fpa.org.uk/attachments/published/934/Sample%20letter%20to%20MP%20about%2024%20week%20time%20limit.doc setting out why we think the abortion time limit must remain at 24 weeks. Please feel free to use this and send it to your MP or as a basis to write your own letter. Find your MP http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/commons/l/ or write to them at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
* Email our Women need 24 weeks for a reason postcard below to your MP, asking them to vote for the current time limit. Find your MP’s email http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/commons/l/. Please add this text to the email: I am concerned that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be amended to reduce the time limit for abortion from 24 weeks. There are lots of reasons why the time limit must not be reduced:
– There is no scientific evidence that requires a reduction.
– Women have valid reasons for having later abortions, such as being delayed getting an appointment or late identification of problems in pregnancy.
– Women who have later abortions are often the most vulnerable such as young women or women in abusive relationships.
– Reducing the time limit will mean some women will have to rush their decision about whether or not to have an abortion.
Please vote to keep the 24 week time limit.
Remember to include your own name, address and postcode.
* Email our Women need 24 weeks for a reason postcard to family and friends.

Read the full text at http://www.fpa.org.uk/news/campaigns/current%5Fcampaigns/detail.cfm?contentid=930

Part of a series of seminars organised by CRITICAL SEXOLOGY, a London-based, interdisciplinary seminar series for psychologists, psychoanalysts, medical doctors, literary and cultural studies scholars, philosophers, artists, lawyers and historians with a critical interest in the construction and management of gender and sexuality in the medical, discursive and cultural spheres.

9 April 2008: 2-6pm
Venue: K505/06, Keyworth Centre, London South Bank University.

This seminar Organised and Chaired by Lisa Downing

Speakers:

Julian Petley (Professor of Film and Television Studies, Brunel University)
“The Dangerous Images Act”

Clarissa Smith (Programme Leader, MA in Media & Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland)
“On Being an apologist for porn”

Alexandra Dymock (SM and feminist activist, Backlash)
“Against the Backlash: Pornography, Power and the Pressure Group”

Martin Baggaley (Consultant Psychiatrist, Clinical Lead NHS Connecting for Health London)
“Links between extreme pornography and psychiatric disorder – much conjecture but little evidence”

Respondents:

Adeola Agbebiyi (Film and Video Examiner, British Board of Film Classification)

Fiona Handyside (Lecturer in Film, University of Exeter)

Eleanor Wilkinson (Teaching Assistant in Geography, University of Leeds)

——————————————————————–
Please note that all Critical Sexology Seminars are free of charge and open to all. There is no need to register your intention to attend with the organiser(s).

http://www.criticalsexology.org.uk/forthcoming.html#censorship

Tue 22 April 2008 – 6.30pm at Amnesty’s Human Rights Centre

Directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kaufman
Running time 82 mins

This event is part of AIUK Behind the Screen series

Winner of the 2003 Academy Award for documentaries, Born Into Brothels follows the lives of a group of children in Sonagachi in the red light district in Calcutta.

Photojournalist and director Zana Briski gave the children cameras and taught them how to shoot and edit the world they knew: the crowded, filthy boarding house where their mothers live and toil. For this group of bright, energetic, curious kids, the only path out of the brothels leads to a decent boarding school, and Briski sees their photography as a means to fund their education.

The spectre of long odds and narrow choices shades every frame, yet the tone is often buoyant and inspirational, as when the class runs riot during a seaside field trip. Born Into Brothels testifies to the kids untaught resilience and hope, and to their mentor’s selfless energy.

Human Rights Action Centre, 17 – 25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA
Free of charge – but – please book at place for this event at http://www.amnesty.org.uk/events_booking.asp?ID=578&#booking

Asylum Law and Female Genital Mutilation: Recent developments

CRS Report for Congress
Yule Kim Legislative Attorney, America Law Division
February 2008

This research paper looks at how the federal courts and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in America classify Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as a form of persecution. The paper discusses legal arguments that can be applied for successful asylum claims. The paper covers prior case law and looks at women as a social groups and FGM as past and future persecution.

The recent developments within this area of law in America have resulted in contrary views between the federal courts and the BIA. The research demonstrates theses differences with regard to women who have experienced FGM. The federal courts believe that women who have experienced FGM still have a basis for a well founded fear of persecution however, the BIA believe that if they have experienced FGM, they will not be persecuted again. The paper outlines that for the BIA “showing a past persecution must create a well-founded fear of identical future persecution”. It is for this reason, the paper argues that the majority of women who have experienced FGM are likely to have their asylum claim rejected.

For full research report see: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22810.pdf

Taking Stock: Afghanistan Women and Girls – Seven Years On

Womankind Worldwide February 2008

Womankind Worldwide have published the fourth edition of their Afghanistan women and girls series. This report explores the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan seven years after the fall of the Taliban regime.

The report highlights that Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, with some of the world’s highest maternal mortality, domestic violence and suicides rates. The report states that 60% of marriages are forced and many women are murdered without justice and receive little protection from violence. In addition, women’s basic needs are not met and progress towards protecting women’s human rights has been unacceptably slow.

The report provides background information and statistics on a range of issues including violence against women; child marriage and forced marriage; trafficking, forced prostitution and abduction; rape and sexual violence.

The research report makes 50 key recommendations to: tackle violence against women, improve access to public health, education services and safe public spaces, prevent trafficking, address women’s security and empower women.

Womankind Worldwide calls on the Afghanistan government to uphold its international commitments to women and for the international community to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325. This would ensure women in conflict zones are offered protection and their role in the peace process and their human rights are recognised.

For full research report see: http://www.womankind.org.uk/upload/Womankind%20Taking%20Stock%20-%20Spring%202008.pdf

A Comprehensive Programme Addressing HIV/AIDS and Gender Based Violence

MS Jansen van Rensburg
Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance (SAHARA)

This research examines the impact of service provision programme targeted at women living with HIV/AIDS and who have experienced gender based violence in South Africa. The report highlights that nearly 40% of women aged between 20-29 in South Africa are HIV positive. In addition, gender based violence is reported to be extremely high in South Africa with one in every two women at risk of being raped in their lifetime, one in four women to be in an abusive relationship and a woman is killed by her partner every six days.

The report discusses how there is no noticeable decrease in domestic violence since the introduction of the Domestic Violence Act 1999. This is believed to be largely due to lack of enforcement, inadequate legal systems and lack of awareness of the Act by women. The report also states that women experience difficulties in disclosing their HIV status and this is compounded if they have experienced gender based violence where there is little awareness, understanding and specialist services.

The report outlines key findings and specific statistics on knowledge and attitudes of gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, support and care and relationships and sexual behaviour.

For full research report see: http://www.sahara.org.za/index.php/View-document-details/296-A-comprehensive-programme-addressing-HIV-AIDS-and-gender-based-violence.html

Combating Child Sex Tourism

ECPAT International February 2008

ECPAT International has produced a report covering key questions and answers in the field of child sex tourism. The report covers issues around child trafficking, child pornography and child marriage and outlines a regional overview across the Americas, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and the CIS.

The report summarises international treaties and legislation that should be in place to protect children. The report also recommends mechanisms and codes of conduct to combat the commercial and sexual exploitation of children.

For full report see: http://www.ecpat.net/EI/PDF/CST/CST_FAQ_ENG.pdf

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This is an extract from the current issue of Women’s Asylum News (March 2008) available from http://www.asylumaid.org.uk or email your details to Claireb@asylumaid.org.uk if you would like to receive WAN by email

The three leading candidates for Mayor of London have confirmed they will take part in hustings organised by gay equality organisation Stonewall. Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick will answer questions from the gay community on Saturday 19th April.

PinkNews.co.uk is proud to be Stonewall’s media partner for the hustings, which will be held at the BFI Southbank between 11am and 12.30pm.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said:

“The Mayor of London holds powers which can make the lives of over a million lesbian, gay and bisexual Londoners better – or worse. Policing, transport safety, culture, community relations, they all matter to us. With a close race in prospect, the pink vote is one the candidates dare not ignore. This is our chance to make our voice heard loud and clear.”

Tony Grew, editor of PinkNews.co.uk said:

“We are delighted to be the media partner for this hustings event. We know that many of our readers will relish the chance to put a question to the Mayoral candidates. The politicians are just as keen to talk to us – both Boris and Brian have been interviewed for PinkNews.co.uk and we are hopeful that Ken will find time to speak to us too. The gay vote will be vital in this election, because every vote is vital. In every election for Mayor of London, second preference votes have decided the winner. We hope this event will allow our readers not just to see the candidates but find out more about their policies and perhaps decide who will get their first and second preference votes.”

The hustings event is being held just eleven days before Londoners go to the polls on May 1st, and it will be the last time voters will get the chance to see the candidates debate before election day.

Each candidate will make a short speech, but the majority of the event will consist of questions from the audience.

It is hoped that some of the other candidates for Mayor will also take part in the hustings.

Source http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-7049.html

The event is open to everyone, but in order to ensure a seat we are asking people to register here: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/clicks/click.php?id=41

(We are listings this event as we are not aware of anything being organised for women / women’s groups to question Mayoral candidates on their policies and how they will impact on women in London. If anyone knows of such an event please do let us know – thanks!)

The Sheila McKechnie Awards are an annual bursary scheme for emerging and grassroots campaigners. Campaigners are a powerful force for change in our society but we know that the reality is often hard work and a lot of frustration. Our awards have been created to equip campaigners with the skills that they need to be successful. We focus on the ingredients for campaigning success and seek to share them with campaigners across the United Kingdom.

See full details at original posting Sheila McKechnie Awards 2008 for emerging and grassrootscampaigners