Archive for July, 2008

* Wide variation in number of cases registered in various States
* Highest number of cases registered from Rajasthan
* Campaign to popularise the Act and role of authorities

The first monitoring and evaluation report on the implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) 2005 has shown that 7,913 cases have been registered under the Act, with the highest number reported from Rajasthan (3,440) where neither protection officers have been appointed so far nor any infrastructure is in place.

This is followed by Kerala, where 1,028 cases have been registered under the Act, according to Lawyer’s Collective Women’s Rights Initiative. No official information was received from Uttar Pradesh, though Lawyer’s data shows that over 150 cases have been filed there. Less than 50 cases have been filed in 10 States — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Orissa, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, and West Bengal. No cases have been filed in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.

One of the reasons for this wide variation could be attributed to the level of awareness on this law in each State, according to Ranjana Kumari, president, WomenPowerConnect and Centre for Social Research. It appears there are divergent ways in which the Act is being implemented and this is partly due to the kind of infrastructure put in place as well as the manner in which the Act is being interpreted, she said.

In order to create better understanding of the law and the related legal procedures among women and law enforcement agencies, the Centre for Social Research and WomenPowerConnect will run an awareness campaign across the country.

Consultative meetings will be held jointly with stakeholders in five selected cities to discuss a wide range of issues in terms of the roles and responsibilities of the authorities notified under the Act as well as the provisions for victims of violence.

The first consultation will be held in Patna on August 6.

The number of children aged 12 and under who have perpetrated sexual assaults against members of their families has nearly doubled over the past two years, according to a report published Monday by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.

The number children in this age group who were listed as victims of sexual assault also nearly doubled over this period, the association said. But while professionals in the field believe that this increase is due mainly to increased reporting, there is a consensus among them that the number of children who sexually assault other children is genuinely growing.

Data from the Welfare Ministry’s child investigation service indicate a similar trend. In 1990, only 2.9 percent of all children up to the age of 14 who were suspected of committing sexual abuse were aged six to eight. In 2006, however, the proportion rose to 6.8 percent.

According to police data analyzed by the National Council for the Child, a decade ago, 57 percent of all minors suspected of committing sexual abuse were 12 to 15 years old. In 2007, however, the proportion rose to 65 percent.

Professionals say that many factors have contributed to the drop in the age of the assaulters. These include increased awareness of the problem, which has increased the rate of reporting even among conservative populations such as the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs; children’s exposure to pornography and violence on television and the computer; parents’ absence from the home and a general lack of supervision; and earlier sexual maturation.

The Education Ministry’s unit for preventing abuse of children and adolescents describes a similar trend.

In 2004, about 50 percent all requests by teachers and other school professionals for a consultation about children who had committed sexual abuse concerned children in kindergartens and elementary schools.

In 2007, however, this group was the subject of 75 percent of all requests for consultations.

“We are definitely seeing deviant and harmful sexual behavior at younger and younger ages,” said Shosh Zimmerman, director of the Education Ministry’s unit for preventing abuse.

Zimmerman, along with representatives of the Welfare Ministry and other relevant agencies, served on a committee that formulated a plan in 2004 for dealing with children under the age of 12 who sexually abuse others. She said that her ministry has begun to train psychologists to treat such children, and implementation of the plan will begin this coming school year.

The chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, MK Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), commented: “The data place a mirror in front of Israeli society, which is becoming increasingly ugly.”

Is it possible that daily exposure to reports of sexual assaults has turned us callous to a horrid reality?

We have become numb. In the past few years it seems impossible to avoid media reports of sexual abuse and assault, of a violent reality which places over half of this country’s population in imminent danger. It has become a routine thing.

Our news editions are filled with reports of senior government officials, or prominent public figures – people who are considered the cream of the crop in their fields – who have sexually harassed and abused women as if that “right” was one of the benefits that comes with public office or high financial standing.

Our newspapers, if we bother to do more than just glance through them, have daily reports – which somehow seem to take up less and less space with each passing day – of a father who assaulted his daughter here, children who for years abused a classmate there, or of granddaughters and nieces terrorized by the ones who are supposed to love them the most.

And still – we seem oblivious to reality, incapable of realizing that in some surreal manner, there are those among us who live under the constant fear of sexual assault. These people are not a thousand miles away. They are sitting next to us on the bus, in the movie theater, in a café; and perhaps this proximity is what makes the violence which surrounds them so transparent to us.

Transparent people

Their reality petrifies us. To think that a woman going to work just like me – just like you – is afraid to be left alone with her boss; to think that the schoolgirl next door is afraid to go to sleep at night – for me and for the other volunteers at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, those fears are a daily reality.

The facts are chillingly clear: In Israel, one out of every three women is sexually assaulted. One out of every five is raped. One out of every seven women was or is the victim of incest. One out of every six men was the victim of sexual assault. These are more than numbers to us. These are real people – people we meet every day.

The association’s reality is one where the phone never stops ringing. A reality in which we see victims through police procedures and legal proceedings; where schools call upon us to help them try and increase teenage awareness, to teach our youth were the fine line between courtship and assault is drawn; and where professionals call on us to help them deal with this ever increasing horrid phenomenon and its long term implications.

Working and volunteering in the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel is a matter of opening ones eyes to a very real, daily reality, in the hopes that one day, this reality will no longer be so transparent to us; in the hopes that one day this reality will just no longer be.

Inbar Cohen is a social worker with the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel,7340,L-3567816,00.html

Love-making by a married man with a woman after making her believe that he was unmarried or on the promise of marriage is rape, the Supreme Court has ruled.

“Since, he was already married, the subsequent marriage, if any, has no sanctity in law and is void ab-initio (illegal from the inception),” a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and P Sathasivam observed in a judgement.

The apex court rejected the argument of the convict Bhupinder Singh, an employee of the State Bank of Patiala, that since the victim Manjit Kaur had consented to sex despite knowing his marital status, the ingredients of Section 376 (rape) would not apply in his case.

In this case, a sessions court in Chandigarh had convicted and sentenced Bhupinder Singh to seven years RI and a fine of Rs 10,000 on Bhupinder Singh on charges of fathering Kaur’s child despite the fact that he was already married and having kids.

It was the case of the victim that she had married Singh after the latter made her believe that he was unmarried and fathered her child.

But later she came to know that he was already married and had kids through his first wife.

Singh on his part denied having married Kaur, but on the basis of the various documents, the sessions court sentenced him to seven years RI.

He appealed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court which upheld the conviction but reduced the sentence to three years on the premise that Kaur had consented to sex, knowing fully well that Singh was married.

The High Court had also ordered him to pay Rs one lakh compensation to the victim, failing which he would have to serve the original sentence imposed by the Sessions court.

Dissatisfied with the relief granted by the High Court, Singh had filed an appeal in the apex court, which rejected his plea.–rules–SC/335956/

Around the world, women are far more likely than men to be poor, ill-housed, under-educated and victimized by war and discrimination. To help women help themselves and their communities, the Global Fund for Women, or GFW, a San Francisco-based organization, gives $8 million a year to support grassroots projects. So far, the GFW has helped to fund community-based development projects in 167 countries.

The organization invited some of its current grantees to its recent 20th anniversary celebration in New York. Leymah Gbowee, who helped found the Women in Peacebuilding Network in her rural Liberian community in 2001 was among those attending.

After 11 years of civil war that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, talks between President Charles Taylor’s government and rebel militia groups were stalled. To help prod the parties into action, Gbowee and other rural women staged peaceful demonstrations outside the buildings where negotiations were being held. And when an agreement was finally reached, the women worked to hold both sides publicly accountable for their promises.

“If some appointment in the government went wrong, we were there,” Gbowee recalls proudly. “If disarmament was going wrong, we were there. We were just all over the place!”

Although the role of women may seem minimal to some, especially when dealing with warlords, Gbowee says, “[women] are the conscience.”

Gbowee’s first grassroots group led to the formation, in 2006, of the Women Peace and Security Network-Africa, or WIPSEN. Today, the Global Fund for Women is helping WIPSEN survey rural women in five West African countries to determine what they believe will ensure peace and security in their communities and the region.

“The U.S. government put billions of dollars into the restructuring of the Liberian army,” she says, “but have they ever stopped to ask the rural women ‘What is security to you? Are you interested in having a gunboat or having another missile launcher in your army?'”

Gbowee says, for her and many rural African women like her “security means more health care for my children, a proper education and more schools.”

Halfway around the world, in the South American nation of Colombia, decades of violent internal conflict have meant horrific levels of sexual violence and displacement for women. To address both problems, the Global Fund for Women has supported the launch of the League of Displaced Women, led by lawyer-activist Patrica Guerrero.

These Colombian women are part of the Global Fund for Women’s “City of Women” project, in which displaced women build their own homes together, creating security and community

One of the League’s main projects is its so-called “City of Women” initiative. It’s a grassroots project that has trained over 500 internally displaced women in construction skills, then given them raw materials to build their own homes and create new communities for themselves and their families.

The “City of Women” initiative offers one model for effective grassroots development, but it’s also politically innovative, because women who normally would never own their own property have a place to call their own. And, according to GFW Latin America program officer Erika Guevara-Rosas, it also helps to prevent domestic violence. “The women feel empowered to tell their partners ‘if violence starts at home, then you can leave, because this is my place!'”

Global Fund for Women grantees are also working in Asia, where they have tackled such problems as human trafficking and the health and safety of factory workers. In Tibet, GFW has partnered with a yak loan program designed to help elderly nomadic women whom the government has forcibly resettled in towns to become financially self-sufficient. “It’s a very creative and culturally appropriate strategy they’re using,” says Dechen Tsering, GFW’s program officer for Asia and Oceania.

Prudence Mabele of South Africa had few options when she was diagnosed with HIV-AIDS in the early 1990’s, so she helped to create Positive Women’s Network, which educated women about HIV and helps advocate for AIDS sufferers

Sometimes, the challenge women must confront in their societies is not poverty or war, but ignorance. When Prudence Mabele, a black South African, was diagnosed with HIV-AIDS in the early 1990s, she and others afflicted with the disease were forced to suffer in shame and silence. Not surprisingly, there were few medical or social services to help them cope with their disease.

In 1992, Mabele publicly announced her condition, and took her own meager savings to start the Positive Women’s Network to advocate loudly for AIDS sufferers.

Sande Smith, the Global Fund for Women’s public education director, is inspired by Mabele’s story, which she says can serve as a model for the empowerment of women everywhere.

The Global Fund for Women is helping women in 167 countries help themselves, their families and their communities

“You can do that, too. You can say ‘What is it that I need? What is it that I wish I had in my community?’ Start talking to others, and then act on it! When … you know that you can make a difference, you become an agent of change, and life [itself] changes.”

Other projects supported by the Global Fund for Women range from initiatives in education and legal services to children’s health, and the prevention of domestic violence. However, says Smith, there is one common principle underlying all these efforts. “Women can’t wait for someone else to do for them. So they have to do it for themselves. And they are creating a world that is going to be good for everyone.”

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General remarks made by an employer can be the basis of a discrimination claim, Europe’s highest court has ruled. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling says a discrimination case is possible even when no individual is involved.

The director of a Belgian firm that fitted garage doors posted a job advert and, when asked if he was “a bit racist”, indicated that he did not want to employ immigrants because his customers would not want to give them access to their houses.

Centrum voor gelijkheid van kansen en voor racismebestrijding (The Centre for equal opportunities and combating racism) sued the company, Feryn, claiming that the comments of the director were evidence of a discriminatory employment policy.

The director said, publicly, “I must comply with my customers’ requirements. If you say ‘I want that particular product or I want it like this and like that’, and I say ‘I’m not doing it, I’ll send those people’, then you say ‘I don’t need that door’. Then I’m putting myself out of business. We must meet the customers’ requirements. This isn’t my problem. I didn’t create this problem in Belgium. I want the firm to do well and I want us to achieve our turnover at the end of the year, and how do I do that? – I must do it the way the customer wants it done!”

The Centre for equal opportunities and combating racism took a case in the Belgian labour courts, but the President of the Brussels Labour Court rejected the case, saying that there was no proof of discrimination and that there could not be a presumption that a person had applied for a job and had not been employed as a result of his ethnic origin.

An appeal to the Labour Court resulted in a reference to the ECJ asking whether comments made publicly could be direct discrimination, and whether those statements could lead to a presumption of discrimination, which would force an employer to prove that they were not discriminating on grounds of race.

The UK and Ireland both made submissions to the Court in which they argued that public statements by an employer could not result in direct discrimination.

The UK courts had previously ruled in a case involving Cardiff Women’s Aid that a job advert which said that the employer preferred people of specified racial origin was not an act of discrimination itself, but notice of intention to discriminate.

In that case the Employment Appeals Tribunal said that individuals could not therefore make a claim for discrimination because of the advert, that only the Commission for Racial Equality could take a case.

The ECJ has found, though, that the director’s comments constituted direct discrimination. “The fact that an employer declares publicly that it will not recruit employees of a certain ethnic or racial origin, something which is clearly likely to strongly dissuade certain candidates from submitting their candidature and, accordingly, to hinder their access to the labour market, constitutes direct discrimination in respect of recruitment,” said the ruling.

“The existence of such direct discrimination is not dependant on the identification of a complainant who claims to have been the victim,” it said.

The Court also ruled on where the burden of proof should fall. The EU Directive on equal treatment says: “Member States shall take such measures as are necessary, in accordance with their national judicial systems, to ensure that, when persons who consider themselves wronged because the principle of equal treatment has not been applied to them establish, before a court or other competent authority, facts from which it may be presumed that there has been direct or indirect discrimination, it shall be for the respondent to prove that there has been no breach of the principle of equal treatment”.

The ECJ ruled that the comments made by the Feryn director were enough to establish a presumption of discrimination, thereby placing the burden of proof on the employer.

“Public statements by which an employer lets it be known that under its recruitment policy it will not recruit any employees of a certain ethnic or racial origin are sufficient for a presumption of the existence of a recruitment policy which is directly discriminatory,” it said.

“It is then for that employer to prove that there was no breach of the principle of equal treatment. It can do so by showing that the undertaking’s actual recruitment practice does not correspond to those statements. It is for the national court to verify that the facts alleged are established and to assess the sufficiency of the evidence submitted in support of the employer’s contentions that it has not breached the principle of equal treatment,” said the ruling.

* Women’s groups want proper definition of harassment and call on victims to speak up
* Over half of 500 people surveyed say they had been sexually harassed at the workplace.
* One in five was a man – some were harassed by other men.

These figures come from a 16-month study by women’s rights group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) on workplace sexual harassment in Singapore. It is a follow-up to its 1994 one, done mainly among Japanese companies here.

Just what constitutes sexual harassment differs from society to society, but Aware said it is universally accepted that it is an unwanted and unwelcome act, distinct from flirting. Often, it happens repeatedly.

Harassment can be physical, verbal or visual, and can include unwelcome jokes, e-mail or text messages of a sexually explicit nature, being touched in a discomforting way and, in extreme cases, rape and assault.

Ms Leigh Pasqual, who chairs the Aware sub-committee on the issue, said her panel ‘had a sense of indignation’ at what it heard coming through on Aware’s helpline, prompting the study. More are also complaining: in 2006, Aware got eight calls related to sexual harassment at the workplace. Last year, it got 19.

She cited a recent example of a restaurant supervisor in her 20s, who was resting in the back room of the eatery earlier this year when a male colleague leaned over and molested her.

When she drummed up the courage to tell her boss about it, he transferred her. But her alleged harasser kept his job. It is not known if she went to the police.

The survey also found that about 11 per cent said they were told they could lose their job or be passed over for promotions if they refuse to grant sexual favours.

Seven in 10 respondents were unaware whether their workplaces had sexual harassment policies. Lawyer Lim Jo See, who draws up employment contracts, confirmed that companies here rarely have clauses to address the issue.

The heads of Aware and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, Mrs Constance Singam and Dr Ann Tan respectively, have called for a proper definition of harassment and for victims to speak up.

Labour MP Halimah Yacob said the statistics were higher than she had expected. She said companies should put in place policies to prevent harassment and systems to address grievances when it occurs.

On the lack of laws for sexual harassment here, the Government has said, while it is not an offence, victims may file reports with the Ministry of Manpower and the police. Offenders can still be nailed under the Penal Code for the more extreme forms of harassment, such as when they use criminal force.

Just weeks after one senior medical officer called for the decriminalisation and taxing of prostitution, a senior university professor and community health specialist is calling for the legalisation of what is regarded as the world’s oldest ‘profession’.

Affette McCaw-Binns, professor of reproductive health epidemiology in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry at the University of the West Indies (UWI), is suggesting that the legalisation of prostitution would help to restrict the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Professor McCaw-Binns’ suggestion is similar to sentiments previously voiced by Dr Kevin Harvey, recently appointed head of epidemiology and AIDS in the Ministry of Health, and Professor Peter Figueroa, Harvey’s recently retired predecessor.

She said the legalisation of sex workers would provide the opportunity to regulate and monitor sex workers, thereby requiring prostitutes to undergo regular medical examinations and tests, not just for HIV/AIDS, but for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

“As far as I’m concerned, all of them should be legalised,” said Professor McCaw-Binns. “They should be licensed, registered and examined and tested every three months and if they are not fit to practise, they lose their licence,” she added.

The university professor further argued that keeping such practices illegal has not deterred women from entering the ‘profession’.

“It’s not going away. You’re not going to stop it, but these women need counselling,” she said.

She argued that regulation of the trade would also provide the opportunity for screening and re-education for those women because they feel it’s their only option.

“Those women need counselling and re-education so that they can go and get a different job,” she said. “But those who are in it and like it, I don’t have a problem with them, let them stay, but they shouldn’t be a source of spreading infection in the country,” she argued.

McCaw-Binns said it was important for individuals to separate their personal views on morality and values from reality. She argued that there had to be rules to control those who were determined to go against social norms.

“I have my values that I live by, but we cannot cloud our personal values with the social reality that we have to deal with out there,” she said. “We need to have rules and regulations to maintain a certain amount of public order and decorum.”

Just last month, Harvey provoked widespread debate when he called for the decriminalising and taxing of commercial sex workers or prostitutes, arguing that regulation of the trade would provide Government with close to $3 billion a year in tax earnings.

However, Prime Minister Bruce Golding subsequently dismissed any notion of Government considering such a move.

His former boss, Figueroa, four years ago argued that decriminalisation of prostitution would help to provide prostitutes with better access to health services, thereby helping to restrict the spread of AIDS.

The pros and cons of prostitution

1. Stemming the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
2. Health-care professionals are provided with easier access to prostitutes, thereby offering regular testing and counselling.
3. Country provided with well-needed money from taxing sex workers.
4. Sex workers would be able to work in a safer environment with increased protection from law enforcers.
5. The criminalisation of prostitution allows for the abuse of women and encourages human trafficking.

1. Prostitution is morally wrong and sinful
2. Gaining income from a sinful act would only bring a curse on the nation rather than benefit the country.
3. Legalising prostitution would be almost like legalising violence against women.
4. Exploitation of women and their bodies.
5. Legalising prostitution would not help to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, if anything, the problem would get worse.

See also:
* Prostitution for profit in Jamaica?
* Tax sex workers and the Government could rake in $3 billion a year from prostitution in Jamaica

Myanmar police have rescued more than 450 victims of human trafficking since 2005, a private weekly magazine said, adding that most of them were being smuggled to neighbouring China.

Police have arrested 480 people accused of trying to smuggle people out of the country since September 2005, when a new law took effect banning the practice, the journal said, citing police reports.

Of the total 471 people rescued, ”eighty percent of the victims were headed to China, 15 percent to Thailand, and five percent were being trafficked within the country,” the journal said.

The journal’s story included arrests made till December 2007.

In the wake of deadly Cyclone Nargis, police told local media that they had rescued 80 storm victims, mainly women and children at border checkpoints where they were being lured overseas with the promise of aid and better jobs.

The cyclone had left 138,000 dead or missing after it pounded into the country on May 2. About 2.4 million people are in need of aid.

Despite the ban on human trafficking, the United States said in an annual report last year that Myanmar’s military regime was complicit in the smuggling of people to Bangladesh, China, Malaysia and Thailand.

Among the reasons were sexual exploitation, domestic service and forced labour. Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962.

Like thousands of other Kenyans, Susan Wairimu, 17, was displaced from her home in the Rift Valley Province’s Molo district during the violence that followed a disputed presidential election in December 2007 and sought shelter in the nearby town of Nakuru.

A cousin living in the coastal town of Mombasa offered to accommodate her until the violence ended, offering an escape from the single tent she shared with her parents at the displaced persons camp in Nakuru.

“I had no idea of the kind of work my cousin used to do in the beginning; I came to know some few days after my arrival, when she told me she operates as a call girl from the beaches.”

Kenya’s coast is one of its most popular tourist destinations: an estimated two million tourists visited Kenya in 2007, many of them heading for the Indian Ocean towns of Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu, where commercial sex work is one of the main ways many women earn money.

Before long Wairimu was introduced to the business of selling sex. “We now have the skills and have learnt that the amount of money a man parts with will determine the kind of pleasure we will offer him. For example, making love without a condom will cost a client more money than using one,” she said.

“The killing in my village taught me a lesson and prepared me for a tough life, and now I do not fear death any more,” she added. “I do not fear HIV and I believe that you will die when your day arrives, and the disease will not determine, but only God.”

Wairimu accepts as little as 300 Kenya shillings (US$4.50) for an entire night, sometimes with two men.

Locals at the coast say sex workers in the region traditionally used to target wealthy foreign tourists, usually from Europe. Today, a fall in tourist numbers after the post-election violence and an increased number of sex workers means every man, old or young, black or white, is seen as a potential customer.

Wairimu is one of an estimated two hundred girls between 15 and 18 years of age who are now engaged in full-time sex work along Kenya’s coast, according to Solidarity with Women in Distress (SOLWODI), a local non-governmental organisation that sensitises sex workers to the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

Increase in child sex trade

Child sex work is not uncommon along the coast; a 2006 study [] by the government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that up to 30 percent of teenagers in some coastal areas were involved in casual sex for cash.

Agnetta Mirikau, a child protection specialist with UNICEF Kenya, told IRIN/PlusNews that the organisation had received reports of an increase in the child sex trade since the election.

SOLWODI’s field coordinator in Mombasa, Grace Odembo, told IRIN/PlusNews that most of the girls who resorted to sex work were high school drop-outs, which would make it difficult for them to find formal employment.

“The girls have opted to sell their bodies in order to get money for survival,” Odembo said. “We try as much as we can … to convince them out of [sex work].”

The 2006 study also found that 35.5 percent of all sex acts involving children and tourists took place without condoms, putting the girls at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The HIV prevalence in Kenya’s Coast Province is 5.9 percent, higher than the national average of 5.1 percent.

SOLWODI runs counselling, return-to-school programmes and vocational skills training for girls who wish to get out of the trade. Since its formation in 1997, the organisation has managed to get 5,000 girls and women to leave the sex industry.

Hoteliers often turn a blind eye to residents bringing underage girls into their rooms, but some have a more strict policy regarding commercial sex on their premises.

“We never accommodate any visitors who try to check into our hotels with young-looking girls until we get some required details about the girl,” Mohammed Hersi, general manager of the Mombasa’s Sarova White Sands Beach Hotel, told IRIN/PlusNews. “[We usually] establish who the girls are, what they are up to and, most important, their ages.”

SOLWODI also trains hotels to implement an existing code of conduct to prevent sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector, but by late 2007, only 20 hotels had signed the code of conduct.

The deputy mayor of Mombasa, John Mcharo, said keeping the girls off the streets was difficult. “Yes, we can arrest the girls but only charge them with loitering, just like we’ve done before, but this can’t stop the girls from finding their way back to the streets and beaches as soon as they come out of our custody.”

Girls at the beach generally wear bathing suits, so it is difficult to distinguish between sex workers trawling the beach for customers and girls who are simply enjoying a day at the beach.

Local law enforcement officers and religious leaders have called on the government to do more to stop underage girls selling sex in the area. “The government has to come up with a special programme that can get the girls not only off the beaches but off the streets,” said Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, organising secretary of the council of Imams and preachers of Kenya.

He added that his organisation frequently held workshops to urge underage girls to quit the trade, and provided them with spiritual guidance.

The government has a children’s department in every district, which is responsible for the protection of children from exploitation and abuse. According to Patrick Wafula, of the Mombasa police department, much of the work of the department’s special tourism unit consists of arresting the perpetrators of child sex abuse and exploitation.

“We usually carry out raids in areas we suspect to be meeting points for the girls and their potential clients,” he said.

The government also recently expanded the child protection units at police stations, adding children’s officers and improving judicial services, so that they are now better prepared to handle children’s issues.

The Acting Director of the Center For Law and Human Rights Education (CLHRE) Edward Z. Solu has called on the Liberian government to conduct more education on the rape law.

Suloe made the statement in Harbel, Margibi County during a Civic Education and Capacity-building Workshop. He said the government should provide sufficient education that would help the public to understand the interpretation and procedure of the rape law and its function in the country.

According to the CLHRE acting boss, the government was under oath to provide timely and basic education on the rape law to avoid its misinterpretation, .as it would satisfy the right of the people on information as regards the rape law.

He told the participants who include youth, women groups, and the elderly and local authorities that major gender based violence including rape, forced prostitutions, forced child labor, domestic violence and others form of violence against women and children must be reported to the government.

Suloe indicated that the misuse of young girls as sex mates in schools, offices and other places of works based on monetary influence as well as political power should be curtailed.

The Civil Education and capacity-building workshop, brought together youths, women groups the elderly and local authorities. He said the workshop was intended to raise the level of education on many negative issues that were affecting the co- existing of Liberian people.

He said both the government and people in decision-making positions in the Liberian society should protect the increasing violence of both the constitutional and God given rights.

A group of Northwest women has demanded the end to rape and trafficking of the girl child.

The women came strong against the practices at the end of a three-day workshop that empowered them with knowledge to combat HIV/AIDS and poverty.

The Cameroon Grassroots Women Educational, Economic and Social Advancement network, CAGWEESA, organised the workshop in Bamenda to empower some 60 women to battle such issues as HIV/AIDS, rights to own land and inheritance, and also to promote reproductive and family health.

Being empowered, the women resolved to create community watchdogs to monitor and report cases of land and women’s rights’ abuse. They also agreed to promote family reproductive health, rights and demanded an end to rape and all forms of sexual exploitation and trafficking in women and children.

Resource people at the workshop sensitised the participants on the impact of HIV/AIDS, health, income-generation as well as their right to own land and develop it.Opening the workshop, Veronica Kini, CAGWEESA Coordinator told the women to empower themselves. She said CAGWEESA gives them voice and visibility to unseen women.

The aim of the seminar, she said, was to build the capacity of the women to take issues related to HIV/AIDS as well as empower them economically to fight poverty and improve on food security to feed themselves and children.

It was revealed that, among other things, the spread of HIV/AIDS is also caused by certain traditional practices.One of the resource people, John Morfaw, identified inheriting widows and sexual promiscuity during funeral ceremonies with the excuse of “looking for a replacement for the dead person” as practices that promotes HIV/AIDS.

The women were also groomed on how to take care of HIV/AIDS patients.A lawyer, Batholow Fofung, drilled the women on will writing and the importance of birth and marriage certificates in the process of inheritance of their husbands’ property.

On his part, Dr. Alphonse Nfi of IRZ Bamenda, however, cautioned the women against imported models, reminding them that as mothers they are already empowered naturally.

Besides the training on HIV/AIDS, the women were taught how to produce soap and process valuable food stuff.

Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who nearly quit politics following his sexual harassment conviction for forcibly kissing a female soldier last year, reached a pinnacle when he became Israel’s acting prime minister.

According to the law, an acting prime minister must be appointed when the prime minister is abroad. Normally that title goes automatically to the deputy prime minister, who is currently Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

But Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were attending the same conference in Paris, so a telephone poll of ministers was conducted to formally give Ramon the title of acting prime minister until Olmert returned.

Olmert’s associates considered at one point that if Olmert quit the premiership and then quit the leadership of the caretaker government that would automatically be formed in its stead, he would see to it that Ramon became acting prime minister during the 90-day election period, and not Livni.

That option is seen as less likely now that a September primary has been set in Kadima to choose Olmert’s successor.

Ramon told reporters that he did not believe whoever won the primary would be able to form a government, and therefore Olmert could remain prime minister until a general election was held in the spring.

Women’s organizations expressed outrage at Ramon’s temporary appointment.

“Just as it is illegitimate for Olmert to be prime minister because of his alleged scandals, we believe that it is illegitimate for Ramon to be in politics at all, let alone acting prime minister,” said Adi Dagan, a spokeswoman for the Coalition of Women for Peace, which led the protests against Ramon’s return to politics.

“Ramon is a convicted sex offender and his return to Israeli politics is shameful,” she said. “It stains Israel, and it sends a dangerous message to other sex offenders.”

There has been a significant rise in cases of sexual assault and rape against minors under the age of 12, according to a first-of-its-kind report released by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI).

The report, which was presented to a joint session of the Knesset Committees on Education, Culture and Sports; the Status of Women and the Rights of the Child on Monday, also showed a rise in indecent sexual acts committed against teens aged 13-18 and a dramatic fall in the age of sexual offenders, with a growing percentage being under 12.

“These statistics paint a very alarming picture of sexual violence among youngsters, both those who are victims and their offenders,” commented Michal Rozin, director of ARCCI. “Teachers are in desperate need of the right tools to guide and support the victims that need help and to be able to recognize cases of sexual violence in schools.”

Overall, the center received more than 40,000 calls to its rape crisis hotline in 2007, with 8729 first-time callers. More than half of those first-time calls came from children under the age of 18, reported the association.

In a breakdown of the figures, the report notes that 18 percent of the calls received by the center from the under-12 set related to rape, with 14% reporting indecent assault and an overwhelming 64.4% involving incest.

In fact, a large number of the complaints received by ARCCI were about attacks happening either in the home (74%) or in other ‘safe’ environments such as at school (9%).

Among those under the age of 12, there were 1,168 rape or sexual assault cases involving family members; 20 reports of teachers being the offenders and 163 attacks by complete strangers to the child.

ARCCI’s report also noted that a growing number of cases involved children under 12 carrying out the attacks. While only about half of those who reported sexual crimes mentioned the age of their attackers, roughly 3% said that the offender was younger than 12 and 14.7% reported the attacker to be 13-18.

Among the older teens, there were 841 reports of rape, attempted rape or statutory rape; 162 reports of group sexual attacks; 331 reports of incest; and 268 reports of indecent assault.

“This report reflects a defective Israeli society,” commented MK Michael Melchior (Labor), chairman of the Knesset Committee on Education, Culture and Sport. “The proof is in this report, which shows that the victims are becoming younger and younger and we are powerless to protect our children’s most immediate environment.”

He continued: “This report’s statistics do not allow Israeli society to continue burying our collective heads in the sand. We have to fight this phenomenon and continue to build child protection centers that provide essential assistance to the victims.”

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a NIS 14.4 million plan from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services to create comprehensive rehabilitation services for sexual offenders.

Experts working to help child rape and sexual assault victims have repeatedly called on the government to improve prevention services either to stop offenders from continuing to attack or to treat young victims as a measure intended to prevent them from becoming offenders themselves in later life.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel runs a 24-hour emergency hot line, which can be reached by calling 1202 for women and 1203 for men.

The Ministry of Women’s Development is planning to expand the network of women’s crisis centres from 25 to 64, said Director General Development Javed Iqbal Butt.

He said the project would cover over 50 per cent of districts while the government was also considering expanding the network of centres all over the country.

He said it had been decided that all women’s centres operating under the Women’s Development Ministry would be renamed `Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women’s Centres’.

These centres were established during Benazir’s incumbency as prime minister. Javed lauded Benzir’s efforts towards the cause of gender equality and gender justice.

Three years after the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was enacted, the state government is now ready for its “proper implementation”. It has appointed protection officers, whom the victims can approach for all related help.

The protection officers will effectively be “faces of the government” and will try and sort out the grievances by giving out counselling sessions to the victims and also to those who have erred against her. And then, depending on the case, they will guide the victims in moving court. He may give her shelter or provide medical support, if needed.

Last month, the department of women and child development and social welfare appointed 20 protection officers on contractual basis — 18 of them will be posted in the 18 districts and two for Kolkata. The ones for Kolkata will be available at social welfare directorate in Salt Lake and the ones for the districts will be in the district collectorate.

Rinchen Tempo, secretary, department of women and child development and social welfare, said, “These officers will function exclusively for victims of domestic violence. Any woman or child, who feels she is being tortured at home, can now come straight to these officers to help her get redressal.” The redressal as defined by the act is a compensation order passed by a court.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2005 and specific guidelines were given to the states to implement the Act. According to the Act, the “aggrieved person” is any woman, who has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by respondent. Children below the age of 18 years can also lodge a complaint.

As per rules, “any person who has reason to believe that an act of domestic violence has been, or is being, or is likely to be committed”, may give information about it to the protection officer. It will be the protection officer’s duty to convince the victim that — as per the Act — “no liability… shall be incurred by any person for giving in good faith of information” to the protection officer.

It is also the officer’s duty to inform the aggrieved person of her right to make an application for getting relief by way of protection order, an order of monetary relief, a custody order, a residence order, a compensation order or more than one such order under this Act. He should also tell her of her right to free legal services and the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and also of her right to file a complaint under Section 498A of the IPC.

There is a move to launch a joint battle against domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia. Representatives of various organisations met to discuss ways of cooperation to improve the services provided to victims of domestic violence.

The meeting was attended by the representatives of Family Protection Organisation (FPO), which runs Jeddah’s first and only women’s shelter, the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR), the government-run Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Safety Committee at the ministry of social affairs.

According to Samira Al Ghamdi, board member of FPO, the meeting urged the framing of clear guidelines to streamline the work of these organisations. She said this was the first meeting of its kind after FPO took over the responsibility of running the shelter from the ministry of social affairs. She added that the main purpose of the meeting was to frame a general policy in dealing with cases that are transferred to the organisation from other bodies.

The meeting proposed that a committee, comprising representatives of all four bodies, be set up to develop and monitor ways of working jointly because they share the same goals.

“Our work is not restricted to running the shelter, but it also involves creating social awareness and implementing preventive programmes to stop possible abuse,” she said.

Hussein Nasser Al Sharif, director of the NSHR’s Western Province branch, said the rights watchdog would ensure that victims in critical cases are offered a safe place to stay on urgent basis before any paper work begins.

“We informed the Ministry of Social Affairs officials, who used to run the shelter, that we would like to follow up the cases we send to the shelter,” he said. Al Sharif added that the NSHR wants to ensure that women are not merely lodged there but they also receive proper counselling for rehabilitation.

Earlier, Al Sharif said that there would soon be new regulations to protect women and children from domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. “There will be severe punishment for abusers and a new system to rehabilitate victims into society will be introduced,” he said.

“We need to criminalise violence and all kinds of abuse. There is nothing on earth that justifies abuse,” Dr Majid Al Essa, head of the medical section at the National Family Safety Programme (NFSP), said recently.

“It is the foremost responsibility of every individual to help change the mindset that accepts abuse,” she added.

Dr Maha Al Munief, executive director, said NFSP aims to set up a national strategy to minimise the effects of domestic abuse.

The Women’s Refuge is reporting a surge in domestic violence as people struggle to meet the cost of living.

The organisation says high rents, increased fuel costs and a hike in food prices are leaving many families with little in the way of disposable income.

Tauranga Women’s Refuge advocate, Maree Saunders, says many men don’t realise the sharp jump in the family budget.

She says only last weekend a woman was badly beaten for not having money left over from shopping for groceries.

Ms Saunders says that usually the woman had money leftover after shopping, but this time she didn’t.

She says the woman got kicked in the back, a wrenched shoulder and two black eyes.

Ms Saunders says in a separate incident, Tauranga police had to intervene as a couple physically fought over $2.

She says Tauranga’s safe house for women is the busiest she has seen in three years.

The women’s refuge also says there is increasing concern children aren’t being fed properly as women try to cut back on expensive dairy products.

The Government has delivered on fewer than half its promises to tackle family violence, independent research has revealed.

A thesis, written by Wellington strategy consultant Ruth Herbert which received an A+ grading from Victoria University, examined the three family violence strategies released by the government since 2002.

Herbert, who has previously been involved in planning and implementation in the health sector, found that fewer than 50% of the actions outlined in the three strategies had been fully implemented six months after the stated completion date, and that there were several major areas in which little or nothing had been done.

It is a claim the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families rejects. Chairman Peter Hughes said that although he welcomed Herbert’s research, milestones had been met on each of the 76 actions outlined in the taskforce’s first programme of action. The taskforce was established in June 2005 and is charged with eliminating family violence in New Zealand.

Hughes said the taskforce had achieved “significant momentum”, awareness of family violence issues was “arguably the highest it has ever been”, and more and more New Zealanders were speaking out against it. But he added family violence was a complex issue that would take a concerted effort over many years to eliminate.

It is a point Herbert agrees with. She commended the government for taking a “great first step” in making a concerted effort to tackle a complex issue and said it had done the best it could with the knowledge available.

“There is limited evidence to say what will work. Without adequate evidence we have to take what appears to be the most appropriate action and learn as we go. This is about the government saying it has taken the first step, but acknowledging it has not done as well as it is saying it has done.”

The key findings in Herbert’s thesis included:
* No national system to co-ordinate government activities addressing family violence.
* Little or no formal planning for implementation for most of the 54 actions set out in the taskforce.
* The taskforce programmes of action are not really strategies, but a compilation of often unrelated family violence actions.
* Responsibility for implementation often assigned to agencies and individuals without the resources, skills and experience to do the work.
* Greatest failure in the strategies for Maori who continued to be over-represented in the statistics. There were 11 action areas in the three strategies that related directly to Maori – all except two had either not been completed or no action had been taken.

She cautioned that there was a risk that if National became the government it would do even less. “The real question for everybody is what sort of society do New Zealanders want to live in, and what do we want the government to do about it?”

In her thesis Herbert says the majority of actions that have not been completed centre around a breakdown in implementation. Responsibility for implementation “has often been assigned to personnel who are poorly equipped to do the job, and who are given little or no training, specific briefings, or implementation support”.

For instance, Herbert said the $11.5 million “It’s Not OK” mass media campaign to raise awareness of family violence which is fronted by high-profile New Zealanders was expected to increase demand for family violence services. But she said most services were stretched to the limit before it was introduced. As a result there was a risk that women and children might not be kept safe if they left a violent situation.

Hughes said a recent survey showed the It’s Not OK campaign was remembered by 89% of people, with nearly one in five saying they had taken some action. That was an “extremely positive” response.

He was confident the taskforce could deliver on its action plan but “like any major policy and service programme needs to evolve as we learn our way forward”.

Herbert said the taskforce was a good model for the overall governance of the family violence programmes, but commented in her research “it is as though the taskforce is in a hot air balloon with only thin threads linking them to the reality of what is happening on the ground”.

The Strategies

The government’s three family violence strategies released since 2002 are:
1. February 2002 – Te Rito: New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy.
2. February 2003 – The Care and Protection Blueprint.
3. July 2006 – The First Report of the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families established in 2005 to advise the family violence ministerial team on how to make improvements to the way family violence is addressed. Help is at hand

* If you feel you are a victim of domestic violence call Preventing Violence in the Homes national helpline 0508 DVHELP (0508 384357).
* If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 111.