Archive for July 21st, 2008

Tweens and teens in dating relationships are experiencing significant levels of various forms of abuse, many don’t know the warning signs of an abusive relationship, and many parents don’t know what’s going on in those relationships, a new survey says.

Among the findings:

    69 percent of all teens who had sex by age 14 said they have gone through one or more types of abuse in a relationship.

    40 percent of the youngest tweens, those between the ages of 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships, and nearly one-in-ten (9 percent) say their friends have had sex.

    Nearly three-in-four tweens (72 percent) say boyfriend/girlfriend relationships usually begin at age 14 or younger.

    More than one-in-three 11-12 year olds (37percent) say they have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

    One-in-five between the ages of 13 and 14 say their friends are victims of dating violence, such as getting struck, hit or slapped by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and nearly half of all tweens in relationships say they know friends who are verbally abused.

    One-in-five 13-14 year olds in relationships (20 percent) say they know friends and peers who’ve been struck in anger (kicked, hit, slapped, or punched) by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

    Only half of all tweens (51 percent) claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship.

    In addition, significant numbers of teens (15-18) are experiencing emotional and mental abuse as well as violence when dating; it’s even more prevalent among teens who’ve had sex by 14.

    And many teens and tweens say they’ve been victims of technological abuse, in which cell phones, paging, IMs, social networking sites, etc. were used to carry out the abuse.

The survey, which was commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. and, was conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited. operates the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.

“We were surprised at how many tweens or kids ages 11 and 12 are dealing with these issues,” Liz Claiborne Vice President Jane Randel told Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith.

What’s behind it all? Researchers believe early sexual activity tends to fuel dating violence among teens and tweens, Smith reports.

And Randel points out that, “Parents, while they think they know what their teens or, more importantly, tweens relationships are, they’re really not fully aware of what’s going on. And that’s scary.”

Experts say programs are needed to help parents and their kids recognize unhealthy relationships, and to stop them before they start.

Concerned by the trend toward abusive tween and teen dating, the National Association of Attorneys General passed a resolution urging states to establish educational programs on teen dating violence and abuse.

The move was spearheaded by Patrick Lynch, Rhode Island’s attorney general, who told co-anchor Russ Mitchell on The Early Show Tuesday that the numbers in the survey are “absolutely alarming.”

He said young people need to be made aware of “these horrors” so the “violence not only doesn’t occur at that level, but isn’t perpetuated in generations to come.”

Download Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study as a pdf file


See also: Innocent ‘Kissing’ Book Offers Date-Rape Tutorial

“The Art of Kissing” may seem like an innocent relic. But Kristen Tsetsi links the 1938 book to the reasons the National Association of Attorneys General suggested a nationwide initiative against teen dating violence.


Papua New Guinea has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections in the Asia-Pacific region, according to medical researchers and experts speaking at the 40th anniversary and colloquium of the PNG Institute of Medical Research, PACNews/Islands Business reports. During an HIV/AIDS presentation, physician John Millan said that by December 2007, more than 23,000 cases have been reported in the country, including 5,000 new diagnoses. More than 76,000 HIV-positive people live in the country. Ninety-four percent of HIV/AIDS cases in Papua New Guinea were transmitted through heterosexual practices and 4% were transmitted through other methods, he added.

Millan said that according to raw data obtained from Mingende and Kundiawa hospitals in the Simbu province, HIV cases were higher among young girls and older men. HIV prevalence is increasing faster in rural areas than in urban areas, Millan added.

In a separate presentation on sexual health, physician Greg Law “alluded that STIs and HIV are prevalent where women’s rights are least valued and respected,” according to PACNews/Islands Business. Law said sexual health needs to be promoted in Papua New Guinea, along with proper sexual hygiene and access to adequate water supply. He added that denial and lack of ability to discuss sexual health issues are contributing to the increase in STI and HIV/AIDS cases.

Transparency International in Vanuatu says it’s shocked the President hasn’t yet approved of a bill to protect children and women against domestic violence.

The Family Protection Bill was passed by Parliament about four weeks ago, but President Kalkot Mataskelekele, says he needs to check if it’s against the country’s customs and the constitution.

Transparency International’s President, Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Paterson, says this comes as a surprise.

”The president at the moment is checking that it’s not inconsistent with the constitution. And that came to Transparency International as a shock, because it’s quite a straight forward bill to sign, it would be very hard to be in contradiction with any type of Westminster Constitution.”

Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Paterson says there is no debate about the extent of domestic violence, and there’s need for more work to educate the communities on this issue.

The legislation has polarised public opinion, with some groups, such as the Great Council of Chiefs, opposing it.

The Northern Territory Government has announced it is going ahead with a proposal to make it mandatory for people to report cases of domestic violence.

The Territory Government says it will also inject $15 million into domestic violence help services.

Chief Minister Paul Henderson says over half of assaults in the Territory each year are cases of domestic violence.

He says he is rushing to draft legislation to be tabled in the legislative assembly to make it illegal to ignore such cases of abuse.

“There will be [a] penalty regime similar to that which exists, in regards to the care and protection of children and we will be looking at legislation as as we put it together,” he said.

“But it really is about taking a stand in the same way that we have legislation that says it is a requirement for you to report neglect of a child.”

Mr Henderson says 87 per cent of domestic violence victims are Indigenous and many victims are repeatedly abused.

“The legislation, when it is crafted, will say that if you witness an assault against a woman it is a requirement for you to report it, or if you have good grounds to believe a woman is under imminent or very serious threat to her life or her safety,” he said.

The Opposition says the move towards mandatory reporting of domestic violence cases is long overdue.

The Country Liberal’s spokeswoman on women’s policy and justice, Jodeen Carney, says she has been calling for it to become legislation for the past two years.

“It is something of a back flip. At the same time, while I welcome it, the devil with this Government is always in the detail and all we have so far is a media release.

“The Government needs to provide much more information.”

She says the Government’s announcement suggests an election is looming.

“I welcome the announcement but it does seem to of come from left field. The Government has refused to introduce mandatory reporting of domestic violence for the better part of two years.”

But medical and women’s groups say the new legislation may end up making the situation worse for victims of abuse.

The national president of the Australian Medical Association, Rosanna Capolingua, says the plans could jeopardise the delivery of health services as they may stop people seeking medical help.

“The AMA has always been concerned when mandatory reporting comes in, in areas such as domestic violence or even child sexual abuse, that we do not shut down a potential portal for discovery of abuse, in that people will not present to doctors because they are frightened.”

She says it may also jeopardise the doctor-patient relationship.

“There will be legal ramifications for doctors if it is felt that they have not reported.

“Doctors are there to assist patients, to assist people in violence or abuse situations.

“We are certainly not there to be the police. We’re there to help the people.”

And Michelle Pinto, the coordinator of the Ruby Gaea Centre Against Rape which helps victims of domestic violence, says victims will not look for help for fear it will automatically result in police action.

“Safety and empowerment are key priorities for victims of domestic violence and police intervention for various reasons is not always the safest options, especially when this occurs without the victim’s consent.

“The consequences for them could be that this will increase the domestic violence situation, victims will not likely choose to access services to begin with.”

A leading child welfare organisation has called for more help for children who witness domestic violence.

Berry Street Victoria regional director Joanna Boch said there was a waiting list for children in the northern suburbs to see a family violence counsellor.

“There’s a serious shortage of funding in counselling services for children,” Ms Boch said.

Ms Boch, who looks after Banyule, Nillumbik, Whittlesea, Hume, Darebin, Moreland and Yarra council areas, could not say exactly how many children were waiting for counselling.

Berry Street Victoria, which has offices in Eltham, Watsonia and Heidelberg, provides services through Banyule and Nillumbik community health services.

Ms Boch said the State Government had done a good job funding domestic violence services but that help had to extend to children, who were sometimes forgotten victims.

“Even though they may not always be the direct victims, there’s recognition that children are victims of family violence,” she said.

The State Government recognised the psychological damage family violence could do to children, Community Services Minister Lisa Neville and Children and Early Childhood Minister Maxine Morand said in a joint statement to the DV Leader.

They said $1 million had been allocated to family violence counselling and support programs in the northern and western suburbs for 2008-09.

“This is an increase of $295,000 on the previous year, one-third of which will go to children’s services,” they said.

The trafficking of girls from villages to cities in Nigeria is increasing and the state is powerless to stop the trade, officials told IRIN.

“The business of recruiting teenage girls as domestic help in rich and middle-class homes is booming despite our efforts to put a stop to it”, Bello Ahmed, head of the Kano office of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), told IRIN.

Girls aged 12-17 are regularly trafficked from villages and brought to the city to work as maids for an average monthly wage of 1,500 naira (US$13) which they usually send back to their parents who are caring for several of their siblings, according to Ahmed.

“Apart from being denied access to education, these girls are in many cases raped and beaten by their employers and this is why we keep a dormitory to rehabilitate them”, Ahmed said.

“Bringing in girls from the villages to the city to work as house helps continues unabated. In fact it is on the rise”, agreed Mairo Bello, head of Adolescent Health Information Project, a Kano-based non-governmental organisation (NGO).

As well as poverty, trafficking in girls and women is driven by the extreme income inequality which exists in Nigeria, and gender inequality. The problem is prevalent all around the country.

Saudatu Halilu, a 16 year-old girl who moved to Kano from a rural village to work as a maid, has been a victim of the trade’s dangers.

Saudatu was brought to Kano from Nassarawa State in central Nigeria 10 months ago to work as a domestic help, but she said her master forced her into sleeping with him and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

“I was too scared to tell my mistress or anyone what happened for fear of what my master would do to me and I did not realise I was pregnant until a medical check after I began to show some signs which attracted the attention of my mistress”, Halilu told AFP.

Poverty drives parents into steering their teenage daughters into work as domestic helps, believing the menial jobs would secure better living conditions for their daughters, Ahmed said.

“I had no option but to send Hindu, who is my eldest daughter, to work in the city because we are poor and need money to feed”, said Aisha, a mother of six, who sent her eldest child, 14 year-old Hindu Nasidi, to Kano to earn money. The girl upset her keepers by not washing plates properly and they ground chilli pepper into her vagina as a punishment.

“The money she was paid from the job was very helpful in taking care of her six siblings until the unfortunate incident”, Nasidi said, blaming rising food prices for her decision to send the young girl out to work in the first place.

With Hindu’s job gone the family now ekes out a living from Nasidi’s raffia mat weaving and her husband’s mango and watermelon hawking which do not bring in enough money to buy sufficient food for their six children.

Although NAPTIP has managed to stop the practice of teenage girls being ferried in trucks from villages to the cities “like chickens”, Ahmed admitted his agency had failed to stop the trade.

“The more the law enforcement agencies perfect their strategies at stopping the business, the more the perpetrators become more sophisticated in running their trade”, he said.

Lack of legislation to prosecute the traffickers makes NAPTIP unable to take legal action against traffickers even when they are arrested, according to Ahmed.

The Child Rights Act which provides for five year jail terms and US$424 fines for perpetrators of child labour is yet to be endorsed by the northern states’ legislatures because some clauses in it have been found controversial by religious and cultural leaders.

The Act has been a source of friction between the Nigerian federal government, which has endorsed it, and the northern legislative houses.

“We are disturbed by the trend of using teenage girls as domestic helps which is a form of child labour and we are aware of the provision in the Child Rights Act that deals with that issue”, Abdulaziz Garba Gafasa, speaker of Kano’s parliament, told IRIN.

“However we can’t endorse the Act because of certain clauses that are in conflict with our religious and cultural values; once such grey areas are expunged we will approve it, otherwise we will make by-laws at state level that will deal with the perpetrators of this despicable act.”

Mohammed Aliyu Mashi, who collaborates with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in fighting child trafficking, rejected the notion that there was no legislation to prosecute child traffickers, saying what was lacking was the political will to enforce the law.

“There is provision in the penal code operating in the north which prescribes five year jail terms to life imprisonment to people convicted of child trafficking and child labour”, Mashi said.

“The claim of lack of legislature is just a ruse; it is an excuse to avoid prosecuting offenders because of lack of political will from officials.”

Anju Munshi groomed. At 18, she is aware of the financial constraints of her large family comprising two siblings, parents and a grandmother. Living in one of the 12 refugee camps for displaced Kashmir is in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Aanchal knows that the dole the family gets just cannot make ends meet.

But Anchal has found a quick solution to her financial crisis: she is now a sex worker. The young woman is one of the estimated 2,000 migrant women of the relief camps, home to the victims of the wave of terrorism and ethnic cleansing of the 1990s, that have poor healthcare facilities and few livelihood options. While reports of sex scams occasionally turn the spotlight on these settlements, the residents are in need of more sustained attention in the form of health awareness campaigns and better facilities. Malini Raina, 38, has been living in the Muthi camp in Jammu for some years now and has come to the conclusion that the women of the camps are victims of financial crisis, mental trauma, social stigma and the flesh trade. “Sex scams are reported to create a sensation but if you go a little deepert it may be the family’s needs that pushes young girls into them. Health, education and marriages need money and how much do rehabilitation packages offer, anyway?” asks Malini. In the settlements, opportunities to earn a living and information about better healthcare are hard to come by, despite the prevalence of high-risk behaviour among some of the inhabitants. The conspicuous absence of any awareness and intervention campaigns in the camps only makes people like Aanchal more vulnerable. Quiz Aanchal about HIV/AIDS and her unperturbed expression is rather telling. “Have heard of it but isn’t it curable?” she asks, rather innocently. Dr K.L. Chowdhury, a social activist associated with the Shiriya Bhatt Mission hospital in Jammu, says, “Over the last 18 years no NGO has bothered to come and sensitize the community on various health issues.” Neerja Mattoo and Dr Shakti Bhan of ‘Daughters of Vitasta’, the women’s wing of Panun Kashmir add, “These camps are unsafe for women. Women have been raped and killed and many girls have committed suicide.” (Panun Kashmir meaning ‘Our Own Kashmir’ in Kashmiri is an organization of displaced Kashmiri Pandits founded in December 1990 in Jammu.)

Ironically, even as the threat of HIV/AIDS looms large over the camps, and even as the state has its share of AIDS cases and mortalities – last year the government reported 42 AIDS deaths and between 2006 and 2007 there was an approximate six-fold increase in the number of cases – residents of the camps are still victims of ignorance and neglect.

While Maharashtra has its share of Ashley Judds and Bollywood stars sporting the red ribbon; West Bengal has the inspirational ‘Bula Di’ (elder sister) awareness campaign; and Chennai benefits from the red ribbon express steering into villages. J&K, in contrast, witnesses no initiatives of this kind, although it possibly needs them more than any other state, given that many in the state are extremely vulnerable to the disease.

There are several reasons for this vulnerability and high-risk behaviour in the camps is just one. According to Survival International sources, a human rights organization headquartered in London, HIV/AIDS spreads among displaced migrants due to increased contact with outsiders and dramatic social change. The growing number of intravenous drug users and sex workers, low literacy levels, the ongoing militancy, a variety of local languages – Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Punjabi, Ladakhi, Pahari and Gujjari – and the constant demand for blood transfusions only add to the problem and underline the need for concerted health awareness.