Archive for September 25th, 2008

Interview with Ruth Anne Koenick director of Rutgers’ Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance by Robert Jensen

I met Ruth Anne Koenick at a dinner before my talk on the feminist critique of pornography at Rutgers University in 1997. I had been doing public presentations on that issue for several years, but that was the first time an institution had paid my plane fare to give a lecture. As a young professor, I was a bit nervous but also was feeling pretty self-important.

Koenick was seated next to me, and when I introduced myself she said, “I’ve seen a lot of men who’ve figured out how to make money off of women’s pain. Are you one of them?”

I admit that I was taken aback, but the question was important and appropriate. I was getting a modest honorarium for the talk, but as a full-time academic who is paid a reasonable salary by my university, I could live without it. Independent writers and artists typically need the support that comes from speaking fees to survive, but I can easily donate that money to activist groups. So, I asked if she thought it would be appropriate for me to sign over the speaking fee to her center, and Koenick accepted.

I will forever be indebted to her for that in-your-face comment. In my first attempt at being an “expert,” Koenick reminded me of all the wrong ways I could use my privilege as a white guy with a university position to put myself above the feminist anti-violence movement, from which I had learned most of what I knew. Koenick later told me she regretted being inappropriately rude, but I suggested it wasn’t necessary to apologize for asking the right question.

Ever since that night I have stayed in touch with Koenick, continuing to be impressed by (1) the great work she and her staff were doing, and (2) how little she seemed to recognize her own accomplishments. As we have talked about her experience in the feminist anti-violence movement — and as the dominant culture increasingly has pretended to be “post-feminist” — I began to nag her about putting her insights down on paper. Each time she insisted that her life wasn’t interesting enough and that she didn’t have anything insightful to say. Eventually I wore her down, persuading her that women like her from the “second wave” of feminism should not stay silent, and we finally conducted an interview.

The term second-wave feminism is used to mark the U.S. women’s movement that emerged in the 1960s, distinct from the women’s suffrage movement — the first wave — that won the vote in 1920. In the 1990s, the idea of third-wave feminism became popular, though it has never been clear why the crucial insights of the second wave had become irrelevant or why the political work that second-wavers had initiated was somehow magically over. Nowhere is this clearer than in the public-health crisis of epidemic levels of men’s violence against women, where the brutality of patriarchy is so obvious and the analysis and activism of second-wave feminists remains more needed than ever.

The stories of women such as Koenick are more important than ever for all of us — women and men — to hear.


Robert Jensen: Can you recall the first time you understood what feminism meant and identified as a feminist yourself?

Ruth Anne Koenick: I am not sure I can define a specific time and, in truth, I am not sure that I totally understand it now. I am the youngest of four children and I was lucky to be raised to be an independent thinker by both my parents. They taught me to question things and that I could be anything I wanted to be, that there were no barriers — I was as good as anyone else, male or female. Although there were some specific expectations — go to college, get married and have children — I was encouraged to have a career and to make decisions for myself; I never really felt constricted. My mother was an independent woman and, although she did some very traditional things, she also clearly had a mind of her own and was in control of her life in a way that was unique for someone born at the turn of the 20th century. I think some of this came from my father, an immigrant from Russia in 1920 who lived through the revolution, WWI, the pogroms — he really was a hippie before there were hippies. He had overcome a lot to make it in this country, and nothing was going to keep him or his family second class.

RJ: Was there a defining moment as you got older?

RAK: When I was actively involved in the anti-war movement of the 1960s, I had an awakening, almost like the old “click” that feminists talk about, when it became clear to me that issues pertaining to women were so intricately intertwined in what we were doing. It was also clear that the men “in charge” gave only lip service to anything that was of importance to women, that we were always at the bottom of the food chain. Like others, I got tired of “making coffee and not policy” and began to look at that movement, my surroundings, and my life in a very different way.

There were other things, such as hassles my husband and I faced because I didn’t take his last name. A married couple with different names is not unusual today, but in 1973 it presented real challenges — banks not giving us credit or not printing both names on a card, a newspaper printing only his name and not mine in my father-in-law’s obituary. That was all part of a process that got me to look at the broader picture of how our culture encourages and rewards the subordination of women.

RJ: So, in 1970 you were a student at the University of Maryland with this emerging feminist worldview, and you helped start a rape crisis center on campus. How did that come about?

RAK: I was an undergraduate working for residence life, on the cusp of trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was living on campus when a student on my floor was abducted and raped. I went to meet her at the police station and then to the hospital, and I felt totally inept, but I knew enough to know that she wasn’t getting what she needed. I wasn’t allowed to talk to her, and we were kept in separate rooms. She was all alone and no matter what I did, I couldn’t talk to her. I realized the system wasn’t working for victims.

Sometime later, there was a series of abductions and rapes that overwhelmed the university, not because people didn’t want to help but because we didn’t know how. It hit the front pages of the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post, and it became an even bigger issue. I teamed up with two friends who also worked for residence life and were in grad school, Chris Courtois and Debby Watts, and worked with folks in student affairs to open a campus rape crisis center. It operated on the beg-borrow-and-steal budget, but we got support from Dan Bratton, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and others in leadership positions, partially because he made them do this and partially because some of them knew it was the right thing to do.

We really didn’t know much but quickly discovered that we knew more than others, and when we started to talk about this publicly, women came out from the woodwork to tell us what had happened to them. Eventually we got space in the health center, developed training, took overnight shifts, and responded to crisis calls. We developed a really good relationship with the university police and, in retrospect, worked as a team. This was 1973-74, just before the first Burgess and Holmstrom book (Rape: Victims of Crisis) came out in 1975 and people began to use the term rape-trauma syndrome.

RJ: Can you remember how you came to a feminist consciousness about the gender politics of this specific issue, of rape? What was that process by which you and your colleagues deepened your understanding of sexual assault?

RAK: I am one of those people teaching in women and gender studies who has never taken a women’s studies course, and I’m still not all that well-read in academic feminist theory. When I was in college, there weren’t any women’s studies courses, although I do vividly remember demonstrating on campus to get them. Most of my knowledge is rooted in experience. In the beginning almost everything I learned came from survivors — their feelings, thoughts, beliefs.

Once we started looking at the issue, it was clear most men don’t rape but, of course, almost all rapists are men. As we started to understand sexism throughout society, we couldn’t help but see the reality of rape and sexism. Over the years I have learned a lot from colleagues and some key writers — (Andrea) Dworkin, (Susan) Brownmiller, (Ann Wolbert) Holmstrom and (Lynda Lytle) Burgess — but really it has been mostly my clients who have helped me understand what they need. When I don’t have a clue, they have helped me help them.

RJ: You pretty consistently underplay what you know and what you’ve done. It doesn’t strike me as just false modesty. Why do you do that?

RAK: As I look back over 38 years, probably like most people in my age group who do this work, we went on our instincts and learned by trial and error, and the research and writings confirmed our inner feelings. My dear friend Chris Courtois was just honored as a distinguished alumni from the University of Maryland, and I just received the Wynona M. Lipman Leadership Award for the state of New Jersey. Chris and I recognized that what we’ve accomplished was born of our passion long before we had any technical knowledge. I like what Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, said: “One of the things that I think characterizes my generation…is that I’ve always been surprised by how my life turned out.” I am continuously surprised that I do what I do and that people see me as having done something special. I think what is special is the people who taught me what to do and how to be helpful, and that has been a process, not a moment in time. I also need to credit my parents who taught me that with privilege comes obligation and that I had an obligation to help “repair the world” and to be actively engaged in my community.

RJ: What have been the costs and rewards for you in this work?

RAK: In retrospect, the rewards have been far more than can fit in this interview — my experiences have helped shape me as a person, a woman, a wife and mother, and a friend. It has shaped how I see the world and how I see myself, and most of the time I feel really good about who I am. But the sacrifices have been many. A crisis isn’t scheduled, and being on call, running a one-person office in the early years, having a commitment to help survivors begin their recovery no matter when that happens — all affected my ability to have more time with my children and husband, led to shorter (if any) vacations, and were a general interruption into my daily life. I remember moving in with my mother during the last days of her life and taking phone calls from work about people in need. It may have been the first time I told people that I had no more to give, that I couldn’t help them while I was experiencing this excruciatingly raw and tragic loss.

At another level, hearing so many painful stories helps me keep my life in perspective, to see my own problems in the bigger scheme of things. But some days, I must admit that I think I can’t bear to hear one more story about abuse and violence without breaking. Many years ago I worked with a young woman who had AIDS and was then raped. Everything I knew about helping someone recover went out the window because she had no sense of future. She was saying, “All I want to do is live to be 25.” Every time she would leave I would close the door and cry. I have moments when I say I can’t do this one more minute, and I weep.

RJ: As you look back at where the feminist movement to confront men’s violence started, and then reflect on where we are today, are you optimistic? Hopeful? Have we made progress or lost ground?

RAK: Answering this almost depends on the day, perhaps hour or even minute that you catch me. I have such mixed feelings about where we are, have been, and need to go. Most days I feel like we are fighting many of the same battles we fought almost 40 years ago: no dependable funding, poorly paid advocates, a culture that is judgmental and victim blaming, a profound fear of the dreaded “f” word as a descriptive term of our values, and an increasing — yes, increasing — acceptability of the desecration and degradation of people in general and women in particular. For example, people who willingly expose their vulnerabilities for a few moments of canned fame, and those who exploit those people for a few dollars, send a clear message about how little we value each other. The increased degradation of women and overt racism in pornography in the past couple of decades is another example.

I think there are some things that are better, but only at a certain level. Yes, there are rape care programs, and there is state and federal funding for a small piece of those programs. Maybe the prosecutor and I know each other well enough to chat and have lunch, but does that mean that the criminal-justice system is any more likely to treat a survivor well, to take her seriously today than years ago? The language has changed — we can say “rape” out loud and teach about it in courses — but has that changed the underlying belief system? People don’t come out of the womb wanting to be rapists nor believing that they are to blame when they are victims, but that’s where so many end up. What does that say about the culture’s belief systems?

Here’s just one example: I watched a youtube piece about the sexism directed at Hillary Clinton, click here and no matter who a person supports for president, this is a reminder of how far we haven’t come. I have to say that, in those moments, I don’t feel very hopeful. I still care about the work, which motivates me to sit through countless boring meetings that come with that work. I also am surrounded by wonderful colleagues, friends and family who make it easier to get through the day. I’m grateful for what I get to do, and at the same time I’m counting the days until retirement.

RJ: Is it possible that all these things are true? We have made enormous strides in forcing the culture to recognize that, after thousands of years of patriarchy, contempt for women is woven deeply into the fabric of the society and that violence against women is a huge public-health problem. And, at the same time, large segments of the population don’t want to face that and so minimize or deny the problem. In that sense, is it the case that the women of your generation pushed the society forward and as a result we see how far we have to go? Could we say the same about racism? Is that just our fate at this point in history?

RAK: One of my favorite people once said, “Rape is illegal, but the sexual ethic that underlies rape is woven into the fabric of our culture.” I just re-read the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions written in 1848, and I think that great strides have been made, that women have a greater control over their lives and their bodies. When I really think about it, at least at an intellectual level, I know life has changed in countless ways. But in my heart and perhaps in my daily life, I don’t see much progress. Maybe it is because of the world I work in or because I’m so aware of how contempt for women infiltrates so much that we do in this culture. When I was once accused of not having a sense of humor, I responded that I have a great sense of humor about things that are funny. But when people in public life laugh at comedians who refer to women in degrading terms, it demonstrates how little women are valued. When men in leadership positions say they are concerned about equality for women because they have daughters, I say shame on you — how could you be so selfish? Why aren’t you concerned because it is just wrong? The same thing applies to issues of race and sexual orientation — discrimination and degradation are wrong no matter who is in your family, no matter how it affects you personally.

Believing that this is all just our fate and can’t really be changed is a bit on the depressing side. So, I have to find ways to feel good about getting out of bed in the morning, and I do. I find ways to not be brought down by how our culture devalues a majority of the population. It’s a struggle, but I find ways.

RJ’s last word: Koenick’s first reaction to my interest in writing about her work had been disbelief. She asked, “What’s so special about me?” My answer was, “Nothing, and everything.” Koenick is one of thousands of women who have built and sustained the anti-rape movement, which has helped millions of victims and tried to educate the culture. In a time of backlash, when even some women mock feminism, understanding the lives of women such as like Koenick — remembering the history and not turning away from the present struggle — is crucial. Her story reminds us that change is possible, even against deeply rooted systems of oppression, and that the people who propel forward progressive social change are profoundly ordinary and extraordinarily remarkable, all at the same time.


Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book, All My Bones Shake: Radical Politics in the Prophetic Voice, will be published in 2009 by Soft Skull Press. He also is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen’s articles can be found online at

Related Pornography contributing to atrocities against women in the Congo say GAD


We saw with painful shock a cartoon in The New Vision(*) issue of September 10, captioned ‘Now Rock Bar will never fall short of supplies again.’

It made us wonder about the editor’s moral standing. That he would need to ‘import’ a whole lot of Rwandan women in exchange for ‘oil’!

We are dismayed! Firstly, by his perverted ignorance as an editor working for what we would dare to want to believe is a ‘credible’ national paper, whose objective is to report fairly with responsibility, on matters social, political and economic.

A misogynistic attitude that goes against the fact that journalism ethics in our modest profession, have since been rescued from the throes of a gutter press, that feeds on the sexualisation of women in our society.

Gone are the days when legs and breasts sold news! The woman and the African woman in particular has gained her place of respectability in our society.

Women are no longer just helpless pawns of insatiable male sexual appetites. Mr. Editor, women are no longer sex objects. Women have legs, breasts and dare I name what else? And so do you have ears, legs and rest of the body anatomy that qualifies you to be a man. Let us not practice journalism that rewards sick minds.

Sick minds that rape minors; are we not the same journalists who report on the rape of helpless little seven-year old girls?

Or the sodomy of helpless little boys? These sick minds know no boundaries. Sadly, your kind of gutter journalism applauds them on, in promoting this kind of sexual violence against women.

You violate fundamental ethos of our profession, to advocate, educate and inform our societies in a manner that fosters positive change, by positively influencing our day to day behavior.

A child’s mind is very impressionable. Its development is affected by many things. Imagine the confusion a child goes through when they see, ‘naked’ women in your paper!

In that respect, we shall not be afraid or let me say Rwandan woman will not be abused into fearing to show her gazelle-like legs, or her dazzling beauty, just because some editor like you will gleefully and wantonly feast on it.

Giving the go ahead for such a cartoon to run leaves no option but such a scenario of you to be conjured up in one’s mind.

Mr. Editor, you have chosen to attack the wrong country or dare I say the wrong woman? The ‘Munyarwandakazi’ has pushed the women’s liberation cause to other heights; she is not seen as a sex object or subject for that.

Heights that even the so called established democracies in our world struggle to match, 49 percent Parliamentary female representation is no easy feat!

The ‘Munyarwandakazi’ has survived rape, torture and murder. Notwithstanding that her victories at representing the dignified face of the African woman; is one which your cartoon insults today.

We will not go into her many achievements in breaking traditional barriers to female success; in what have been traditionally believed to be male domains in both her private and public life. She certainly is not a sex object. We take exception!

Mr. Editor, rather than juxtaposing oil tankers entering Rwanda from Uganda and Rwandan women leaving their country as ‘export’ merchandise, I would rather you used a cartoon of Ugandan ‘men’ seeking Rwandan women.

Not just for past times, as Rwandan women are too proud and way above that, but to seek their hand in marriage! It will only take a real man to accept the law that a woman has a right to land and property.

A Rwandan woman will not tolerate a man who expects to just be a ‘man’ and order her around. It’s no wonder that Rwanda is getting so many accolades, both men and women are working at an equal footing with the aim of uplifting their families and society.

I would like to dare sisters, fellow journalists, not just in Rwanda but the African community too, to come in condemnation of your most distasteful portrayal of a woman who otherwise deserves better.

Let our children not grow up with the wrong mentality picked up from what should be credible national papers, papers that disrespect the girl child and women.

Grace Kwinjeh is a senior journalist who writes in her personal capacity.

(*) The New Vision in Uganda

The media are awash with news of defilement. Defilers traumatise and predispose their victims to the risk of HIV infection. Last year 12,230 defilement cases were reported to the Police, while in 2006, 15,385 cases were reported. Many more cases go unreported for fear of shame.

Much as the Government should be applauded for the Presidential Initiative for AIDS Strategy Communication to Youth programme which has expanded HIV prevention education to primary schools, more needs to be done to eliminate defilement in schools and other predisposing factors like exposure to pornography.

It is cynical that a nation whose motto is For God and my country has its print media flooded with tabloids. Furthermore, the advertising media industry has exposed the nation to unprecedented levels of pornography and obscenity.

Pornography refers to any graphic (pictorial) or any other forms of communication that is intended to incite sexual feelings. It has spread to schools, universities and offices.

In rural areas, video shacks operating battery-controlled equipment show pornographic movies.

With the advent of multichannel television, children have access to this material at the click of a remote button.

Pornography also seems to be the central business on which Internet cafés are thriving. However, the consequences are dire.

Studies indicate that children exposed to pornography are vulnerable and can be affected for life.

The influx of pornography has created a class of people who believe they are ‘sex animals’ and young children have fallen prey to them.

Steven Langa, in his book Pornography in Uganda; The naked truth details some of the devastating consequences of pornography on society.

The book contains many personal testimonies ranging from deviant sexual behaviour, sex orgies in school, rape, and defilement to masturbation and its role in the spread of HIV. The victims suffer fear, guilt and shame for life if they do not get counselling.

Similarly, a survey done in the US revealed that 35% of men who were exposed to pornography on regular basis confessed willingness to rape a woman “If they can get away with it.” This is a lot easier in Africa where a number of women have low self esteem. This could become a breeding ground for rapists.

The majority of Uganda’s population structure is dominated by the youth, many of whom do not have strong moral values. They are, therefore, bound to be influenced by emerging negative moral trends.

This is made worse by the fact there few resources and experts to deal with some of the consequences of pornography.

Where are the moralists of our times? Fans of pornography should be educated that what goes in determines what comes out. If you spend quality time reading newspapers, you will think and talk about news but if you spend time reading pornography, your mind will be preoccupied with it.

To fight HIV and AIDS effectively, Uganda should fight pornography and other pre-disposing factors.

The Media Council and other relevant authorities that barred the staging of the infamous play, Vagina monologues, could use the same mandate to purge this nation of pornography.

Alternatively, they can gazette places where such materials are sold to protect the rest of the public from viewing such obscenities.

If such radical steps are not taken, Uganda could reverse the gains made in reducing the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.

By Apophia Agiresaasi
The writer is the SPH – CDC HIV/AIDS fellow at Parliament

As decentralisation reforms move ahead, women’s groups are seizing the chance to press for greater representation

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua gives a speech at a rally after the July 27 election. A coalition of women’s rights groups has requested that the government introduce gender quotas as a means of increasing women’s participation in politics, according to a statement released Monday by Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC).

The statement calls for the creation of gender-based clauses in the Organic Law, passed April 1, which guides the Kingdom’s devolution of decision-making power to the local level.

“Women’s organisations and NGOs are concerned that the Organic Law does not make any provision that guarantees women’s representation in decision-making positions,” it said.

Thida Kus, executive director of local NGO Silaka, is quoted as saying that “all articles of the Organic Law … should clearly require political parties to place women candidates on the top of candidate lists”, which she described as “an effective strategy to bring more women into decision-making positions”.

Among its recommendations, the statement says one woman should be appointed for every two men on local councils, and that if a man is the head of an office, a woman should be appointed as his deputy.

GADC Executive Director Ros Sopheap said the Organic Law had been targeted because of its emphasis on decentralisation. “When we talk about decentralisation, we need to talk about power relations and decision-making,” she said. “We are giving more power to communities … and if [we] don’t highlight women’s needs, [the law] will not provide for women.”

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Pov Savoeun said that all political parties supported the involvement of women in politics. “No party opposes giving women access to government positions,” she said. “The CPP now has women holding power from the local level to the top, including a deputy prime minister.”

Mu Sochua, deputy secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, agreed quotas were necessary to secure the advancement of women in Cambodian society, but said party politics could skew the goal of equality.

“The government should make appointments according to the capabilities of the women and not according to their political affiliations,” she said. “That could divide women, and it should be avoided at all costs.”

In response to suggestions a gender quota might replace men with less-qualified women, Ros Sopheap said there were plenty of qualified women.

“It doesn’t mean we need to take out men and put in women. But if we see a man retire, we can replace him with a woman of the same ability and qualifications,” she said.

“We need to think deeper about getting women involved,” Ros Sopheap said. “We need to build from the beginning.”

The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network welcomes the news that Iranian lawmakers have amended a contentious new family law proposal, marking a major victory for Iranian women’s rights activists. (WLUML Networkers)

Various Iranian women’s organizations have campaigned against the law since its introduction in the Parliament last year. Activists say that the proposed legislation contained numerous articles that would reverse past gains made by women’s rights leaders over the last thirty years and significantly harm the status of Iranian women within the family.

The bill was set to a vote last week, before the Parliament adjourned for Ramadan. Before that vote took place, one hundred women’s rights defenders stormed the Parliament building to register their protest to lawmakers. Because mass demonstrations are often considered illegal in Iran, the women entered gradually in groups of three or four until they presented en masse to voice their criticism with the new bill. As a result, the proposed law was sent back to the legal commission for further review, postponing the vote in Parliament.

On Sunday, the spokesman for the Ministry of Justice announced they have amended the law, removing articles 23 and 25, the most contentious among women’s rights activists. The revised law will be sent to the Parliament for vote after Ramadan.

Article 23, one of the most criticized articles in the bill, would make polygamy easier for Iranian men. Currently, an Iranian man needs to obtain the permission of his first wife in order to marry a second. These safeguards would be effectively removed for women in the proposed legislation.

Article 25 would have taxed women’s mehr, a monetary sum given by the groom to the bride, which is often considered a protection for women against arbitrary divorce by their husbands.

Women from various backgrounds, religious and secular, had come together to mobilize against the new family law, initiating a public debate via online journals such as, running a postcard campaign, and encouraging ordinary women from across the country to phone their representative and register their protest against the proposed legislation.

Nevertheless, WLUML is still not satisfied with amended legislation, even without Articles 23 and 25. The bill, which is presented by the government as family law “reform”, does not in fact provide more gender equality according to activists.

WLUML calls upon the Iranian authorities to work directly with women’s rights advocates to pass true family law reform, one that wholly prohibits discrimination against women in all its forms. We urge the Iranian legal and judicial systems to ensure Iranian women enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as men during marriage and at its dissolution, including matters related to inheritance, custody and guardianship of children, and blood price.

Furthermore, we call upon Iranian officials to unequivocally ban polygamy under the law.

Source: WLUML Networkers 10 September 2008

The tool on Police Reform and Gender has been translated into Dari by the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The translated version serves the Afghan community, strengthening the capacity of the police force to understand and address the security needs of men, women, boys and girls from a perspective of gender equality and inclusive security.

“Police Reform and Gender” is part of the Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, published earlier this year by UN-INSTRAW, the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE (ODIHR).

Police officers are responsible for the maintenance of public order and the protection of Afghan men, women, boys and girls.

Incorporating a gender perspective into police reform is essential to ensuring that officers recognize the differential impacts of crime and violence and provide an appropriate and effective response.

Download the Dari version of Police Reform and Gender

Read the Press Release about the Security Sector Reform Toolkit:

From INSTRAW August 2008 e-newsletter

UN-INSTRAW is an Institute devoted to applied research, training and knowledge management in partnership with governments, the United Nations Agencies, civil society and academia to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.


* The number of domestic violence cases decreased by 80 percent during the first ten days of Ramadan, while the level of reconciliation between family members increased.
* The level of domestic violence has increased significantly over the past few years, leading to the establishment of organizations such as the Saudi Family Protection Organisation.

Lafi al Balawi, head of the executive committee for the Saudi Family Protection Organisation based in Jeddah told Asharq Al-Awsat that the number of cases of domestic violence has dropped by 80 percent during the holy month of Ramadan. In the first week of the fasting month, an increase was recorded in the number of cases of reconciliation between family members. Al Balawi attributed this to Ramadan during which there is a tendency to resolve ongoing problems and accomplish good deeds. He highlighted the remarkable role of the reconciliation committee in this regard as well as other parties such as mayors and dignitaries who mediate to solve complicated cases.

The reconciliation committees, which are affiliated to the principalities, play an important role in settling disputes and reuniting families before problems are further exacerbated.

On his part, Dr. Ali al Hanaki, director of the Social Affairs department in Mecca, told Asharq Al Awsat, “The month of Ramadan is a time for worship, reflection and obedience; it is only natural that the level of violence decreases during this month. However, there are people who use Ramadan to cause problems and settle accounts with their spouses.”

According to Lafi al Balawi, his organisation has settled fifteen disputes in the first week of Ramadan alone. Seventy cases remain unsolved.

Despite the efforts to reconcile families, the numbers of individuals seeking shelter is continuously on the rise. One of the families seeking shelter comprises of eleven members – a mother, eight daughters and two sons. There is also a 23-year-old girl, who has stayed at the shelter for two years, after her father refused to marry her off, according to Lafi al Balawi.

Gripping her skull to ease a constant pounding headache, Lieu explains how she came to a decision that would have been unthinkable in Vietnam just a few years ago — to divorce her husband.

Speaking in a measured voice, her eyes steady, the 29-year-old from Hanoi recounted two years of living hell, of the abuse, humiliation and physical violence she suffered at the hands of her husband and his family.

Things turned bad soon after they married in 2006, she said, when he would come home, having spent his meagre postman’s salary on alcohol, shout at her and then beat her — sometimes so badly she passed out.

“His punches tore the skin around my eyes,” she told AFP, sitting in a centre providing support to female domestic abuse victims. “Doctors stitched up a four-centimetre (1.6-inch) gash. Later he started to smash my head into walls,” Lieu said, wincing at the pain of what doctors have told her are long-term head injuries. I have suffered enough. I will divorce, and I will raise my daughter alone.”

Lieu’s story is not unusual in Vietnam, which remains a male-dominated society.

But what is new is that women are starting to speak out.

More victims of domestic violence have broken the silence and the social taboo to share their suffering and discover they are not alone.

A flurry of media reports has shocked the public by reporting about women’s often horrific ordeals through mental, physical and sexual violence.

The Gia Dinh Va Xa Hoi (Family and Society) newspaper reported on a Hanoi woman who was forced to have sex with her husband 365 days a year and dared not refuse him even after she was hospitalised with serious internal injuries.

A woman from northern Nam Dinh province has permanent disabilities caused by brain and spinal injuries from her husband’s beatings, the An Ninh Thu Do (Capital Security) newspaper reported.

A joint UN-government family survey this year found that 21.2 percent of married couples had reported instances of domestic violence in their households, including emotional abuse, beatings and rape.

“Men have the right to beat a woman, women are supposed to suffer” —

Many cases of abuse involved men drinking alcohol and arguments about men’s financial decisions, gambling and extramarital affairs.

Some 3.4 percent of men had beaten their wives, according to the joint study by UNICEF and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, an interview-based study that almost certainly underestimated the problem.

Few of the respondents who talked about domestic violence said they had asked for help from their parents, friends or the authorities, citing fears of “blackening the family’s image” or “showing their wounds to strangers”.

Vietnam’s communist government stresses equality for women, who fought alongside men during the war, a role that recalls revered folk heroes such as the Trung sisters, who in the first century AD led an anti-Chinese revolt.

Nonetheless, Vietnam is also a patriarchal society long governed by Confucian values that hold that women must obey their men.

Arguably discrimination against women starts before they are born, because of a long-running preference for male offspring who are expected to support their parents in old age and carry on the family line.

Medical advances such as ultrasound tests have made it easier for many families to abort female fetuses in the first months of pregnancy, skewing the national gender ratio at birth to 110 boys for every 100 girls.

“In our culture and tradition, men always play a higher and dominating position,” said Hoang Thi Kim Thanh, head of a women’s protection centre in Hanoi.

“Men have the right to beat women, and women are supposed to suffer.

“Society considers and accepts this fact as a matter of course,” said Thanh from SAGA, the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences of Gender, Families, Women and Adolescents.

Women tend to accept the violence because they put their children, parents and other family members ahead of themselves, she said.

Lieu is a case in point. For a long time, she said, she did not even consider divorce because she worried for the future of her two-year-old daughter.

“I knew if we separated, she would be the one that suffers the most,” Lieu said, tears filling her eyes. “When she grows up and gets married, her husband’s family may say that she does not have good values because she comes from a broken home.”

Thanh said women such as Lieu are starting to shed light on the scourge of domestic violence.

“It’s an encouraging sign that many women dare to speak out about their problems,” she said. “Domestic violence is no longer a private family issue. It’s a social concern”

The lack of proper law has given rise to cases of domestic violence against women in the present time.

Nepal has already become a party of 19 international human rights treaties and two regional ones that advocate for the elimination of discrimination against women.

However, the efforts to stop domestic violence against women have gone fruitless because of the lack of proper law, executive director of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD) Sabin Shrestha said

The existing social practices guided by the patriarchal mindset have become a major hindrance to check growing violence against women, he added.

He also said that there were no clear-cut laws to define domestic violence and discrimination against women, and gender equality. “There are several deficiencies in view of gender equality and women rights.”

Human rights activist and lawyer Mandira Sharma said that the campaign to stop violence against women had not become effective, as the existing state mechanism was not heedful to enforce the laws in this regard.

“The violence against women does not mean only physical attack and exploitation against women. Moreover, it includes different types of psychological trauma perpetrated to women, that have been contributing to an increase in the violence against women.”

Advocate Chandra Kant Gyawali underscored that the Social Behaviour Improvement Act 2031 BS should be amended and implemented effectively to stop the growing cases of social malpractice.

Similarly, positive discrimination for women should be executed in education and other sectors besides formulating positive laws to check violence against women, he said.

Among the 7,000 families living in camps for the displaced since the Koshi River – the country’s largest – burst its banks on 18 August, women and girls are most vulnerable, say agencies, as facilities in Sunsari and Saptari districts lack adequate healthcare and protection.

A principal concern is lack of privacy for women treated in health centres, and the dearth of specialised health services for children and female medical workers, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nepal. “There is a lack of separate maternal healthcare and this could risk the health of pregnant women, new mothers and their newborn,” said Hemlalta Chaudhary, a village facilitator from Sabal, a local NGO supported by the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF).

According to the government’s District Public Health Offices (DPHO) in both Saptari and Sunsari districts, there are almost 1,000 pregnant women, with more than half of them in Saptari camps.

More than 15 are said to be about to give birth, the DPHO reports, and officials maintain that provisions for safe deliveries were being made. However, women on the ground remain sceptical. “I hope the government will come to help on time,” Sabitri Mukhia, who is seven months pregnant, said. “This is my first child and I don’t want her to be born in this camp,” she added, concerned by the lack of maternal care facilities almost a month after the camps were established. Her worries were shared by health workers.

To date, no separate site for delivery has been erected, ambulance service remains erratic, and most serious of all, there is a shortage of female healthcare workers, they say. Once the baby is born, it will be forced to live in the tiny and cramped shelters with low ceilings, making it difficult to ward off the scorching heat or get fresh air.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is planning to offer transport to health services away from shelters to ensure pregnancy-related complications are responded to quickly.

Several aid agencies and NGOs working with women and children have requested that the government boost security in the area due to possible risks and reported cases of violence and abuse of women, they told IRIN in Saptari District.

According to UNFPA, women and adolescent girls are highly vulnerable to gender-based violence due to inadequate lighting and security at night. The agency has therefore been advocating for the deployment of female police officers to the shelters for both day and night duty. There have been unverified reports of between five and 11 rape cases in Saptari over the past few days, OCHA said. “Young women and girls are living under vulnerable conditions and the weak security is putting many of them at sexual risk,” said Avha Setu Singh, a rights activist from a local NGO, Setu Community Development and Human Rights Forum.

Although government authorities maintain they have taken this issue on board, women on the ground more than one week later said no serious action had yet been taken.

More than 800,000 people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance in Haiti in the wake of hurricanes Fay and Gustav and tropical storm Hanna. Houses, medical facilities, main roads and bridges have been destroyed, and an estimated 100,000 people have sought refuge in temporary shelters.

The crisis-affected population includes some 24,000 pregnant women. Eight thousand are due to deliver in the next three months and many need basic antenatal care and support for any complications. In any population, even in the best of times, about one in seven women will have complications that require emergency obstetric care or surgical delivery. Of the pregnant Haitian women in the disaster affected areas, over a thousand will need such care. Limited access to emergency obstetric care puts the lives of these women — and their babies — at risk.

In a Flash Appeal launched in New York, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is requesting $1.5 million to ensure pregnant women have access to emergency obstetric care, medical supplies, and skilled medical professionals, such as obstetricians and midwives, to ensure safe child delivery.

The funds will also help UNFPA protect women and girls affected by the crisis from exploitation and all forms of violence, and to facilitate access to both food and non-food items for marginalized groups, especially individuals living with HIV and disabilities, while monitoring human rights violations.

Tens of thousands of homes have been severely and partially damaged, leaving families without shelter and access to basic supplies, such as clothes, soap and toothbrushes. UNFPA will use the requested funds to distribute essential non-food items and provide women with access to sanitation stations. A rapid assessment, which will be conducted to establish the economic and housing needs of those affected, will serve to better inform the government and the international community responses.

UNFPA will work in close cooperation with the Haitian Government and civil society, with other United Nations agencies, such as the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, as well as with international and local non-governmental organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration and the Haitian Red Cross. UNFPA will also support these agencies in protecting vulnerable women and their families from all forms of violence, preventing separation of families, and providing individuals with psychosocial care, when needed.

These interventions will complement UNFPA activities in response to the impact of tropical storm Hanna on the island of Hispaniola. For the crisis-affected region of Gonaives, as well as the South-East and Central Plateau, UNFPA has already been working to identify and fund additional medical staff and provide medical teams with supplies for safe child delivery, and to ensure qualified care providers are available in shelters and health centres.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Shannon Egan:; Tel.: +1 212 297 4975;
In Panama City, Trygve Olfarnes:; Tel: +507 301-7362.

SOURCE United Nations Population Fund

Before trying to hire a prostitute, consider this: You could find yourself in “john school.”

For six hours you’ll hear reformed prostitutes, neighborhood leaders and health professionals talk about how you prey on damaged women, trash communities and imperil your health.

Lenexa, a city known for busting johns, recently started sending the men to the Kansas City school, which is run by Veronica’s Voice, a group that tries to help prostitutes find other careers. Kansas City and Wyandotte County send offenders there as well.

The quiet local effort is part of an emerging approach in the fractious debate over how best to limit the harm caused by paid sex. Some countries legalize it, some jail the women, and some go after the men.

Sweden jails johns while providing social services to help prostitutes leave the business. The United Kingdom is considering that as well.

In the United States, researchers say, prostitutes are arrested and jailed far more often than customers. But some experts support the Swedish approach, and john schools are spreading.

At the local john school, students come in from all social strata, said Kristy Childs, a founder of Veronica’s Voice.

“We have gotten leaders of churches. We’ve gotten CEOs of companies,” she said. “We’ve got to do something about demand.”

Kansas City area johns, usually just a few at a time, meet for class the third Saturday of each month at a secret location.

It costs the men $500 each on top of whatever fine they had to pay. If some are extra shy, they can pay $250 more for private classes. Course fees go to programs to help prostitutes escape the streets.

Childs sometimes tells them her story:

As a penniless teen runaway, she was gang-raped at 13 in 1975 and worked for years under the control of pimps.

Over that time she was shot, stabbed, beaten, tortured and repeatedly raped. Sometimes she turned tricks just to survive, like when she slept with a man for a can of soup.

In 1993, her friend Veronica Neverdusky was murdered on the streets. Childs got out of the business. Now she runs the nonprofit group named after her friend and tries to help others escape prostitution.

She tells johns that prostitutes pretend affection but actually loathe the men who pay them for sex.

Often, Childs said, she was jailed for prostitution while her customers were sent home.

Today, police departments are focusing more on johns, though attendance at the Kansas City school has been spotty since it opened in 2002. The courts refer few of the estimated 1,000 johns arrested each year, Childs said, but business at the school is picking up.

The approach is spreading elsewhere. New john schools opened in July in Los Angeles and Dayton, Ohio, and more than 40 have started since 1995.

A study this year found that the San Francisco john school, which opened in 1995, cut the recidivism rate by more than a third in the first year — a level that’s been maintained. A San Diego program started in 2000 cut recidivism by more than half, the study found.

Michael Shively, a senior associate with Abt Associates Inc., conducted that study for the National Institute of Justice. He said the schools were useful just for the health lessons.

“These guys are walking biohazards,” he said. “It’s incredibly risky, and they’re taking the diseases home to their wives and girlfriends.”

Add in the reduced recidivism and the course fees that support the schools, and Shively can’t help concluding that john schools are a good thing.

“The evidence so far is, it’s helpful, and it’s hard to imagine it will do anyone harm.”

He also praises the Swedish approach of attacking demand rather than jailing women or legalizing prostitution. Fining or jailing the women just makes it harder for them to get another job, he said.

Martha Shockey-Eckles, a sociology and criminology professor at St. Louis University, said jailing only women dated to historical attitudes that the female is the vamp with the siren call that lures a poor man to wrong. The john school recognizes otherwise, she said, and is at least a valid attempt to reach the men.

Before you’re sent to john school, police have to catch you trying to pay for sex. And Lenexa has acquired a reputation for doing just that.

At a Web site for hookups, a message blares: “Stay Away From Lenexa.” Someone else warns: “Lenexa has it down to a science. They are very motivated and … very successful in finding out who is doing what. Some of you seem to think this is a myth.”

The writers speculate that Lenexa police constantly watch hotels. Not so.

They periodically place Internet ads purporting to be from women selling sex. Then they arrest the would-be customers when they show up to meet at hotels, said Lt. Dawn Layman.

A sting in July resulted in 15 john arrests.

“It’s a pretty easy deal,” Layman said.

Kansas City also uses the Internet, sometimes trolling for johns and sometimes for prostitutes, said Vice Sgt. Brad Dumit.

Women officers posing as prostitutes also pluck johns from the streets.

Men need the lessons they get from john school, Dumit said, especially because some Internet sites call them harmless hobbyists.

To Dumit, prostitution is a bleak and predatory world most often involving desperate women or girls, drug addiction and vicious men whom police call gorilla pimps. Prostitutes and the drug dealers who travel with them foul neighborhoods.

“We just keep putting Band-Aids on it (prostitution), because we can never get rid of it all,” he said, “and we try to help some people along the way.”

Half-joking, he suggests one alternative to hired sex: “Go to a bar and buy somebody a drink. Meet people the old-fashioned way.”

North Texas agencies should better identify victims of underage forced sex rings and prosecute their pimps on trafficking charges, according an assessment released last week.

Some minors caught engaging in prostitution are treated as juvenile delinquents or criminals rather than as victims, said Linda Smith, founder of Shared Hope International, a Washington D.C.-based organization that works to prevent human trafficking.

“That’s a national problem,” said Smith, who shared the assessment in Dallas this week with the North Texas Anti-Trafficking Task Force. “These girls are brutalized and scared into thinking they have no safe place to go. And the people controlling them have trained them on what to say to authorities.”

The assessment focused on 10 regions nationwide, including North Texas. In Tarrant County, it reported that at least 35 minors have faced prostitution or other sex-related charges since 2000.

The minors ranged in age from 12 to 16.

That number could be the tip of the iceberg, officials said. North Texas has a large population of homeless youths — in 2004 there estimated to be almost 1,000 in Tarrant County — who are susceptible to sex-ring recruiters.

It is estimated that 70 percent of homeless youths are involved in commercial sex, the assessment reported.

“That is how they survive,” Smith said.

The assessment found that while Arlington and Fort Worth police and Tarrant County sheriff’s officers have received training, understanding of domestic sex trafficking is not “widespread.”

Confusion is caused by a contradiction between Texas human trafficking laws and federal laws. State law defines human trafficking as “forced labor and services” and requires proof of force, fraud or coercion.

Federal law does not require that burden of proof when the victim is a minor. But most suspects are charged under state law.

“Placing the burden of proof on the victim has made prosecution of traffickers and buyers challenging,” the assessment stated.

The assessment credited Fort Worth police’s anti-trafficking unit. which was formed with a grant in fall 2006, with helping educate other agencies and providers.

“We encourage people to look beneath the surface,” said Kathleen Murray, the unit’s program coordinator. “What at first may look like a domestic disturbance or a runaway could be something more.

“We’ve received a good response and interest from officers.”

Earlier this year, four Fort Worth teenagers were charged with crimes ranging from human trafficking to forcing prostitution. The teens were accused of befriending runaway girls and later forcing them into prostitution. Police said the teens found customers by trolling low-income apartment complexes and selling the girls for $30 to $50.

Three of them later pleaded guilty to charges of compelling prostitution.

Social service agencies often failed to ask questions during intake that could lead to the identification of sex trafficking victim, the assessment found. Agencies were also unfamiliar with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The lack of specific protocols is “important when one considers the large estimates of runaway and at-risk youth who are vulnerable to becoming victims,” the assessment stated.

One of the main obstacles to identifying victims is often the victims themselves. They tend to refer to their pimp or trafficker as their “boyfriend” and are reluctant to incriminate him.

When victims are identified, specialized counseling and treatment programs are lacking, the report found. The All Church Home for Children in Fort Worth is the emergency shelter for adolescents in Tarrant County.

All church staff have undergone human trafficking training and have cared for several victims of underage trafficking in recent years, said Barbara Clark-Galupi, vice president for marketing and development.

The home also has an outreach team that seeks youths living on the street who are at the highest risk of falling into sex rings.

“It’s a rising issue and concern in the community,” Clark-Galupi said. “We are making sure we know how to deal with the issues and the experiences these kids have had.”

Underage prostitution in Tarrant County

Prostitution-related offenses involving minors since 2000:

    Offenses: 35
    Types of cases Prostitution: 25
    Possession/promotion of child pornography: 7
    Promotion of prostitution: 2
    Sexual performance of a child: 1
    Ages of minor 12: 1 / 13: 5 / 14: 4 / 15: 12 / 16: 13
    Race of minor African-American: 16
    Caucasian: 13
    Hispanic: 5
    Asian: 1

Source: Shared Hope International,

ALEX BRANCH, 817-390-7689

Human trafficking is big in KwaZulu-Natal – and it is getting bigger, a workshop on the topic has heard. And, just as in the rest of South Africa, it largely takes the form of sexual exploitation.

There are girls and women working in brothels who have been lured into the province and the country on the pretext of bettering their lives, furthering their education or working in restaurants.

They find themselves in a strange country or province (there is inter-provincial trafficking) with no family or friends to turn to, often do not know the language, do not know how to get home and cannot escape from their trafficker because they owe him money for their transportation and accommodation.

And they cannot go home because their passports have been taken from them.

The Daily News has learned of several cases in this province of girls from other countries – Mozambique and Thailand – some enticed here by the mistaken belief they would be working in restaurants.

Thai girls have been “partially deceived” about what life in KwaZulu-Natal and the country holds in store for them.

Already sex workers, they have been told they will earn more money in South Africa.

But when they get here, they find they can only work for themselves after they have paid back the trafficker.

The workshop heard about one case where a girl had almost paid back her trafficker, only to find she was then sold to another trafficker.

“They are regarded as property,” said Mia Immelback, of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who is helping the Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme.

The workshop on trafficking was organised by the South African government in partnership with the IOM.

Immelback said a victim of human trafficking – described as “modern-day slavery” – was forced to sleep with hundreds of men and not allowed to use protection.

There was a big demand for Thai girls – particularly in this province, sources said – as they were considered “exotic” by their clients.

The victims of human trafficking have been able to get into the country with the cooperation of corrupt immigration and police officials, who have taken bribes to turn a blind eye.

Advocate Amanda Ledwaba, the director of investigations in the Department of Home Affairs, told the workshop that 90% of the illegal border crossings into the country, whether they involved human trafficking or smuggling, took place with the connivance of officials and police.

It is difficult to get the precise number of victims, because many are deported when police carry out raids and discover the girls have false papers.

Many victims do not realise they have been trafficked – and not every girl knows that she can turn to the IOM for help.

The National Prosecuting Authority is planning to set up a task team in the province to, among other things, inform police and other stakeholders that if they find a victim they should refer her to the IOM.

Trafficking is a highly lucrative business (worldwide, it is thought to be worth $7 billion-$13 billion, or R58 billion to R100 billion a year).

Traffickers also try to adapt their methods to keep ahead of the law. Some traffickers, especially those bringing in Thai women, do not use Durban International Airport because they know that they will be traced. They bring them in via Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport and transport the girls into the region by road.

New South African legislation will make it easier to prosecute the traffickers – and the people who transport them to their ultimate destination.

Ledwaba said if the Trafficking in Human Persons Act was not introduced before the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, there would be a “disaster.”

Sex workers from all over the world would be heading to South Africa and human traffickers who brought them in would manipulate them, she said.

Ledwaba said later that it was hoped to bring in the legislation by December, 2009.

Mozambique introduced legislation earlier this year enabling the authorities to prosecute traffickers.

Victims are also trafficked for their organs for muthi, for forced labour on farms and factories, and for domestic work.

There are various human trafficking routes into South Africa – and out of it, too.

One route involves South African nationals with links to the SA sex industry and Triad groups who recruit women in strip clubs and falsely offer them high-paying jobs in Asia where they sign contracts in Chinese. They often experience death threats.

Often traffickers – described as “very dangerous” – are known to the victim and trusted.

And the difference between trafficking and smuggling?

Trafficking is a crime against the individual, while smuggling of migrants is a crime against the state.

Trafficking has to have three elements: recruitment, transportation and exploitation.

The toll free number for the IOM is 0800 555 999.

If new legislation dealing with human trafficking is not introduced before the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, then there will be “a disaster”, a department of home affairs director has predicted.

“The pressure is now on the government to pass this legislation as soon as possible,” said Advocate Amanda Ledwaba, the director of investigations, at a workshop on human trafficking – described as “modern slavery” – in Durban last week.

She also revealed that 90 percent of the illegal border crossings into the country, whether it involved smuggling or human trafficking, took place with the connivance of officials and police.

Ledwaba explained later that the planned Trafficking in Human Persons Act will be more effective than the other legislation in place now and which contains loopholes enabling traffickers to escape prosecution.

“For instance, women (sex workers) recruited in Mozambique cross the border into South Africa where a taxi driver will be waiting for them. He will then transport them to a man in Johannesburg.

At the moment, you can’t prosecute the taxi driver although he knows what he is doing is wrong. Under the definition of human trafficking in the new Act, it will say that the person who does the transporting can be prosecuted.”

She said it would also be “a disaster” if the Act were not introduced before 2010, as sex workers from all over the world would be coming in ahead of 2010 to ply their trade. And the human-traffickers who brought them in would manipulate the women, she said.

South Africa was “a hub” of human trafficking, the workshop heard.

A new Act involving smuggling was also on the cards, although it was only in the early stages, she said.

Ledwaba represents the department of home affairs on the 10-member Trafficking in Persons Inter-sectoral Task Team, a working group to define and implement the nation’s counter-trafficking strategy.

A three-year funding agreement between the European Union Commission and the National Prosecuting Authority has been entered into to implement the strategy.

The workshop was organised by the South African government in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a leading organisation working to combat human traffic globally.

Award-winning Macedonian journalist Nebojsa Ilijevski, who hosted the workshop, said: “In two years’ time we will have the World Cup and believe me, human trafficking will be visible to each one of us.”

Ledwaba said an associate at Johannesburg International Airport had told her how “scary and rife corruption is within the law enforcement agencies at the border posts”.

She said later that the lack of integrated systems within the government departments made it difficult to identify the people who were collaborating with the trafficking syndicates.

Lack of control at the border posts also enabled people to produce false passports without getting them checked by a supervisor.

The workshop heard that border post officials are bribed by the syndicates to turn a blind eye and once they take the money, they get hooked.

Often, once the syndicates believed they had the officials on their side, they threatened they would expose them if they did not continue to help them.

The IOM says that human trafficking is now considered the third largest source of profits for organised crime worldwide, estimated at $7-billion to $12-billion (R58-billion to R100-billion) a year. Only drug trafficking and the weapons trade are more lucrative.