Archive for September 10th, 2009

Linda Carty, 50, was sentenced to death in 2002 for her part in abducting and killing a 25-year-old woman, but claims she was framed.

A recorded plea from Carty was played aloud from the plinth. (play

The Foreign Office said it had made a number of representations on her behalf to the US government.

Carty’s supporters erected a cardboard cut-out of her on the plinth, which is being used for temporary live statues in the London square.

They played the recording she made in the Texas jail where, if appeals fail, she will be put to death by lethal injection.

At the same time, campaigner Brian Capaloff, 46, from Falkirk, Stirlingshire, held up pieces of cardboard featuring extracts from her plea.

In the message, she stated: “Time is now running out and I appeal to every one of you and to the British government to please help me.”

She added: “I’m sorry if I sound like a desperate woman. I am desperate, because the British people may be my last hope. If they ask for my life to be spared, maybe Texas will listen.”

Legal charity Reprieve described Carty as the most at-risk British national they are following. It is thought her execution could take place as early as next summer.

Speaking from her Texas prison, Carty said she was hopeful that her appeal, currently lodged with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, would be successful.

Asked if she thought Prime Minister Gordon Brown could assert more pressure, she said: “He has to. You cannot sit passively by and, because you have a good relationship with the US, say ‘I don’t want to rock the boat’.

“You are talking about somebody’s life here. He has to get up and say ‘I am not going to allow you to kill this lady’.”

Clive Stafford-Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve, said: “Linda Carty’s speech to Trafalgar Square shows that she is a terrified woman, and with good reason. Texas plans to kill her by lethal injection, which is a painful and lonely death.

“The British government must do everything in its power to prevent Linda’s death.”

Carty was convicted in connection to the kidnap and murder of Joana Rodriguez, who was seized with her four-day-old son by three men on 16 May 2001.

But she says she was framed by three men in revenge for her work as an informant with a Drug Enforcement Agency.

Campaigners claim there were a number of defence failings during the trial.

The Foreign Office said that it had made its “usual representations” against the death penalty and that it had registered a complaint with the US Appeals Court about not being informed when Me Carty was first arrested.

A Foreign Office statement said: “We are resolutely opposed to the use of the death penalty.

“Our prime concern is to avoid the execution of British nationals.

“We have made a number of representations to the US Government, on this case and others, concerning our view on the death penalty. The US are fully aware of HMG’s stance on the death penalty.”

A spokesman for the British Consulate-General in Houston said the consulate remained in “close contact” with Carty and her legal representation in the US and UK, and would continue to provide Carty with consular assistance.

Carty has British dependent territory citizenship because she was born on the island of St Kitts, in the Caribbean, to Anguillan parents.

See also:
* Linda Carty interview
In an interview given in prison in Texas, she maintained her innocence and said circumstances had counted against her. Can be viewed at


A coalition of over 300 international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is “outraged” that an impending decision to create a new women’s entity at the United Nations is being postponed once again.

“If the General Assembly fails to act, it will send a very negative signal to women around the world who are now beginning to engage in national and regional reviews of the 1995 Bejing Platform for Action for Women,” says Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University.

The proposal to set up a new gender entity, to be headed by an under-secretary-general, was expected to be approved by the 192-member General Assembly before it concludes its current sessions on Sep. 14.

But the longstanding proposal is now expected to be passed onto the next session of the General Assembly beginning Sep.15 through September 2010.

“NGOs are outraged that this would continue to be postponed,” Bunch told IPS. “No further delay is justified when no government has said they are opposed to taking this step.”

The international coalition is pursuing a global campaign for Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) in the U.N. system.

The coalition includes Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, International Planned Parenthood Association, Asia Pacific Women’s Watch, African Women’s Development and Communication Network and Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, among others.

As part of its campaign, the coalition has been calling for the consolidation of four existing women’s U.N. entities into a single body: the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues; the U.N. Division for the Advancement of Women; and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).

As a result, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admits the “U.N. gender architecture lacks a recognised driver”- and is probably in danger of heading in different directions.

“It is fragmented. It is inadequately funded, and insufficiently focused on country-driven demands,” he complained last year.

Stephen Lewis, a co-director of AIDS-Free World and one of the strongest advocates of the gender proposal, told IPS: “I have been following this story with much intensity over the last 48 hours, and I myself have spoken to several ambassadors (both from the South and the North), to impress upon them the fact that under no circumstances can this resolution be postponed”.

He said that it would be “a terrible slap in the face to the women of the world, a dreadful rejection of the views of the secretary-general, and a deep blow to the credibility of the United Nations.”

As things now stand, the consensus that had emerged is being sabotaged by a consortium of countries, belligerently disruptive and destructive, led by Cuba, Sudan, Iran and Egypt, he said.

The nation states of the U.N. overwhelmingly want to approve the creation of the women’s agency by resolution on Sep. 14, and begin the process of a global search for an under-secretary-general, “but this little group of malcontents is holding the world to ransom”.

“They’re using women as a bargaining chip in the effort to exact concessions on governance and finance, the other prongs of the System-Wide Coherence process. They care not one whit for the rights and needs of the women of the world,” Lewis charged.

The co-chairs of the ‘UN System-Wide Coherence’ process overseeing wider changes in the world body – Ambassadors Juan Antonio Yez-Barnuevo of Spain and Kaire M. Mbuende of Namibia – have already recommended “that the General Assembly take action during the current session and decide on the establishment of a composite [women’s] entity.”

But its recommendation has apparently been ignored by some member states which are pushing for the postponement.

In an appeal to member states Friday, the London-based Amnesty International, which is part of the coalition, said it strongly supports “the creation of the new U.N. women’s organisation which we believe could better protect women’s human rights”.

“But we have just heard that some U.N. member states are ‘holding hostage’ the creation of this new women’s organisation in exchange for other, unrelated, U.N. reforms that also need to be agreed by the General Assembly”.

And some other states which are in favour are keeping silent, AI said.

“AI and other women’s human rights defenders are outraged that the creation of this important U.N. women’s organization is part of political horse-trading,” the group said.

“We appeal to your government to instruct your diplomatic missions at the U.N. in New York to champion the establishment next week of a new strong U.N. organisation for women”.

Bunch told IPS that this decision has been pending since consultations in June “when we were assured that virtually all governments were ready to move on it – and that the resolution would as usual come at the very end of the current General Assembly session on Sep. 14.”

Asked where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stands on this issue, she said: “The secretary-general has repeatedly said that he supports this move.” But she said that Ban “needs to put some pressure on governments”.

“The only government that we know for sure has said it should be delayed is Egypt,” she said, but pointed out that none of the others will openly say they oppose it.

“But it’s gotten bogged down as part of the System-Wide Coherence Process (which is part of a wider reform of the U.N. system)”, she added.

Lewis told IPS, “What we have here is a direct challenge to the authority and influence of the secretary-general and the deputy secretary-general (Asha-Rose Migiro).”

Their reputations are directly on the line. A defeat for the resolution would mean a defeat for the leadership of the United Nations, he pointed out.

“It can’t be allowed to happen. We know that the secretary general and his deputy are working round the clock to rally the majority of the General Assembly against this dismal little group of pariah states.”

“They must not fail. If worse comes to worst, the resolution should be put to a vote, and passed by an overwhelming margin,” said Lewis, a former deputy executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

Nawal el Saadawi, the “priestess of secular feminism” is back. She returned to Egypt last week, bringing with her a new novel that is set to reignite all of the controversial issues she had left behind more than two years ago while going to the US on a self-imposed exile.

“I came back because I have a cause,” Dr el Saadawi said. “Who else is going to speak out against corruption, lying and the hypocrisy … in society? I will be 79 next month; I’m not afraid of death, the devil or the authorities.”

A feminist writer, activist and physician, Dr el Saadawi has been in the opposition camp since the days of the King Faud II, and all three presidents after him. She has also been at odds with Muslim religious authorities for her secular views.

“I’m against the governments and never worked for any of them,” she said. “I never belonged to any political party either. I don’t respect political work because it’s not clean.”

She was harassed under the late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, dismissed from her work at the health ministry and imprisoned by his successor, Anwar Sadat, in 1981 for her opposition to the peace treaty with Israel and his close ties with the United States.

“I’m against the capitalist, patriarchal, racist system that is ruling America and Europe, and is ruling us also, but that doesn’t mean I’m a communist. I’m a critic of the communist thought as well as all religions, as nothing is holy for me,” Dr el Saadawi said.

The US and Europe have been her safe havens whenever militants or radical Islamists forced her to leave Egypt.

She fled to the United States in 1993 following reports that her name was on a militant hit list, and took the opportunity to teach for four years at Duke University in North Carolina, where she wrote her autobiography. In 2007, she went back to the US, where she held a chair at Spelman College in Atlanta, and taught creativity and rebellion in the literature department. She also attended several literary conferences in Europe at that time.

Her passion, however, lies in writing.

Dr el Saadawi is planning to write a new book, My Life Beyond the Ocean, about her 16-year experience of living abroad.

“I wrote 47 books in Arabic, which have been translated into 30 languages. Twenty-seven of my books have been translated into English,” she said.

Like most of her other works, her latest Arabic novel, Zeina, which was published in Lebanon in July and was translated into French last year, is likely to reignite the controversy that has characterised her unique career as a feminist provocateur.

She penned the French edition under the pseudonym Nawal Zeinab el Sayed, using her mother’s maiden name, but kept el Saadawi for the Arabic edition.

She dedicated the novel to street children, many of whom are born out of wedlock, and who are banned from taking their mothers’ names. She has been calling for naming babies, especially illegitimate ones, after their mothers, instead of putting an imaginary father’s name in their birth certificates, which is a common practice in Egypt.

The novel is about one such child, a girl living in Cairo’s streets, who manages to become a famous musician, envied by other women who are unable to live like the eponymous, free-spirited Zeina.

Many cultural critics in the Arab world, including women, have taken issue with what they consider to be the demagogic simplicity of Dr el Saadawi’s work.

“Men are evil in Zeina, Nawal el Saadawi’s latest novel,” wrote the critic Sanaa el Khouri, in the Lebanese daily newspaper Al Akhbar. “The man in this novel is synonymous with all forms of repression: political, religious and sexual,” she wrote, adding that the book was more “a direct lecture than a novel, similar to Dr el Saadawi’s early controversial books such as The Woman and the Sex, in 1969 and The Fall of the Imam, in 1987”.

“The problem with el Saadawi is that she can’t imagine herself [as anything] but a reformer, feminist fighter…” wrote Ahmed Zein el Din in the pan Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat, last month.

Dr el Saadawi embraces the accusations that conservative Arab commentators level at her activist art. “My books are appreciated all over the world. In my novels I’m portraying the corruption of men who are immoral in our countries.

“We have no literary criticism in the Arab world,” she retorted. “There is no critical mind here if they refer to me as controversial, which they consider to be a negative trait, while it’s very positive for me and I’m proud to be controversial,” she said.

Two of Dr el Saadawi’s more controversial books – God Resigns in The Summit Meeting, published in English in 1996 and translated into Arabic three years ago, and The Fall of the Imam – were both condemned as blasphemous by clerics at al Azhar University in Cairo, which urged the Egyptian government to ban them. This was one of the reasons for her to take up the teaching post in the US.

Madbouli, Dr el Saadawi’s Egyptian publisher, destroyed the remaining copies of the books last year.

In 2001, a lawyer filed a case to separate her from her husband, Sherif Hatata, to whom she had been married since 1964 on the idea that a Muslim man cannot remain married to an infidel.

And last year, Dr Saadawi – in a rare triumph – won a case against another lawyer, who had sued her in February 2007 to have her citizenship annulled for defaming religion in the two books and in other statements.

Sheikh Youssef el Badri, a radical cleric in Egypt, said that a law office was considering how to pursue Dr el Saadawi legally, now that she is back.

“I have to chase her legally because she transgressed God in her books and interviews,” Mr el Badri said yesterday. “She has insulted Islam, the religion of one-third of the world’s population.

“People like her, who are attacking religion, will encourage other people to become daring on God and Islam. We are not trying to take revenge, we’re hoping to lead her back to the right path.”

The following is the text of a report submitted to the Commission on the Status of Women on the trial of Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein who was charged under Article 152 (Indecent and Immoral Acts) of the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code for wearing trousers. (WLUML Networkers)

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is not a treaty-monitoring body like the CEDAW committee, or have an investigative role like the UN Special Rapporteurs. However CSW does monitor political and social trends. Jointly with Amnesty International, WLUML decided to alert them to the issue of imposed dress codes in Sudan and the specific case of Lubna Hussein and the other women arrested in July 2009.

Public Order Laws restricting dress and behaviour – the case of Sudan


Amnesty International and the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network are deeply concerned about the arbitrary policing, monitoring and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of women in Sudan, under public order laws. Many countries have similar laws which impose restrictive dress codes and rules of conduct, leading to numerous human rights violations. These laws severely impair women’s ability to participate in public life on an equal basis with men. We seek to bring a specific case – the arrests of thirteen women in Sudan for wearing trousers – to the attention of the Commission on the Status of Women. This case, which has sparked outrage across Sudan and in many parts of the world, has led to a campaign calling for the reform or repeal of repressive public order legislation.

This submission is being made jointly by two organizations. Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of over 2 million people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights to be respected and protected. Since 2004, Amnesty International has campaigned globally to Stop Violence Against Women. WLUML is a transnational, feminist network that links individuals and organizations and seeks to provide information, support and a collective space for women whose lives are shaped, conditioned or governed by laws and customs said to derive from Islam. The WLUML network aims to strengthen women’s individual and collective struggles for equality, justice and human rights, across various Muslim and non-Muslim contexts. Both organizations are members of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition and note that many women human rights defenders have raised the issue of coercive dress codes in countries and communities across the world.

Key Facts of the Case

Lubna Ahmad Hussein and 12 other women were arrested at the Um Kulthoum restaurant in the Riyadh area east of Khartoum on July 3, 2009, when police forces stormed the restaurant and arrested them for wearing trousers. The women, four of whom come from Southern Sudan, and three of whom were under the age of 18, were charged under Article 152 (Indecent and Immoral Acts) of the 1991 Penal Code. Ten of the women pleaded guilty and have already received punishments of 10 lashes each (two of them under the age of 16) and a fine of around $100 each. Charges of ‘inappropriate dress and conduct’ were brought against three others, including Hussein, who insisted on having legal representation in court.

Ms. Hussein was working as a press officer for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) at the time that she was arrested but has resigned from this post and sought to waive her immunity from prosecution in order to face trial as a Sudanese citizen and draw attention to the plight of large numbers of women in Sudan who have been harassed, humiliated and ill-treated as a result of the law. She distributed 500 invitations to journalists and friends to court proceedings on Wednesday 29 July 2009, having explained in an interview with Al-Arabiyya TV, that she had given out the invitations because otherwise no one would believe that she was to be flogged for wearing ordinary clothes: “I wanted the punishment to be executed in the presence of observers, so that they see for themselves why I was being flogged.”

Her trial has already been postponed twice and a further hearing is scheduled for 7 September 2009. Background to the problem of imposed dress codes

The policing of women by means of controls of what they wear, sometimes known as ‘dress codes’, has come to the attention of both Amnesty International and Women Living Under Muslim Laws in a number of different contexts.

Women Living Under Muslim Laws has long challenged the pervasive perception, in Muslim and non-Muslim contexts alike, that Islam prescribes one acceptable way for women to dress. A photographic and historical exhibition of clothes worn by women in different Muslim contexts through various historical times shows that in reality there has always been a rich diversity in clothing worn by women from Muslim communities, many of which include forms of trousers. The Dress Codes and Modes exhibit demonstrates that these forms of dress worn by Muslim women are shaped by many factors including: class, regional and ethnic identities, occupation, urban/rural location, age and marital status, local and state politics, fashion, and climate. In many periods of history, including in contemporary times, religious identity may not always be distinctively marked by dress.

As a statement put out by Sudanese women’s activists stated: “The degradation of women is affecting our society and self esteem and diminishes the respect that we have in our diverse cultures towards women and girls – an aspect of our culture that we do need to promote and enhance.”

The case of Sudan

Violations related to imposed dress codes – in this instance, the wearing of trousers in public by women – are a widespread, but sorely under-reported, problem. As the statement of Sudanese organizations points out, these public order laws contravene national commitments made by Sudan in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the National Interim Constitution. They also contravene international standards relating to freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights.

In a case before the African Commission, Sudan was found to have violated Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. The government was requested to amend the law, end cruel punishments and to provide compensation to the victims.

The Commission held that ‘The Article 5 of the Charter prohibits not only cruel but also inhuman and degrading treatment. This includes not only actions which cause serious physical or psychological suffering, but which humiliate or force the individual against his will or conscience.’

The government of Sudan has not complied with the judgment of the African Commission but instead has renewed its public order laws. The Public Order laws of 1991 Penal Code have been updated to the Society Safety Code of 2009.

We do not believe that these laws make society safe. While affecting all social classes, they bear particularly heavily on women traders and other working women who need freedom of movement and an absence of restriction in order to pursue their livelihoods. As this case demonstrates, these laws subject women to harsh and arbitrary policing, summary justice which violates their fair trial rights and right to be free from torture, and impose cruel and degrading punishments. They constitute a form of gender-based violence and discrimination against women.

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, signed by Sudan on 30 June 2008, pledged to reform existing discriminatory laws and practices in order to promote and protect the rights of women. Furthermore, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Sudan in 1979, clearly states that: ‘States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.

Many women in Sudan are regularly subjected to degrading treatment and the threat of arrest, prison and flogging. The adultery (zina) laws in Sudan still equate rape with adultery, meaning in effect that a survivor of rape could herself be charged, arrested and/or flogged. This is exacerbated by the situations of conflict, such as the Sudanese second Civil War and the ongoing conflict in Darfur. In the capital city, Khartoum, the systematic violation of the rights of women and the girl-child by ‘public order police’ have come to light due to the high-profile trial of Sudanese journalist and women’s human rights defender, Lubna Ahmad Hussein.

In Defense of Human Rights in Sudan

Amnesty International and Women Living Under Muslim Laws consider that Lubna Ahmad Hussein is a woman human rights defender because of her courageous stand in this case. Through her public stance and her words, she has highlighted the fact that women are regularly arrested under these laws, but that most suffer without protest because of the fear of the consequences, and the terrible stigma attached to a punishment such as lashing. Many other women who signed petitions related to this case or demonstrated outside the court and now face harassment and arrest are also women human rights defenders. As such, women who place themselves at risk in the name of protecting the rights of others should be protected under the United Nations Declaration on the protection of human rights defenders.

Imposed dress-codes upon women, whether enforced by legal frameworks or non-state actors, are not only about clothing. Dress-codes speak to an underlying desire to control women’s sexuality and bodily autonomy, examples of which can be seen across regions and cultures. We urge your immediate attention to this extreme manifestation of controlling women’s bodies, autonomy and participation in public life, through their clothing


Amnesty International and WLUML applaud Lubna Ahmad Hussein’s courageous stance in defense of women’s human rights – and the multitude of other women who suffer the same injustice. In support of women human rights defenders in Sudan, we ask for Article 152 to be repealed as it leads to violations of international law, as well as of The Bill of Rights in the Sudanese Interim Constitution 2005 and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We ask the government of Sudan to end flogging as a punishment and to provide redress to victims of flogging. These measures will bring Sudan into compliance with the judgment of the African Commission in the case of Curtis Francis Doebbler v. Sudan, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Comm. No. 236/2000 (2003).

See also:
* Sudan: Lubna Hussein released from jail after fine paid against her will
* Malaysia: Caning of Kartika deferred indefinitely pending review

Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Toure has sent a new family code that would boost women’s rights back to parliament for revision, giving in to pressure from the country’s top Islamic body and traditional leaders.

The new code, aimed at improving women’s rights by removing a previous clause demanding that they must obey their husbands, had won the backing of parliament but led to mass protests of tens of thousands in the mainly Muslim state.

“Having widely consulted state institutions, civil society and legal bodies, and seen the need for peace, I have taken the decision to send the code … back for a second reading,” Toure said on state television late on Wednesday.

Toure said that the decision did not mean the code had been rejected but he wanted parliament to correct some imperfections so that it would receive the support of everyone.

Less than ten changes would have to be made but they were unlikely to be completed before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Sept. 21, he added.

Mali’s High Islamic Council warned earlier this week that Toure would be acting against the will of the country’s 80 percent Muslims if he had signed the code into law.

The body had also threatened further protests against the code after a rally at the weekend drew some 50,000 onto the streets of the capital, Bamako.

Cotton-producing Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. While it is predominantly Muslim, it has a secular constitution.

Jordan should reform penal code provisions that effectively reduce or eliminate punishment for violence against women instead of establishing special tribunals to hear “honor killings” cases, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the Jordanian Ministry of Justice on August 10, 2009.

On August 12, the Jordan Times reported the 14th such killing this year, of a 16-year-old girl by her 39-year-old uncle to “cleanse his family’s honor.” He shot the girl after learning that his sons had raped her and that she had a child by one of them. Under Jordanian law, murder of a relative believed to be engaged in extramarital sex carries a reduced sentence.

“The current law is nothing less than an endorsement for murdering women and girls,” said Nadya Khalife, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The women of Jordan need protection from these vicious acts enshrined in law, not preferential treatment for their killers.”

Last month, the Justice Ministry announced, in response to pressure from women’s groups, that it would establish a special tribunal to hear these cases. But special tribunals are not an adequate solution, Human Rights Watch said in its letter, when discriminatory penal code provisions effectively sanction the violence with exemptions and lighter sentences for “honor” crimes. Human Rights Watch urged Jordan to eliminate these exceptions from the penal code.

The portions of the penal code in question include Article 340, which reduces the sentence for killing a relative caught in an “illicit” sexual act (sex outside marriage). Furthermore, Article 98 provides for reduced sentences if the perpetrator committed his crime in a state of extreme “rage.” In addition, when the victim’s family, which, in “honor” crimes, of course, is also the perpetrator’s family, waives its personal right to litigate, then courts have also reduced sentences by up to half based on “extenuating” circumstances provided in articles 99 and 100 of the penal code. However, those articles say nothing about private rights, and it appears that courts have wide discretion to invoke an absence of private rights litigation in order to make a finding of extenuating circumstances warranting a reduced sentence. Efforts to reform the penal code in 1999 and 2000 to address the issue failed due to the obstruction of the Jordanian Lower House of Parliament.

The rates of “honor” crimes in Jordan have remained almost constant over the years. One recent study estimates that an average of 25 killings of women each year fall in this category, (

These figures only account for reported crimes and may underestimate the real extent of the problem.

“Jordan needs to send a strong message to perpetrators that they can no longer get away with murder,” said Khalife. “It should start by amending the penal code to reflect the seriousness of these crimes and treat them the same as other killings.”

Hamas authorities in Gaza should suspend all orders that violate personal freedoms, including imposition of an Islamic dress code for female students, Human Rights Watch have said.

Human Rights Watch has received reports from Gaza residents that since the school year opened in late August, schools have been turning away female students for not wearing a headscarf or traditional gown, on the basis of new unofficial orders to schools from Hamas authorities. They are being told they must wear a jilbab, a long traditional gown, and a headscarf. Previously, the uniform typically required for female public school students was a long denim skirt and shirt. The new orders appear to have been issued without any legal basis.

“No one should be forced to wear religious clothing, including the headscarf, to receive an education” said Nadya Khalife, the women’s rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch. “These new orders are simply arbitrary.”

The Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consulting in Gaza reported that Hamas authorities have given orders to school administrators and teachers to pay attention to girls’ dress, especially in secondary schools. The center’s executive director, Zeinab Ghonaimy, told Human Rights Watch that a school administrator slapped one female student in front of her schoolmates for not wearing the jilbab.

“Physically assaulting students and humiliating them in front of their peers is simply unacceptable, whatever the reason, and especially to force them to wear certain religious clothing in violation of their religious freedom,” said Khalife.

That these rules appear to target only female students suggests that they are discriminatory as well as a violation of religious freedom, Human Rights Watch said. It also is inconsistent with the Palestine Basic Law, which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and expression. Asma Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and her predecessor, Abdelfattah Amor, have both criticized rules that require the wearing of religious dress in public.

In July 2009, Hamas officials initiated what they called a “virtue” campaign, saying they were concerned about increasing “immoral” behavior in Gaza. A Gaza resident told Human Rights Watch that Hamas police questioned women seen socializing with men in public places to determine whether the men were close relatives. Another resident told Human Rights Watch that, on the night of July 9, Hamas police beat up three young men for swimming without shirts.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), describing the crackdown, said, “There are indicators of interference in people’s personal lives.” A Gaza resident said the “virtue” campaign appeared to have ended in late August, but Hamas has now shifted focus to a “virtuous” dress code for school girls.

Human Rights Watch has criticized the governments of Germany, France, and Turkey for violating religious freedoms by banning religious symbols in schools and denying Muslim women the right to choose to wear headscarves in schools and universities. By the same token, women and girls should be free not to wear religious dress. Amor, the former special rapporteur, urged that dress should not be the subject of political regulation. Jahangir, the current special rapporteur, said that the “use of coercive methods and sanctions applied to individuals who do not wish to wear religious dress or a specific symbol seen as sanctioned by religion” indicates “legislative and administrative actions which typically are incompatible with international human rights law”.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees people’s rights to freedom of religion, including stating that “no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his [or her] freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [or her] choice.” As the de facto governing power, Hamas has repeatedly committed itself to respect international human rights standards, including in March 2007 in the program of the National Unity Government.

“Women themselves, not the state, should decide what they wear,” said Khalife. “Schools can mandate uniforms, but only if the rules are clearly set out in writing and are not arbitrary or disrespectful of students’ freedom of religion.”

The Uganadan Constitutional Court will make a landmark ruling that will determine whether the practice of paying bride price for women during traditional marriages should continue.

The ruling could bring to an end a practice that has been carried on in every part of Uganda for generations as a token of appreciation to a woman’s parents for bringing up their daughter but which became adulterated over time due to the commercialisation of marriage.

The case, which was lodged in 2007 by women’s rights NGO Mifumi, sought the Court’s interpretation of whether payment of bride price is legal in a society advocating for the equality of women.

Officials from Mifumi say if the ruling goes in their favour, it would end all the negative impacts that bride price has had on the status of women in today’s Uganda. The Executive Director of Mifumi, Ms Turner Atiku, said they are fighting the continued payment of bride price in customary marriages because it has reduced women into commodities that can be sold even in the post-slavery era.

“If bride price is declared unconstitutional, the implication will be that hundreds of women and girls who marry under customary law will experience a milestone in their bid for equal treatment in marriage and be free from cruel and degrading treatment. Many young men who are forced to sell their land and property due to the extortionate demands of bride price will also benefit from such a ruling on this landmark case,” said Ms Atuki.

To Mifumi, payment of bride price has lost meaning if as Mr James Jagweri, one of their witnesses during the case, testified, his wife could be denied burial for one week as he struggled in his grief to raise her bride price. Or, like in the case of Ms Deborah Awori from Busia District, she can be kicked out of her matrimonial home because she tried – albeit in vain – to stop her daughter Evelyn from being forcefully married off despite being a Primary Seven candidate.

In their petition, Mifumi argued that the demand for and payment of bride price by the groom to the parents of the bride gives rise to conditions of inequality during marriage contrary to the provision of the Constitution which demands that men and women shall be accorded equal rights in marriage and its dissolution.

Mifumi also argued that the demand and refund of bride price as a condition of divorce interferes with the exercise of free consent of the parties of the marriage contrary to the demands of the Constitution, and that the custom causes domestic violence.

However, the practice has not lost all its significance even in today’s Uganda, according to a 2008 research report produced by Prof. Gill Hague of the University of Bristol and Dr Ravi Thaira of the University of Warwick in the UK from findings in the four eastern districts of Mbale, Tororo, Pallisa and Budaka.

The report indicated that 60 per cent of the people interviewed wanted the practice to undergo some form of reform, 28 per cent wanted it abolished while 12 per cent said it should not be changed at all.

Proponents of reform called for a change to a practice of giving smaller, non-refundable gifts, while those saying it should be abolished argued that domestic violence was seen as acceptable and poverty high in many families where bride price had been paid.

The researchers however noted one salient fact that even today’s ruling cannot ignore. In a conclusion reached basing on their findings, the researchers said; “The exchange of gifts under which bride price falls is something happening in almost every marriage around the globe and can’t be easily done away with. It needs to be looked and understood from a traditional and cultural context.”

Last month UNHCR staff visited the detention centre at Pagani on the Greek Island of Lesvos. They were shocked at the conditions in the facility, where more than 850 people are held, including 200 unaccompanied children, mostly from Afghanistan.

The centre has a capacity of 250-300 people. The UNHCR staff described the condition of the centre as unacceptable. One room houses over 150 women and 50 babies, many suffering from illness related to the cramped and unsanitary conditions of the centre.

The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Solidarity has given UNHCR his assurances that all the unaccompanied children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities by the end of the month. The Ministry has already taken some measures to that effect.

The situation in Pagani is indicative of broader problems relating to irregular migration and Greece’s asylum system. Last year, UNHCR, with the support of the Greek Ministry of Interior, presented recommendations for a complete overhaul of the asylum system, including specific measures to protect asylum-seeking children. To date, these proposals have not been implemented.

In 2008, the Greek Coast Guard reported the arrival of 2,648 unaccompanied children, but many more are believed to have entered the country undetected. Greece has no process for assessing the individual needs and best interests of these children. While the government has made efforts to increase the number of places for children at specialized, open centres, arrivals outstrip these efforts and children remain in detention for long periods.

UNHCR is participating in an EU funded project that aims to improve reception facilities on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos and at the Evros land border.

Throughout the month of September, public transit users will receive an important education on the realities of child sex slavery in America. This week, Shared Hope International will unveil End Child Sex Trafficking: Kids are NOT for Sale in D.C., a campaign that aligns with D.C. Human Trafficking Awareness month. Bright yellow signs in Metro buses, bus shelters and Metro stations scream messages, including “13 is the average age children are forced into prostitution.” With D.C. Acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the District’s Office of the Attorney General, and D.C. City Councilman Phil Mendelson, Shared Hope International Founder and President Linda Smith will highlight the reality of child sex slavery in America and in the D.C. Metro area in particular at a 10:00 AM press conference on September 9, 2009 at the Washington D.C. United States Attorney’s Office.

On a familiar intersection, such as 14th and K Street, NW and along New York Avenue, young girls are sold by pimps and rented by the hour, and by the minute, for sexual acts. Hundreds of campaign announcements will address the local demand for paid sex and will emphasize the vulnerability, exploitation and danger that American children face every day on our streets. Advertisements placed in the Adult Classifieds and the Wild Side sections of CityPaper will warn potential buyers that buying sex with a child in Washington, D.C. can result in a life prison sentence.

Shared Hope International conducted over five years of research on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking – U.S. children used in prostitution, pornography and sexual entertainment. Research confirmed that at least 100,000 American children are used in prostitution in the United States every year.

“American girls, from small towns to our nation’s capital, are being lured into prostitution and sold for sex, and some of the harshest penalties for child traffickers have been served by the District of Columbia,” said Linda Smith (U.S. Congress 1994-1998), Founder and President of Shared Hope International. “It is clear that D.C. refuses to be a playground for traffickers and pimps.”

The Washington D.C. area has been identified as a sex trafficking hub, and the D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force is aggressively tackling predators who attempt to buy or sell children in the District. Just last week, Shelby Lewis was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. and charged with five counts of Sex Trafficking of Children and four counts of Interstate Transportation of a Minor for Purposes of Prostitution. Lewis, a Maryland resident, brought underage girls – including a 12 year old – into D.C. where he forced them into prostitution. If convicted, Lewis faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

About Shared Hope International For more than a decade, Shared Hope International (SHI) has worked around the world partnering with local groups to prevent trafficking and to rescue and restore the victims of sexual slavery. SHI recently released “National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking”, which conducted field assessments on child sex trafficking in 10 U.S. locations. Visit

Nearly a year after, a government task force report has confirmed that Penan women and children in Sarawak were raped and sexually abused by timber workers.

The report by the national task force set up in October last year also found troubling incidents of children as young as 10 years old being sexually abused by the timber companies’ truck drivers when they took the children to school.

The task force reported that students were “frequently molested” by the truck drivers.

“In one account, the truck driver molested a 14-year-old’s breasts on the journey to school,” the report, written in Malay, said.

It said that in another incident, a girl was taken away by the truck driver after the boys were told to get down from the vehicle. Other girls in the truck managed to escape, but were unable to help that one girl get down in time.

In yet another instance, a girl was riding, together with her father, in a timber truck to go to Long Bangan to apply for her identity card. “Halfway through the journey, the passengers were told to alight, but the driver hung on to Mary (not her real name) and sped off. He then stopped the truck, dragged her to a bush by the side of the road and tried to molest her.

“Her father and the other passengers ran after the truck after realising that Mary had been apprehended, and managed to catch up with them and stop any further abuse,” the report said.

An interviewee told the task force she had been raped by the timber company’s truck driver on her way to a neighbouring longhouse, in addition to being raped when she was 12 outside the school compound by an unidentified man.

“She recalled that the government used to provide vehicles to take them home from school during the term breaks. However, this had been discontinued, so they had to rely on the timber companies as the only means of transportation,” the report noted.

In the absence of any viable alternatives such as proper tarred roads or school buses, Penan children who live in the interior are entirely reliant on the timber companies for transport as some of their schools are located four to six hours away by truck.

The report was prepared mostly from interviews conducted by ministry officials and other representatives, including women’s groups, in November 2008 when they visited the Penan community in Sarawak. The task force was set up to investigate the allegations of rape and sexual abuse of Penan women and girls in the Baram district.

After close to a year of not wanting to make the report public, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry released a copy of the report to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin on 8 Sept.

“After months of unanswered calls and letters to the minister, I went to see the minister (Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil) yesterday and was informed by her staff that I could collect the report,” Zuraida told The Nut Graph over the phone.

The report was subsequently made available to The Nut Graph via e-mail.

No explanation was given by the ministry as to why the report could not be made public initially. The ministry has also yet to explain why it took so long to make the report available to the public despite numerous calls to do so in the interest of public accountability.

Apart from documenting the individual instances of rape and sexual abuse, the task force also found that the Penan were especially vulnerable because of their low socioeconomic status and lack of access to government and healthcare services.

The factors that cause the community’s vulnerability include overdependence on timber companies for transportation and other services, poverty, and the remoteness of their villages.

The report also cited the Penan’s distrust of the authorities, and their low self-esteem as a result of prejudices against them.

“All these factors — sexual violations, not having ICs, health problems, dropping out of schools — are closely related to imbalanced development. The lack of roads and public transportation causes the Penan difficulties in engaging with the outside world, including government agencies.

“In order to ensure more balanced development, the involvement of the Penan in matters that affect their lives must be increased,” the report said.

The report also made several specific proposals to address sexual abuse, including raising awareness within the Penan community on personal safety, violence towards women, and sex education.

“Teachers in Penan schools would also need to be educated to be sensitive to the specific needs and difficulties faced by the community,” the report said.

The task force also proposed for “trusted vehicle drivers” and a pupil management assistant to accompany the Penan children back to their villages. No specific proposals were mooted on how to make it easier for those who have been raped and sexually abused in the Penan community to report such incidents.

Despite the task force’s findings, it remains to be seen whether any of the offenders will be charged and brought to justice for the sexual abuse perpetrated on the Penan women and children. Although several police reports have been made, it is unclear whether the police will be investigating the matter.

Another version of this story The rape of young Penan girls: Cops want more info has a link to a blog where you can download a copy of the report –

See also earler stories about these events in Penanaon womensphere

“Women are getting killed in the Western Cape,” says Ndumie Funda, who runs LulekiSizwe in her “cabin” in the township of Gugulethu near Cape Town.

The project is named after her late fiancée, Nosizwe Nomsa Bizana, who was gang-raped by five men and subsequently succumbed to crypto meningitis, and Bizana’s friend Luleka Makiwane, who contracted HIV when she was raped and later died of AIDS.

The initiative provides support for lesbian women in the township, most of them teenagers and young adults, many in their final years of high school. According to Funda, young lesbian women aged between 16 and 25 are most vulnerable and often get evicted by their families.

“Police are often remiss in their investigation and victims are often subjected to secondary victimisation from homophobic police officials, the justice system is slow, struggles to cope with cases of gang attacks and it is hard to convince prosecutors of the importance of hate as a motivation for crimes,” Emily Craven, Joint Working Group co-ordinator explains.

There are no authoritative figures on exactly how many incidents of hate crime are committed in South Africa.

The horrific levels of sexual violence in South Africa have been well documented and publicised. According to police statistics, 36,190 rapes and attempted rapes were reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) between April and December 2007.

The number of unreported cases, however, is estimated to be ten times that. A study released by the Medical Research Council (MRC) in June this year found that of the 1,738 men interviewed 27.6 percent had perpetrated the rape of a woman or girl.

There are no solid statistics for the frequency of what is known as “corrective rape”.

“While the problem has most certainly existed for years, our recorded understandings of the problem has mushroomed over the last couple of years,” Emily Craven of the Joint Working Group explains. While she has recorded an increase in reported cases – early June even saw the first trial for a rape case of a gay man – Craven suspects that this is still only the tip of an iceberg.

“There is no awareness around hate crimes and corrective rape,” activist Ndumie Funda insists. “We need a programme of action, we need intervention and research, a budget to find out the problems lesbian women encounter.”

Bernedette Muthien, co-founder and director of Engender, a Cape Town-based NGO, insists on the term “curative rape”: “Curative is more powerful. It’s rape as a cure for your queerness,” she says. The 07-07-07 Campaign, named after the gruesome double murder of Salome Masooa and Sizakele Sigaza on Jul. 7, 2007, used the term “hate rape” in a recent press release.
“From New York to Afghanistan, to the Balkans, across Africa, Latin America. I’ve been to many conferences and asked the questions. (Curative rape is) a global phenomenon and it’s often friends and family,” says Bernedette Muthien, co-founder and director of Engender, a Cape Town-based NGO.

“It has always been in society since the onset of patriarchy and been used as a tool to control people’s sexuality, women in particular ways and also some men. Many, many of my women friends and comrades themselves are survivors of curative rape.”

The MRC report urged a much broader approach to rape prevention. “This must entail intervening on the key drivers of the problem which include ideas of masculinity, predicted on marked gender hierarchy and sexual entitlement of men,” it reads.

Craven said that one of South Africa’s peculiarities is that legally-speaking, it is one of only seven countries in the world that allows same-sex marriage; its progressive constitution and laws were intended to protect LGBTI people but fear and violence reign in the LGBTI community. “People trust those laws and their decision to come out on the basis of them in fact places them in danger by making them targets.”

Speaking at the Western Cape End Hate Alliance March gathered in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Aug. 7, Nozizwe Madladla-Routledge, former deputy minister of health and still member of the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) said: “We don’t have enough understanding of the constitution especially around equal rights. Everyone has inherent dignity.”

She also advocated guidelines to be developed. “We need to include these issues into the school curriculum, address issues around gender and sexuality we’ve avoided for too long.”

A number of high profile cases, such as the murder of Eudy Simelane, a star player for Banyana Banyana, South Africa’s national women’s soccer team, the murder of Zolizwa Nkonyana in Khayelitsha in 2006 or the double murder of Masooa and Sigaza, have resulted in campaigns to create more awareness and demand justice.

“These cases certainly have given momentum to our cause and they are very important to us not just in terms of getting justice for the victims involved – though this is of course a huge priority – but also in terms of setting some legal precedents around hate crime and hate motivation for crime and to send a strong message to the population that no matter how much you may hate gay people you will not get away with assaulting, raping, murdering LGBTI people,” Craven states.

“There is no specific hate crimes legislation in South Africa and so setting precedent by getting a judge to find and record that homophobic hate motivated an attack is very important.”

Also speaking at the End Hate March, Craven stated that hate crimes were not “normal murders” and accused government of refusing to engage with the problem. “The police and prosecutors refuse to investigate on the basis of hate, the criminal justice system generally is slow and we live in a violent society. For every one murdered there are scores of victims,” she said.

In the case of Nkonyana, the trial has been delayed 20 times.

“Zolizwa is certainly not the only one; people are reluctant to report cases,” Funda says. “Cases are not taken serious, the police laughs, they’ll tell you ‘you’ve asked for it because you behave like a man’,” she adds.

“Masculinity is key to our understanding of all homophobic hate crime and all gender based violence which we feel homophobic attacks are a part of,” Craven elaborates.

South African kwaito singer Thandiswa Mazwai denounces rape and child abuse on her latest album “Ibokwe”; “same sex is shame sex, is assault with intent to grievous bodily harm, is justifiable homicide, constitutional suicide,” rails poet Khadija Tracey Heeger in “Untitled Poem”.

Dancer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza has conceptualised “Kutheni”, a performance piece in which two women in love are faced with hatred and violence.

“Kutheni”, Nyamza explains, means “why” in Xhosa. The piece was staged at the FNB Vita Dance Umbrella, South Africa’s premier dance festival earlier this year, and later – more pertinently – in the township of Gugulethu.

“I always wanted to do it and I was scared. But I saw the need,” says Nyamza. “In the communities, some people didn’t know it was happening! I want the kids to be educated. The kids were explaining to me what they saw. I hope this can change these kids. Art is a way of changing one’s life.”

“I wanted to bring it to the people and where it all happened,” says Nyamza. “People didn’t bring up issues, they’d say: “Well done, when are you doing it again?”

The piece was staged at KwaMlamli, a shebeen frequently turned into an art space by local art collective Gugulective.

Nyamza said that people were excited about a performance happening in their area. “The neighbours were so supportive, they watched the cars… They were seeing new art, not the African dance they’re used to – which I love, but let’s go beyond our roots,” Nyamza explains.

“Kutheni” has since been performed at schools in other disadvantaged areas.
“We understand hate crime broadly – it’s not just about one person saying I am a lesbian and another saying I hate lesbians and killing them or raping them. It’s about gender presentation, it’s about subverting male power in society, it’s about women who don’t need men either for financial support or sexual pleasure, it’s about women who wear clothes that are considered unfeminine or drink in taverns late at night or fight back when attacked.”

Asked what she thought was at the root of the violence against LGBTI people, Funda said that perpetrators of hate crimes were themselves scared of something they didn’t know, fuelled by the inability to accept their own sexuality.

Even out and outspoken lesbian say women must be careful. Butch lesbians challenge African patriarchal tradition. “I haven’t been to the bush (reference to Xhosa rite of initiation where young men get circumcised and spend time in the bush), I’m not a man!” Funda concedes.

“I’m very careful. I don’t go to the shebeens. I avoid notorious areas such as Nyanga (neighbouring township). I’m careful about who I sit with, who I talk to,” Funda says.

“Townships and rural areas are seen as having higher levels of homophobic hate crimes,” Craven explains. “This is where we find that schools show high levels of corrective rape and other abuses of LGBTI learners. Especially in rural areas, beyond the reach of LGBTI organisations and NGOs, the outlook with regards to support for survivors is bleak.”

Asked about the role of the media in creating awareness about the issue, Muthien thought that the media had helped by publicising the problem and making it more public. “The ways in which it has been reported in the popular media, however, is deeply problematic, either sensationalised or ripped out of context, there’s no exhortation when those cases come to the fore, for communities to take charge, to say that the lesbian who was so brutally murdered, has a mother, might have children, has a father, has brothers, sisters, had neighbours.”

“In Khayelitsha you have sections where due to active community policing forums you have lower rates of violence especially gender violence and curative rape. We need to work more consciously at that level seeing that the criminal justice (system) has failed us.”

“People hush but I’ve never been threatened,” says Funda who has managed to gain the respect of some community members and insists that to do the work she does, she has to live in Gugulethu. Besides offering support, at times shelter to women in distress, she also runs a street soccer club and is affiliated to a range of other LGBTI organisations. “We even hosted Township Pride in 2005 and 2006 right here at the Gugulethu Sports Complex and received an amazing response from the community.”

“Mandela said ‘my road is long’. Same here. Nobody knew Madiba. Or Biko. But we fought for them. I’ll fight until the last drop of my blood,” Funda states defiantly.

In May Mr Katsav entered a plea of “not guilty” after being charged with two counts of rape and an indecent act against a female aide when he was tourism minister; the sexual harassment of two other aides while president; and obstruction of justice.

The proceedings were adjourned during the summer recess and will be held behind closed doors to protect the identities of the complainants.

However, due to the massive public interest in what has been dubbed Israel’s “trial of the century”, the court is likely to allow publication of some of the proceedings.

The former president has maintained his innocence, claiming he is the victim of a political witch-hunt. He has attacked the establishment and the media for “leading a brainwashing campaign” to bring about his downfall. His wife and family have stood by him.

Mr Katsav, who faces a maximum sentence of 16 years in prison, has hired some of Israel’s top lawyers in an effort to clear his name.

The first prosecution witnesses to testify will be two women who worked at the president’s residence who claim they were sexually assaulted by Mr Katsav.

The defence team have already made it clear that they intend to highlight what they claim are “significant inconsistencies” in the complainants’ testimonies.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centres in Israel plans to protest outside the courtroom in solidarity with the women who filed sexual harassment complaints.

The trial was originally scheduled to take place over four days a week. But Mr Katsav’s lawyers complained, saying they would not be able to deal with other cases they were working on. Only after the defence team threatened to resign did the court agree to cut the sessions to three a week.

The court refused a request from Mr Katsav’s lawyers for an additional hearing ahead of the trial, and a request to move the venue from Tel Aviv to a court closer to Mr Katsav’s home in Kiryat Malachi in the south of the country.

This has been a bad week for Israeli public figures. On Sunday, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was indicted in three separate corruption affairs, and two former ministers began jail terms after being convicted on corruption charges.

More than a year and a half after they fled their homes in the post-election violence, many women living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kenya are taking to prostitution to eke out a living.

Camp residents and non-governmental organisations working with IDPs report an increase in cases involving desperate women selling their bodies to feed their children.

“This is not news here,” Margaret Njoki, 58, of New Canaan IDP camp near Nakuru told the Sunday Nation. New Canaan is one of the two camps the Sunday Nation visited this month; the other one is Shalom camp in Nyandarua.

The two camps are home to more than 20,000 people.

“When women find themselves all at once in a place where they can’t take care of their children, they get desperate,” said Tabitha Njoroge, the executive director of Women in Law and Development in Africa, Kenya chapter.

Dr Regina Karega, chairperson of the National Commission on Gender and Development, said the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission should pay attention to women hurt by the violence.

The Waki Commission found thousands of women, men and children were raped during the violence.

Dr Karega said the gender commission would soon release the results of a study of the security, or lack of it, in IDP camps and its impact on women.

“Many men whose wives were raped have abandoned them,” Ms Njoroge said. Some women have decided to leave their husbands who are unable to provide for their families, and live with men who can.

“Women are saying that if I have no food, and a man is offering that I sleep with him he’ll give me food, I’ll take the risk and feed my children,” said Dr Karega.

She said providing food and ensuring security is the government’s responsibility. Ending impunity, Ms Njoroge said, is important to ensure women do not suffer again in 2012.

“We are very afraid of 2012. What we’re looking forward to in 2012 is something worse [than 2007],” she said.

Elizabeth Akinyi, the CEO of Solidarity with Women in Distress, a Mombasa-based organisation that provides support services for such women, says; “If they work in the sex industry, the health risks like HIV infections are there.

They can also be battered.” Ms Akinyi added that children who see their mothers in the sex trade are more likely to engage in prostitution themselves. This, in turn, will expose children to human trafficking and will keep them from attending school, she said.

Bedan Njuguna, a resident of New Canaan camp, said girls are being lured mostly by truck drivers into prostitution.

“They are bought food, and they also get money to feed their starving family members at the camp,” he said. Some become pregnant, and when they give birth, he said, they leave their new-born babies with their mothers while they set off for towns like Nairobi or Nakuru.

“Here prostitution is more paying, and the girls can afford to send money to their parents to bring up the baby,” he adds.

At Shalom IDP camp, Hannah Njeri, a volunteer teacher, said hunger is pushing girls to exchange sex for food.

“We have very young girls who are sleeping with men of their fathers’ age in return for a day’s meal,” she said.

The sex trade has affected relationships between men and wives.

A number of men – who cannot be named out of respect for their privacy – confessed that their wives had abandoned them due to lack of food in the camp.

A 41-year-old man said his wife left him three months ago with the children.

“I don’t know where she is, but if she can feed our three children I don’t mind their absence. When they were here I had nothing to give them,” he said.

Ms Akinyi said counselling services and assistance for starting income-generating activities should be made available to women in the camps.

The accused came from all walks of life: Retirees, dads and twentysomethings. An engineer, a business owner and an auto worker. A man in a wheelchair. Men in need of Spanish or Farsi translators.

About 40 men somberly entered a classroom on a recent Saturday morning. About half of them wore shiny wedding bands.

All had tried to buy a prostitute’s services and were caught by police. It was their first offense, and a county court referred them to a one-day program called the John School. It’s a program run by volunteers and city officials in conjunction with Magdalene House, a nonprofit that works to get prostitutes off the streets.

“Prostitution doesn’t discriminate,” said Kenny Baker, a cognitive behavioral therapist who is the program’s director. “Most of these men don’t have a prior criminal history, so our goal is to help these folks understand why they put themselves in a bad position, to prevent it from happening again.”

Set in a church in Nashville, Tennessee, the John School is led by former prostitutes, health experts, psychologists and law enforcement officers who talk to — and at times berate — the men about the risks of hiring a prostitute.

Prostitution is based on the law of supply and demand. The thinking is: Women won’t stop selling sex until men stop buying.

So Nashville and a growing number of cities are shifting their focus from locking up suppliers to educating buyers. Across the country, about 50 communities are using John Schools. Atlanta, Georgia, and Baltimore, Maryland, are among dozens more cities that plan to launch similar programs by the end of the year. See where the John Schools are »

“It will make them [offenders] see that this is not a victimless crime, and they are contributing to the exploitation of women,” said Stephanie Davis, policy adviser on women’s issues at the mayor’s office in Atlanta. “It’s hurting them, the man, and it’s hurting their families and its hurting the community.”

No comprehensive effort has been made to track the numbers, but experts estimate 1 million to 2 million prostitutes work in the United States. The FBI’s 2007 Uniform Crime Report lists about 78,000 arrests for prostitution and commercialized vice, but experts say those numbers are extremely conservative because many sex workers and johns aren’t caught.

Experts add that easy accessibility to prostitutes and pornography on the Internet are feeding the problem.

In most communities, prostitution has been a one-sided battle focused on the women who offer sex. Their customers, when they are arrested, are usually cited for a misdemeanor and fined.

By comparison, prostitutes are often charged with more severe sentences and jailed for months, depending on the offense.

But in Nashville, the johns’ faces are shown on a police Web site.

For decades, Nashville battled prostitution by arresting women on the streets and through stings. Still, the problem persisted, irritating business owners and residents.

In the early 1990s, Nashville’s mayor helped launch the John School with the help of the Magdalene House, public defenders, prosecutors and police officers. Nashville became one of the first major cities in the U.S. to focus on the customers, predominantly men.

Only first-time offenders who solicit an adult are eligible for John School. Johns who pick up minors are not eligible and face much tougher sentences.

“If you get caught again and you get me, I will guarantee to put you in jail,” warned Antoinette Welch, a local prosecutor, in speaking to the men in the class. “I’ve had men cry to me that they will lose their jobs or their wives, but you’re all grown up and you make your own decisions.”

The men listened carefully as Welch talked about their records; many had not yet told their wives or significant others about their arrest.

If the john pleads guilty, pays a $250 fee and completes the course without re-offending, the charge can be dismissed after a year. The money paid by the john goes to Magdalene House; the program doesn’t cost taxpayers any money. John School models in other communities may differ.

A woman who called herself Alexis, a 35-year-old former prostitute with dark hair and bright blue eyes, spoke to the men as the class came to an end. Four years ago, she left the streets and now works at a factory.

By the age of 10, Alexis had learned to barter with sex with her stepfather. In her 20s, she found herself hooked on drugs and selling her body. She was arrested more than 80 times. She was hospitalized after someone shot her on the job.

As she told her story, the men were silent. A few blushed, while others stared at the floor.

“These gentlemen are no different than I was on the streets,” she said. “I think everyone has to look at the void they are trying to fill.”

One john, a father of two with salt-and-pepper hair, found himself near tears after Alexis spoke. In July, he tried to pick up a prostitute through Craigslist. He said he was depressed and having problems with his wife.

“I’m so embarrassed,” he said. “These girls are somebody’s daughters. I have a daughter.”

Some evidence suggests that John Schools are working. A study released in 2008 by Abt Associates Inc. for the federal government looked at the John School program in San Francisco, California. It’s one of the largest programs in the country; more than 7,000 johns have attended since 1995.

According to the study, the re-arrest rate fell sharply after the school was launched, and stayed more than 30 percent lower for 10 years afterward.

But critics call John School a slap on the wrist. On Saturday, one john abandoned the classroom.

Carol Leigh, a member of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, a group that promotes decriminalizing prostitution in California, said she doesn’t believe the program is an effective deterrent.

“John School doesn’t do that much,” said Leigh, who has worked as a prostitute. “The reality is they aren’t spending that much time on the johns and they will just go to other venues. This also doesn’t target the violent offenders who are the real problem.”

Melissa Farley, head of the nonprofit group Prostitution Research and Education in San Fransisco, believes johns deserve stronger punishment like longer prison sentences.

A recent study by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation conducted among johns in Chicago, Illinois, found that 41 percent of them said John School would deter them from buying sex, compared with 92 percent who said being placed on a sex offender registry would scare them from re-offending.

Nashville officials said they haven’t tracked recidivism rates in their city, but the school’s program director said it’s probably deterring a third of the offenders in each class.

At least one college educated, 47-year-old john’s attitude appeared to change on a recent Saturday.

After class he wrote, “There is no good part. I would rather be with my wife. This was quick but it wasn’t worth it.”

See also:
* A 28-year-old Norwegian man was fined Kr8,000 (£800) after he complained to police that he had been cheated by a prostitute. The man is the first person in Troms Province to be charged under Norway’s new law forbidding the purchase of sexual services.