Archive for September 22nd, 2009

The number of Web sites containing child pornography is increasing and more images show serious abuses, a U.N. expert said last week.

More than 4 million Web sites worldwide show images of children being sexually exploited, said the U.N. investigator on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat M’jid Maalla.

“There is an increase in the number of sites recorded,” she told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, citing research by the UK-industry group Internet Watch Foundation.

“The number of images showing serious exploitation quadrupled between 2003 and 2007, showing abject images of brutal rape, bondage, oral sex and other forms of debasement,” Maalla said. She did not give precise figures.

Over 750,000 people are using child porn sites at any time, said Maalla, a Moroccan medical doctor who was appointed to the unpaid U.N. post last year.

Internet chat rooms have become the main method for child abusers to recruit children, she told the 47-nation council.

A study by the U.S. National Center on Missing and Exploited Children found 83 percent of people who had child pornography possessed images of children aged 6 to 12 years old, 39 percent had images of children between the ages of 3 and 5, and 19 percent had images of children younger than 3 years old, she said.

Maalla urged international cooperation to stop the child pornography industry, which she estimated to be worth between $3 billion and $20 billion. She recommended countries share information on sites containing child pornography in order to block them faster.


The complexities surrounding domestic violence are being complicated by a new factor: The prevalence and easy access to pornography.

More women requesting help are reporting that their abuser views pornography, according to officials who work with abused women.

“Five years ago pornography wasn’t something we talked about,” said Kay Card, director of Safe Harbor, a women’s shelter in Davis County. The pornography is a “cancer,” she said.

“Women can’t compete with the Internet,” Card said.

They report their abuse starts with put-downs, progresses to physical abuse, sexual insults, sexual abuse and rape.

“They appear to be living normal lives, but you don’t know what people are doing on the Internet in the middle of the night,” Card said.

Utah’s Domestic Violence Coalition wants to get the message out, that it is not OK to physically, psychologically, emotionally or financially abuse another person, whether it is wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend or a child.

Judy Kasten-Bell, executive director of the Domestic Violence Coalition council, said, since there have been 11 deaths in Utah so far this year related to domestic violence.

The first this year was the murder of Brittany Nichols, 23, in North Ogden on Jan. 4. Her killer, Johnny Maurice Bell, was sentenced recently to 16 years to life in the Utah State Prison.

“There is no room in our community for domestic violence,” Kasten-Bell said.

The struggling economy is also complicating efforts to help abuse victims. Jobs are the key to helping women get away from their abuser and back on their feet.

Top of Utah women escaping domestic violence are spending more time in shelters than a year ago due to the poor economy.

When the economy plummets, abuse cases of all types, tend to increase, said Jason Wild, interim director for the Family Connection Center in Layton.

But women are more reluctant to report abuse because they are financially dependent on their partner and are afraid they will not be able to make it on their own, he said.

“We’re not seeing a massive increase in numbers (of women reporting abuse),” said Raquel Lee, assistant director of Your Community Connection in Ogden.

“What is happening, it is taking longer to get on their feet,” Lee said about the women who do leave a violent relationship.

Many of the women who come to the shelters for help are unemployed, which makes it almost impossible for them to find a place to live, said Card.

Annette MacFarlane, director of Your Community in Unity, in Brigham City, agrees.

“The reason many women go back to their abuser is because they do not have a job or a place to live,” said MacFarlane.

One in four women have experienced or are in a violent domestic relationship, she said.

From July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, her agency took 3,845 phone calls from victims, as well as friends and family members seeking help on behalf of another.

So a recent $250,733 award from the Department of Justice was welcome news, MacFarlane said. The funds will be used for several programs, including transitional housing and to help women who are getting out of abusive relationships.

Currently, the agency provides funding for one year of rent, but with the added funds, the agency will be able to provide rent assistance for 18 months.

Card said her agency is feeling the economic pinch in another way: For the first time there is a drop in private donations, which are used to help pay for (doctor) co-pays, bus fares, dental work for children, and prescriptions.

In addition, Card’s shelter is seeing a decrease in donations of items like paper towels, toilet paper and reams of copy paper.

Women seeking help do not fit society’s stereotypes, MacFarlane said.

“She doesn’t live in a trailer court with a husband wearing a ‘wife beater’ undershirt,” MacFarlane said. “The reality is they represent the demographics of our community.”

From North Dakota to Arizona, strong, talented, accomplished Native American women are taking up the challenge of protecting themselves and their sisters, their mothers and aunts, their grandmothers and granddaughters, from the devastation of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The level of violence against women and children in the U.S. is appalling, and the numbers for Native American women and children are staggering. An estimated one in three Native American women will suffer a sexual assault in her lifetime, compared with one in six for the population as a whole, according to figures from the U.S. Justice Department.

“Crimes against Indian women and children strike at the very heart of tribal sovereignty,” reads the 2007 Senate Indian Affairs Committee concept paper on law and order that identified domestic violence and sexual assault as one of the five critical areas in which law enforcement in Indian country was failing.

Following the release of the paper in November 2007, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008 was introduced in the Senate and the House July 23, 2008. The last action on the bill was Sept. 18, 2008, when the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held hearings. The bill didn’t pass and was reintroduced in the 111th Congress April 2. The Senate held a hearing on the proposed legislation June 25. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has scheduled another hearing for mid-September, and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women is considering a Tribal Consultation Oct. 30 in Minneapolis.

Congress is expected to be absorbed in health care reform and climate-change legislation this fall.

But in North Dakota, Linda Thompson and her colleagues at the First Nations Women’s Alliance and its member organizations are organizing themselves to be more effective in supporting – and healing – the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault on the four North Dakota Indian reservations.

“It’s often thought that young black men are the most victimized in the U.S., but it is actually Native women,” said Thompson, paraphrasing a statement in the Justice Department report, “American Indians and Crime.”

The needs on reservations are many and include not enough law enforcement officers, making response times longer; a lack of education within Native American communities about domestic violence and sexual assault; a lack of knowledge in the wider community about the cultural and family values of Indian victims and perpetrators; and not enough attention to how these crimes affect a family, an extended family, a community, a child.

“Our people need help with both the criminal aspects of domestic violence and help to heal from their experiences,” Thompson said. “We have a lot of really good options for treatment; our goal is to empower and to heal. Our people have options, whatever their religion, Native or non-Native.

“All major crimes on our reservations go to federal law enforcement. The FBI makes the case and the U.S. Attorney decides whether or not to prosecute. Roughly 70 percent of the domestic violence/sexual assault cases in Indian country in North Dakota are declined. But just because they didn’t take the case doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

What Thompson wants for her organization and for other Native American groups dealing with these crimes and their victims is simple: A seat at the table. “Our goal is to educate tribal leaders across the nation and to set up regular meetings with the U.S. Attorneys Offices and the FBI. We need government-to-government meetings, so we can have some input into what’s happening; we want to create a relationship.”

Thompson is optimistic about this moment and this administration. Then-Senator, now Vice President Joe Biden, she said, wrote the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, and was the one who ensured that Native Americans were specifically included in it.

“It’s a good time to be doing this work,” she said. “It’s the first time in history that we’ve had a White House interested in being involved. And President Obama made a commitment to getting to know Native American governments.”

The Hopi-Tewa Women’s Coalition to End Abuse, a non-governmental nonprofit incorporated this year, is working toward many of the same ends – to promote safety and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, to promote leadership for change in the community’s response to violence against women, to educate the public and make positive changes for the eradication of violence against women, explained Director Dorma Sahneyah.

The organization was first funded in 2008 by a grant from the DoJ’s Office on Violence Against Women. Those dollars were used to set up a board of directors, establish bylaws, and fill out and file incorporation papers. A Recovery Act grant won by the coalition will allow the organization to continue its work for the next two years.

“We’re focusing on collaborating with the Hopi Health Care Center to help them develop the forensic and medial capability to treat victims right here on Hopi. Otherwise victims have to go to Flagstaff [about 90 miles away]. We want to provide services for sexual assault victims here at home. We’re also planning to develop a Hopi Sexual Assault Response Manual for law enforcement and to host a reservation-wide conference for victims, government departments and law enforcement,” Sahneyah said.

Victims, she explained, often feel their experience is of little interest to law enforcement or the courts. “People have been upset about how the reports they make to law enforcement have been handled. The system is caught up in doing what it does, but not so much with the victims. They feel alone. That’s why we are using the victims center model. We can offer the support they need, and the help they need to go to court. Court can be very intimidating for people, and if the charges are filed in federal court, they must go all the way to Prescott or Phoenix.”

Sahneyah said there are six Hopi and Tewa women on the board and one to be voted on soon.

“I want to give credit to the women who are committed to this work on Hopi. They are very strong women, already seen as community leaders,” Sahneyah said. “They are learning their roles and responsibilities. They care. All of them are volunteers. The all have other jobs. They’re wonderful.”

The OVW administers 18 grant programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and other legislation.

The South Australian Government says a planned strengthening of domestic violence laws will let police immediately order an abuser away from the victim or the family home.

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says until now women had to wait until they are assaulted more than once before a court could order a partner to stay away.

He says new legislation will let police serve an abuser with an interim order to keep them from the other party when domestic violence is suspected.

“Some days after the police issue the interim order then the matter will be adjudicated in court,” he said.

“But the safety of women and children, for they are usually the victims, requires immediate action.

“It shouldn’t have to wait upon a hearing in the magistrates court.”

A $900,000 anti-violence educational campaign on TV and radio is being launched in conjunction with the planned changes.

Shadow attorney-general Vickie Chapman has welcomed the Government’s move but says more can be done to head-off the future risk of violence.

“Ensure that women who are who lose their lives – frequently murdered in domestic violence situations – have a death register to ensure that there is a proper investigation in those cases,” she said.

“Some attract a coronial inquiry, many don’t and we want that situation remedied.”

In a bid to control the domestic violence against women, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare of Nepal has decided to set up service centers in 15 districts of the country, Nepali national news agency RSS reported last week.

According to joint secretary at the ministry Ratna Kaji Bajracharya, the ministry took this decision considering that many women have still been affected by the domestic violence against them at a time when the government has already approved the law against domestic violence against women.

The centers would be established in such places where the number of incidents of domestic violence against women is high and the government’s presence is poor, said Bajracharya.

Legal consultations, treatment including accommodation in case of necessity will be provided from the centers to all victims of domestic violence including men and children, he added.

The ministry has allocated 20 million Nepali rupees (around 250thousand U.S. dollars) for the programs launched to control the domestic violence, according to RSS.

The Nepali government has already set up rehabilitation centers in Sindhupalchowk, Kailali and capital Kathmandu for the violence victims where nearly 100 have been rehabilitated so far.

When health officials talk of the need for “behaviour change” as the only way to end the AIDS onslaught, they are not just talking about change in sexual behaviour, but change in the way men treat women and girls in our society.

The more “in control” a woman or girl is of her life, the less likely she will experience unwanted pregnancies, unwanted sexual advances or HIV/AIDS. When an empowered woman says “no,” her word is the entire preventative needed. Unfortunately, a majority of our women do not have such a voice, concluded a comprehensive study.

“The prevalence of physical and sexual violence among females aged 13-24 indicate that violence is a major problem in Swaziland,” reported the National Survey on Violence Experienced by Female Children and Youths in Swaziland. “Very little research has been conducted on violence against children in Swaziland, although violence is a risk factor for a wide range of mental and physical health problems,” the report indicated.

One of the survey’s key and unsettling findings is that one out of three Swazi females reported experiencing some form of sexual violence before reaching 18 years of age. Two out of three female adults, aged 18 to 24, experienced some form of sexual violence.

From their infancies to age 24, nearly half (48 2%) of Swazi women experienced some form of sexual violence.

The hope of all girls of having a meaningful “first time” sexual experience with a compatible partner is a dream unobtainable for a majority of Swazi girls and women, many of whose first encounters were not wanted by them. Six out of 10 Swazi females reported that they were forced into their first sexual experiences. Of these, 5% said they were raped or otherwise “forced.” Women reported submitting to unwanted sex out of fear of physical violence. The survey documented a foundation for their fears. 28% of girls 13 to 17 years old experienced physical violence. The likelihood that they will be assaulted increased as they grew into adulthood, with 33% of women 18 to 24 years old reporting being violence survivors.

Exposure to education is no protection against violence, according to the survey. A sizable 98% of women and girls surveyed had been to school. 29% of women and girls reported unwanted pregnancies.

Manzini is home to the anti-violence NGO Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), which offers counselling and legal and medical referrals to violence survivors. SWAGAA’s statistics have shown a steady rise in cases of violence against women during the past decade.

The increase has been credited in part to better reporting of such crimes. However, some observers say worsening economic and humanitarian conditions in the country, along with the belief held by some HIV positive men that sleeping with a virgin girl can are AIDS, has caused an actual rise in violence against women and children.

Seeking to describe the magnitude of the problem of violence against women and children, the survey found that despite the multiplicity of sexual encounters reported by women under 24, only 12.9% of them were married.

Wide participation for the project was enjoined from the Swaziland government’s ministries of Health and Social Welfare, Education and Justice, NGOs like SWAGAA and World Vision, and UNAIDS, the UN Population Fund, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation.

For the survey, 48 households were selected in each of 40 areas of the country. A female between the ages of 13 and 24 was randomly chosen to speak to interviewers in a confidential, voluntary and anonymous manner.

Eight teams composed of 41 interviewers, all women, collected data. To establish physical violence, key questions were asked like, “Has any adult ever kicked, bitten, slapped, hit you with a fist, threatened you with a weapon or thrown something at you?”

Questions were also asked to establish emotional and sexual abuse. About 1 900 households were visited, resulting in 1 300 interviews.

“Violence has a huge cost to society. The physical consequences include injuries to the body and disability. The psychological consequence include alcohol and drug abuse, depression, anxiety, development delays, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies, feelings of shame and guilt,” said one of the officials associated with the study.

The sexual and reproductive consequences include sexual dysfunction, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases, he said. Among girls 13 to 17 years old, one out of six reported experiencing some form of sexual violence during the past year. The number rose to one out of four young women between 18 and 24 who survived sexual violence this past year. The inevitable psychological toll is also recorded.

One of the saddest statistics reported by the survey is that depression infects a majority of Swazi women. 67% told surveyors they felt depressed.

A new approach is being taken to fight violence against women and HIV/AIDS, in Dominica and in the Caribbean region.

Over 20 individuals representing women’s groups and HIV/AIDS organizations, on Thursday began discussions on the findings of a study conducted by the University of the West Indies, Barbados, on the intersections between HIV/AIDS and violence against women in Barbados and Dominica.

The study was instituted by the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Participants of the two-day workshop are to decide on ways in which HIV/AIDS and violence against women can be addressed.

In her remarks at the opening session, CIM/OAS Principal Delegate Gloria Shillingford, said: “In modern times, the relation between violence against women and the spread of HIV/AIDS has become increasingly visible, and we cannot allow the exacerbation of either of these problems.”

She also described the workshop as an avenue to strengthen linkages on the way forward in combating HIV/AIDS and violence against women.

The meeting is organized by the National HIV/AIDS Unit and the Ministry of Community Development, Gender Affairs and Information.

The involvement of men and boys is imperative to reducing the spread of HIV among women, according to a panel of experts participating in a new UNICEF podcast – part of a series on children and AIDS.

AUDIO: Listen now

Women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV prevalence rates are the highest in the world. In southern Africa, adolescent girls are about three times more likely than adolescent boys to be infected.

While many organizations are working to educate girls and women about AIDS and how to prevent the spread of HIV, there is an increasing focus on the crucial role young men and boys play in transforming the gender inequalities that drive the AIDS epidemic.

“We are beginning to realize that in our effort to focus on women and girls, we kind of took our eyes off the boys and men,” said founder and former Executive Director of the AIDS Support Organization in Uganda, Noerine Kaleeba, one of the participants in the podcast.

Participating in the podcast with Ms. Kaleeba was the Senior Technical Adviser on Gender Violence and Rights with the International Centre for Research on Women, Gary Barker, an expert in engaging men and boys to help achieve gender equality.

“Harmful societal ideas of masculinity and femininity are often behind girls’ vulnerability to HIV,” Mr. Barker said, noting: “Boys are taught to think they’ve got some ownership over women.”

Ms. Kaleeba pointed to pressure within families and communities to socialize men as aggressors and girls as submissive. “I always saw the requirements and expectations of us girls with regard to how submissive we had to be,” she said, recalling her own experiences growing up in Uganda, where HIV prevalence rates are higher among young women than young men.

Mr. Barker said social constructs of what it means to be a man, and how to live one’s sexual life as a male, are harmful not only to women but also to men.

Ms. Kaleeba stressed that, although it is young women who are at greater risk, young men and boys must not be excluded in the effort to fight HIV. “It takes two to transmit an infection,” she said.

Both panellists agreed that effective prevention programmes must be community-driven.

“One of the key elements,” said Mr. Barker, “is having a group of men from the communities who … come from the same background and who are coming out and saying, ‘Wait a minute, there are other ways to be men.’”

Ms. Kaleeba added that it is not enough to simply have projects for men and boys; these projects must be taken to scale and incorporated into existing programmes. In addition, the work of changing attitudes towards gender must begin when children are young.

“It is not too soon to start spreading new messages,” Ms. Kaleeba said, speaking as a mother of four children and a foster mother of 14.

The podcast, released today, is entitled ‘Allies Against AIDS: The role of men and boys in transforming gender inequalities that drive the HIV epidemic’ and is moderated by Amy Costello of UN and UNICEF Radio in New York.

IRAN: Backlash Mounts Against Women Ministers

RIGHTS-AFRICA: Ugandan Court Asked to Declare Bride Price Unconstitutional

CLIMATE CHANGE: Rising Seas Demand Better Family Planning

HEALTH-NIGERIA: Maternal Mortality, a Rural Community’s Example

EDUCATION-ZAMBIA: Bicycles Help Girls Go Further


Afghanistan: Women’s Participation in the Election Process & in Political Leadership (WUNRN)

Afghanistan: UPDATE: Law Curbing Women’s Rights Takes Effect (Human Rights Watch)

Arab Countries: Call for applications for grants (AHRF)

Bahrain: Temporary marriages over email and text messaging (WUNRN via IPS News)

Bahrain: Seeking Gender Equality in Quran (IPS)

Bangladesh: Gang rape of a Dalit girl (OMCT)

Bangladesh: Ruling on extra-judicial punishments by beating and lashing in Shalish (WLUML Networkers)

DRC: Voices of Grassroots Congolese Women on the Crisis in the DRC (VDAY via AWID)

India: Girl beheaded by neighbour to ‘help conception’ (The Telegraph via WUNRN)

India: Human rights defenders detained for protesting state violence (Frontline)

International: Statement in Support of Mary Robinson, Presidential Medal of Honor

International: Muslim academic claims homosexuality can be compatible with Islam (Indianspice via The Inner Circle)

International: New report on advocacy for development cooperation and gender (AWID)

International: 15 years of UN SR on VAW Report (UN)

Iran: Woman at risk of execution by stoning (Amnesty International via IMHRO)

Iran: Senior clerics oppose nominations of women ministers (Gulf in the Media)

Iraq: Report: “‘They Want Us Exterminated’: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq” (Human Rights Watch)

Jordan: Woman killed for marrying without permission (The Vancouver Sun)

Kenya: Doctors Asked To Stop FGM In Clinics (WUNRN)

Malaysia: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: “Authorities should reconsider law on alcohol” (The Star)

Malaysia: Court allows religious councils to be interveners in a newspaper case (Sun2Surf)

Malaysia: UPDATE: Warrant of arrest issued for woman drinking alcohol (New Straits Times / The Star)

Malaysia: UPDATE: Kartika has been released (The Star)

Mali: Threats of violence greet new family code (IRIN)

Mali: UPDATE: Women’s rights bill blocked (BBC News)

Pakistan: Introduction of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill (Dawn via WUNRN)

Pakistan: Attacks on minorities for alleged blasphemy (HOTLINE ASIA)

Pakistan: ‘Dealing with’ the Hijra Problem (Sherryx Weblog)

Palestine: Young woman killed by father in the name of honour (OMCT)

Russian Federation: Burning of the office of human rights organisation, Mothers of Dagestan (Frontline)

Saudi Arabia: Op-Ed: “Saudi Women Can Drive, Just Let Them” (Washington Post)

Senegal: Court to Try Teenagers for Homosexuality (VOA News)

South Africa: Caster Semenya and Gender Discrimination (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program)

Sri Lanka: UNIFEM report: Gender Profile of the Conflict in Sri Lanka (UNIFEM via WUNRN )

Sudan: Statement by Sudanese women activists (WLUML Networkers)

Sudan: Tunisian solidarity with women in Sudan (Magharebia / AWID / Front Line)

Sudan: Lubna Hussein to be tried on 7 September for wearing trousers (The Observer)

Syria: No Exceptions for “Honour Killings” (Human Rights Watch)

Thailand: Constitution is no place for Buddhism (The Nation)

Turkey: Interviewing men in prison for ‘honour killings’ (Women’s e-News)

Turkey: Member of Women’s Movement raped and tortured by police. (WLUML Networkers)

UAE: Bank says female staff must wear abayas (Gulf News)

Zimbabwe: Women rise against sexual violence (WITNESS )