Archive for October 13th, 2009

At an 8 October gathering of Guinean women beaten or raped during the recent military attack on demonstrators, all wept as one young woman presented torn clothes soldiers had ripped off of her.

“We all collapsed in tears. It is unspeakably painful what happened here in Guinea,” Aïssata Daffe of the Union des Forces Républicaines political party told IRIN.

The gathering was part of an ongoing effort by local NGOs and civil society organizations to collect information about the sexual violence during the 28 September military crackdown in order to appeal for assistance and justice.

NGOs are still trying to determine how many women and girls were raped. For now 33 cases have been documented, according to local and international aid agencies.

The data search requires neighbourhood visits, people involved in the efforts told IRIN. Many women are simply staying home, afraid to seek help. Added to the usual stigma attached to rape is fear. Rumours have been rife – and doctors have recounted – that soldiers have entered hospitals and taken away women who said they were raped.

“What I know for sure is that soldiers came into a health centre and took the women who were there with rape injuries,” said one of two doctors who told IRIN this happened.

Human rights workers and residents of Conakry say a climate of fear has overcome the population, and many civil servants are afraid to talk. Two other doctors told IRIN they do not think rapes occurred.

“I know people are saying that on the radio and internet, but I do not believe that rapes happened during the events of 28 September,” a public hospital doctor told IRIN.

“They are afraid to talk,” said Mamadi Kaba, president of the Guinea office of the human rights group RADDHO. “Whether or not they have received specific instructions from the junta, they are afraid to give any information [about the events of 28 September].”

An aid worker who requested anonymity told IRIN: “It is very difficult for health professionals who are divided between their ethical and medical responsibilities and the risk they take treating these victims.”

NGOs and political associations will appeal for ongoing medical and psychological assistance to rape victims. They will also urge women to go after their perpetrators.

“This absolutely must not stand,” said Nanfadima Magassouba, president of the National Coalition of Guinea for the Rights and Citizenship of Women (CONAG-DCF).

Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara on 7 October announced the creation of a national commission of inquiry into the events of 28 September. But a coalition of political parties and civil society organizations has rejected this, calling for an international investigation.

CONAG-DCF plans to observe a national day – possibly to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 25 November – “to draw attention to the magnitude of the damage”, Magassouba told IRIN.

Even in Guinea, which since independence in 1958 has regularly seen military repression of civilians, the sexual violence that took place on 28 September was a shock.

“We did not know Guineans could do this to Guineans,” Magassouba said.

One activist told IRIN in her neighbourhood is a 15-year-old girl who was gang-raped during the violence. “Soldiers raped her, one after another. When we saw her she could not even sit.”

Political party UFR’s Daffe said moving past the fear and repression is essential. She said she and her colleagues are visiting families of victims in an effort to repair a crushed collective morale.

“We must get past this; we must catch people before they get so discouraged that they stop contributing to the fight,” she said. “We need them for the fight.”

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/42b03cbf974c675a4a420479f04124bb.htm

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In response to the petition advocating the release of Roman Polanski, who was arrested in Switzerland after fleeing US justice for over 30 years despite pleading guilty in court to the rape of a thirteen-year-old girl in 1978, we, the undersigned, express our:
– support for the authorities involved in efforts to make Polanski finally face justice for this crime in the United States of America,
– condemnation of the “Petition for Roman Polanski” and its signatories, who have sought to use the admiration they receive from fans around the world to somehow minimize a crime of rape,
– belief that all lives be valued and that crimes against a child not be ignored because the perpetrator of those crimes is an admittedly significant artist,
– frustration with those in the public eye who have questioned whether “no means no” and whether “rape is rape” in regard to this or any rape case,
– sincere apologies to the victim of Polanski’s crime for any part this petition has in prolonging her suffering because of his actions.

To sign the petition go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/599143029

Widespread use of DNA evidence by law enforcment is helping to secure more convictions

The number of reported rapes in the US has dropped to its lowest level in two decades as the increasing use of DNA has helped identify attackers and encouraged prosecutors to pursue more convictions.

FBI statistics show that rapes notified to the police dropped by one-third to 29 for every 100,000 people last year, down from 43 in 1992 when DNA testing was only just beginning to be widely used in law enforcement. A total of 89,000 rapes were reported in 2008.

Victims’ rights groups say that the use of DNA has been an important, but not the only, factor by helping secure more convictions and keeping some rapists from repeating their crimes. In doing so, it has also given some women and district attorneys greater confidence to go to court.

“The fact that the DNA evidence can secure a conviction has changed the situation,” said Kim Gandy, a former prosecutor and past president of the National Organisation for Women. “When I was a prosecutor it was very difficult to get a conviction. There was a real reluctance to accept rape cases. District attorneys face election every year and they don’t want it to bring down their overall conviction rate because it makes them politically vulnerable.”

Gandy says evolving social attitudes have also helped with juries less inclined to believe defence claims that victims brought assaults on themselves “although it hasn’t entirely gone away”. Governments also began to take the crime more seriously.

As DNA started to become a significant factor in investigating sexual violence, the 1994 Violence Against Women Act came in to force with a $1.6bn (£994m) injection to improve investigations, promote prosecutions and introduce rape kits to hospitals to collect evidence. Some researchers believe that the use of DNA evidence also discourages some potential rapists. Others have taken to using condoms.

But Lauren Sogor of the National Sexual Violence Resource Centre said that the growing emphasis on DNA sometimes makes it harder to secure convictions where it is not available.

“There’s a lot of controversy around DNA. In some cases it does help but it can complicate cases because people expect that there should be DNA evidence and when there isn’t it’s harder to get a prosecution,” she said.

This week, the FBI acknowledged that its failure to enter a DNA sample in its database from a federal prisoner meant that he was able to rape and assault several women in Florida after his release. Local police say they collected DNA samples from attacks earlier this year but they did not turn up any match in the FBI database. It was only after Delmer Smith was arrested in a bar brawl that he was identified as the attacker.

The FBI said it is grappling with a backlog of samples taken from convicts in federal prison. It holds DNA records on only about 80,000 individuals but it plans to expand that by more than 1 million convicts a year from 2012.

DNA has also identified a significant number of wrongful convictions for rape.

Sogor also noted that the total number of rapes is many times those reported. She said that US justice department statistics estimate that in 2005 only 38% of rapes were reported.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/08/dna-sexual-assault-usa

Judges rejected an appeal by the democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her extended house arrest, lawyers and officials said.

A divisional court in Rangoon upheld the Nobel laureate’s conviction in August over an incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her home, earning her an extra 18 months in detention.

”The appeal was rejected but we will take it to the High Court,” said Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyer, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy party, Nyan Win, after the hearing.

In August a court at Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison sentenced the frail 64-year-old to three years’ hard labour. The junta chief, Than Shwe, reduced that to 18 months’ house arrest.

Two female assistants living with Ms Suu Kyi received the same sentence and also had appeals against their rulings rejected yesterday.

John Yettaw, the American who triggered the debacle by swimming to her lakeside mansion in May, was sentenced to seven years’ hard labour, but the regime freed him following a visit by the US senator Jim Webb.

Military-ruled Burma has faced intense international pressure to free Ms Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years and was not given permission to attend yesterday’s hearing.

Last week’s ruling came amid a tentative change in the political winds. Last week the US announced it was modifying its policy of seeking to isolate the regime and would instead try to engage it through talks. But the US will not give up its political and economic sanctions.

The top US US diplomat for the region, Kurt Campbell, told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that lifting sanctions as the Administration tried to start a dialogue, without Burma making any democratic changes, would be a mistake.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/suu-kyis-detention-appeal-rejected-20091002-ggjj.html

See also: Aung San Suu Kyi meets ambassador for sanctions talks

Arab women are more likely to win political rights than secure personal and civil status rights, said participants at an international conference on Arab feminism, held at the American University of Beirut Oct 4-7, 2009.

Attracting a strong turn-out that was overwhelmingly female, the conference was organized by the Lebanese Association of Women Researchers, Bahithat, in partnership with The Anis Makdisi Program in Literature (AMPL), the Women and Memory Forum in Cairo, the Department of Women’s Studies at Bir Zeit University, and the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World in the United Kingdom.

The conference was introduced by Professor Maher Jarrar who heads AMPL.

Najla Hamadeh, a former AUB professor of philosophy, said that Arab tradition does not denigrate the humanity of women, as is reflected by the Arabic language. For instance, she said, the Arabic word ‘insaan’ [human] is used for both genders, unlike Western languages which often use “man” to denote human beings. On the other hand, Arabic terms for sex with a woman can be disrespectful of women, said Hamadeh.

“This explains why women do not have family and civil status rights, although they can obtain political rights,” added Hamadeh.

Religion and religious interpretation, too, have contributed to restrictions on women’s freedoms, she said.

Hamadeh suggested to activists to push for women’s family rights before pushing for their political rights. “Studies have shown that a woman’s happiness is closely linked to her wellbeing as a mother,” she said. “If a woman doesn’t have rights with respect to her children, she’s not happy.”

Some participants said that the absence of a unified Arab feminist movement was attributed to a historical preoccupation for fighting colonialism, occupation, and pushing for regime change. However, others argued that the Arab feminist movement does not necessarily have to be unified in order to achieve tangible results. It only needs to converge and collaborate on specific themes.

Keynote speaker, Mervat Hatem, president of the Middle East Studies Association and a political science professor at Howard University in Washington DC, mapped out the future of Arab feminism, noting that both Arab states and religious groups have curtailed the progress of the movement.

Hatem argued that while secular regimes, such as the Baath regimes of Syria and Iraq, and Arab nationalism in Egypt and Tunisia, had expanded women’s rights to education, public work and political participation, these rights were confined to middle and upper class women. “In exchange for these formal rights, middle and upper class women have remained silent about the needs of working class women,” said Hatem. “These states presented themselves … as socially progressive although their political authoritarianism could not be doubted.”

Moreover, Hatem said that “the rise of political Islam and its successful re-Islamization of the discourses of many Arab societies have been viewed with hostility and suspicion by secular and nationalist elites, feminists and intellectuals.”

Nevertheless, this “does not justify the objectionable language used by some secular feminists to denigrate and devalue the Muslim women who have chosen to return to the modest and conservative Islamic mode of dress,” she added.

In fact, Hatem said that the modernization discourse had, for a long time, “convinced many Muslim women that Islam is an obstacle in the struggle for women’s liberation.”
Moreover, this discourse had claimed that “the only way they could achieve equal rights is through secularism which marginalized Islam as the source of gender inequality in divorce inheritance, marriage and testimony in court,” she said.
But “Islamic feminism lays this argument to rest,” she said. “It makes an important distinction between the religious texts and the male interpretations that have dominated our understanding of the Islamic tradition… It is possible to be simultaneously opposed to the political project of Islamism which is the creation of a religious/Islamic state, but to support the project of Islamic feminism.”

As for Zeina Zaatari, who is currently the senior program officer for the Middle East and North Africa at the Global Fund for Women, her presentation prompted a loud round of applause, after she called for pushing for women’s sexual and reproductive rights and advocating for women as human beings, not just as mothers and wives.

Several other topics were discussed during the conference. These included feminist expression in Arab fine arts, modernizing Koranic interpretations, colonial feminism, examples from various Arab countries, and Islamic feminism.

http://www.albawaba.com/en/countries/UAE/254858

See also:
* Academics from around globe assess state of feminism in Arab world
* Academics, activists and researchers gathered at the American University of Beirut (AUB) Wednesday for the third and last day of a major conference to discuss Arab feminisms.

Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip say safety concerns and social traditions, not Islamic religious values, are the main reason behind a decision to ban women from riding motorbikes and scooters.

In a decision which would raise eyebrows in Rome or Rio de Janeiro, the Interior Ministry said it was banning women from riding two-wheelers or being pillion passengers, to limit accidents and to “protect community values”.

Spokesman Ehab Al-Ghsain said the decision was taken after they found that women riding behind their husbands or male relatives were a prime reason for accidents in recent weeks.

“We have taken a series of decisions to limit accidents and avoid loss of lives. Men carrying women behind them on motorcycles caused accidents and did not match our social traditions,” he said. “The image looked odd.”

Human Rights groups say Hamas is gradually imposing a strict Islamic code on the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza.

Gaza couples complain of being stopped by police and asked for papers to prove they are married, and men have been told to cover up on the beach.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L8563324.htm

On May 13, 2009, the Home Secretary of India said in a seminar organized by the Central Bureau of Investigation that there are 1.3 million prostituted children in India right now. Most of them are girls. The National Human Rights Commission of India has stated that the average age of entry into prostitution for young girls is now between nine and twelve.

The fact that the numbers of the trafficked are going up and the ages coming down displays the failure of those government and non-government strategies which only focus on HIV/AIDS management and half hearted rescue operations combined with shelters for victims. These ignore the root cause, which is the demand for women and girls for sexual exploitation. Even the Sept. 19 Ministry of Home Affairs advisory to state governments on combating human trafficking falls short of asking for higher arrests and convictions of buyers and traffickers, though it recognizes that “trafficking in human beings, especially of women and children, is the fastest growing organized crime and an area of concern.”

Demand for trafficked people – from end-users (buyers of prostituted sex) to traffickers who make a profit off the trade (the recruiters, transporters, pimps, brothel owners, money lenders, etc., who form the intricate chain in the organized criminal networks) — has become the most immediate cause for the expansion of the trafficking industry. But the existing outdated law, Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956, (ITPA), does not address it adequately.

Apne Aap Women Worldwide has been campaigning to have ITPA amended. This survivor-led campaign is seeking to penalize buyers and traffickers. If the numbers of convictions against buyers and traffickers go up, the cost of human trafficking will become untenable. Increased convictions will also restore a sense of justice to the survivors of prostitution.

Countries like Sweden have gone after the traffickers by bringing them to book, confiscating their illegal assets created out of trafficking, making them compensate for the damages and penalizing end-users (buyers of prostituted sex). This has seen a significant decrease in trafficking. In 1999, it was estimated that 125,000 Swedish men bought about 2,500 prostituted women one or more times per year, before the law came into force. By 2002, this figure had fallen to no more than 1,500 women.

In running this campaign, Apne Aap Women Worldwide has come up against some entrenched interests. Ironically, this opposition has included many HIV/AIDS management projects that work in red-light areas and hire pimps and brothel managers as “peer educators” to gain easy access to the brothels for the purpose of condom distribution. They turn a blind eye to the little girls and adult women kept in a system of bondage and control, who cannot say no to unwanted sex let alone unprotected sex. In fact a representative of the National AIDS Control Organization once told me: “If the brothels didn’t exist, where will we distribute the condoms?”

The hiring of pimps and brothel managers not only legitimizes them at the cost of delegitimizing the rights of the little girl or woman locked up in the brothel but also silences her.

Apne Aap has been organizing these silenced girls and women to join together in small self-help groups in the red-light areas and high-risk slums of Bihar, Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal for the last seven years. They are asking repeatedly for lives free of all forms of male violence and a zero tolerance policy for prostitution and trafficking in human beings. They are asking for the punishment of those who exploit them as a guarantee of safety and security. They are asking for access to safe housing, counselling, education, and job training.

Regrettably, most government projects offer them either a bed in a shelter or a condom in a brothel and a policy that puts more emphasis on protecting male buyers from disease rather than protecting girls and women from male buyers.

————————————————-
Ruchira Gupta is founder and president of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an anti-trafficking organization based in India. She recently won the Clinton Global Citizen Award for her leadership in civil society.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125506412380375453.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Calls are growing for South Africa to legalise prostitution ahead of next year’s football World Cup in an effort to limit HIV infection among millions of fans visiting the country for the tournament.

A leading health specialist told the Observer that the World Cup presented a huge risk and said there was an urgent need to start registering prostitutes and screening them for the virus. It is estimated that 50% of the country’s sex workers are infected.

Professor Ian Sanne, head of the clinical HIV research unit at Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University, said the party atmosphere being touted by the football authorities, travel companies and the South African government was a green light to alcohol abuse and promiscuity among fans next summer.

Around 3.2 million tickets will be sold for the matches. A million will go to South African residents, with the rest split between international fans and sponsors. Twenty thousand England fans are expected to head for South Africa, where those without tickets will be catered for with huge screens and temporary bars across the country.

Sanne said not only would the visitors be at risk, but young South Africans and the sex workers too, opening the way for the virus to spread at a dramatically increased rate.

“HIV/Aids is a problem globally and there is a great need to encourage and enforce better health and responsibility, especially to the young South Africans who could be at risk during the World Cup,” he said.

He called for legal frameworks to regulate the practice of sex workers rather than discriminate against them.

“Interim legalisation of prostitution would be best for the country, rather than leaving it uncontrolled,” he said. “Sex workers need to register with a board that will regulate their practice and give certification to practise, but they have to go through a mandatory HIV testing process first, and only those who test negative will be allowed to practise.”

South Africa is the centre of the global HIV epidemic, with more than five million adults infected. An estimated one in two of working prostitutes is living with the virus and the lack of medication led to a quarter of a million people dying of Aids-related illnesses there last year. The antiretroviral medication that helps prevent HIV developing into full-blown Aids is being taken by fewer than 30% of those infected.

Infection rates among women aged 15 to 24 declined slightly from 22.1% in 2007 to 21.7% in 2008, but among women in the 30 to 34 age group, the infection rate was 40.4% in 2008.

But while Sanne said authorities should use the World Cup as a platform to raise awareness on the need for testing, Aids/HIV campaigners responded furiously that it would take concern for foreigners rather than its own citizens to make the South African government act.

“The clear way forward to help tackle the tens of thousands of women forced into prostitution through poverty is to legalise it now, not to make it a temporary measure for the World Cup,” said Vuyiseka Dubula of the Treatment Action Campaign.

“We need prostitution decriminalised now so we can start to help these women, many of whom have been abused and brutalised from a young age.”

Former South African police commissioner Jackie Selebi, now suspended over corruption allegations, caused widespread dismay when he first suggested legalising prostitution and public drinking for the duration of the World Cup, arguing that it would free his officers to deal with security, but the issue is hugely contentious in a country where the sex trade is regarded as immoral and unacceptable.

A spokesman for the FA said: “They [English fans] will all be issued with guidance along with their tickets and we are working now on how best to communicate the dos and don’ts in South Africa to people. But the FA can’t be responsible for all the English people travelling to South Africa next summer.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/11/legalise-world-cup-sex-trade

A new coalition of women’s groups in B.C. is hoping to head off what they see as an emerging trend to try to legalize prostitution.

The group, called the Abolition Coalition, cites two upcoming court cases that the group says will use the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to argue that prostitutes and their customers should be allowed to sell or buy sex for money.

The three women who launched the case are arguing the Criminal Code forces them to work in the streets and not in the safety of their homes.

“The parties involved in those court cases would have you believe, when it comes to the law, our choices are all or nothing: either we criminalize both women and johns and continue to enforce the law inconsistently, as now, or we decriminalize it entirely, and this is untrue,” University of British Columbia law professor Janine Benedet told a Vancouver news conference Monday.

The Abolition Coalition’s position is that prostitutes should never be criminally charged for selling sex, but the men who buy it should face harsh legal punishment.

The coalition referred to Vancouver prostitute Nicole Parisien, who was killed by a client in a Kitsilano apartment building in August 2007. Andrew Evans, 27, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week for Parisien’s murder.

“That case alone should cause all of us to think seriously about the foolishness of arguing the safety of the indoor trade,” said Lee Lakeman of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres.

Vancouver’s Pivot Legal Society has a different view. It’s involved in one of the court cases challenging prostitution laws and argues that all adults should have the legal right to engage in consensual prostitution.

“Decriminalization is ultimately about creating safe working conditions, so that those who choose to do sex work can do so safely, and those who choose to exit it are in a better position to do so,” Pivot lawyer Katrina Pacy told CBC News in an interview.

The Abolition Coalition said Pivot’s argument only protects the men who buy the services of prostitutes and so-called pimps, the individuals who supervise and live off their work.

“You can’t take the violence out of prostitution because it’s the very act of prostitution that is the violence,” former sex-trade worker Trish Baptie said at the coalition’s news conference Monday.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/10/05/bc-abolition-coalition.html

See also http://www.thetruthisntsexy.ca/

And As legal arguments continue into a challenge of Canada’s prostitution laws, those who oppose the sex trade say the current laws are actually the best way to protect prostitutes.

Four courageous and tireless advocates of human rights – from Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Russia – have been awarded the prestigious Alison Des Forges Defender Award for Extraordinary Activism, Human Rights Watch said today. The four work to uphold freedom of expression, to protect women in conflict, and to ease the plight of political prisoners, despite threats and persecution from the authorities.

The awards are named for Dr. Alison Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division for almost two decades, who was tragically killed in a plane crash in New York on February 12, 2009. Des Forges was the world’s leading expert on Rwanda, the 1994 genocide and its aftermath, and Human Rights Watch’s annual award honors her outstanding commitment to and defense of human rights.

The four winners of Human Rights Watch’s 2009 Alison Des Forges Defender Award for Extraordinary Activism are:
* Daniel Bekele, lawyer and activist from Ethiopia;
* Bo Kyi, co-founder of Burma’s Assistance Association of Political Prisoners;
* Elena Milashina, reporter for Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading independent newspaper; and
* Mathilde Muhindo, women’s rights activist working to stop sexual violence in Democratic Republic of Congo.

“These extraordinary individuals confront tremendous challenges every day, yet they work selflessly to end human rights violations and bring abusers to justice,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “We hope this award, named for Alison Des Forges, will inspire and protect them as they struggle to uphold human rights in their countries.”

Human rights defenders are critical partners for Human Rights Watch staff conducting investigations in more than 80 countries around the world. The award winners will be honored at the 2009 Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners in Chicago, Geneva, Hamburg, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Toronto, and Zurich.

Daniel Bekele, Ethiopia
In the ever-shrinking space for freedom of expression in Ethiopia, Daniel Bekele, a prominent anti-poverty activist and human rights lawyer, has faced heavy-handed government repression. After leading a grass-roots effort to promote voter education and participation in Ethiopia’s controversial 2005 parliamentary elections, as well as election monitoring and reconciliation after the vote, Bekele was arrested and spent two-and-a-half years in prison on charges of inciting violence against the government. Human Rights Watch honors Bekele who, at great personal risk, challenges the Ethiopian government to uphold the civil and political rights that protect all people.

Bo Kyi, Burma
As a former political prisoner and co-founder of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), Bo Kyi works tirelessly to secure the release of Burmese people who have been jailed for their political independence and activism. Over the last 20 years, Bo Kyi has demonstrated unfaltering courage, sharing his story and those of other political prisoners and exposing the Burmese military junta’s numerous abuses. Human Rights Watch honors Bo Kyi for his heroic efforts to speak out against Burmese repression and to advocate on behalf of those who have dared to criticize the military junta.

Elena Milashina, Russia
As a leading investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s most prominent independent newspaper, Elena Milashina exposes the truth about human rights abuses and widespread government corruption. Despite Russia’s attempts to silence its critics and hide abuses, Milashina remains outspoken, publishing accounts of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture. She also continues to investigate the 2006 murder of her newspaper colleague and mentor Anna Politkovskaya, calling for accountability at the highest level. Human Rights Watch honors Milashina for her courage in confronting Russia’s deeply problematic human rights record.

Mathilde Muhindo, Democratic Republic of Congo
As director of the Olame Centre, a women’s rights organization, Mathilde Muhindo empowers women to fight against the pervasive discrimination and horrific sexual violence that are endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She led a coalition of local women’s organizations to advocate successfully for a comprehensive law on sexual violence. Human Rights Watch honors Mathilde Muhindo for her tireless dedication to the safety, health, and rights of the often-forgotten women in eastern Congo.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/ef849b6775cb0f47ca0d917bb6a9c2a5.htm

More than a third of the world’s child brides are from India, leaving children at an increased risk of exploitation despite the Asian giant’s growing modernity and economic wealth, according to a UNICEF report.

Nearly 25 million women in India were married in the year 2007 by the age of 18, said the report released on Tuesday, which noted that children in India, Nepal and Pakistan may be engaged or even married before they turned 10. Millions of children are also being forced to work in harmful conditions, or face violence and abuse at home and outside, suffering physical and psychological harm with wide-reaching, and sometimes irreparable effects, the report said.

“A society cannot thrive if its youngest members are forced into early marriage, abused as sex workers or denied their basic rights,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman.

Despite rising literacy levels and a ban on child marriage, tradition and religious practices are keeping the custom alive in India, as well as in Nepal and Pakistan, the report said.

More than half the world’s child brides are in south Asia, which also accounts for more than half the unregistered births, leaving children beyond the reach and protection of state services and unable to attend school or access basic healthcare.

Only 6 percent of all births in Afghanistan and 10 percent in Bangladesh were registered from 2000-08, the report said, compared to 41 percent in India and 73 percent in the tiny Maldives.

Also, about 44 million, or 13 percent of all children in south Asia, are engaged in labour, with more than half in India.

Children in the region have also been seriously affected by insurgency and instability, as well as natural disasters.

Especially in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, past or ongoing conflicts have broken down most child protection systems, leaving children especially vulnerable, the report said.

Trafficking of children for labour, prostitution or domestic services is widespread, especially within Bangladesh and India, and within the region, as well as to Europe and the Middle East.

“Insufficient emphasis has been placed on protecting child victims of trafficking and ensuring that any judicial proceedings brought against them are child sensitive,” the report noted.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/BOM25771.htm

More than 2 million babies and mothers die worldwide each year from childbirth complications, outnumbering child deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS, according to a study.

The study, released last week at the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics world congress being held in Cape Town, also showed that such deaths could be easily avoided.

“The world will continue to miss the unheard cry of the 230 babies who die every hour from childbirth complications,” unless there is better planning and implementation of policies, according to the study.

Some 1.02 million babies are stillborn and another 904,000 die soon after birth. By comparison, 820,000 children die from malaria and 208,000 die from HIV/AIDS worldwide.

About 42 percent of the world’s 536,000 maternal deaths also occur during childbirth, according to the study. Deaths in Africa and South Asia account for three-quarters of the maternal and infant deaths.

The research was led by Save the Children, the Gates Foundation and Johns Hopkins University with investigators from a dozen countries. It was published in the October edition of the federation’s journal.

“The huge numbers hide multiple personal stories of loss,” said Joy Lawn, who runs Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives campaign. “Each death is a tragedy to a family — actually a double tragedy since almost all these deaths could be prevented.”

The report said that many of the deaths could be avoided with improvements in basic health care, and training for local health care workers to perform emergency cesarean sections and other lifesaving techniques.

Lawn said she hoped that the study would be used by countries to ensure money was invested where it was needed.

Poverty is one of the main causes of these deaths. In wealthier countries most women give birth with a skilled attendant while in poor countries, few women do.

Most deaths also occur in remote rural areas where there are few doctors and nurses. Each year, 60 million of the world’s 136 million births occur outside health facilities, and only one out of every five babies born in African hospitals are cared for by skilled staff.

Lawn told The Associated Press that researchers were taken aback by the shocking figures and the lack of attention given to these mothers and their babies.

“It is seen as women’s business. Stillbirths don’t count. Sometimes the deaths of women don’t even count,” she said.

However, she said that developments in Malawi show some signs of encouragement. The country, located in southern Africa, has only three pediatricians for about 12 million people. Yet, 60 percent of births took place in a clinic or hospital, she said, adding that the majority of cesarean sections were performed not by doctors but by trained health workers.

“They knew they didn’t have a lot of money or people and so had to be strategic,” she said.

The authors of the research welcomed the $5.3 billion committed by world leaders to maternal and child care at last month’s United Nations General Assembly.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j0CmPa9HNAEfl8qp_o0WniD3WLeQD9B5UEOO1

Despite National Commitment, Many Unable to Access Services

Tens of thousands of Indian women and girls are dying during pregnancy, in childbirth, and in the weeks after giving birth, despite government programs guaranteeing free obstetric health care, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 150-page report “No Tally of the Anguish: Accountability in Maternal Health Care in India” documents repeated failures both in providing health care to pregnant women in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India and in taking steps to identify and address gaps in care. Uttar Pradesh has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in India, but government surveys show it is not alone in struggling with these problems, including a failure even to record how many women are dying.

“Unless India actually counts all the women who die because of childbirth, it won’t be able to prevent those thousands of unnecessary deaths,” said Aruna Kashyap. “Accountability might seem like an abstract concept, but for Indian women it’s a matter of life and death.”

The report cites numerous examples of cases in which breakdowns in the system ended tragically. Kavita K., for example, developed post-partum complications, but the local community health center was unable to treat her, according to her father, Suraj S., who said the family then tried to take her to government hospitals in three different towns.

“From Wednesday to Sunday – for five days – we took her from one hospital to another,” he told Human Rights Watch. “No one wanted to admit her. In Lucknow, they admitted her and started treatment. They treated her for about an hour, and then she died.”

India created a flagship program, the National Rural Health Mission, in 2005 to improve rural health, with a specific focus on maternal health. The program promises “concrete service guarantees,” including free care before and during childbirth, in-patient hospital services, comprehensive emergency obstetric care, referral in case of complications, and postnatal care. But the system is not working as it should in many cases, Human Rights Watch research showed.

The report identified critical shortcomings in the tools used to monitor the health care system and identify recurring flaws in programs and practice. While accountability measures, such as monitoring how and why women die or are injured, or how many pregnant women with complications can use the government’s emergency obstetric facilities, may seem dry or abstract, they are critical to intervening in time to make a difference and to saving the lives of women.

The major gaps in the system identified by Human Rights Watch are:
* The failure to gather the necessary information at the district level about where, when, and why deaths and injuries are occurring and whether women with pregnancy complications in practice get access to emergency obstetric care; and
* The absence of accessible grievance and redress mechanisms, including emergency response systems.

“India has recognized that thousands and thousands of its women are dying unnecessarily, and it could be leading the world in reversing that deadly pattern,” said Kashyap. “But for all India’s good intentions, the system still leaves many women at risk of death or injury.”

The research for the report was conducted between November 2008 and August 2009, and included field research and interviews with victims, families, medical experts, officials and human rights activists in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere in India. Researchers reviewed government surveys and reports by local and international nongovernmental organizations.

The investigations in Uttar Pradesh also show that while health authorities are upgrading public health facilities, they still have a long way to go. The majority of public health facilities have yet to provide basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care. Many have a health worker trained in midwifery but who can do little to save the life of a pregnant woman unless supported by a functioning health system, including an adequate supply of drugs, emergency care, and referral systems for complications.

The reality is far different from what is guaranteed to women on paper. Niraja N., a health worker who routinely accompanies pregnant women to health facilities so they can give birth told Human Rights Watch:

“Nothing is free for anyone. What happens when we take a woman for delivery to the hospital is that she will have to pay for her cord to be cut … for medicines, some more money for the cleaning. The staff nurse will also ask for money. They do not ask the family directly … We have to take it from the family and give it to them [staff nurses] … And those of us [ASHAs] who don’t listen to the staff nurse or if we threaten to complain, they make a note of us. They remember our faces and then the next time we go they don’t treat our [delivery] cases well. They will look at us and say ‘referral’ even if it is a normal case.”

In part, this happens because many women are unaware of their entitlements under health care programs and have no way to make sure that their complaints and concerns about the treatment meted out to them at health facilities or by health workers are heard and addressed.

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/07/india-too-many-women-dying-childbirth

With US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the chair, the UN Security Council on 30th September 2009 unanimously adopted a resolution to halt the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war.

Resolution 1888, sponsored by 61 countries, reiterated the 15-member body’s “demand for the complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence with immediate effect.”

It affirms “that effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts of sexual violence can significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

The US-drafted text calls on UN chief Ban Ki-moon appoint a special representative to “provide coherent and strategic leadership to… address, at both headquarters and country level, sexual violence in armed conflict.”

Clinton, who chaired the high-level meeting “Women, Peace and Security” as her country holds the council’s rotating presidency this month, said the text was “a step forward in our global efforts to end violence perpetrated against women and children in conflict zones.”

She noted that the resolution focused on an issue that “has received too little attention,” she said, noting that it builds on two previous similar Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1820 adopted last year which makes sexual violence a war crime.

Ending sexual violence, particularly in Africa, is a proclaimed priority for the administration of US President Barack Obama and Clinton made a point of raising the issue in August when she visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country which has seen an epidemic of horrific sexual assaults against women.

“Today, the United States joins with the international community in sending a simple and unequivocal message: violence against women and children will not be tolerated and must be stopped,” Obama said in a statement after the council vote.

“I am pleased that the Security Council, chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unanimously approved a US-sponsored resolution that will increase the protection of women and children in conflict,” Obama added.

Obama vowed that his administration would “continue to support the right of all women and girls to live free from fear, and to realize their full potential.”

The resolution urges states to “undertake comprehensive legal and judicial reforms… without delay and with a view to bringing perpetrators of sexual violence in conflicts to justice.”

Parties to a conflict must also “ensure that all reports of sexual violence committed by civilians or by military personnel are thoroughly investigated and the alleged perpetrators brought to justice.”

Ban, who attended the meeting along with France’s junior minister for cooperation Alain Joyandet, said the Council was sending “an equivocal message — a call to action.”

“Sexual violence — in armed conflict or, indeed, at any time — should have no place and find no haven in our world,” he added. “We must all do our part to fight and end discrimination against women and girls.”

Joyandet called the creation of a high-level UN special representative to spearhead the fight against sexual violence in armed conflict “a major step forward.”

“We hope that this post will be created as soon as possible,” he added.

Britain’s outgoing UN Ambassador John Sawers also hailed that fact that Resolution 1888 “provides new leadership to combat sexual violence through the creation of a special representative of the (UN) Secretary General …and creates new steps to name and shame parties to armed conflict that perpetuate sexual violence.”

“The Security Council must live up to its responsibilities and never again relegate the question of systematic sexual violence to being a secondary issue. It is not,” Sawers added. “The measures we have adopted over the last two years now have to be pursued and implemented.”

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i9dQnIKuqYh7sVZvms4E4elwq0uQ

The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution last week urging all countries to increase the ranks of women with a seat at the table when negotiations take place to resolve conflicts and start building peace.

Nine years after the adoption of a landmark U.N. resolution calling for women be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and peace building, the council expressed “deep concern” at the small number of women in key leadership roles.

According to the UN Development Fund for Women, since 1992 only 2.4 percent of signatories to peace agreements were women, and women’s participation in negotiating delegations averaged about 7 percent.

Ines Alberdi, executive director of the fund, known as UNIFEM, said the “striking absence” of women in peace negotiations meant that they lacked a voice in everything that followed in trying to move their countries from war to peace.

The resolution adopted Monday requests Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit a set of indicators to track implementation of the landmark Security Council resolution adopted in 2000. It not only called for women to be included in decision-making at every level of the peace process but for increased protection of women and girls during war and prosecution of perpetrators responsible for rape and other crimes against women.

“It is time for us all to count the number of women at the peace table, the number of women raped in war, the number of internally displaced women who never recover their property, the number of women human rights defenders killed for speaking out,” Alberdi said.

She said targets should also be set for next year’s 10th anniversary commemoration of the resolution – likely to be a ministerial meeting – to start increasing women’s participation in peace efforts.

Alberdi suggested at least a 50 percent increase in the number of uniformed women peacekeepers and an even higher target to boost the number of women mediators and U.N. special representatives in countries emerging from conflict.

“The council must be relentless in its insistence on women as peacekeepers, peace builders and decision-makers,” said Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, the U.N. special adviser on gender issues and the advancement of women.

She lamented that women and girls continue to be victims almost a decade after the 2000 resolution was approved.

“Armed conflict and its aftermath continue to account for untold hardship for civilians, especially women and girls,” she said. “These violations – especially sexual violence against women and girls – are pronounced during open hostilities, but they exist even where open hostilities have subsided.”

Mayanja said the Security Council must reinvigorate efforts to put women at peace tables and help countries strengthen their judiciary and security institutions to enable them to hold the perpetrators of crimes against women and girls accountable.

Ireland’s UN Ambassador Anne Anderson recalled that almost 17 years ago she went to former Yugoslavia as Part of a European Union mission to investigate the rape of women during the Balkans conflict, which was being used as “an instrument of war.”

While men have always been victims and victors, waging war and authoring peace, she said, “women have largely been imprisoned in the victim role: the collateral damage of war and, if present at all, a kind of add-on at the peace table.”

To implement the 2000 resolution “means climbing mountains,” Anderson said.

“To get to first base, we need real, transformative, attitudinal change,” she said.

Anderson recalled US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying at a high-level breakfast last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly’s ministerial meeting that she is repeatedly questioned about spending time on the issue of women in conflict.

“She has had to explain for the millionth time that these issues are not secondary, but primary; that they are core foreign policy issues,” Anderson said.

Clinton presided over the council on Sept. 30 when it unanimously adopted a resolution condemning sexual violence in war zones.

That resolution creates a special UN envoy to coordinate efforts to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war and directs the secretary-general to dispatch a team of experts to advise governments on how best to prosecute offenders.

US deputy ambassador Rosemar DiCarlo told the council Monday that the US believes its continued focus on women, peace and security “is critical” and strongly supports the newly adopted resolution to include more women in peace processes and post-conflict deliberations.

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/10/6/apworld/20091006070432&sec=apworld#

Scores of Maoist activists protested outside the venue of the controversial “Miss Nepal” contest last month, saying the beauty pageant was an insult to women.

The former civil war rebels chanted “you can’t expose the women” as they sat on the street outside a high security army club in the heart of Kathmandu.

Many protesters waved black flags in protest as 15 young Nepali contestants, wearing multi-coloured shining saris, took centre stage on the catwalk.

“The contest is a forum where women are used by companies to popularise and sell their products,” said Manu Humagain, head of an anti-pageant Maoist panel. “It is a blow to the dignity of the women. We oppose it.”

On the other hand, the contestants said the event helped them forge a “separate identity” for themselves.

The winner will represent the young Himalayan republic at the Miss World contest in Johannesburg in December, organisers said.

Riot police stood guard outside the club but there was no violence and no arrests were made, police said.

Organisers said they were making the event, beamed out live on state-run Nepal Television, a low-key affair in view of the Maoists’ concerns.

The Miss Nepal contest has been running for 15 years, though organisers cancelled last year’s show because of Maoist protests.

The Maoists waged civil war from 1996 until a 2006 peace deal.

They led a coalition government after a surprise election victory, but the Maoist chief Prachanda resigned as prime minister in May after just eight months in office in a row over the sacking of the country’s army chief.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DEL222748.htm

Domestic violence killings in New York state more than doubled other types of homicides over a recent one-year period, statistics revealed last week.

The data issued by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services showed a near 25 percent spike in the number of “intimate partner” homicides from 2007 to 2008 — and the increase was 45 percent in counties outside New York City.

And while only 4 percent of male homicide victims 16 and older were killed by an intimate partner in 2008, the figure was nearly 50 percent for women 16 and older.

“That is a stunning statistic,” said Amy Barasch, executive director of the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, which advises and trains state leaders and agencies.

Overall, the numbers showed domestic killings — those involving intimate partners, family members or children — represented 147 of the state’s 830 homicide victims in 2008. By contrast, 137 of the state’s 803 homicide victims in 2007 were killed by domestic violence.

That means domestic killings increased 7.3 percent, compared to the 2.6 percent increase for other homicides.

The hike was among several trends reported among the categories that included gender, age and race as well as location within the state.

Among the findings, released at the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month:

While women represented less than 10 percent of the non-domestic homicide victims statewide in 2008, they accounted for nearly 75 percent of the victims in intimate partner killings.

Whites accounted for 30 percent of non-domestic homicide victims — but more than 62 percent of intimate partners killed.

Females in New York City accounted for 52 percent of the homicide victims of domestic violence in 2008. The percentage in the rest of the state was nearly 71 percent.

The vast majority of intimate partner killings — 56 percent — across the state involved knives, weapons that cut, or blunt objects. Less than 25 percent involved guns.

Police reported more than a 30 percent drop in the number of domestic violence killings of children, from 19 in 2007 to 12 last year.

The report was based on data that law enforcement agencies around the state send to DCJS.

It defined intimate partner victims as spouses, ex-spouses, common-law spouses, sexual partners, ex-sexual partners and same-sex partners. It defined child victims as those killed by a biological or adoptive parent or an intimate partner of a parent.

Locally, numbers showed a slight increase with few cases.

One of the 10 homicides in Albany County last year, the killing of a child, involved domestic violence. There had been none in 2007.

Rensselaer County had two domestic killings in 2008 — one involving a child victim, the other an intimate partner. There had been one domestic violence victim in 2007 killed by a family member.

Schenectady County, which had no domestic violence killings in 2007, had two intimate partner homicides in 2008.

Saratoga County no domestic violence homicides either year.

http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=848072&category=REGION

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Darfuri refugee women and girls face high levels of rape and other violence on a daily basis both inside and outside refugee camps in eastern Chad, despite the presence of UN security forces, a new Amnesty International report reveals.

In ‘No place for us here: Violence against refugee women in eastern Chad’, Amnesty International documents rape and other violence against women and girls in the camps, who face attacks carried out by villagers living nearby and members of the Chadian National Army.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Deputy Director, Tawanda Hondora said:

‘The rape that countless women and girls experienced in Darfur continues to haunt them in eastern Chad. These women fled Darfur hoping that the international community and Chadian authorities would offer them some measure of safety and protection. That protection has proved to be elusive and they remain under attack.’

The report says that refugee girls also experience sexual harassment at the hands of their teachers at schools in the camps. Some girls have reportedly been threatened that they would receive poor marks if they refused to have sexual intercourse with their teacher, leading some to drop out of school.

Tawanda Hondora continued:

‘Many people know that women who venture outside refugee camps in eastern Chad to collect firewood and water face harassment and rape. What people don’t realise is that there is little safety inside the camps for these same women. They face the risk of rape and other violence at the hands of family members, other refugees, and staff of humanitarian organisations, whose task it is to provide them with assistance and support.’

The DIS (Détachement Intégré de Sécurité – or Integrated Security Unit), a Chadian police force supported by the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), has been given specific responsibility for providing security in and around refugee camps and is now fully deployed, with more than 800 officers in the 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

However, members of the DIS have been direct targets of violence and some DIS officers have even committed human rights violations themselves.

Most refugee women and girls do not feel that the DIS has done much to address the insecurity they are facing.

One woman at Gaga Refugee Camp told Amnesty International:

‘The DIS spends a lot of time protecting themselves. Even the UN soldiers have to protect them. No one seems to have much time to protect us,’

Perpetrators of rape and other forms of violence against refugee women and girls in eastern Chad are very rarely brought to justice. This is the case even when survivors report rape and other attacks to the local Chadian authorities, the DIS or to refugee camps leaders.

Tawanda Hondora continued:

‘The deeply-entrenched culture of impunity throughout eastern Chad – especially when it comes to rape and other forms of violence against women – must end immediately.’

The use of traditional dispute resolution methods to find ‘negotiated” settlements to cases of rape and other violence against women and girls also perpetuates impunity and furthers violence.

A 13-year-old girl in Farchana Refugee Camp was raped by a Chadian nurse working for an organisation that manages health centres in the camp. She became pregnant following the rape and gave birth in January 2009. The man accepted that he was responsible for the pregnancy and negotiations were conducted with him, after which he agreed to marry the girl and pay a dowry to her family. He later fled the area. Despite complaints being filed with Chadian officials, by May 2009 it did not appear that there had been any effort to find him, nor had any legal action been initiated against him.

Amnesty International said that it is not possible to know the exact number of women and girls who have been victims of rape and other violence inside and outside refugee camps in eastern Chad, as women rarely report such crimes primarily because of fear of stigma, including from their own family members, and trauma.

Tawanda Hondora continued:

‘Married women who have been raped are often shunned or abandoned by their husbands, while girls and young women who have been raped very often find it difficult to marry. As a result, most women and girls choose to remain silent about rape to avoid the negative social consequences – meaning the perpetrators get away with their crimes.

The organisation has called for immediate, effective steps to be taken by both the Chadian government and the international community to address the pervasive and systematic rape and other forms of violence against Darfuri refugee women and girls in eastern Chad.

Tawanda Hondora added:

‘A clear and comprehensive plan that makes it clear that rape and sexual violence are unacceptable crimes should be put in place immediately, and relevant Chadian laws enforced. The plan should address the range of circumstances that put women and girls at risk of rape and other forms of violence inside and outside the refugee camps and the ways in which both national and international actors can help to protect women from these terrible crimes.’

October will mark nine years since the UN passed Resolution 1325, the first formal and legal document from the UN Security Council requiring parties in a conflict to respect women’s rights and to support their participation in peace negotiations and in post conflict reconstruction.

In June last year, the UN security council unanimously adopted resolution 1820, which said that sexual violence in conflict zones is a matter of international peace and security.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18435

Read the report: ‘No place for us here: Violence against refugee women in eastern Chad’ (PDF)

Successive governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina have failed to provide justice for thousands of women and girls who were raped during the 1992-1995 war, a new Amnesty International report reveals.

Launching at a press conference in Sarajevo, Amnesty’s 82-page report, Whose Justice? The women of Bosnia and Herzegovina are still waiting, details how thousands of rape survivors are still denied justice and reparation, while those responsible walk free, sometimes within the same community. Many survivors still suffer post-traumatic stress disorders and other psychological problems, yet receive little support.

The report is based on extensive research by Amnesty International, whose representatives met with survivors of sexual violence, support organisations, local NGOs, government officials and representatives of the international community.

The report comes ahead of the 14-year anniversary of the end of the war with the signing of the Dayton Agreement in November 1995 and nine years since the UN passed Resolution 1325, the first formal and legal document from the UN Security Council requiring, parties in a conflict to respect women’s rights and to support their participation in peace negotiations and in post conflict reconstruction.

Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Europe Programme Director, said:

‘During the war, thousands of women and girls were raped, often with extreme brutality. Many were held in prison camps, hotels and private houses where they were sexually exploited. Many women and girls were killed.

‘To this day, survivors of these crimes have been denied access to justice. Those responsible for their suffering – members of military forces, the police or paramilitary groups – walk free. Some remain in positions of power or live in the same community as their victims.

‘The government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has an obligation to provide these victims with access to justice and the full reparation to which they are entitled.

‘For this to happen, the authorities must ensure comprehensive investigations that lead to prosecutions of war crimes of sexual violence in the country. Without meaningful justice and full and effective reparation, victims continue to suffer the effects of these horrific crimes.’

Jasmina, a survivor of sexual violence during the war, told Amnesty International:

‘I can’t sleep without pills. I still get upset easily when people mention the war. An image, a memory, a TV spot can be a spark. I can’t stand it … I need help.’

The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have failed to provide these women with access to adequate healthcare or psychological support, which is provided only by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with limited resources. A Bosnian NGO told Amnesty International that the vast majority of survivors of war crimes of sexual violence are not receiving any psychological assistance.

Thousands of women survivors also lost family members. Many are not able to find or maintain jobs because of their psychological condition. Many remain without a stable source of income and live in poverty, unable to buy the medicines they need.

As rape continues to be a taboo subject, in most cases the women face stigmatisation rather than the recognition and vital assistance they need to help them rebuild their lives.

Nicola Duckworth said:

‘Many women who have survived sexual violence during the war cannot get any compensation due to the complex structures of the judicial and social welfare systems in the country. In comparison to other war victims, they suffer discrimination in access to social benefits.

‘The authorities must work with NGOs in developing a comprehensive strategy to ensure that survivors receive reparations, including adequate pensions, assistance with access to work and the highest achievable standard of heath-care. The government should support survivors of war crimes of sexual violence, to give them a voice to demand their rights and combat discrimination and stigmatisation they face in everyday life.’

Background

Rape and other crimes of sexual violence occurred on a massive scale during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established in 1993 to prosecute serious violations of international humanitarian law, including sexual violence. However, the ICTY was only able to prosecute a limited number of cases related to sexual violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina – 18 as of July 2009.

The War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina was created in 2005, to investigate and prosecute crimes that could not be prosecuted by the ICTY. To date, only 12 men have been convicted for crimes of sexual violence.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18431

Read the report: ‘Whose justice? The women of Bosnia and Herzegovina are still waiting’ (PDF)