Archive for November, 2010
16 Days 2010 Theme Announcement
This year marks the 20th 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, and with this important landmark, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) is considering new ways to utilize the campaign for transformative change. Year after year, new partners join the 16 Days Campaign to bring local, national, and global attention to the various forms of violence that women face. The attention that gender-based violence has received in international forums is a testimony to the powerful actions of women’s rights activists around the world. Yet, despite this increased awareness, women continue to experience violations in alarming numbers and new forms of violence are emerging. We, as defenders of women’s human rights, have a responsibility to look more closely at the structures in place that permit gender-based violence to exist and persist. After much consultation with activists, organizations, and experts from around the world, militarism has emerged as one of the key structures that perpetuates violence.
While there are many different ways to define militarism, our working definition outlines militarism as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests. It is a psychology that often has grave consequences for the true safety and security of women and of society as a whole. Militarism is a distinctive way of looking at the world; it influences how we see our neighbors, our families, our public life, and other people in the world. To embrace militarism is to presume that everyone has enemies and that violence is an effective way to solve problems. To leave militaristic ways of thinking unchallenged is to leave certain forms of masculinity privileged, to leave global hierarchies of power firmly in place, to grant impunity to wartime perpetrators of violence against women. To roll back militarism is to inspire more expansive ideas about genuine security, to bring more women into public life, to create a world built not on the competitive sale of weapons, but on authentic relations of trust and cooperation.
There is a need to address militaristic beliefs in all of our societies. Militarism has material and institutional, as well as cultural and psychological consequences that are more difficult to measure. Wars, internal conflicts, and violent repressions of political and social justice movements – all of which are a result of a culture of militarism – have a particular and often disproportionate impact on women. Rape is used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate women and their communities. But sexual violence is just one form of violence that women and girls suffer throughout the continuum of violence before, during and after conflict has ostensibly ended. Militarism neither ends nor begins in warzones, nor does it confine itself to the public sphere. The families of militarized men and women may experience violence in their homes where ‘war crimes’ and armed domestic violence are hidden from public view, and women who serve in the military are just as easily victims of sexual assault by their fellow soldiers. Even places that are not experiencing conflict directly are not exempt from militarism: they send troops, produce and sell weapons, and invest in the militaries of foreign governments rather than supporting development efforts. These governments have skewed priorities, spending huge percentages of their budgets on the military and arms rather than on social services, such as education, health care, job security, and development that would yield real security for women.
For these reasons, the international theme for the 2010 16 Days Campaign will be:
Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates November 25 – International Day Against Violence Against Women – and December 10 – International Human Rights Day – in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:
* raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
* strengthening local work around violence against women
* establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
* providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
* demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
* creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women
Over 3,400 organizations in approximately 164 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign since 1991!
The Annual Theme http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/about-16-days/the-annual-theme
The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) today launched its annual global Call for Propoosals for programmes that support country-level efforts to end violence against women and girls. The criteria, eligibility requirements and application guidelines are available at http://www.unifem.org/untfevaw.
The deadline for application is 20 January 2011.
Civil society organizations, governments, and UN Country Teams (working in partnerships with governments and civil society) are invited to submit applications for grants of a minimum of US$100,000 up to a maximum of US$1 million for a period of two to three years.
As one of his UNiTE campaign benchmarks, the UN Secretary-General has set a target of raising a minimum of US$100 million for the UN Trust Fund by 2015, in order to realize existing commitments to ending violence against women and girls.
Established in 1996 by the UN General Assembly, the UN Trust Fund is managed by UNIFEM (part of UN Women) on behalf of the UN system. Today, the UN Trust Fund is an essential source of support and a hub of knowledge for promising approaches to address violence against women and girls. In 2009, the UN Trust Fund received a total of 1,643 proposals and awarded US$20.5 million to 26 initiatives in 33 countries and territories.
The UN Trust Fund relies on the support from governments. In 2009-2010, its donors included the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America.
The UN Trust Fund has also received vital support of its partners in the private sector and nonprofit organizations, including Avon and Avon Foundation for Women; Johnson & Johnson; the United Nations Foundation; UNIFEM (part of UN Women) National Committees in Austria, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom; and Zonta International and Zonta International Foundation.
UNIFEM (part of UN Women) is the women’s fund at the United Nations. It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality. Placing the advancement of women’s human rights at the centre of all of its efforts, UNIFEM focuses its activities on reducing feminized poverty; ending violence against women; reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls; and achieving gender equality in democratic governance in times of peace as well as war. For more information, visit http://www.unifem.org.
UNIFEM, 304 East 45th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10017.
Tel: +1 212 906-6400.
Fax: +1 212 906-6705.
Abortion will be tackled anew by the National Human Rights Commission (Korea), putting the most ethically-controversial “fetus removal” issue under the spotlight once again.
The human rights watchdog will hold public hearings, discussions and conduct media monitoring next year before it decides whether or not to advise the government to revise a pertinent law which imprisons women who get abortions.
If so, the administration may have to revise its policy, which they believe will help address the low birthrate.
According to the commission, the decision was made in response to a petition filed by Korean Womenlink that the law violates the rights of women and their freedom of choice. Currently, except for several restricted circumstances, women who get an abortion are subject to up to one-year imprisonment or up to a 2 million won fine. Doctors who perform the practice are also subject to prosecution.
The petition reads, “The current law shows no understanding of the circumstances of women who are forced to abort. Penalization is the last thing a government should consider because it could drive women to receive the practice in the dark. The regulation violates not only the rights of women to choose but also the right to live a healthy life.”
The commission explained that the United Nations also advises governments with such laws to make a revision. “It is true that the law does not reflect the social, economic and individual conditions of a pregnant woman. Some women go abroad for the practice, which could risk their lives,” an official of the commission said. “On the other hand, we need to have discussions to look into the rights of a fetus to live. It is a tricky issue.”
Indeed, abortion is a difficult and thorny issue in Korea as in the rest of the world. In the latest report by gynecologists here, there were reportedly 342,233 cases of abortion in 2005 while the number of births stood at 476,000 in the same year. Some birth experts said the actual number of abortions could be double or treble the reported figure.
The administration, which has been extremely concerned about the falling birthrate, set out to regulate abortions. The regulation was part of its plan to boost the birthrate, which marked 1.18 in 2008, one of the lowest in the world. Some doctors joined in by revealing the names of gynecologists and the clinics performing the illegal practice.
But some experts refuted that the prohibition has adversely created a black market, allowing incompetent doctors to perform operations that could put women’s lives at risk and charge them rather inflated prices.
In a seminar held to discuss the possible legalization of abortion, Prof. Kim Hae-jung of Korea University said some countries with looser regulations such as Japan, Australia and Canada have a lower rate of abortion than Korea, meaning that legalization does not lead to an increase in abortion. “Education on contraception should also be included as a measure,” he said.
The International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is deeply shocked that a court in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan, has sentenced a 45-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, to death on the charge of having committed “blasphemy”. Although illiterate, she has been accused of denying the institution of prophet-hood by citing copious examples from the key texts of Islam. We join local human rights organizations, international women’s groups and religious minorities in calling for Pakistan to urgently repeal its Blasphemy Laws. We also appeal to the authorities to guarantee the safety of Asia Bibi and her family from the rage of local extremists, as well as investigate the violent persecution of the Christian community in the Punjab.
Asia Bibi is a farm worker in a village of Ittanwali in Nankana, about 75 kilometres west of Lahore. By Asia Bibi’s own account, her women co-workers tried to force her to embrace Islam on 8 June, 2009. This led to a discussion on the religious beliefs of the two communities and following a heated exchange between her and three Muslim women, the complainant Qari Muhammad Sallam, with the testimonies of these women, lodged a First Information Report (FIR) on June 19, 2009, under sections 295-B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code. Both sections state punishment by life imprisonment or capital punishment. Following the judicial process, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by an additional sessions court in Nankana district. Mrs Bibi was also ordered to pay a fine of 300,000 Pakistani rupees (£2,180). Now the family is appealing against the judgment in the Lahore High Court. SK Shahid, Asia Bibi’s counsel, said that he has filed an appeal with the Lahore High Court against the lower court’s judgment. “How can we expect from a non-Muslim to follow beliefs of the Muslims?” he asked. Various human rights groups are also likely to become party to the appeal, calling for the repeal of the judgment.
Mrs Bibi said that during the investigation held by Special Prosecutor Muhammad Amin Bokhari, she begged for pardon as she had never heard of the crime of blasphemy before. Mrs Bibi explained that she has not had access to a lawyer in jail and even on the day of her final verdict she was not accompanied by a lawyer. In court she was made to put a thumb print on the papers she was unable to read.
The Blasphemy laws have not only curtailed citizens’ freedom of expression, but have also been misused by violent religious extremists to commit grave acts of violence against others and to spread religious intolerance. In several cases the law has been used to settle personal scores and rivalries. Incidents of mob violence against non-Muslims, especially Christians, have also increased in this part of Punjab over the last few years, engineered by local extremists groups to give impetus to their religious and political base.
Blasphemy Laws in their present form were promulgated arbitrarily by the military dictator, Zia al-Huq, more than twenty years ago. Those who have worked to overturn false charges of blasphemy have themselves become the target of violence. A former Lahore High Court judge, Justice Arif Hussain Bhatti, was murdered by a religious extremist in 1996, reportedly because he acquitted a blasphemy case. A number of lawyers and journalists have also been harassed for defending people accused of blasphemy and campaigning against the Blasphemy Laws.
Take action here: http://www.wluml.org/node/6789
The Violence is Not our Culture Campaign (VNC) and Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) are gravely concerned over the recent announcement made by the official Iranian television channel on alleged self-incriminating statements by Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and several others on state TV last 15 November. We join the rest of the international community in denouncing this latest move by the Iranian authorities which adds more injustice to the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani.
In her third TV appearance to be stage-managed by the Iranian official media, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani described herself as “a sinner”, and described her supporters abroad as “defending me without any reason. I do not even know these people.” Her son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, was also shown confessing to lying about his mother’s treatment in prison. Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kiyan, in an audio narration also ‘confessed’ to having told Sajjad to lie about the case. Both Sajjad and Javid have yet to be seen or visited by their families and lawyers since their arrest.
The two German journalists who were also arrested with Sajjad and Javid have allegedly also admitted, through a Persian voiceover, that they had been deceived by Mina Ahadi, a Germany-based Iranian woman campaigning on Sakineh’s case, who instigated their trip to Iran.
The journalists are currently detained in Tabriz and are facing charges of espionage.
Our human rights concerns
The following are our specific concerns on this latest development on the case of Sakineh in addition to what we have already stated in our previous statement issued last 12 November. http://www.wluml.org/node/6773
1. We are convinced that these ‘confessions’ shown on Iranian TV were made under duress and should not be accepted as evidence in court against Sakineh and others implicated in her case. Non-admission of evidence taken under duress is in accordance with Article 14(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Iran is a state party.
2. We affirm that peaceful means of exercising the rights to freedom of expression and association, such as campaigning for the freedom and right to life of prisoners like Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, are to be upheld. Those who were implicated in the case of Sakineh and detained by the Iranian authorities without reasonable charge should be released immediately and unconditionally. If they have committed a criminal offence under Iranian law they should be tried promptly and fairly and in a manner consistent with the standards set forth by the ICCPR. They should be granted immediate access to lawyers of their choice and to their families.
3. We reiterate our call for the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure that best practices of due process and the rights to a fair trial are protected in all cases, and especially those punishable by the death penalty. We also call for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s death sentence to be dropped on humanitarian grounds, and for the government of Iran to consider implementing a moratorium on the death penalty for adultery cases.
We urge our allies and supporters to continue their actions by telephoning, emailing and/or sending a letter to the Iranian authorities as described in our previous Call to Action: UPDATE: Iran: Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani case: another test of Iran’s flawed justice system.
Female Prisoners Get Less Time Out of Cells; Family Visits Restricted
Syria’s prison authorities should immediately transfer women detained in the predominantly male `Adra prison to a facility for women, Human Rights Watch said last week. The authorities are holding at least 12 women among an estimated 7,000 men.
Syrian rights activists in touch with families of some of the detained women told Human Rights Watch that the women are held in a section of the prison under the control of Political Security, one of Syria’s multiple security agencies. They are only allowed out of their cell twice a week and family visits are subject to the approval of Political Security. Two female guards reportedly supervise the women directly, but male guards for the other prisoners have verbally harassed the women, the activists said. Male prisoners are allowed out of their cells for at least two hours twice a day and can receive weekly visits without Political Security review, male former prisoners told Human Rights Watch.
“We don’t know why Syria is keeping these women in `Adra prison, but we do know that their situation is precarious and they are being treated worse than their male counterparts,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
The United Nations-issued Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners say that, “Men and women shall so far as possible be detained in separate institutions,” and, “No male member of the staff shall enter the part of the institution set aside for women unless accompanied by a woman officer.” Syria has prisons for women, including a main facility in Douma, located in the suburbs of Damascus. Human Rights Watch has not been able to determine why some women are in `Adra prison.
Among the women in `Adra is Tuhama Ma`ruf, 46, a dentist detained there since February 10, 2010, to serve the remaining part of a sentence issued by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) in 1995 for membership in the unlicensed Party for Communist Action (PCA). Syria’s security services detained Ma`ruf in 1992 as part of a crackdown against the PCA, which no longer exists. Authorities released her on bail in 1993, but the SSSC sentenced her in 1995 to six years for “membership in an illegal organization.” At the time, Human Rights Watch criticized the trials against PCA members for due process violations and for criminalizing peaceful political activity.
Ma`ruf did not turn herself in after the sentence was issued in 1995 and lived clandestinely for the next 15 years. Security forces arrested her on February 6 and placed her in `Adra to serve the remaining five years of the sentence. Ma`ruf’s lawyers petitioned for her freedom, arguing that her sentence should be commuted because of the passage of time, but the SSSC prosecutor’s office rejected her request.
“Ma`ruf was sentenced to prison solely for her peaceful political activism, which is protected under international human rights treaties that Syria has ratified,” Whitson said. “The authorities should release her.”
The Syrian activists said that other female detainees in `Adra whose identities they know include Yusra al-Hassan, detained since January without any formal accusation or judicial referral. Her husband is being held by the United States in Guantanamo. Other female detainees in `Adra reportedly include members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) as well as women convicted on drug or prostitution-related charges.
We (Lakhdar Brahimi and Mary Robinson) have just visited the Gaza Strip where we met many courageous people trying to live relatively normal lives despite the crippling effects of the illegal Israeli blockade. The blockade was imposed to punish the Hamas-led government, but it is women and children who are paying the highest price.
In our conversations with a range of women, we learned that despite the apparent “easing” of restrictions by Israel and Egypt, important socio-economic indicators such as poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and family violence are getting worse. Women in this conservative society find their domestic responsibilities made all the more difficult and time-consuming by the blockade — and they bear the brunt of society’s frustration and anger in such trying times.
Equally disturbing are the creeping restrictions on women’s freedom imposed by Hamas activists. These restrictions are not being imposed through the introduction of laws, but rather through party-led initiatives that are enforced without any system of accountability. For example, there is no legal decree stating that all schoolgirls must wear a headscarf, yet those who don’t wear it are harassed. Women are punished if they smoke in public, while their male compatriots are allowed to do so. And at the beach, Gaza’s main source of fun and entertainment, women and men are strictly segregated.
The erosion of women’s freedoms is compounded by their lack of participation in politics. In Gaza, women already struggle to be heard. The absence of women from politics in turn fuels perceptions of women as passive; they are seen as victims of the ongoing conflict, rather than active participants in shaping opinions and political processes. Despite the extremely challenging circumstances in which they live, it was therefore encouraging to meet a remarkable group of women in Gaza who are working hard to counter prevailing stereotypes. They are doing it in particular through a UN mechanism called 1325.
Ten years ago, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, which recognized that sustainable peace could not be achieved in any conflict without the full participation — and protection — of women. We were impressed to see that women’s groups in Gaza are working hard to mobilize support for the democratic principles of Resolution 1325. At the heart of this resolution is the conviction that women, like men, have a right to participate as decision-makers in all aspects of governance: Women have a right to a voice in institutions that are democratic and accountable, including those that govern peacemaking.
Women’s groups in Gaza told us that they are doing their best to raise awareness about Resolution 1325 among local leaders. They have provided training to women on the ground in how to exercise their political rights. They have documented human rights violations and violence against women, and they participated in the UN investigation, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, to establish whether war crimes were committed during the devastating Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009. However, they don’t feel that there has been any positive improvement in the lives of Gazan women.
Women activists are clamoring for help from beyond Gaza: “What we do ourselves is not enough”, they told us. “We need help to make sure that our voices are heard in the outside world.” These women are very keen to join networks worldwide who are working on Resolution 1325 and women’s rights more generally; They want to stand in solidarity with women around the world and feel that they are not alone. They want to reach out to the wider international community, but they are penned in — the blockade prevents them from doing so.
This is one, largely unrecognized, price of the blockade of Gaza: It is hampering women’s efforts to cooperate and build a movement that can effectively advance gender equality. The effect extends beyond politics; the disempowerment of women hinders post-conflict reconstruction, reduces the likelihood that it will be sustainable, and prevents any meaningful progress on development.
As Elders, we call for the immediate and complete lifting of the blockade on Gaza. The ongoing siege is a denial of dignity; it is the denial of rights of a people, particularly its women, who yearn to be free.
Lakhdar Brahimi and Mary Robinson are both members of The Elders. Mary Robinson was the first woman President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002. Lakhdar Brahimi is a distinguished diplomat and mediator. He was Foreign Minister of Algeria from 1991 to 1993 and has led UN missions in South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Faith-based organizations are playing increasingly prominent roles in service delivery. However, the premise that such organisations promote gender equality and the empowerment of women needs critical re-examination.
Faith-based organizations play a central role in welfare provision and delivery in many parts of the world. They account for roughly 50 percent of health service provision in many African countries and play a significant role in the provision of education in South Asia, Latin America and Africa. The role of these organisations in AIDS treatment in Africa has also received recognition, providing 40% of HIV care and treatment services in countries such as Lesotho and almost a third of the HIV/AIDS treatment facilities in Zambia. There is an increasing interest on the part of many actors, not least donors and policy-makers, in using and promoting faith-based organizations delivering services to advance a variety of agendas.
The case for enlisting faith-based organizations to advance gender equality rests on three central claims. First, the possibility of calling upon religious leaders and organizations who can, through their high profile and legitimacy, endorse positive social change UNFPA (2008), for instance, provides some impressive case studies of recruiting religious leaders on AIDS campaigns and reproductive health awareness initiatives.
However, partnership with male leadership fails to guarantee that an equality agenda will be adopted, as the experience of the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria( FOWMAN), a prominent faith-based organization shows. An alliance between FOWMAN and Islamic scholars and government has rendered the movement dependent on powerful men for legitimacy.
Second, the social networks provided by faith-based organizations and the help women receive through membership in churches and mosques can be crucial to their daily survival. Building social capital through membership in religious groups, however, raises concerns over social cohesion and the politics of exclusion in multi-faith communities.
Finally, a faith-based approach to development is claimed to allow for a more holistic understanding of needs that takes account of both material and spiritual dimensions. However, the distinction between spirituality and religious observance is often blurred when there is pressure to conform to one particular understanding of how faith should manifest itself in mores, behaviours and relationships.
Three conundrums are worth noting in relation to faith based organisations delivering services. While some provide women with a spiritual and social repertoire that may act to empower them, they may simultaneously prescribe (and circumscribe) the ways in which they are expected to exercise their agency. Furthermore, the assumption that FBOs working at the grassroots level necessarily emanate from the grassroots and respond to local concerns is questionable. The third conundrum concerns the implications of what may be termed as the “food-for-faith” relationship. These will be discussed in turn.
Start of a much longer article which continues at http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/faith-in-service-what-has-gender-got-to-do-with-it
Mr Stephen Lewis, a former United Nations Envoy on HIV and AIDS for Africa challenged the membership of five countries on the UN Agency on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Executive Board.
He explained that he disapproved of the membership of Saudi Arabia, Libya, Bangladesh, Iran and Democratic Republic of Congo on the Executive Board because of their anti-gender laws and practices.
The UN Women was formed to support the Commission on the Status of Women and other inter-governmental bodies in devising policies and also helping member states to implement standards.
It is also to provide technical and financial support to the countries and assist them to forge partnerships with civil society.
Speaking at an international women’s conference in Accra on the theme: “Quality versus Quantity; How far have we come in promoting Africa women’s participation in politics,” Mr Lewis said the five countries’ membership ‘amounted to international trafficking of the rights of women.’
The Women’s Conference was organized by the African Women Development Fund to celebrate its 10th anniversary was attended by leading accomplished African women, including the Liberian President, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ; Vice President of Malawi, Mrs. Joyce Banda, Ministers of State and Parliamentarians.
He said: “In Saudi Arabia, women are not entitled to drive; women require a male guardian’s consent to have a passport and to travel abroad. In a Saudi Court of Law, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.
“Its impossible to know from day to day where Libya falls on any given issue, the rights of women included, and its presence on the Board is akin to farce, Bangladesh is a country that stands against gender equality…and now they sit on the Board of UN Women.
“Democratic Republic of the Congo’s membership is a true travesty of the integrity of the UN Women; rape has been used unimpeded as a strategy of conflict throughout the war. And even though Iran lost the election to be a member, it was included in a block of 10 countries for an election by acclamation.
“Iran is a country where domestic violence is legal; marital rape is legal. A charge of rape can indeed be brought by a woman, but four male witnesses are required, or three men and two women, and if the charge fails, the woman who made the accusation receives 80 lashes.”
The UN Women is also mandated to hold the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality. The UN Women will be officially established on January 1, 2011.
The 41 board members were selected on the following basis: 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, four from Eastern Europe, six from Latin America and the Caribbean, five from Western Europe and six from contributing countries.
Elected from the African Group were Angola, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Lesotho, Libya, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste were elected from among the Asian States.
Estonia, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine were elected from among the Eastern European States, while Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden were elected from the Western European and Other States.
In addition, the Council elected Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada and Peru from the group of Latin American and Caribbean States.
The Council also elected Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Kingdom and United States from among the “contributing countries,” for three-year terms beginning today.
Headed by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, UN Women is the merger of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) issued a short report on the campaign for November 28′s Egyptian Parliamentary elections, saying women have a number of complaints that must be looked into for a better election.
According to the leading women’s organization in Egypt, they have “received many complaints from female candidates of the National Democratic Party who were excluded from nomination in the upcoming elections.”
The organization listed the complaints from the potential candidates:
1. NDP’s exploitation
The party made the best use of some female candidates by taking donations from each candidate of up to 10,000 Egyptian pounds. This is why there are calls for the return of the money.
2. Nominating candidates out of the electoral college, based on criteria of relatives and not on partisan basis
The party excluded some female candidates in favor of others who are relatives of some secretaries in the party. Moreover, many women in Beheira claimed that they were excluded in favor of others who came out of the Electoral College.
3. Prevent entering the headquarter to look at results of the Electoral College
ECWR received a complaint from one of the National Democratic Party’s female candidates in Assuit who has been excluded from nomination in the elections. She said that she was prevented from entering the secretariat of the NDP in Cairo when she went there to know the number of votes that she gained; this happened after she went to the secretariat of the party in Assuit and was informed that ballot boxes had been moved into Cairo.
4. Changing the nomination category
ECWR received a complaint from one of the National Democratic Party’s female candidates in Kafr El Shekh for labor seat within the quota system. She said that the party chose her for the professional seat, though she submitted her documents for the labor seat. Thus, it became necessary for her to change the category of her nomination, though the party has affirmed to her before that she will be nominated as labor candidate in Assuit.
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights is still following the election process and is receiving complaints from women in all the Egyptian governorates.
The Women’s League of Burma (WLB) warmly welcomes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi back into active political and public life and we hope to soon celebrate the reinstatement of her inalienable rights, especially her freedom of movement. Though her release brings us joy and hope, we also clearly recognize that this alone does not fully ensure democratic progress for the country unless all political prisoners are released unconditionally.
In 1990, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won the country’s first election in decades by a landslide. The military regime did not honor the election result and she has been kept under house arrest for 15 of the last 20 years. Even while under house arrest, she has demonstrated unwavering and determined political leadership, provided inspiration and garnered respect from the people of Burma and democracy-loving people around the world. The recent expression of public support leading up to her release shows that although she was kept out of the publics’ eye, she is always in their hearts. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a true role model of the kind of leadership Burma is desperately yearning for; someone who can facilitate trust building, cooperation, dialogue, and progress.
WLB calls for her release to be unconditional but final and her security must be guaranteed. Though her liberty rekindles hope, the SPDC must meet other essential benchmarks of democratic progress. She is one of many political prisoners, and one of millions of women in Burma struggling against military rule.
The recent election is a clear example that the military regime’s focus is to ensure power through all methods of manipulation and control, and this election must not be recognized. The military regime’s ongoing attacks against civilians, even in recent days, are a clear sign they do not mean to bring peace to the country and this is unallowable. We urged the SPDC to cease all hostilities and stop fighting in the ethnic areas. The international community must continue to firmly call for the release of all political prisoners, an end to crimes against humanity, and genuine national reconciliation with effective action until the SPDC response the calls.
WLB believes that all women in Burma will continue to face injustice and violence as long as the junta is holding on to power. Therefore, we urge all the people of Burma to work together and rise up using peaceful means to end the military dictatorship in Burma.
WLB honors Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her tireless work in pursuit of democracy in Burma and will continue to work alongside her until our mutual aims are achieved.
For More Information:
Lway Aye Nang: + 6680 115 9598
Tin Tin Nyo: +66810322882
Thin Thin Aung: +91-9891252315
* Aung San Suu Kyi: Undiminished by years of house arrest – interview with BBC
* Video of BBC interview
* Aung San Suu Kyi calls for dialogue with Burma’s junta – Various videos via Guardian web site
* The victory of the junta-backed party in the Nov. 7 elections for Burma–which the military government calls Myanmar–comes as no surprise to Charm Tong.
It only reiterates the belief that she and many others hold that the polls were conducted to legitimize the military regime. That means the continuation of military rape and sexual violence in conflict-affected areas of eastern Burma that Tong has been trying to stop for more than 10 years.
Hundreds of supporters of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi have gathered at the headquarters of her political party in Yangon after one of its leaders revealed an order for her release had been signed by the ruling junta.
About 300 people gathered at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) as news of her possible release was made public.
Ms Suu Kyi’s house arrest officially ends on Saturday, but rumours have that she might be freed a day earlier have swept the city.
“My sources tell me that the release order has been signed,” said Tin Oo, vice chairman of the NLD party. “I hope she will be released.”
He did, however, not say when she would be freed or when the order had been signed, but her lawyer, Mr Nyan Win, believes her release is imminent.
Jailed or under house arrest for more than 15 of the last 21 years, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has become a symbol for a struggle to rid the south-east Asian country of decades of military rule.
Her current detention began in May 2003 after her motorcade was ambushed in northern Burma by a government-backed mob. The detention period was extended in August this year when a court convicted her of briefly sheltering an American intruder who came to her house uninvited.
If she is released, Ms Suu Kyi, 65, plans to help her disbanded party probe allegations of election fraud, according Mr Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman for the party.
Meanwhile, state media announced on Thursday that the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party had secured a majority in both houses of parliament.
Sussan Tahmasebi, recipient of the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism for 2010, dedicated her award to the imprisoned lawyer and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh and other detained women activists on November 10, 2010. Human Rights Watch is presenting the award to Tahmasebi for her courageous work to promote civil society and women’s rights in Iran.
Tahmasebi expressed her concern about Sotoudeh’s deteriorating health. Sotoudeh has been on a “dry” hunger strike since October 31, 2010, refusing to eat or drink anything to protest being held in solitary confinement since her arrest on September 4. Prosecutors charged Sotoudeh with various national security crimes, but have not made public any information regarding the basis for these charges.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending the rights of the accused, often at great risk to herself and her family,” Tahmasebi said. “Now she is behind bars, for no other reason than being unwilling to compromise with authorities when it comes to safeguarding her clients’ due process rights.”
Prison officials have prevented Sotoudeh from meeting with her husband and lawyer. Sotoudeh’s health is in serious decline and she is in critical need of emergency intervention, Tahmasebi said.
Since 2005, and especially since the disputed presidential election in June 2009, Iran has stepped up repressive measures against Iranian civil society activists, including those who advocate women’s rights and speak out against discriminatory laws. The government has arrested scores of volunteers and members of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grass-roots campaign aimed at overturning discriminatory laws.
“Iranian women in prison today include human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, and students,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “What they have in common is their relentless pursuit of justice, at great risk to themselves, their families, and their reputations.”
Tahmasebi expressed particular concern about three other women sentenced to prison for their work:
* Bahareh Hedayat, the first secretary of the Women’s Commission of the Office to Foster Unity (Tahkim-e Vahdat), and the first – and so far only – woman elected to the national student organization’s central committee. Authorities arrested her on December 30, 2009, and charged her with various national security crimes, including “propaganda against the system,” “disturbing public order,” “participating in illegal gatherings,” and “insulting the president.” In May, Judge Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Hedayat to nine and a half years in prison in relation to her student and women’s rights activities. In July, an appeals court upheld the sentence. She has remained in prison since her arrest and is currently serving her term.
* Jila Baniyaghoub, an award-winning journalist and women’s rights activist. Security forces arrested her and her husband in their home on June 20, 2009. Prosecutors charged her with “propaganda against the regime” for her journalism and released her on bail after she spent two months in detention. Her husband, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, is currently serving a five-year sentence on various national security charges related to his journalism. On June 8, a revolutionary court sentenced Baniyaghoub to a year in prison and barred her from working as a journalist for 30 years. In late October an appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. She has not yet begun her sentence.
* Shiva Nazar Ahari, a human rights activist who worked with the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. Security forces arrested her on December 20, 2009, as she and several colleagues were preparing to take a bus to Qom to attend the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a dissident cleric who long criticized the government. Prosecutors charged her with “assembly and collusion to commit a crime,” “propaganda against the regime,” and moharebeh, a vaguely defined offense meaning “enmity against God” that carries the death penalty and is often reserved for people accused of belonging to an organization that takes up arms against the state. On September 18, a revolutionary court sentenced Ahari to six years in prison, to be served in Izeh prison, 500 miles from Tehran, her home town. Ahari’s lawyer has appealed.
Tahmasebi also referred to the situation of several other women activists and journalists who have been sentenced to prison terms. These women include:
* Aliyeh Eghdamdoust, a women’s rights activist serving a three-year sentence for national security crimes after taking part in a peaceful women’s rights gathering at Haft-e Tir square in Tehran on June 12, 2006.
* Shabnam Madadzadeh, deputy chair of the Tehran Council of Tahkim-e Vahdat, the national student organization. Authorities arrested her and her brother on February 20, 2009. Prosecutors charged the two with moharebeh and “propaganda against the regime” in connection with their student activities. In February, after they spent a year in detention, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, headed by Judge Moghiseh, sentenced them to five years in prison. Prison authorities transferred her to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, where conditions are notably poor, on August 2. They have denied her family’s requests for medical leave though she reportedly suffers from numerous physical ailments.
* Mahdieh Golroo, a student activist and member of the Committee to Defend the Right to Education, a group dedicated to restoring the rights of students prohibited from continuing their college education because of their political activities. She has been in prison since November 3, 2009. A revolutionary court convicted her of national security crimes and sentenced her to 28 months in April 2010. Although she reportedly suffers from intestinal problems, prison authorities have refused to grant her temporary medical leave.
* Jila Tarmasi, a member of a group of mothers protesting their children’s detentions, who was arrested on October 9, along with her daughter, when security forces raided her home in Tehran. Tarmasi’s daughter was released after 12 days, but Tarmasi still remains in prison and has not been allowed visits by her family. She joined the “Mourning Mothers,” now called the “Mothers of Laleh Park,” to protest her son’s detention. “Mourning Mothers” was established in June 2009 by mothers whose children lost their lives in state-sanctioned violence following Iran’s disputed June 12 election. They used to conduct silent protests in Tehran’s Laleh Park, but security forces now prevent them from holding the protests.
* Akram Zienali, another member of “Mourning Mothers,” was also arrested on October 9 along with her daughter when security forces raided her home in Tehran. Her daughter was released after 12 days, but Zeinali remains in custody. Her son, Saeed Zeinali, was a university student arrested 11 years ago after protests erupted at Tehran University. He has since disappeared, and his mother has been trying for years to discover his fate.
* Fatemeh Masjedi, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign from Qom who worked to promote women’s rights. She was charged with “spreading propaganda against the state” and supporting a “feminist group which works in opposition to the regime” and sentenced on August 29 to a year in prison. Her lawyer is filing an appeal, and she has not yet begun serving her term.
* Maryam Bidgoli, another Qom resident who is a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign and who worked for women’s rights. She was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison along with Masjedi, on the same charges. Her lawyer is filing an appeal and she has not yet begun serving her term.
* Mahsa Amrabadi, a journalist who sent a public letter to the head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, criticizing the arrest and detention of journalists, including her husband, Massoud Bastani. Judge Moghiseh of Branch 28 of Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced her to a year in prison in October for “acting against national security” in connection with her interviews and reports regarding the post-election crackdown on journalists. She has not yet appealed the decision in her case nor has she begun serving her prison term.
* Hengameh Shahidi, a journalist and women’s rights activist sentenced to six years in prison on November 15, 2009, by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court. Security forces arrested her on June 30, 2009, in Tehran and charged her with various national security crimes, including “participation in illegal gatherings,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “insulting the president.” After persistent requests from her family, authorities temporarily released her from Evin prison on October 28 so that she could undergo medical treatment for a variety of physical ailments, including heart problems.
Tahmasebi called on the Iranian authorities to release those who are serving prison terms or are in “temporary detention,” including Nazanin Khosravani, a journalist who was arrested by security forces last week, and to overturn the convictions of all of the women whose cases she highlighted.
There isn’t really such thing as a “masculine” and a “feminine,” says feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Because we’ve been so deeply propagandized with the notions about what it means to be male or female, we don’t even know what the differences between these groups truly are. What we do know is that individual differences are much greater than group differences she says: “The differences between two women are quite likely to be bigger than the generalized differences between males and females as groups for every purpose except reproduction, just as the individual differences between two members of the same race or ethnicity are probably greater than the differences between two races.”
In her Big Think interview, Steinem sets the record straight about the oft-demonized feminist movement. Its purpose is not to attack men but “to free the uniqueness of the individual and to understand that inside each of us is a unique human being who is a combination of heredity and environment.” And in this pursuit, tremendous headway has been made, but there is still much more to be done.
Feminism isn’t dead, says Steinem. That’s merely a lie spread by the right. In the 1960s and ’70s, critics of feminism said that it wasn’t necessary, that women didn’t want these new rights and freedoms, and they are still propagating anti-feminist narratives. “The idea that feminism has not succeeded or that this generation has rejected it is just a new form of the backlash,” she says. But their efforts haven’t succeeded. “Even though the opposition has tried very hard to demonize [feminism] and to call us Femi-Nazis and terrible stuff, there are still about a third of American women who self identify as feminists with no definition and with the definition it’s more than 60%.”
We must also reassess our assumptions about men, she tells us. “We’ve demonstrated in this and other modern countries or industrialized countries that women can do what men can do, but we have not demonstrated that men can do what women can do,” she says. “Therefore children are still mostly raised by women, and women in industrialized modern countries end up having two jobs: one outside the home and one inside the home. And more seriously than that, children grow up believing that only women can be loving and nurturing, which is a libel on men, and that only men can be powerful in the world outside the home, which is a libel on women.”
Another sign of positive change would be a change in the forms of pornography society consumes, says Steinem. Pornography is tantamount to female slavery: “It’s all about passive dominance and pain,” she says. “I want to pass a newsstand and see erotica, real erotica, which has to do with love and free choice, not pornography,” she tells us. The same is true of prostitution: men go to prostitutes because they need a certain kind of dominance, which she says is an addiction to masculinity. “What has been eroticized by male dominant systems of all kinds is dominance and passivity; we need to eroticize equality,” she argues. “I always say to audiences of men, ‘Cooperation beats submission.’ Trust me.”
Finally, Steinem tells us why Sarah Palin’s choice to brand “mama grizzlies” as the mascot for right-wing women is so ironic. Grizzly bears are actually the animals that most embody reproductive freedoms, she says.
A blazing row over feminism erupted Tuesday between Family Minister Kristina Schröder and Germany’s leading women’s rights campaigner, Alice Schwarzer, following an interview by the minister that had other women politicians bristling too.
Schwarzer, the 67-year-old leading feminist and founder of the women’s journal EMMA, blasted Schröder in an open letter as a “hopeless case” and “simply unqualified.”
Schröder, 33, is the youngest woman ever to sit in Germany’s cabinet. In an interview this week with Der Spiegel magazine, the conservative Christian Democrat took issue with some of Schwarzer’s assertions in the latter’s famous feminist book, Der kleine Unterschied und seine großen Folgen, or “The Small Difference and its Great Consequences.”
The minister questioned Schwarzer’s purported view that “heterosexual sex was hardly possible without the subjugation of the woman.”
“It is absurd when something that is essential to the survival of humanity is defined as subjugation. That would mean that without the subjugation of woman society could not continue.”
Schröder also said: “I don’t find it convincing that homosexuality should be the solution to the disadvantage of women.”
The radical feminist tendency to reject relationships between men and women was not a solution for inequality, she said.
“I believe that early feminism at least partially overlooked that partnership and children bring happiness,” she told the magazine.
The minister also rejected the idea of quotas to improve women’s standing in the workplace, calling it a “political capitulation.” She blamed some women’s own choices for the fact that they earned less than men.
“The truth is this: Many women prefer to study German philology and humanities, while men study electric engineering – and that has consequences when it comes to wages. We can’t forbid companies from paying electric engineers more than a philologist.”
Schröder told Der Spiegel that a new part of her policy would be providing more support to boys, who are falling behind girls in schools. Government policies have neglected boys and men, she said.
The Family Minister’s comments were not appreciated by feminist leader Schwarzer, who made a brutal retort in an open letter to Schröder, also published by Der Spiegel.
“I consider you to be a hopeless case. Simply unqualified,” Schwarzer wrote.
“Whatever the motive of the chancellor might have been in appointing you of all people – it cannot have been competence and empathy for women.”
Schwarzer accused Schröder of using “cheap clichés” about “the most momentous social movement of the 20th century,” which Schröder, among many other young women, could thank for their personal success in their careers.
She went on to blast Schröder for employing “populist wisdom” and “outrageous nonsense” about Schwarzer’s book.
She said she had waited for the past year for deeds and action from Schröder, but “in vain.”
“The only exciting news from your office was your change of name from Köhler to Schröder,” she said, referring to the minister’s name change after she got married in February.
Meanwhile Green party parliamentary group leader and candidate for Berlin mayor Renate Künast said she was “dumbfounded” by the Family Minister’s comments, calling them “crude and antiquated.”
Another opposition politician, Social Democrat deputy leader and Minister of Social Affairs and Health in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, called the interview “nonsense.”
“Mrs. Schröder has absolutely no understanding of the historic meaning of feminism,” she told Der Spiegel, adding that she was also uninformed about the modern problems of women.
The deputy leader of the socialist Left party, Katja Kipping, weighed in on the debate with equal vigour, questioning Schröder’s knowledge of the movement, saying it had “never been about man-hating, but about fighting the patriarchy – that is, structures that discriminate against women.”
We, undersigned, hereby express our concern about the situation in Hungary regarding non-hospital birth. It is shameful that Dr. Ágnes Geréb and other midwives providing responsible assistance to homebirthing families could become the victims of a show trial beneath the dignity of a democratic state.
We think that prosecuting midwives because of a regrettable case that could have happened in a hospital is unacceptable. The rate of neonatal mortality in Hungary for out-of-hospital birth is 1 out of a thousand, while 8 out of a thousand for hospital birth (international statistics are in line with the Hungarian data: in countries where assisted, planned out-of-hospital birth is regulated, maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity rates of homebirth are better or at least as good as corresponding rates of hospital birth.)
Midwives in our country face several legal and professional problems due to the current lack of appropriate legislation, therefore their activity is not judged according to protocols developed and adopted by midwives, but according to the protocols of another and completely different approach, that of medicalized obstetrician paradigm. In this present unlawful situation not only families choosing homebirth are negatively discriminated, but also those dedicated professionals, who assist them as midwives.
The Hungarian Parliament failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation by not creating the legal, financial, institutional and educational framework for planned, assisted out-of-hospital birth. The legal deficiency subsists, and this outrageous situation cannot be justified by the fact that the College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians tenaciously stands against homebirth despite international recommendations, scientific evidence and the opinion of experienced professionals. Citizens of Hungary who would like to make responsible and free choices regarding the location and circumstances of their birth, find themselves is dishonoring situations, although the Constitution guarantees their right to self-sovereignty.
We request that competent authorities and professional bodies promote effective cooperation of parties, and reconcile this discreditable situation.
We also request that the Judiciary Administration fairly and impartially run the trial, staying away from the unlawful persecution of professional midwives assisting homebirth.
Sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/szul2010/petition.html
On the 8th November we sent a World March of Women (WMW) declaration denouncing the deportation of activists (including a WMW activist, Nice Coronación) who were trying to enter South Korea to take part in events parallel to the G20 meeting in Seoul. A Korean visa was also denied to Bushra Khaliq, Pakistani activist who was also going to represent the WMW in Korea.
Since then, the South Korean government, on behalf of the other G20 countries, has once again acted to supress criticism and democratic debate, by refusing the entry of our IC member, Jean Enriquez from the Philippines, into the country. She was deported back to Manila on the 10th November, very early in the morning.
We denounce the humiliating treatment to which Jean and other Philippines activists have been subjected by the South Korean government. We will continue to struggle against the G20 and the capitalist, sexist, racist system which it represents.
Women on the March until we are All Free!
Click to read Jean Eriquez’s account on her deportation http://www.marchemondiale.org/alliances_mondialisation/mobilisations/deported-journal/en and the paper of the presentation she would do in Seoul http://www.marchemondiale.org/alliances_mondialisation/mobilisations/jeans-presentation/en.
World March of Women Declaration: Deportation of activists acting against the G20 summit in South Korea
On the 11th and 12th November the fifth meeting of the G20 takes place in Seoul, South Korea. Made up of 19 “developed” and “emerging” nations (United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, South Korea, Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey) and the European Union, the G20 emerged in 2008 as a new “power structure” aiming to fix the capitalist system shaken by the financial crisis, without the participation of majority of “developing” and poor countries.
But people know there’s no solution for the crisis without real wealth and power distribution. In this framework, social movements around the world have been organizing G20 Counter Summits since 2008.
On the 8th November, the Korea Women’s Alliance (KWA) and Korean Women’s Association United (KWAU), national reference groups of the World March of Women, organized the Gender Justice Action against the G20 Seoul Summit in order to debate the gender blindness of the G20’s agenda, and feminist alternatives to the current global financial architecture. The WMW organized a representative delegation with activists from Pakistan, the Phlippines and Japan.
But the G20 – through the South Korean government – has swung into action to avoid any democratic debate, by unjustifiably denying visas for progressive activists from Asian and African countries, including our sister Bushra Khaliq from Pakistan. They also deported 7 Philippines activists, including our sister Nice Coronacion.
“These deportations and the denial of visas of many our colleagues signifies the failure of the G20 and cowardice of the G20 governments. Refusing to listening to women’s voices is not acceptable, so we cannot accept any legitimacy of the G20″, said Fumi Suzuki, from the World March of Women in Japan.
As Jean Enriquez, member of the WMW’s International Committee stated, “the South Korean Government and the G20 have exposed themselves as violators not only of economic rights, but of political rights as well”. The last G20 summit, held in Toronto, Canada, last June, is still fresh in our minds, where over 900 activists were arrested to avoid the expression of critical voices.
We, activists from the WMW, denounce G20 efforts to create and give authority to this new “power structure”, in an attempt to hide the illegitimacy of the multilateral institutions, especially the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). We raise our voices against the false solutions to the economic, financial, social, political crises and affirm that democracy is impossible as long as wealth is concentrated to such an extent in the hands of the few.
Our minds and hearts will be turned to Seoul, where we know that our sisters will be struggling to change women’s lives and to transform the world!
Women on the March until we are All Free!
Women from a dozen countries convened in New York last week to share their struggles to implement state legislation and empower women at the grassroots level to put an end to gender- based violence (GBV) worldwide.
Hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Nov. 4-5 high-level consultation entitled ‘Delivering as One on Violence Against Women: From Intent to Action’ addressed the triumphs and tribulations of the Inter-Agency Task Force’s pilot programme on GBV.
Since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched ‘UNiTE to End Violence Against Women’ in 2006, various U.N. agencies, civil society organisations and national coalitions have taken up the struggle, with renewed vigour.
The pilot programme, launched in Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Jamaica, Paraguay, Chile, Fiji, Jordan, Yemen, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines, was based on the supposition that greater cohesion across regions and between organisations was needed to yield the greatest benefits for women’s security. The pilot sought to connect multiple stakeholders through joint programming in the 10 countries.
“We have to first turn victims into survivors and then into activists and advocates. … You have to put the issue of VAW [violence against women] within the context of women’s low status in the world and of women being treated like disposable commodities. To challenge that perception, you have to challenge the very foundation of patriarchy.”
“The joint programme allows stakeholders to jointly assess progress and decide what has worked and what has not. They allow multi-sectoral approaches to addressing issues that are often dealt with by a single entity”.
Virtually every participant echoed this sentiment and expressed dissatisfaction with the bureaucratic nature of competing U.N. agencies that often replicate each other’s work and fail to pool their efforts effectively.
The two-day consultation covered a lot of ground, touching on everything from Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) to the engagement of men and boys in ending GBV, and ended with several positive conclusions.
Representatives from each of the pilot countries discussed experiences across a range of regional, religious and cultural realms, highlighting the successes of the programme.
In Rwanda, this initiative led to the creation of the ‘Isange One-Stop Center’ based at the Police Hospital in Kigali, a shelter-cum-rehabilitation center for abused, battered women.
In Paraguay, several leaps were taken towards bringing issues of GBV and VAW into the mainstream, including a manual for journalists, round-table discussions at the national level on trafficking of women and children, and workshops for media personnel involved in TV and radio programming.
In Jamaica, an after-school programme focused on educating young men on the importance of working in solidarity with women towards ending violence. Boys came up with slogans like “Abusers are losers” and “Don’t fight it out, talk it out.”
This is a tremendous step for youth in a country that is saturated in the culture of ‘dance hall’ music, which posits women as sex objects and binds male identity to images of aggression, violence and masculinity.
Tom Minerson, executive director of the Toronto-based White Ribbon campaign, referred to the “disadvantages of the advantages of being a man.” According to Minerson, educating young men on the harmful effects of the system of male power and privilege can transform gender identities and generate compassion and an enlightened sense of self for men.
But despite a few victories dotting the battlefield on which women wage a daily struggle for respect, equality and survival, the overall picture is still extremely grim.
Every single country reported a host of barriers to broader implementation of the pilot programme, including consistent lack of funds, disorganisation within U.N. agencies, cultural and governmental blockades – particularly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East – and low awareness on a national level.
Pamela Averion, the national programme officer for UNFPA in the Philippines, discussed the disconnect between legislation and reality on the ground. Although the Gender Development Index in the Philippines for 2010 was 99.6 percent of the Human Development Index, 90 percent of reported pregnancies were unwanted and ended in abortion.
And although the Philippines ranks 59th out of 108 countries on the gender empowerment measure, men dominate 90 percent of all political positions in the country.
The Philippines emerged 9th out of 134 countries in a study on the global gender gap, but one out of every five women experienced gender-related domestic violence and almost half of those women believed that husbands were justified in abusing their wives. These are only a few of countless disheartening yet unavoidable statistics. In Yemen, for example, a marriage bill was passed in 2008 making it illegal for girls under the age of 18 to be married. Imams across the country quickly collected over five million signatures of citizens opposed to such a constitutional change and the bill was quickly overturned.
Despite ongoing efforts by activists and ordinary women around the world, the road towards women’s equality looms interminably ahead. Women, and their male allies all over the world, are weary from the march, but cannot afford to drag their feet.
Part of a longer article at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53473
With a view to assessing progress made by States in meeting their obligations under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the next report (from the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya) to the Human Rights Council, due in March 2011, will focus on women human rights defenders and those defenders working on women’s rights and gender-issues.
The report will seek, in particular, to identify the specific risks women defenders and those defenders working on women’s rights and gender-issues face as well as their specific security and protection needs.
To this end, the Special Rapporteur (SR) would be grateful if you could answer the attached questionnaire. Deadline for responses: November 30, 2010.
The SR has also requested information from member States. SR’s report will later be made public here
The Special Rapporteur would greatly appreciate receiving your responses at your earliest possible convenience, preferably no later than 30 November 2010. Responses received after this date will not be reflected in the 2011 report. Responses may be addressed to the Special Rapporteur at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (firstname.lastname@example.org; fax: +41 22 917 90 06).
The English, French and Spanish versions of the questionnaire are available to download from http://www.awid.org/eng/Women-in-Action/Calls-for-Participation2/Call-for-Contributions-Responses-Questionnaire-on-Women-Human-Rights-Defenders-and-those-working-on-Women-s-Rights-and-Gender-Issues