Archive for the ‘Rape and Sexual Assault’ Category

Congolese community leaders say they begged local U.N. officials and army commanders to protect villagers days before rebels gang-raped scores of people, from a month-old baby boy to a 110-year-old great-great-grandmother.

The rapes occurred in and around Luvungi, a village of about 2,200 people that is a half-hour drive from a U.N. peacekeepers’ camp and a 90-minute ride from Walikale, a major mining center and base for hundreds of Congolese troops.

The number of people treated for rape in the July 30 to Aug. 4 attacks now stands at 242 — a high number even for eastern Congo, where rape has become a daily hazard. The rebels occupied the area for more than four days until they withdrew voluntarily.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has declared his outrage — survivors say they were attacked by between two and six fighters and raped in front of their husbands and children. Ban has sent his assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, Atul Khare, to investigate the alleged lack of action from the U.N. mission in Congo.

Many question why the peacekeepers are not fulfilling their primary mandate, the strongest yet given to any U.N. force, which allows them to use force to protect civilians, and especially women and children. The U.N. says it passed through Luvungi but villagers did not say anything about the rebels.

Charles Masudi Kisa said his Walikale Civil Association first sounded the alarm on July 25, meeting with Congolese army and local authorities to say that the withdrawal of soldiers from several outposts was putting people in danger of attacks from rebels. The military had abandoned every post from Luvungi to just outside Walikale, for unclear reasons, he said.

Masudi said that on July 29, acting on information from motorcycle taxis, he warned the U.N. Civil Affairs bureau in Walikale, the army and the local administration that rebels were moving in on Luvungi. “Again we begged them to secure the population of Luvungi and told them that these people were in danger,” he said. Freddy Zanga, secretary of the association Masudi leads, confirmed his account.

When Luvungi was occupied on July 30, Masudi heard from truck drivers forced to turn back and passed information on to officials in the same offices. That same day, the United Nations sent text and e-mail messages to aid workers warning them to be aware that armed perpetrators were in the area, much of it dense forest that provides convenient cover for fighters.

On Aug. 1, Masudi said, his group heard from some raped women who had escaped and reported that scores of rebels had overrun the area.

Roger Meece, the U.N. mission chief in Congo, says a Congolese army patrol moved through the area on Aug. 2, apparently removed a rebel roadblock, exchanged fire with some fighters, and got information suggesting “a dramatic decrease” in rebel and militia activity. In fact, some 200 to 400 rebels were occupying villages alongside the road and into the interior, according to reports from survivors. The U.N. says there are 80 peacekeepers at its Kibua camp near Luvungi.

Also on Aug. 2, Indian peacekeepers accompanied some commercial vehicles to protect them from the rebel roadblock and stopped in Luvungi.

“How could they protect commercial goods but they could not protect the people?” Masudi asked.

The peacekeepers stayed long enough to arrest a Mai-Mai militiaman accused of trying to steal a motorcycle. But the village people did not make any reports of what had happened in the preceding days, Meece said.

The patrol also stopped in another village, Bunya Mumpire, from which aid workers reported many rapes. Meece said people there wanted to fight the militiaman with the peacekeepers but again did not report that they were under attack. It’s unclear what means of communication were available to the peacekeepers, who often travel without interpreters and generally do not speak the Kiswahili, French or Kinyarwanda spoken in the region.

On Aug. 4, the local chief came to Walikale and reported that the rebels had left and that large numbers of people had been raped. He spoke to Masudi’s organization, the International Medical Corps, the U.N. office in Walikale and to civilian authorities, Masudi said.

On Aug. 5, a convoy including medical corps workers and Masudi’s organization drove to Luvungi and the extent of the horrors began to unfold, as raped women began coming out of the forest.

Miel Hendrickson, regional director of the Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps, says her group briefed officials at the Walikale office of the U.N. Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs when they returned from their first trip to Luvungi the night of Aug. 6. “We told them the area had been attacked, that there had been no fighting and no deaths, but raping and looting,” she says.

Roger Meece, the top U.N. envoy in Congo, said U.N. peacekeepers in the area did not learn about the rape and looting spree until Aug. 12 from the International Medical Corps. Two U.N. officials in Kinshasa told The Associated Press that they got first word from media reports, even though the U.N.’s small Civil Affairs office in Walikale is charged with protecting civilians.

The United Nations did not send a team until Aug. 13, according to Reece.

The number of people treated went up from a couple of dozen on Aug. 5, to 154 by Aug. 16, 172 the following week and 242 by Wednesday, Hendrickson said.

Congo’s government has grabbed at past failures by U.N. peacekeepers to call for the withdrawal of the force, the biggest in the world at about 18,000. U.N. officials say soldiers are hampered by mountainous and rugged terrain and are sparsely deployed across a country the size of Western Europe. But aid workers say there is a well-graded dirt road from the U.N. camp at Kibua to Luvungi, and from Walikale to Luvungi.

Congo’s army and U.N. peacekeepers have been unable to defeat the few thousand rebels responsible for the long drawn-out conflict in eastern Congo, which is fueled by the area’s massive mineral reserves. Maj. Sylvain Ikenge, a spokesman for army operations in eastern Congo, would not say why soldiers had withdrawn from the area, allowing rebels to move in, only that they “are now concentrated around Walikale to concentrate our efforts to track down the rebels.”

“The FARDC (Congolese armed forces) cannot occupy each and every area to secure everyone and also track the rebels,” he said, adding that Walikale territory is greater than the combined size of neighboring Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jPEADE6LA6PT95DxLVS1noE80bwQD9HV9CQ80

See also:

    Wartime rape no more inevitable or acceptable than mass murder says UN

    Wartime rape is “the least condemned and most silenced war crime,” U.N. official says
    U.N. initiative aims to put sexual violence in conflicts on international policy map
    U.N. is monitoring five countries because of sexual violence in conflicts
    In Congo, more than 200,000 women have been raped in 12 years of fighting, U.N. says

    The United Nations is trying to put sexual violence on the international policy map, telling political and military leaders that wartime mass rape “is no more inevitable than, or acceptable than, mass murder.”

    Rape is being used by armed groups to reignite flames of conflict and to terrorize and humiliate communities in Africa, according to Letitia Anderson, women’s rights specialist with the U.N.’s Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative.

    article continues at http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/08/12/un.wartime.rape/#fbid=VN4pnUIr0jJ&wom=false

As the U.N. investigates new allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, most troop contributing countries continue to evade accounting for how they handle disciplinary actions.

A senior U.N. official who asked for anonymity told IPS, “Although there have been statistical reductions in the number of allegations, sexual abuse involving peacekeepers is still rampant, despite pronouncements that they have been curbed.”

In DR Congo, two peacekeepers – reportedly an Indian and a Tunisian – have been accused of sexual abuse, although their identities and the specifics of the cases are protected under the U.N.’s confidentiality policy.

According to the United Nations Conduct and Disciplinary Unit, of the 45 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against U.N. peacekeepers brought in the first six months of this year, 18 involved minors.

The charges were reported to the 39 troop contributing countries. However, only 13 governments have responded to the U.N. regarding their progress in investigating the charges and taking action, according to the New York Times.

The year so far…
• Out of the 45 allegations reported for the first half of 2010, 39 are pending and 4 have been substantiated.
• Out of those 45 allegations, 19 involve adults, 18 involve minors, and 8 are unidentified.
• From 2007 to June 2010, there have been a total of 346 allegations against civilian, military and police personnel.
• From 2007 to June 2010, there have been a total of 257 follow-ups with member states, but there have only been 58 total responses.

In 2009, the U.N. sent 82 requests for information on actions taken by national authorities concerning misconduct related to sexual exploitation and abuse, and received 14 responses.

In 2008, the U.N. sent 69 such requests and received eight responses on action taken, while in 2007, 67 requests were made and 23 responses received.

“The U.N. cannot tackle this issue alone,” Anayansi Lopez of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), told IPS. “It needs the full support of all member states to ensure that zero tolerance is a reality.”

Currently, there are about 124,000 peacekeepers deployed around the globe, Lopez said.

However, according to the senior U.N. official, not only are the allegations “a blemish on peacekeeping operations… there could be hundreds more that have been undocumented primarily due to the remote locations of the operations.”

Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel first came to light in the 1990s in the Balkans, Cambodia and Timor Leste, and in West Africa in 2002 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2004.

Official reports publicly surfaced in 2004, with the U.N. mission in DR Congo the first to be singled out followed by Haiti, Liberia and other peacekeeping missions around the world.

In DR Congo, approximately 150 allegations were filed against U.N. troops. The offences – some of which were captured on videotape – included pedophilia, rape, and prostitution, according to a classified U.N. report that was obtained by the Washington Post.

Yet comprehensive record-keeping and data tracking of such allegations and subsequent actions did not begin until 2006, Lopez told IPS. This left an approximately decade-long delay in formally tracking the allegations.

One year later, in 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that in Haiti, “girls as young as 13 were having sex with U.N. peacekeepers for as little as one dollar”.

Some 114 Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti were removed from their posts after those allegations surfaced.

In July 2008, the Department of Field Support launched the Misconduct Tracking System, a global database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct.

In December 2007, the General Assembly adopted a Resolution on Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Missions to address the extension of national jurisdiction by member states to cover criminal misconduct of U.N. officials or experts on mission.

However, a high-level source told IPS, “Sierra Leonean and Sri Lankan efforts are the only serious responses to these allegations that are publically known. Most member states lack sincere commitment to eradicate sexual exploitation and abuse as evident by their actions.”

The U.N. has a three-pronged strategy to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse: prevention of misconduct, enforcement of U.N. standards of conduct and remedial action.

Last month, Under-Secretary-General Susanna Malcorra from the Global Field Support office of DPKO discussed the revision of support strategy in terms of procedure and financing. Her discussion did not include procedures to address the allegations.

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52390

According to the police, sexual crimes have escalated nationwide in the last few years, and rape tops these offences.

In 2003, 1,479 police reports were lodged by rape victims. The figure doubled to 3,098 in 2007.

Statistics compiled also show that sexual crimes against the young have jumped, especially rape involving girls aged 16 and below.

According to DSP Zaiton Che Lah; head of the Sexual Crimes Unit under the Sexual Crimes and Children Investigation Division (D11), about 50% of the total number of rape cases each year involve victims aged 16 and below.

A check with various women’s groups, however, reveals that this is far from new and may very well be a conservative figure.

As Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang executive director Loh Cheng Kooi highlights, although the number of rape cases reported has increased, there are many cases that are still unreported.

One reason for this, she says, is because about 80% of sex offenders are either close or known to the victims, such as family members, relatives, neighbours or school bus drivers.

And as these sexual predators hide behind unassuming personas or keep a low profile among the adults in the community, many parents are caught unawares when they “attack” their targeted victims.

This, says Loh, makes it difficult for the young victims to come forward for help as they worry that they will not be believed.

Abby de Vries, programme officer at the All Women’s Action Society (Awam) warns that we should be worried about this phenomenon.

“Usually, the younger they are, the more difficult it is for them to convince the adults that they were raped or sexually abused. Why is this happening? Why do they feel like they cannot tell anyone?”

Most sexual offenders are not only familiar to the targeted victims but they are also good at manipulating them.

Befriending the victim and luring her with gifts or money are classic tactics among sexual predators, she says. However, combined with the inherent culture of shame in our society, it only leads to victims’ reluctance to seek help.

Social works manager with Women’s Aid Organisation, Wong Su Zane argues that whether the victims have received a gift or money from the perpetrator is irrelevant.

The issue is whether a crime has been committed against them, she says, or whether the victims have been forced to perform a sexual act without their consent.

She believes the fear to report is deeply entrenched in victims due to the lack of a system that is supportive of them.

“Whenever a rape happens, the police will ask the victims about what they have done or what they didn’t do to lead to the crime. So the first thing that comes to the mind of most victims is that it is their fault and they could have done something to prevent it.”

The fear is further exacerbated by the advent of technology, she shares.

“Now, when I advise those who seek help from WAO to lodge a police report, their reaction is always: ‘If we do that, the whole world will know!’ They say reporters will be there or someone will blog about it.”

Loh agrees that living in the age of the Internet and mobile technology has created new challenges in the fight against rape.

But most parents either don’t know how to prepare their children to deal with these changes or have no time to prepare their children.”

De Vries agrees that sexual offenders have indeed moved on to new technologically sophisticated modus operandi to trap and force victims into sexual submission.

Pictures and video clips are used to force the victims to continue the sexually abusive “relationship”.

Worse, she adds, the growth of mobile technology and social media network have made it so ubiquitous in our daily life that many young people are unware of the risks.

We are to blame for the hike in the violence against women and young girls, says women’s rights activist and Empower executive director Maria Chin Abdullah.

As she sees it, Malaysian society has failed to respond to the new wired world where children have a wider accessibility and exposure to violence and sex.

Parents and schools who suspect that something sexually insiduous is happening to their children to come forward to seek help from the police.

Extracts from a longer article at http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/8/1/nation/6775682&sec=nation

The worst part of the whole ordeal was the place where her kidnappers had chosen to imprison her. That they abducted her was terrifying. That they raped her, repeatedly, was too horrendous to absorb just yet.

But making her crawl on her stomach beneath a collapsed slab into a destroyed house where they hid her in a pocket of rubble? That was torture, she said.

“Since I had not slept under any roof since the earthquake, I was so scared I could not breathe,” said the woman who requested that her full name be withheld.

The kidnappers told her brother-in-law, who delivered the ransom of about $2,000, that they would kill her if she talked. She had no intention of doing so. But police investigators showed up at the family house in the Delmas 33 neighborhood shortly after her release, and a reporter from The New York Times happened upon the scene, later accompanying Rose to a women’s health clinic at the family’s request.

Being present when Rose and her family were grappling with the horror of her ordeal offered a firsthand glimpse inside the vulnerability that many Haitians, and particularly women, feel right now. Sleeping in camps, on the street and in yards, many feel themselves at the mercy not only of the elements but of those who prey on others’ misery.

So many cases of rape go unrecorded here that statistics tell only a piece of the story. But existing numbers, from the police or women’s groups, indicate that violence against women has escalated in the months after the Jan. 12 earthquake. Kidnappings are rare, but they, too, have increased, and “the threat is constant,” said Antoine Lerbours, a spokesman for the Haitian National Police.

Malya Villard, director of Kofaviv, a grass-roots organization that supports rape victims, said that the presence of thousands of prisoners who escaped during the earthquake aggravated an environment where insecurity and despair feed on each other.

Ms. Villard said that Kofaviv’s two dozen case workers, in Port-au-Prince, had counseled 264 victims since the earthquake, triple the number in an equivalent period last year. Arrests for rape are fewer — 169 countrywide through May, but more arrests have been made in the last few months than during the same period last year.

Since the earthquake, international relief groups have expressed concerns about violence against women, especially in the camps under their watch. Poor or nonexistent lighting, unlockable latrines, adjacent men’s and women’s showers and inadequate police protection have all been problems.

Recently, security in eight big camps has improved, with joint Haitian-United Nations police posts or patrols; about 100 Bangladeshi policewomen arrived late last month to deal with gender-based violence at three of them. But there are about 1,200 encampments throughout Haiti, and this city’s battered neighborhoods are largely left to their own defenses, too.

Read the full story at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/world/americas/24haiti.html

Girls’ safety hinges on families’ willingness to speak out about sexual violence, researchers in Senegal’s southern Casamance region said at the release of a study that reveals widespread violence against girls aged 10 to 13.

The study, by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the University of Ziguinchor, found that in Kolda, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor, family, social and cultural pressures bred silence and impunity.

Having heard of many cases of early pregnancy and violence in and around schools in 2008 and 2009, UNICEF funded and conducted the study for a more detailed picture of the nature, extent and causes, Christina de Bruin, head of the agency in Ziguinchor, told IRIN.

“It is urgent that the taboo surrounding sexual violence be lifted in society and above all in the family,” the report states.

For Diatta Yadicone Sané, a state education worker in Sédhiou region, family honour is an important factor. “In this culture the family’s honour is first and foremost,” she told IRIN. “The first consideration is saving face among the adults; [people] do not think of the young girl who is the victim of something that carries inconceivable consequences.”

Researchers found that social pressures “disarm” families in the face of rape. “Even if parents want to react, more often than not they opt to settle the matter within the family or ask a traditional local leader to mediate,” the report says.

Moreover, families do not want to talk about these arrangements between the family members and the perpetrator, Mohamed Azzedine Salah, UNICEF deputy regional director, told IRIN. “This makes it difficult to have open discussions in the community about the problem and its impact.

“Silence is one of the principal causes of this violence.”

Some local experts and residents said it was mostly because of a family’s fear of social stigma that rape cases were not pursued in court.

“A girl is destined for marriage,” Sané said. “So the family does not want her to be singled out and marginalised.”

In many cases, she added, the assailant is a family member, which makes it all the more unlikely legal recourse will be sought.

“When a girl is raped or beaten by a family member or someone close to the family, people try to find a compromise within the circle because this society looks down upon someone who would bring a close friend or relation to court,” a resident of Casamance’s department of Bignona, Moussa Sané, said.

It is not only in rape cases that culture has a negative impact on girls, child welfare experts and educators told IRIN, naming several other practices they said constitute violence – forced early marriage, early pregnancy and female genital mutilation/cutting.

“When certain rites are practised as part of religious or traditional beliefs it is not easy to eradicate them from one day to the next,” Oumar Diatta, education specialist in Kolda, told IRIN. He said a reluctance to speak out played a role here as well.

“The fact that these practices are deep-seated in the society and culture [means] there is a reticence to denounce them. This blocks understanding of the reality, of the potential harm. It’s a delicate situation.”

In their report UNICEF and the University of Ziguinchor say health, education and social services institutions must work together to combat all forms of violence against children.

As part of their recommendations they call for reinforcing education – for children and adults – about sexual violence and children’s rights, providing legal assistance to victims and strengthening social services for girls traumatised by violence.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/c4eba196bda721d1f571f0a7a5f904ab.htm

The Criminal Court of Abu Dhabi, in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, ruled last week that an 18-year-old Emirati woman who accused six men of gang-raping her will herself serve a one-year sentence for consensual sex.

It’s one of in the latest in a scourge of reported rape cases in Dubai, The court proceedings were marred by legal travesties, experts say.

While the plaintiff was not granted a lawyer, the defendants were. Moreover, the plaintiff could not have any family members present with her during the trial, the court decided. The prosecution also argued that simply because the plaintiff agreed to enter the police officer’s car, this action somehow constituted partial consent to sex, The National reported.

Emirati authorities had kept the plaintiff imprisoned since she made the allegations last month.

Meanwhile, the accused rapists mostly got off lightly. A police officer will serve one year in prison for extramarital sex and two of the other defendants were sentenced to three months for being in the company of a woman not related to them by blood.

Two more defendants must pay a fine of 5,000 dirhams, or $1,361.50, for violating public decency.

The court dropped charges against the sixth defendant.

The case has made headlines in the Persian Gulf.

On May 2, the plaintiff and one of the defendants, a 19-year-old Emirati military police officer, went for a ride in his Nissan Altima in Dubai. The woman announced during the public hearing that she had agreed to his offer of 10,000 dirhams, or $2,722.61, for sex.

The police officer’s friends, four Emiratis and one Iraqi, followed the two in a separate car as he invited them to take turns raping her for hours later that day, it was alleged. The forensics report confirmed that the woman had bruises covering her body from beatings on two separate occasions. The plaintiff first claimed that her brother attacked her after she confided to her family that she was the victim of gang-rape.

On May 24, the plaintiff retracted her charges of rape. Appearing before a public hearing, shackled and clothed in an inmate’s uniform of hunter green and a black headscarf, she rescinded the allegations “to get out of” jail, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. At that point, she was facing a penalty for extramarital sex, which is 100 lashes and a minimum of three years in prison.

Experts are not yet certain if the reported rape cases in 2010 represent a quantitative increase, as no local community associations or government entities maintain statistics on gender-based violence. It may, in fact, reflect a social opening whereby the pervasive threat of rape has finally become a topic for discussion in the Emirates.

Patterns do emerge, with time, as defendants in other cases explain that if a woman consents to sex with them, they then may choose to “share” her with friends, as in yet another recent rape case in Kuwait.

Human Rights Watch’s Middle East North Africa researcher Nadya Khalife told Babylon & Beyond that women often keep silent about sexual crimes. “The majority of women in the UAE do not report rape or other crimes of sexual assault,” she said. “I think that local and international media are now focusing a bit more on violence against women, with more reporting, and this is encouraging people to openly discuss these issues.”

Cultural norms and social dimensions tend to influence the criminalization of rape victims in the UAE, Khalife said. “Women who have been raped fear that they will not be taken seriously, or that they will also be charged with a crime,” she said. “Also, some women are afraid of tarnishing their family’s name if they were raped because in most societies in the Middle East, a woman’s honor is highly valuable. A rape victim may be pressured by her own family to not report a crime or press charges against the perpetrator, or even be forced to marry the same man who raped her.”

Despite the technology and opulence of the United Arab Emirates, debilitating gender stereotypes and assumptions against women in public threaten women’s personal safety. Khalife explained,

“The UAE is still a largely conservative and traditional country where women’s social status is not as high as most would like to think,” she said. “Issues around sexuality are still considered taboo and viewed as matters that are dealt within the family.”

The courts’ posturing against extramarital sex rather than rape is another disadvantage for female victims. “Consensual sex is criminalized,” Khalife said. “This makes it very difficult for women to prove that they were in fact raped because the attention is deflected from rape and assault and the concentration now lies on an act that was committed outside of marriage.”

For victims of rape, the penalties they face may discourage reporting. “The major legal ramification for women who have been raped is that they will most likely be charged with illegal sex or sex outside marriage. Illicit sex carries a harsh sentence of imprisonment and/or flogging.”

At least in some cases, the courts come down firmly on the side of the victim. On June 7, the Abu Dhabi courts upheld the death sentence for 31-year-old Emirati fisherman Rashid Rubaih Al Rashidi, who was convicted by two courts in January and April of raping and killing a 4-year-old Pakistani boy, Moussa Moukhtiar.

In November, Rashidi allegedly offered the young child a gift if he would come with him to the bathroom of a mosque. After luring the boy, Rashidi gagged and raped him and then smashed his head on the bathroom floor, reported Khaleej Times.

Rashidi is the only Emirati national out of the 24 men currently on death row in the UAE. Fifteen are Indian or Pakistani. Death by firing squad, the fate that awaits Rashidi, has not been doled out in the UAE for five years.

Source http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/06/the-court-in-abu-dhabi-ruled-today-that-the-18-year-old-emirati-woman-who-accused-six-men-of-gang-rape-will-serve-a-one-year.html

Measure Would Deter Pregnant Women From Seeking Medical Care

Brazil’s Congress should protect women’s dignity and human rights by rejecting a bill that confers extensive rights to fertilized ova, Human Rights Watch have said. The measure would give the rights of the fertilized ovum “absolute priority” under Brazilian law.

The proposed bill would require any act or omission that could in any way have a negative impact on a fertilized ovum to be considered illegal. The bill was voted favorably out of the Family and Social Security Commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives this month.

“To promote healthy pregnancies and births is a laudable goal and, indeed, one of Brazil’s human rights obligations,” said Marianne Mollmann, women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “But this bill is likely to cause more harm than good by deterring pregnant women from seeking the care they may need because they are afraid to be turned over to the police.”

Over the past year, a number of jurisdictions in Latin America have passed laws to confer some rights on fertilized ova. For example, in Mexico, a number of federal states have recently amended their constitutions to extend the protection of the right to life to “the conceived.” Many of these laws specifically protect earlier legal exceptions for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or where the life or health of the pregnant woman is threatened.

Brazil’s bill however goes further. For example, it extends the right to child support to ova that have been fertilized through rape, and seeks to give “absolute priority” to the rights of the fertilized ovum. This could lead to the criminalization of any act or omission thought to affect the fertilized ovum negatively, trumping the rights to life or health of any pregnant woman, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Brazilian government would do well to focus its attention on providing assistance to rape victims, adolescent mothers, and others who are vulnerable and potentially unable to provide for themselves,” Mollmann said. “This law does the absolute opposite by threatening to subject everything women do or do not do during a pregnancy to criminal investigation.”

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/05/25/brazil-reject-fetal-rights-bill

An increasingly sexualized consumer society and inadequate funding for social services are major reasons why more young girls are being pressed into sexual slavery, a human-trafficking expert told a Fort Worth audience last week.

Fishnet-clad dolls, “porn star” T-shirts, Juicy brand jeans and the mainstreaming of the word “pimp” all are signs of “demonic forces” at work in American culture, said Alesia Adams, the Salvation Army’s Atlanta-based human trafficking coordinator. Adams spoke at a forum on the subject at the Salvation Army’s Fort Worth offices.

“I don’t want my granddaughter playing with a doll with hooker heels,” she said.

Adams also criticized what she called a shortage of social services to help desperate young people who might be lured into a life of sex.

“There are more services for animals than for child victims of abuse,” she said.

Texas is a hub for human sex trafficking, said Kathleen Murray, the Fort Worth Police Department’s trafficking coordinator. She estimated that 20 percent of all human trafficking in the United States comes through Texas at some point.

“These cases are within our reach,” she said. “That’s a huge responsibility for Texas.”

The State Department estimates that 300,000 children, mostly runaways, are exploited in the United States each year, Murray said.

Experts at the forum said that no reliable estimates for the amount of local sex trafficking exist.

But they said that The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than from any other state, and 15 percent of those are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

FBI Special Agent Don Freese said forced labor trafficking is harder to detect because it typically involves immigrants bringing in others from their home country to work in private homes.

“Sex trafficking is easier to find,” he said, because it requires interaction with customers, which can open the door for detection by law enforcement.

Deena Graves, executive director of Traffic911, a local nonprofit group that rescues child slavery victims, said human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, second only to drugs in global crime exploits.

Sex trafficking may eventually eclipse drugs, she said.

“You can sell a drug only one time,” she said. “You can sell a person over and over and over. Demand drives the machine.”

A child is sold in the world every two minutes, Graves said, and a third of children who run away from home are forced into prostitution within 48 hours.

“These perpetrators know how to spot a distressed child at malls, bus stations,” she said. “Once they are forced into it, their average life expectancy is seven years” because of disease and violence.

Pornography is the No. 1 driver of child sex exploitation, she said. Often, children are forced to act out scenes in hard-core movies for paying customers, Graves said.

She agreed with Adams that pop culture desensitizes kids and adults to exploitation. She highlighted the song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” which won the best original song Oscar from the movie Hustle & Flow and the online game PimpWar.com as examples of glamorizing prostitution and sex slavery.

“You will become a master at the art of pimping your hoes, commanding your thugs and battling your enemies to protect what you have and to help your empire grow,” PimpWar’s online intro boasts.

Graves showed the audience a cropped image of the face of young girl from a pornographic movie.

“This could be your daughter,” she said.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/fortworth/stories/052010dnmetsexslaves.210da8b2.html

Humanitarian workers in Liberia worry that as the UN and NGOs scale down aid operations, the fight against sexual violence will suffer, given a limited capacity in national institutions to take it on.

The fight against sexual violence, led by the Ministry of Gender and Development, is part of a wider four-year national plan to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security; the resolution was passed in 2000 but Liberia – where a 14-year war ended in 2003 – began implementing it just last year.

The action plan relies heavily on aid agencies and on international donors for funds, said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s coordinator for sexual and gender-based violence, Anna Stone. “But after the [presidential and legislative] elections next year many international NGOs, including the NRC, will scale down operations in Liberia.”

Many aid agencies, including NRC and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – also active in the fight against sexual violence – are gradually cutting their programmes in Liberia. And the post-election role of the UN mission (UNMIL), which has supported much of the government’s anti-sexual-violence programmes, is uncertain. [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=87122]

“Agencies do move out and there is high turnover,” agreed Madhumita Sarkar, programme adviser at the joint UN-government SGBV (sexual and gender-based violence) programme in the capital Monrovia. “That is a very big concern. This is the wrong time to withdraw – even though Liberia is not in a conflict state. Until now we’ve tried to work on building local capacities and we now need to continue that, and hand over projects to the government.”

“We will go back to zero if people just withdraw now,” she said.

Meanwhile the gender ministry is turning to donors to fund its programmes over the long term, aware that international support my wane; the ministry recently received funding from Italy and the United States, according to Deputy Gender and Development Minister Annette Kiawu.

Sexual violence consistently comes first or second (after armed robbery) in monthly crime statistics in Monrovia, with most victims being children, according to MSF.

Legal recourse is rarely an option for survivors, due to a lack of means as well as weak law enforcement, health NGOs in Liberia say. But most rapes are committed by family members and are not reported, according to the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in a 2009 study, “Nobody Gets Justice Here”

Attorneys often do not take it as seriously as armed robbery, as nothing is “stolen” in the attack, an aid worker told the NIIA.

NRC is trying to encourage women to report sexual crimes through a nationwide collective of women’s groups, called WISE Women; the organization promotes women’s rights and develops practical responses to sexual crimes, such as how to raise money for a medical exam.

Rita Kollie, 17, was the youngest member at a WISE Women meeting in Bong County in central Liberia, earlier this month.

“I was curious to find out what women’s rights are about. We are not taught about that at school,” she said. “Of course I am happy that we have a woman president, but we still don’t have women role models in Bong County.”

Whatever institutions lead the sexual violence fight, NIIA says, the approach must focus more on the political, cultural and economic roots of such crimes. NIIA says the current UN approach is too fragmented and shortsighted. Groups working to reduce sexual violence must harmonize statutory and traditional law, saying international actors do not have an adequate grasp of the latter, it points out.

The government has made some steps at the policy level: It now has a policy to promote women’s rights; it has strengthened rape and inheritance laws; and it has created a secretariat to implement Resolution 1325. But implementation still lags behind, UNMIL-government representative Sarkar told IRIN.

For instance, according to the NRC’s Stone, while Liberia is one of only two countries in the world that has specially assigned police units for protection of women and children, the units helped convict just five perpetrators in 2009.

NRC trains the units on how to address sexual crimes, but efforts are hampered by a lack of means and equipment, says NIIA.

Further, few trained officers want to leave Monrovia to work in rural areas – one of several problems impeding the fight in rural zones: poor roads, inadequate facilities, difficult access to some communities and lack of funds for counties, says the NRC.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/2bcf1dd496c2dce96c7aa643ba188427.htm

They will assist the small percentage of people who actually report a sexual assault and to encourage other victims to come forward.

The centers, founded by Yeni Yüzyýl University, will also offer expert legal advice and collect accurate physical evidence of the alleged crimes without re-traumatizing victims.

Established within the scope of the Universal Hospital Group, the facilities are ready to begin offering services pending the granting of the necessary permission by the country’s Higher Education Board, or YÖK, according to Professor Ersi Abacý Kalfoðlu.

“It is not easy at all for victims to speak about their victimhood,” Kalfoðlu, a DNA expert and the first professor of forensic genetics in Turkey, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. She said victims’ feelings of shame and the social pressure they face contribute to this difficulty.

According to Kalfoðlu, on average, only 10 percent of sexual assaults around the world are reported, so she can only guess at the number of actual incidents in Turkey, which she said she expected to be very high.

Currently, a rape victim applies to either the police or a state hospital, but there are no dedicated centers where she or he may be transferred after giving testimony. Police generally prefer to send victims to state hospitals because the process at forensic medicine units takes too much time, the professor said.

“But the doctors [at state hospitals] cannot view the matter from the angle of forensic medicine,” Kalfoðlu said. “A gynecologist would know how to attend to childbirth, but he would not know how to collect evidence from a rape victim.”

Though gynecologists know how to examine for virginity and whether or not there is physical damage, they are neither trained nor equipped to collect evidence from the victim’s body and clothes, the professor added.

Three centers in Istanbul may not sound like a sufficient solution to the problem, but the project’s founders hope to expand the effort in the future. Virginia A. Lynch, who first coined the term “forensic nursing,” will teach a program to train nurses in the field at the health faculty of Yeni Yüzyýl University.

“If we can spread these nurses around [to various] hospitals, they would be the qualified personnel alongside doctors to help in collecting evidence,” Lynch said. “Training nurses is more practical than retraining doctors.” A laboratory to examine the evidence at every health facility is not required as long as it is collected properly, she said.

Though the crisis centers aim to better the odds of apprehending rapists, their mission does not end there, Kalfoðlu said. “The victim must be rehabilitated; rape incidents cause serious traumas that should be looked into,” the professor said, adding that such a process is currently nonexistent in Turkey.

Trained doctors, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists will handle the patients at the rape crisis centers, while the university has already founded a Sexual Crime Prevention Research Center that will organize actions and seminars to raise awareness and offer training on the issue. Printed material to help inform doctors and lab personnel will also be provided.

The Alman Hastanesi in Istanbul’s Taksim Square area, Vatan Hospital in the Aksaray district and Kadýköy Hospital in Kadýköy will be the first facilities in the city to host the rape crisis centers. The Alman Hastanesi will be the main center and will contain the laboratory.

Talks are ongoing with the government and the police department to establish constructive cooperation, Kalfoðlu said, noting that the Vatan and Kadýköy hospitals work within the scope of the Social Security Authority, or SSK, while the Alman Hastanesi does not.

“We will try our best to help everybody from different economic statuses,” Kalfoðlu said, adding that the SSK currently does not cover expenses incurred in this area, something that the university will lobby to change.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=rape-crisis-centers-for-istanbul-are-on-the-way-2010-05-04

Activists say the case of the girl, known only as “Amalia,” illustrates the lack of protection for women’s rights in the state of Quintana Roo, which recently passed a law banning most elective abortions.

The girl, 10 years old at the time, told authorities she was raped by her stepfather, and activists say a doctor at a government hospital failed to inform her that the new law allows for rape victims to have abortions. The child is reportedly carrying the baby to term and will give birth by cesarean section.

Officials in Quintana Roo did not respond to requests for comment.

Local media reported that the girl’s mother would not have approved of an abortion even if she had known about the exception for rape victims, but activists said she may have been influenced by right-to-life groups that backed the new law. In recent months, over half of Mexico’s 31 states have passed anti-abortion measures.

Quintana Roo has been rocked by sexual-abuse cases in the past, and activists say child rape and teen pregnancy rates are exceptionally high there.

Members of reproductive rights groups held a demonstration Thursday to announce an online campaign in English, Spanish and French asking tourists to stay away from Cancun.

“We are going to tell them not to visit Cancun because in Quintana Roo state they violate the rights of women and children,” said Maria Eugenia Romero of the Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. “We are going to tell them they would be better off choosing some other tourist destination.”

In 1999, a 13-year-old rape victim in Baja California state became a cause celebre after medical authorities refused to give her the abortion she was entitled to by law. She later gave birth to the child.

The girl, Paulina Ramirez, brought her case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2002, drawing international attention and sparking a high-profile campaign seeking reparations from the Mexican government.

The government later agreed to pay more than US$33,000 to Ramirez, who has publicly identified herself as the victim in the case.

Activists are seeking a similar agreement in the case of Amalia.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g7-npzJF6mXqOKRRtPMNEyT4_T4gD9FHJ0SG2

Reject Delay in Steps to End Rape in War and Include Women in Peace Talks

The United Nations Security Council should immediately begin using measurable benchmarks to protect women caught in conflicts around the world and to ensure that women are included in peace negotiations, rather than delaying this step, Human Rights Watch said today.

In October 2009, the Security Council asked the secretary-general to prepare a set of indicators on the implementation of key Council commitments regarding women in conflict. The measures are to be presented today to the Security Council, which has the option of acting now or postponing action.

“This move has been a decade in the making,” said Marianne Mollmann, women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “There’s no excuse for waiting another minute to take steps we know are needed.”

Diplomats have indicated that it is likely that the Council will “take note” of the secretary-general’s report. They said the Council is likely to defer any implementation of the indicators until at least October, the 10th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325, which laid out UN system and member state commitments regarding women in conflict. Resolution 1325 has been reported on annually since 2000, but without any consistency in the focus of reporting or specific expectations for outcome.

Further steps may be needed to implement all of the indicators recommended by the secretary-general, but the report also concludes that information is readily available and reliable for many of the indicators. The Council should endorse the immediate use of all indicators for which data exist, in particular in the UN reports on countries such as Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch said.

“Any real discussion of abuse of women in conflict depends on understanding the scope of the problem,” Mollmann said. “This is a chance for the Security Council to make clear how urgent this is so that there can be actual numbers to report and a real way to measure success and failure.”

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern a delay could mean that the benchmarks would become the main focus of debates around the 10th anniversary rather than commitments to overcome the problems the indicators are expected to highlight.

“Women in conflict-ridden countries deserve more than a commitment to collecting data when the Security Council looks at what it has done in the past 10 years to address their plight,” Mollmann said. “We expect UN member states to follow through to empower women as peacemakers and to stop rape in war.”

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/04/26/un-security-council-act-now-protect-women

The UN refugee agency has expressed concern about the lack of justice for the thousands of women who are raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) every year, and prevailing impunity for rapists.

“Sexual violence constitutes among the most serious of crimes and should be treated as such,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists Friday. “Survivors should be helped to report incidents without fear of reprisal.”

New UN figures show 1,244 women have been raped in DRC during the first three months of this year, and the numbers could be much higher because of under-reporting.

More than a third of the recorded cases are in the provinces of North and South Kivu in eastern DRC. The region hosts some 1.4 million internally displaced persons, including 100,000 in camps run by UNHCR.

In many cases women are raped when they venture out of their villages or camps to collect firewood, water and other basic necessities.

UNHCR is taking steps to keep women safe, such as providing fuel-efficient stoves and firewood to women in North Kivu. Since 2008, the UN refugee agency has provided fuel-efficient stoves and firewood to some 4,200 families.

“In addition to such prevention methods, we are also working to follow up on rape cases brought to our attention by providing counseling, medical treatment and legal advice,” Fleming added.

Thanks to UNHCR legal assistance, 145 survivors in South Kivu were able to file complaints in local courts. Most of the cases are still before the courts, but 24 people have been found guilty and sentenced to jail terms of between two and 10 years, and some have also been ordered to pay compensation.

“This represents a significant development for justice, but overall the number of cases in which criminal charges are being brought is tiny compared to the vast scale of the problem,” said Fleming.

In DRC at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded since 1996.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/UNHCR/f4c7d4c14d44de4f2477bc6d208488e6.htm

Survey reveals that sixty percent of rape victims gang raped, more than half in their own homes, appalling increase in number of civilian rapists.

An extensive study of rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) commissioned by Oxfam and conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, shows that 60 percent of rape victims surveyed were gang raped by armed men and more than half of assaults took place in the supposed safety of the family home at night, often in the presence of the victim’s husband and children.

While the majority of rapists were either soldiers or militiamen, the report also shows a shocking 17-fold increase in rapes carried out by civilians between 2004 and 2008.

The report, “Now, the world is without me”, is based on the study by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which analyzed information collected from 4,311 female rape victims who were treated in Panzi hospital in South Kivu Province over a four-year period.

The report found that the incidence of rape spiked during military activities. Given the ongoing offensives against militia groups in eastern Congo, the report has real relevance for the situation in DRC today. Over 5,000 people were raped in South Kivu in 2009, according to the UN. The report comes out ahead of the UN Security Council visit to DRC this weekend, with the council set to renew the UN peacekeepers mandate in May.

Krista Riddley, Oxfam’s Director of Humanitarian Policy, said:

“Rape of this scale and brutality is scandalous. This is a wake-up call at a time when plans are being discussed for UN peacekeepers to leave the country. The situation is not secure if a woman can’t even sleep safely in her own bed at night. The report shows when and where women are attacked, and why peacekeepers must continue to play a vital role in creating security while the Congolese government builds up its own capacity to keep civilians from harm.”

The study shows that 56 percent of assaults were carried out in the family home by armed men, while 16 percent took place in fields and almost 15 percent in the forest. Fifty-seven percent of assaults were carried out at night. Sexual slavery was also reported, affecting 12 percent of the women in the sample, with some women being held captive for years.

The report also offers insights into the stigma facing women within their families after rape and the problems they face getting medical care. Less than one percent of women came to Panzi hospital with their husbands and nine percent had been abandoned by their spouse. One in three women came alone.

This stigma leads to delays in seeking treatment, with only 12 percent of the women coming to Panzi within a month of the assault. Very few women came for treatment in time to prevent HIV infection. Over 50 percent of women waited more than a year before seeking treatment, with a significant number waiting more than three years.

Krista Riddley from Oxfam said:

“Panzi is the only hospital of its kind in South Kivu, which is home to some 5 million people. Many women from rural areas cannot make the journey and often die from the complications associated with brutal rape. Rich country donors together with the Congolese government need to radically increase the medical services available for survivors of sexual violence in Congo’s remote towns and villages. Every woman should be able to get the treatment she needs.”

The research found that fewer than one percent of rapes were perpetrated by civilians in 2004. By 2008, that proportion had gone up to 38 percent.

Susan Bartels, the study’s lead researcher from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, said, “This study confirms what has only been reported anecdotally until now: sexual violence has become more normal in civilian life. The scale of rape over Congo’s years of war has made this crime seem more acceptable. Although Congo has one of the most progressive laws on rape in Africa, few rapists are prosecuted. The law must be enforced and justice put within reach of survivors.”

The report calls on the Congolese government and the international community to:

    Increase provision of medical care for survivors of sexual violence, particularly in rural areas. The easier it is to get help locally, the more likely women will be to get timely support for HIV and the more able they will be to manage the risk of others finding out. Stigma remains a significant barrier to accessing care following sexual violence.

    Ensure that the protection provided by the UN peacekeepers and Congolese security services is tailored to local realities. The peacekeepers and security services need to consult with the local community to provide innovative solutions, such as early warning systems and night patrols to help meet their needs. This is happening in some areas and needs to be rolled out more systematically to respond to the threats this report highlights.

    Reform the Congolese security sector and justice system to ensure that there is zero tolerance for rape, whether it is committed by civilians, militiamen, or soldiers.

http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201004150041.html

Se also: Congolese laws against sexual violence are not being implemented and a withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers from the country would make the struggle against endemic rape “a lot more difficult,” the U.N. said.

Even though I turned into Autumn I am more beautiful now
A letter of suffering by Bahareh, victim of rape arrested in July 2009 at Ghoba Mosque

“My name is Bahar (Spring in Persian). It’s Spring and I write to you of flowers but flowers with scattered petals. I write to you of the green and of sprouts but squashed sprouts, trampled on by hatred, the hatred towards beauty and whatever is beautiful as displayed by ugly souls, the hatred towards those who seek justice by a bunch of sell outs. I write to you of those who are not real men.

My name is Bahareh Maghami, 28 years old and there is nothing left of me and no reason to hide my name anymore. I have lost all who were important to me one day. I have lost relatives and friends, neighbors and companions, coworkers and colleagues. I have lost them all. Those who pretend to be men stole it all from me so unfairly. They stole my life. Now that I have left the country, I want to share my pain with someone, even if only once. I also like to ask other friends who have experienced a similar painful fate to write. They must write what happened to them. Even if they fear their lives or dignity, they should use anonymous names but they must write. They must write so that history is aware of what happened to our generation; to this grief-stricken generation. They must write so that those who come after us and live in a free Iran know what price was paid for their freedom; how many lives were burnt and how hopes vanished; they must know about the broken backs and bent knees!

When my father found out, his back broke. He was shattered into pieces. My mom aged a hundred years overnight. My brother: I still haven’t been able to look into my brother’s eyes and he doesn’t look at me either; he doesn’t want me to suffer any more than I already have. When he found out, it was like they took away his manhood. When he found out that there are people who pretend to be men but the only thing left of it is their genitals, he began to hate his own manhood. For them dignity, nobility and chastity have no meaning. I was a first grade teacher. I was teaching the little flowers of our country how to read and write. I was teaching them “Dad brought water”, “That man comes”, “That man brings bread”. For me the image of a man was the kind breadwinner. I was waiting for him to arrive. And now that image has changed. He is angry and blinded by his desires. I cannot rid myself of his infectious smell of sweat. I am always scared of him coming back. I jump out of bed in the middle of the night fearing his footsteps. My whole body shakes with the smallest sounds and my heart starts beating faster fearing his arrival. I am always ready to escape. I leave the lights on at nights and I pass the days with tears and grief!

Our house was situated at “Kargar Shomali” street. I had gone to Ghoba Mosque with my brother when I was arrested. They beat me and took me away and they destroyed me. As our old poet Hafez says: they did what the Mongolians did!

Some had broken arms, some had broken legs and some had broken backs. Still others like me had broken spirits. Shattered spirits. As if my whole humanity was taken away from me. I used to be a Spring. I am now dead. I am a squashed corn-poppy.

I would like to ask those who read this letter that if they know someone who is like me, a victim of rape, to be kinder towards them. Sympathize with them. The issue for me and people like me is that in our culture rape is not just a blow to one person. It’s a blow to his whole family and clan. A victim of rape is never healed by passing of time. With every look of her father, the wounds open again. Her heart breaks again with every drop of her mother’s tears. The relatives, friends, neighbors and everyone cuts off their relations. We were forced to sell our house way below market price and moved to Karaj (a suburb of Tehran). But we didn’t last there either. The agents found our new address quickly and were monitoring us. They would stand in the corner of our street and would smirk at my father every time he passed by. We left everything behind and immigrated. At their old age, my parents became refugees at a camp. I can easily say that the cultural wounds were much harder to deal with than the physical ones. Many people smile when they hear about rape! I swear that there is nothing funny about rape! It’s about the suffering of a simple family; it’s about a young girl or boy who loses his or her diginty; breaking the dignity of love is not funny. Those who raped me would laugh! there were three of them. All three were dirty and wore a beard. They had a terrible accent and foul mouths. They would swear at my whole family. Even though they saw that I was a virgin, they accused me of being a whore and forced me to sign admitting that I was a prostitute. I am not ashamed to say it anymore. Not only am I not ashamed, I am even proud to say it: they called me a whore. They said: sign this you whore! I told them that I was a teacher and I wouldn’t sign. They said they had three just witnesses who had seen me sleep with three people in one night and I told them that I have 30 witnesses that I am a teacher and if this is what has happened to me, it was through their own fault. They laughed it off saying: well it’s not so bad for you afterall! your pay has now increased! That’s how worthless the privacy and dignity of people is to them. And that’s how empty words like modesty and chastity are to them. They had not seen these virtues. They didn’t have them. All women were whores to them. It wasn’t only women. They did not even pass up on men. They weren’t human beings. They were suffering from self-subordination. They had turned into perverted animals who knew nothing but to destroy all beauties. Sometimes I see people cursing at the mothers and sisters of these people. These creatures will not even pass up on their own mothers and sisters. I feel sorry for those who have to live with these rabid animals all their lives. My front teeth broke and my shoulder was displaced; my womanhood was destroyed. I know that I will never be able to love a man; I will never be able to get close to a man and to trust him. I realize that my land bears many brave men who have also suffered but for me real men and pretend men are the same. My life as a woman has reached an end and I am like a walking dead. But I write. I write in order to regain my livelihood. I write that I was a teacher, turned into a prostitute and I am a writer now. I write that I was Bahar (Spring), and although I turned into Autumn, I am more beautiful for it. I am a beautiful whore; I turned into the outcast in our neighborhood; I turned into a teacher without a classroom; I became the subject of ridicule; sentenced to loneliness; immersed into the injustices of the oppressors; For the Islamic Republic I became the woman with her hair cut, her arms broken and with her face bloodied. So I am proud to be a whore for freedom. I know that I am not alone. I hear their voices; in the next cells; when my lifeless and useless body was on the floor I would hear these pretend-men display their manhood many times. I ask all people who have suffered like me to write. They need to shout out their sufferings however they can because these are the same pains that Sadegh Hedayat (contemporary writer) referred to as ‘pains that chew at people’s souls’. Let it all come out. Let everyone know. You should realize that you are not alone. There are many like me and you. We all share this pain.

This letter of suffering is much longer than this. But I end it with one sentence. I am directly addressing Mr. Khamenei: ‘You consider yourself as the father of this nation. I was a daughter of Iran. Your sons raped me. Who will pay for my lost dignity?’

Bahareh Maghami,
April 2010, Germany

Translated by Tour Irani

http://www.astreetjournalist.com/2010/04/11/a-letter-by-a-rape-victimeven-though-i-turned-into-autumn-i-am-more-beautiful-now/

See also:

Women Online In Iran Brave Heavy Web Surveillance
Iranian female journalists are veterans of government closure of their print publications and early Internet ventures. Now they are prevailing against the region’s most advanced censoring and monitoring software.

The Vatican’s Secretary of State – No. 2 to the Pope himself – has suggested the paedophilia crisis engulfing the Catholic Church is linked to homosexuality, not priests’ celibacy.

During a press conference in Chile, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone also insisted that the church has never stymied investigation of priests accused of paedophilia.

”Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and paedophilia,” the cardinal said. ”But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”

The cardinal’s remarks have sparked a storm of controversy in Italy as well as Chile, where they were strongly criticised by politicians and medical experts, who accused the Secretary of State of ”vast generalisations”.

Senator Juan Antonio Coloma, president of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union, told the Chilean newspaper La Nacion that while he understood the claims were made in good faith, they were generalisations that could not be sustained.

Senator Patricio Walker of the Christian Democrats categorically disagreed with the comments. ”Paedophilia is a mental and sexual abnormality that affects both heterosexuals and homosexuals,” he said.

”I would like to see what studies he is talking about because I would find it fairly surprising to see evidence for these claims.”

Cardinal Bertone’s comments follow a series of claims from senior Vatican and Catholic officials over the past few weeks that the charges of clerical abuse and their cover-up by the church that have emerged in Europe, the US, Ireland and Australia are a product of media gossip and exaggeration.

Rolando Jimenez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in Chile, said no reputable study exists to support Monsignor Bertone’s comments.

In Italy, Aurelio Mancuso, former president of the gay rights association, Arcigay, said: ”The truth is that Bertone is clumsily trying to shift attention to homosexuality and away from the focus on new crimes against children that emerge every day.”

The Pope’s press secretary, Federico Lombardi, said the pontiff might consider a private meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse in Malta during a visit there next weekend. But he said the Pope should not be pressured by the media and should be given the space to listen to and communicate with the victims.

Newspapers in Chile reported that the most prominent paedophiles uncovered in the Chilean church attacked young girls and made a teenager pregnant.

The archbishop of Santiago at the time was shown to have received multiple complaints about Father Jose Andres Aguirre from the families of the young girls. But the priest was allowed to continue serving at several Catholic girls’ schools. The church later moved Aguirre out of Chile twice and he was finally sentenced to 12 years in prison for abusing 10 teenage girls.

In La Nacion, one of the young women, identified only as Paula, said she had been abused between the ages of 16 and 20. She said when she told other priests at confession, they simply told her to pray but ”everyone looked the other way. No one corrected or helped me”.

The Associated Press reported that she said one of the priests she confessed to about her sex with Aguirre was Francisco Jose Cox, who had been bishop in La Serena, in northern Chile, for several years but was removed in 1997 amid rumours he was a paedophile and transferred to Santiago, then Rome, then Colombia and finally Germany.

The Schoenstatt movement, a worldwide lay community within the Catholic Church, is reported to have paid for his transfers as well as ”treatment”. He was finally removed for ”inappropriate conduct” in 2002.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/child-abuse-is-a-gay-problem-says-vatican-20100414-se4y.html

See also: Child abuse overshadows another scandal – the Church’s abuse of women

Amnesty International has urged the Ugandan authorities to provide support for women seeking justice for sexual and domestic violence in its new report released today.

The report entitled I Can’t Afford Justice’ – Violence against women in Uganda(pdf) documents the economic and social barriers to justice, including the costs of criminal investigations and discrimination by government officials.

Amnesty’s report shows that violence in Uganda against women and girls remains widespread. It is estimated that two out of every three Ugandan households have experienced domestic violence, with women being four times more likely than men to be targeted for both physical and sexual violence.

The report also highlights that almost one in four women aged 15-49 (24 per cent) reported that their first sexual intercourse was forced against their will, according to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey – and more than half of these (54 per cent) first suffered sexual violence below the age of 18 with much of this violence and exploitation happening in schools.

Violence is compounded by discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, sexual orientation, social status, class and age. These multiple forms of discrimination further restrict women’s choices putting them at greater risk of violence making it still harder for them to access justice.

Survivors of violence are often left facing inadequate responses by police; Amnesty explained having to pay for the cost of police transportation to arrest the accused, forensic examination fees and other expenses related to the investigation.

Amnesty’s Senior Director Widney Brown said:

“Women in Uganda have been left with no faith in the justice system.

“The failure of the government to protect and support victims of sexual violence undermines the quest for justice. Lack of government resources and political will mean that perpetrators rarely face justice.”

The report includes several personal accounts highlighting how the police, prosecution service and the courts are under-funded and understaffed. These in turn become obstacles to women accessing justice as the criminal justice system lacks the resources to provide these services to victims.

One woman told Amnesty International:
“When I went to the police station they asked me for money for fuel which I did not have. My husband beat me again but I gave up going to the police because they always ask for money which I don’t have.”

In Uganda, there is no state-run shelter for victims of gender based violence. Women are also turned away from charity-run shelters for lack of space, and legal aid institutions are overwhelmed with cases of gender-based violence.

Meanwhile, attitudes among many government officials in Uganda are pressuring many women to accept mediation and stay in a violent relationship in spite of the danger. As a result, many women are stripped of their rights to be free from violence and to equal protection of the law.

The report also reveals how few systems are in place to protect survivors. Counsellors at a women’s shelter told Amnesty International how a 13-year-old girl who reported years of sexual violence by her father is now facing intimidation from her relatives and fears for her safety. Her case worker believes she is not safe where she is now living.

While the report stresses the need for the Ugandan government to adequately resource the criminal justice system to ensure that perpetrators of violence against women can be brought to justice, it also reveals that the government has not taken some basic measures to make the system work for women.

Many women Amnesty delegates spoke to said they were subjected to humiliating lines of questioning about their private lives and prior sexual conduct by inadequately-trained police and defence lawyers.

The government of Uganda is also falling short of its international obligation to ensure women’s access to justice. As a result, perpetrators escape prosecution and punishment for their crimes.

Widney Brown said:

“The Ugandan government needs to take a hard look at its laws, policies and practices and close the vast chasm between its rhetoric of respect for women’s rights and its abject failure to protect and fulfil those same rights.”

Amnesty is urging the Uganda government to take immediate action to provide survivors of violence against women with legal support and related health, safety and shelter needs.

It should also take steps to prevent violence against women by addressing its root causes by transforming discriminatory attitudes and remove the obstacles impeding women’s access to justice.

From http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18704

The effects of the earthquake that struck Haiti some two and a half months ago have reverberated across the country. Both in and beyond the capital, Port-au-Prince, progress made in tackling long-standing human rights issues – including the problem of gender-based violence against women and girls – seems a distant memory.

In too many cases, the most vulnerable have been the victims of exploitation and abuse.

Five grassroots advocates travelled many miles recently for a chance to speak with UNICEF Haiti Gender-Based Violence Specialist Catherine Maternowska.

The six met in the backyard of small cement house located off a residential dirt road. Despite the importance they attached to this meeting, each of the three men and three women in attendance was patient and respectful.

By the meeting’s end, the situation report was bleak: Like the capital’s overcrowded settlements for displaced people, the modest homes of host families in rural regions are under increasing duress. Daily life in the close quarters of a tent or one-room house has taken away any semblance of privacy. Come nightfall, poorly located latrines – or the complete lack thereof – require women and children to steal away to unlit areas. Few people feel safe.

“Since the earthquake, as the population here has increased, so have we seen an increase in cases of violence against women,” said Anse-a-Pitre Justice of the Peace Marc-Anglade Payoute. “The police and the justice system, we’re doing everything possible. We’re continuing to pursue arrests.”

For Ms. Maternowska the problem isn’t new or surprising: Emergencies increase the vulnerability of girls and women to gender-based violence. She stresses, however, that such violence can be avoided. Local women’s, men’s and non-governmental organizations; the justice system; all UN actors; and the media all have crucial roles to play.

“Sexual violence is not inevitable,” says Ms. Maternowska. “Haiti’s women’s movement has worked long and hard to change archaic Haitian laws that put women and girls at a grave disadvantage from the day they are born. Today in Haiti, support groups are teaching both men and women how to prevent violence, as well as how to create safe spaces for their daughters.”

In the aftermath of earthquake, UNICEF staff members have met with nearly a dozen groups in south-eastern Haiti, working to create an effective referral system for survivors of violence. Small plastic-coated referral cards, printed in Haitian Creole, instruct victims on where to go for medical care and support. The cards were developed by UNICEF, in collaboration with the Haitian Government, the International Rescue Committee, and UNFPA.

“Information is key,” says Ms. Maternowska, “and placing that information in the hands of a survivor can save her life. The referral cards we’ve developed provide information on how and where to access essential medications to prevent pregnancy and HIV. And of course, the provision of timely information gives survivors access to full medical treatment, psycho-social support and justice.”

In partnership with NGOs and other UN agencies, UNICEF supports the Haitian Government’s push to include gender-based violence services as part of a comprehensive approach to women’s and girls’ health. Plans to develop dedicated health centres for women and girls are currently in the works in the areas hardest-hit by the earthquake – including Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Jacmel.

The partners’ goal is to expand these services to even the most remote corners of Haiti, including Anse-a-Pitre.

UNICEF is equally committed to the prevention of future violence through the establishment of child-friendly spaces, with activities designed to educate girls and boys about gender-based violence and help them develop life skills needed in the new and challenging camp settings. Working with an established local Haitian partner, Solidarity for Haitian Women, UNICEF has plans to create women-centered friendly spaces, as well.

Safe spaces for women and girls will address issues related to gender roles and violence through a locally produced curriculum based on gender-based violenceprevention and basic rights. Group activities such as these provide the community-based psycho-social support that Haitian women and children need.

Part of a longer report at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/UNICEF/ae2c69eb646f653f5c3479e48c530821.htm

The word ‘rape would soon be removed from the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as the government is working towards replacing it with ‘sexual assault’ in an attempt to provide gender-neutral and to broaden the range of crimes covered under the sections.

Official sources said that the home ministry is working on drafting a bill to replace the word ‘rape’ from nearly 150-year-old Indian Penal Code with ‘sexual assault’ to widen range of the crimes covered.

Sources said the replacement of ‘rape’ with sexual assault will cover crimes like sodomy, fingering, insertion of foreign object and other similar offences which do not come under present definition of rape.

Under section 375 of IPC, penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.

Sources added that ‘sexual assault’ would ensure gender neutrality, which means that the relevant sections of IPC can be imposed on accused of any gender.

Sexual cirmes against women, men and children will also come under the new provision.

According to sources, the decision can be seen as an effort o prevent sexual crimes among homosexuals.

Homosexuality was decriminalised by the Delhi High Court in 2009.

http://news.oneindia.in/2010/03/16/sexual-assault-to-replace-rape-in-ipc.html

A time to focus on adolescent girls

“Last week in Guatemala I visited a UNICEF centre that houses girls as young as thirteen who have been rescued from brothels. The stories of suffering are simply unimaginable — horrific situations of rape, prostitution, torture and lost innocence.

With the help of UNICEF and its partners, many of these girls are now being given the opportunity to heal and build a better life through education and care. While these girls have been rescued, unfortunately so many more remain trapped in an underground world of abuse.

Stories such as these are not uncommon in many other parts of the world and serve as a reminder of the work that must be done to ensure young girls and women are better protected.

Millions of adolescent girls live in poverty, experience gender discrimination and inequality, and are subject to violence, abuse, and exploitation. The result is not only the suffering of girls themselves, but a continuing cycle of oppression and abuse.

While progress has been made towards equal rights and equal access for women and girls in areas like basic health and education, too often adolescent girls are still excluded. Investment in education and health are essential, but so too are much tougher laws, penalties, and prosecutions against the abusers.

Education is one key to better lives for girls, their families and their communities. Expert studies estimate that every extra year a girl spends in secondary education lifts her income by more than 15 per cent. Better educated girls have better employment and health prospects and, as they grow to womanhood, they pass these benefits to their children.

There is a strong link between the educational levels a country provides for its girls and the size of that country’s economy. But more importantly, education empowers women and gives them the opportunity to have a greater voice in society.

As we recognize International Women’s Day this March 8th, the international community, together with governments around the world, must work more aggressively to ensure that every girl has the right to a childhood that provides her with the opportunity to reach her full potential.”

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_52921.html