Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

In the experience of women’s rights activists around the world, religious fundamentalists strategically use physical and psychological violence to undermine those who oppose their policies. Fundamentalist violence can range from highly visible attacks against abortion doctors or LGBT people to the support of military actions to excusing domestic violence.

Religious fundamentalisms are on the rise in every region of the world, and can be found in every religion. In the experience of 8 out 10 women’s rights activists worldwide, religious fundamentalisms have had a negative impact on the rights of women. But activists are fighting back.

In a ground-breaking new publication, AWID presents feminist strategies of resisting and challenging religious fundamentalisms, based on research that draws examples from across regions and different religious traditions. Building on this extensive research, the report examines the factors that help religious fundamentalisms grow and the strategies fundamentalists use to promote their vision and strengthen their social and political power. It unmasks those strategies through feminist analysis and provides proposals and examples of how women’s rights activists and their allies in other movements can work effectively towards a future without fundamentalisms.

http://awid.org/eng/About-AWID/AWID-News/Towards-a-Future-without-Fundamentalisms-New-Report-Analyzes-Religious-Fundamentalist-Strategies-and-Feminist-Responses

Download the report “Towards a Future without Fundamentalisms” in pdf 1.23 MB http://awid.org/eng/content/download/93090/1041955/file/Towards%20a%20Future%20without%20Fundamentalisms.pdf

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When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote a year-end op-ed piece for an Australian newspaper, he talked about the future of a world body facing a new generation of threats: climate change, poverty, nuclear disarmament and human rights.

But, wittingly or unwittingly, he left out one of the biggest political success stories of the world body: the creation of a separate body, UN Women, to promote gender empowerment worldwide.

The new U.N. agency, armed with a projected 500-million- dollar annual budget and headed by Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet, began functioning at the beginning of the New Year.

But there has been no fanfare or political celebration inside the world body – even as the secretary-general is being accused of bypassing the importance of the landmark event.

“It would have been a tremendous opportunity to draw attention to UN Women … after all, the creation of an entirely new agency devoted to half the world’s population is something to be noted and celebrated,” said Paula Donovan, a co-director of AIDS-Free World, one of the early active campaigners for the new agency.

“But there’s not a word on UN Women,” she complained in a letter to Bachelet, jointly authored with Stephen Lewis, a former deputy executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF. “And that’s only the half of it. The other half provokes disbelief,” says the letter.

The agency was inaugurated on the first working day of 2011 at the U.N. since Monday was a New Year holiday.

In a paragraph that summarises the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the secretary‑general lists seven of the eight goals. “The only one left out is, astonishingly, the goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women. How is that possible?” the letter notes.

The creation of UN Women was hailed as a phenomenal success judging by the decades-old negotiations.

Asked to respond to the criticism, deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: “The secretary‑general has made clear his commitment to women’s issues, and he pushed strongly for the establishment of UN Women.” His commitment to UN Women can be seen through his efforts to win approval for that entity and his search for a strong leader for UN Women, which he found in Michelle Bachelet, said Haq. “He has spoken extensively on women’s issues, and its absence from one op-ed does not imply any lessening of his commitment on this crucial issue,” he declared.

In the op-ed piece, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald Dec. 31, Ban says the United Nations today leads what seems at times like a double life.

“Pundits criticise it for not solving all the world’s ills, yet people around the world are asking it to do more, in more places, than ever before ‑ a trend that will continue in 2011. It is not hard to see why,” he wrote. “The conventional wisdom will tell you that the MDG targets ‑ reducing poverty and hunger, improving the health of mothers and children, combating HIV/AIDS, increasing access to education, protecting the environment, and forging a global partnership for development ‑ are simply unattainable. In fact, we are controlling disease ‑ polio, malaria and AIDS ‑ better than ever, and making big, new investments in women’s and children’s health ‑ the key to progress in many other areas,” the article reads.

In her letter to Bachelet, Donovan says the greatest challenges for women will come from within. “And that was demonstrated, right at the outset of your tenure, by a classic act of unthinking negligence on the part of the secretary‑general himself. Alas, it is all too typical. Dr. Bachelet, you have your work cut out for you. And your work starts at the top,” says the letter, which carries the heading: “Can we help with your biggest challenge: educating the secretary‑general?”

Asked whether Ban was paying lip service to the cause of gender empowerment, Donovan told IPS: “I wish it were a fluke, but sadly, it’s been a pattern since he took office. I really wonder whether he believes that he’s ticking off the gender box when he makes a passing reference to maternal health – as though that were the sum total of women’s rights,” she added.

Article continues at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=54039

Craigslist has closed down its adult services ads on a worldwide basis, just four months after shutting down the listings in the U.S. due to prostitution complaints.

The classifieds web site, started by entrepreneur Craig Newmark (pictured), came under intense pressure because many of the ads were thinly veiled prostitution solicitations. In September, Craiglist took down the adult services listings in the U.S. In doing so, it replaced the listings with the word, “censored.”

Opponents of the sexually-charged listings claimed victory. Evidently, it’s hard for companies that want to be recognized as legitimate to have any kind of association with something unsavory. That’s why companies such as PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and Amazon have also dropped WikiLeaks, which has come under fire for releasing diplomatic secrets.

Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal confirmed that the adult services section is shut everywhere and he said, “This worldwide shutdown of erotic services sections on Craigslist is a victory in the fight against sexual exploitation of women and children and human trafficking connected to prostitution.”

Blumenthal fought the removal of the adult services from Craigslist after Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was accused of killing Julissa Brisman in April. Police said the killer found the woman through her Craigslist ad. Craigslist has not offered comment yet.

Newmark was ambushed in an Aug. 13 interview by CNN reporter Amber Lyon, who asked him what Craigslist was doing to protect young girls who advertised in the adult services section of the site. She told him that a number of child protection advocates have told her that Craigslist is the “Wal-mart of child sex trafficking.” Under further questioning, Newmark stared at her and referred Lyon to the company’s blog.

Lyon put Newmark on the spot, saying he was the “Craig in Craigslist” and was responsible. In a subsequent blog post, Newmark said that Jim Buckmaster, chief executive, has been running the site for the last 10 years and that his role is as a customer service rep. Newmark said he should have just referred Lyon to Buckmaster, but, instead, he froze on camera and looked “uncaring.” CNN aired the piece dozens of times. Buckmaster, meanwhile, lashed out at Lyonand wrote how Craigslist was trying to do the right thing, manually screening ads in its adult services site since May 2009. It has also pointed out how similar ads on eBay go unnoticed.

http://venturebeat.com/2010/12/22/classified-interruptus-craigslist-shuts-down-adult-services-worldwide/#

For earlier stories see https://womensphere.wordpress.com/?s=craig+list

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on 18th December 2010 to name and shame individuals and parties to armed conflict that are “credibly suspected” of committing rape or other forms of sexual violence.

The council said it intends to use the list, to be compiled by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “for more focused United Nations engagement with those parties,” including imposing targeted sanctions.

The resolution adopted by the council reiterates deep concern that despite its repeated condemnation, rapes and attacks on women and children caught in conflict continue to occur “and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality.”

The council action follows the rape of 303 civilians — 235 women, 13 men, 52 girls and 3 boys — in 13 villages in eastern Congo between July 30 and Aug. 2. Even in the conflict-wracked region, where rape has become a daily hazard and some women have been sexually assaulted repeatedly over the years, the numbers released by the U.N. were shocking.

Margot Wallstrom, the U.N. envoy trying to combat sexual violence in conflict, welcomed the adoption of the resolution, saying the new system of monitoring and accountability should “shatter the vicious cycle of impunity for wartime sexual violence.”

She stressed that the naming and shaming “must apply equally whether the victim is an eight-year-old girl or an 80-year-old grandmother.”

“Today’s resolution will help ensure that mass rape is never again met with mass impunity,” she said. “Instead of serving as a cheap, silent and effective tactic of war, sexual violence will be a liability for armed groups. It will expose their superiors to increased international scrutiny, seal off the corridors of power and close all exits to those who commit, command or condone such acts.”

The International Criminal Court has added rape and sexual violence to the list of war crimes. Congo’s former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba is currently on trial at the court in The Hague, Netherlands, for murder, rape and pillage committed by members of his private militia in Central African Republic in 2002-2003. Wallstrom said the number of alleged rapes exceeds the number of killings.

Last month, she said there should be more prosecutions for rape during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Only 12 cases have been prosecuted out of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 victims in Bosnia, which shows “the magnitude of the problem,” she said.

Human Rights Watch called the council’s decision to publish an annual list of alleged perpetrators “a tremendous step toward ending this horrendous practice.”

“Today is a big day for women worldwide,” Marianne Mollmann, the organization’s women’s rights advocacy director, said in a statement.

The new resolution will provide the international community “with an additional tool to offer justice to thousands of victims of wartime rape,” she said.

The resolution reiterated the council’s demand “for the complete cessation with immediate effect by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence” and called on parties to armed conflict “to make and implement specific and time-bound commitments to combat sexual violence.”

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hZX_s3mdYSZTNdlgfODM_OJh4_dw?docId=2803b3e0d93d49e7a52b2b6eab24df36

“Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.” — Mahmoud Fathalla, Former President of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 1997

Researchers at the World Health Organization have recently documented a substantial 48% decrease in the numbers of unsafe abortion deaths. In 2008, 47,000 women a year lost their lives from complications of unsafe abortion, compared to 70,000 in 2003. But the bad news is that unsafe abortions have not decreased and are still the predominant way that women end pregnancies in developing countries. Abortions appear to a bit less unsafe because more women are turning to safer medical abortion pills to induce their own abortion.

Unsafe abortion deaths are a direct consequence of antiquated and cruel laws against abortion. About 21.6 million unsafe abortions occurred worldwide in 2008, almost all in developing countries where abortion is illegal. (This compares to 19.7 million in 2003, with the rise due to the increasing number of women of childbearing age in the world.) Among women who survive unsafe abortion, an estimated 8.5 million suffer complications, with 1 in 4 needing medical attention.

In contrast, death from unsafe abortion has been virtually eliminated in western industrialized countries that have legalized abortion, and the complication rate is extremely low. When abortion is legalized in a country, there is typically a dramatic decline in maternal deaths and complications due to abortion. This pattern has been repeated numerous times since the 1950’s when abortion was first legalized in former Eastern Bloc countries.

Legal abortion saves women’s lives and improves their health because without it, women risk their safety by resorting to unsafe illegal abortion. The right to abortion also advances women’s equality, liberty, and other human rights, freeing women to pursue an education and career and to participate fully in public life. Access to abortion allows women to better plan and provide for their families, which benefits the entire community and society. Unplanned births of unwanted children can be very crippling to women and families, leading to higher rates of poverty and dysfunction, including child abuse. These factors make the provision of safe and legal abortion a vital public health interest that negates any justification for criminalizing the procedure.

Yet here we are, one decade into the 21st century, and almost every developing country in the world continues to enforce a near-total criminal ban on abortion. Abortion is illegal primarily in Africa, Latin America, and some parts of Asia, as well as a tiny handful of developed countries like Poland and Ireland. However, all countries with more liberal abortion laws still retain abortion as a criminal offence with exceptions, or have enacted further legal restrictions that make it difficult to access.

If the intent behind banning abortions is to stop or reduce them, it’s been a total failure. In 2007, the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute found that overall abortion rates around the world are similar, regardless of whether or not abortion is illegal in a country. This is because countries with strict anti-abortion laws have well-developed black markets for abortion. The global average abortion rate for women of childbearing age (15-44) was 29 per 1,000 women in 2003, with the highest number of abortions occurring in countries where it’s highly restricted and in countries with poor access to contraception. Eastern Africa’s rate was 39 per 1,000 women, while South America’s rate was 33.

In countries with fewer restrictions where legal abortion is widely available, the rates are generally much lower, plus we see a decline in abortion rates as contraception use rises. Canada is the only democratic nation in the world with no abortion law or restrictions, but it has a low abortion rate of 14.1 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age. That compares favourably to western Europe’s rate of 12, the lowest abortion rate in the world and the region with the most liberal abortion laws. In contrast, the American rate is 19.4 (for 2005) and U.S. women must navigate through a thicket of abortion restrictions. There isn’t a shred of evidence that such restrictions are effective or helpful for women or society; instead, they create arbitrary obstacles and delays for women seeking abortion care.

Who should we blame for this global travesty of injustice and for the continuing suffering and deaths of women? The obvious culprits, of course, are the Vatican, conservative countries, various Catholic and fundamentalist religious organizations, and right-wing politicians. But perhaps a better question is: Why does the world allow these entities to inflict such a terrible toll on women’s lives and health, year after year? The most obvious culprit in this case would appear to be sexism and patriarchy, which are very much alive and well in our modern age, and still socially acceptable compared to racism. Traditional views on women’s motherhood role are the main reason that women’s rights and equality still lag far behind the rights of minorities and other vulnerable groups. Much of the world still clings to the deeply-held assumption that women’s dignity and humanity is tied to being a mother, even though this subordinates women to a biological function. Moreover, our male-dominated patriarchal societies still try to guarantee paternity by controlling women’s sexual and reproductive behaviour at the expense of their freedom and human rights.

The United Nations’ position on abortion reflects the world’s hostile attitude towards safe abortion as an essential part of women’s reproductive rights and the cornerstone of women’s health and survival. Although the UN’s purpose is in part to promote and encourage “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion,” the UN has essentially abandoned women who need abortions by caving to pressure from right-wing forces.

Article continues at http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/reader-diaries/2010/12/09/criminalized-abortion-overshadows-good-news-reduced-unsafe-abortion-deaths

‘Control and Sexuality’ by Ziba Mir-Hosseini & Vanja Hamzić

The International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is pleased to announce the publication of Control and Sexuality: The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić. Copies can be purchased in the WLUML webshop for £12.00, and if you follow the link, you can download a sample chapter (the introduction) here: http://www.wluml.org/node/6869

Control and Sexuality by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić examines zina laws in some Muslim contexts and communities in order to explore connections between the criminalisation of sexuality, gender-based violence and women’s rights activism. The Violence is Not Our Culture Campaign and the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network present this comparative study and feminist analysis of zina laws as a contribution to the broader objective of ending violence in the name of ‘culture’. It is hoped that the publication will help activists, policy-makers, researchers and other civil society actors acquire a better understanding of how culture and/or religion are invoked to justify laws that criminalise women’s sexuality and subject them to cruel, inhuman and degrading forms of punishment.

“It is most timely that this publication should emerge when issues of culture and human rights are being debated in many venues in the international arena: within the United Nations; in national and transnational, mainstream and alternative media outlets; and across social and political movements. Some cultural practices may be particularly detrimental to the rights of women and girls. All harmful practices, regardless of provenance and justification, must be eliminated. All human rights are universal, indivisible and inter-related. It is my hope that by building upon the progressive, equitable and just aspects of culture which are inherent to all, this book can make a substantial contribution towards the promotion of rights, under law and custom.” Farida Shaheed, UN Independent Expert on Cultural Rights

In solidarity,
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
International Solidarity Network
http://www.wluml.org
wluml@wluml.org

(this is a comment piece by Meredith Tax)

The International Criminal Court, the first permanent tribunal set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, opened its doors in 2002. Five years earlier, people in the global women’s movement had organised a women’s caucus for gender justice to bring about this happy event, and the existence of the ICC is in no small part the result of their concerted efforts. Some of the best feminist lawyers in the world, including the late Rhonda Copelon of the international women’s human rights law clinic of the City University of New York, worked on creating the court, and the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the court – made a qualitative leap forward by integrating gender-based violence into its definitions of international crimes. The statute had provisions to ensure that evidence would be gathered in a way that protected witnesses and did not cause additional trauma, gave the court authority to award reparations, and required the prosecutor to appoint advisors with legal expertise on sexual and gender violence.

Unfortunately, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s first prosecutor, has shown little grasp of the statute he is supposed to be enforcing. He came to the court to implement a treaty unique in its attention to gender, and his first case ignored gender altogether. This case, in which Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese militia leader, is accused of drafting child soldiers, has already dragged on for four years. It has been almost thrown out of court twice because the prosecution evidence was so poorly prepared, and last year, Lubanga’s defence team charged that prosecution researchers in Congo got some witnesses to fabricate evidence. This charge could result in the whole case coming to nothing.

Equally serious was Moreno-Ocampo’s failure to include rape among the charges, even though young girls abducted by Lubanga’s troops were routinely forced to have sex with their commanders. Women’s human rights activists tried to persuade the prosecutor to include crimes of sexual violence among the charges, but he wouldn’t listen. Now, because Lubanga was not charged with rape, defence attorneys do not have to allow questions about those crimes.

The ICC’s second Congo case, that of Jean-Pierre Bemba, is flawed in a different way. The Rome Statute provides that rape can be charged as a crime in itself and also as a form of torture or genocide; such multiple charges were intended to capture the many dimensions and the full harmfulness of the act. However, in the Bemba case, the judge in the pre-trial chamber has refused to allow multiple charges of rape; she threw out the charge of torture, partly because the indictment was poorly drafted and the prosecutor’s office showed insufficient evidence.

All this underlines the importance of another provision of the Rome Statute, also violated by Moreno-Ocampo – the early appointment of high-level experts on gender as a permanent part of the prosecutor’s staff. Those who drafted the Rome Statute knew from experience that mainstreaming crimes against women was a new idea, and lawyers and judges would need to be trained for the work. But instead of appointing gender experts, integrating them into his staff and letting them shape cases, Moreno-Ocampo delayed any such appointment for six years.

Finally, in November, 2008, as criticism of him mounted, he appointed Catharine MacKinnon as special gender adviser – not a staff position, but a consulting one with no attendance requirement. It was a peculiar appointment in other ways. MacKinnon had not been directly involved in the process leading to the creation of the court and the mainstreaming of gender in the Rome Statute. Her main claim to fame in the US, where she is a polarising figure, has been in sexual harassment law, and through her activities during the “porn wars” of the eighties, when she sought to criminalise pornography as a violation of women’s civil rights. She carried her analysis of the centrality of porn into the Yugoslav wars, arguing, on dubious evidence, that Serbian militias in Bosnia were provided with special porn to psych them up for mass rapes.

At the ICC, it has begun to appear that MacKinnon’s main assignment is to blow smoke. In a speech in September 2009, she said (http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/2B344A20-EBDC-406C-8837-3973274F4501/280839/speech110909.pdf pdf):

“The most striking quality of the pursuit of these [gender-based] crimes by the ICC to date has been that they are there: their centrality to every prosecution so far, in a way that clarifies how the sexual abuse becomes a specific instrumentality in each conflict.”

This is a whitewash of the way gender was neglected in the early years of the court, as evidenced in the Lubanga case.

When the modern human rights movement began, its normative victim was an eastern European male prisoner of conscience. In the nineties, women activists shone light on violations based on gender, and the definition of a human rights victim became broad enough to include sexual violence by both state and “non-state actors” – militias, paramilitary groups, religious fundamentalists, even fathers and brothers and husbands. The Rome Statute is one of the major markers on that road. But the “war on terror” has returned us, in many ways, to status quo ante: today, the normative human rights victim is once more a male prisoner, this time in Guantánamo; human rights offences by states are back at centre stage; and crimes against women and children are again being marginalised.

The ICC’s deficiencies are one symptom of this slippage in the progress of women’s human rights. The struggle between Gita Sahgal and Amnesty is another. We live in a world where the internal processes of human rights organisations, whether Amnesty or the ICC, lack transparency, and where discussions about them are increasingly confined to experts. While the context of women’s human rights work has been transformed by the “war on terror”, the rest of the human rights movement has not caught up, and the global women’s networks that existed in the nineties have become fatigued and lack funding.

At an international conference at McGill University in 1999, Rhonda Copelon observed that “human rights, like law itself, are not autonomous, but rise and fall based on the course and strength of peoples’ movements and the popular and political pressure and cultural change they generate.” We cannot allow ourselves to be pushed back to a narrow mid 20th-century vision of human rights, least of all in the ICC. Ocampo-Moreno’s term as prosecutor expires in 2012. It is time for activists to begin to mobilise, and lobby for a replacement who will have a better grasp of the gender provisions so meticulously written into the Rome Statute.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/dec/13/international-criminal-court-moreno-ocampo

Aid agencies and donors are failing to take into account the relief and security needs of women displaced by disasters and conflicts, according to Elisabeth Rasmusson, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

For example, in Pakistan’s northwest Khyber Pakhtunkwa province, cultural practices mean Pashtun women cannot be seen by men who are not family members. So when the worst floods in the country’s history devastated their homes in July, they faced serious problems.

Unless the aid agencies on the ground had female assessment teams and other staff in place, these women were “invisible” and could not even visit the toilets during the day, Rasmusson told AlertNet in an interview.

The assistance they received – including clean water, food, sanitation and access to maternity care – was limited, she said.

“Worse, during Ramadan, women were fasting from sunset to sunrise, but they were also looking after the kids so the kids didn’t have food or drinks for 12 hours. Many babies and small children were totally dehydrated,” recalled Rasmusson, who visited the region in August.

This is just one example where women’s humanitarian needs have been overlooked, said the head of the NRC, an organisation that promotes and protects the rights of people who have been forced to flee their homes.

Around the world, millions of women uprooted by war live in fear of abuse and discrimination, aid workers say.

There are more than 43 million people displaced by conflict, three quarters of them estimated to be women and children, according to NRC. Some have fled to another part of their own country and others have crossed borders.

“Women are exposed to assault and injustice in all kinds of environments, and by anyone from a military soldier to family members,” Rasmusson said. “And often perpetrators go free, so there is little risk in abusing, raping, kidnapping or killing women.”

A binding Security Council resolution, passed 10 years ago, calls for women and girls in conflicts to be protected from rape, but only around 20 countries have implemented it. A recent U.N. report said sexual violence is an increasingly common weapon of war.

Simple measures such as making sure camps for the displaced are well-lit, building toilets within compounds, and letting civilians – instead of armed troops – run the camps can help provide safety for women, Rasmusson said.

But displaced women’s voices are not being heard, often because of “a total lack of understanding of the situation on the ground”, she added.

Donor indifference also means funding for activities to protect women from violence and discrimination has been decreasing.

With Pakistan’s flood response, for example, only 13 percent of the money needed to protect women has been provided, and in Zimbabwe, only 10 percent of this work is funded.

“Few donors are willing to fund protection activities because they’re not visible. The food, the shelter, the water, the health – all visible, tangible, concrete,” Rasmusson said.

One factor hampering displaced women’s security is the increased militarisation of protection, which is seen as the job of armed personnel even though it encompasses physical and mental safety as well as human rights, Rasmusson said.

She cited Democratic Republic of Congo as an example, saying U.N. peacekeepers there have a “contradictory mandate”. Although protecting civilians is part of their mission, they were involved in military operations last year with the Congolese army “which is one of the main perpetrators” of sexual violence against women, the top refugee official said.

“What kind of signal is that sending when you have people who are supposed to protect you supporting those who are violating your rights?” she asked.

From March to December 2009, U.N. troops backed the DRC military in an operation against Rwandan Hutu rebels in Congo’s east. Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, accused the army (link:http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/11/02/eastern-dr-congo-surge-army-atrocities) of widespread rape and brutal killings during that time.

The rising trend of displacement in urban settings, like Kabul and Mogadishu, also leaves women and children more exposed, because of higher crime levels in cities and difficulty of access for aid agencies.

Protecting women more effectively requires a deeper understanding of the role of men in conflict, Rasmusson said, as they change from providers to warriors once they take up arms. And that aggressive role may well continue even after conflict has ended, leading to a rise in domestic violence.

Rasmusson urged peace negotiators to make more effort to seek and incorporate displaced women’s voices and needs into peace agreements and other post-conflict processes.

“We have seen time and time again (that) only women can communicate their own needs – not the men, not the foreigners, not all the international experts negotiating these peace agreements,” she said.

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/VVOS-8BYMXJ?OpenDocument

The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the Organization’s founding nations resolved that the horrors of The Second World War should never be allowed to recur.

Respect for human rights and human dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”, the General Assembly declared three years later in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, all States and interested organizations were invited by the General Assembly to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day (resolution 423(V)).

The Day marks the anniversary of the Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Over the years, a whole network of human rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations wherever they occur.

http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/humanrights/

Human Rights Day 2010 on 10 December recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination.

Acting alone or in groups within their communities, every day human rights defenders work to end discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws, reporting and investigating human rights violations and supporting victims.

While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

More links and details at http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/2010/

This Report Card presents a first overview of inequalities in child well-being for 24 of the world’s richest countries. Three dimensions of inequality are examined: material well-being, education, and health. In each case and for each country, the question asked is ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’

The report argues that children deserve the best possible start, that early experience can cast a long shadow, and that children are not to be held responsible for the circumstances into which they are born. In this sense the metric used – the degree of bottom-end inequality in child well-being – is a measure of the progress being made towards a fairer society. Bringing in data from the majority of OECD countries, the report attempts to show which of them are allowing children to fall behind by more than is necessary in education, health and material well-being (using the best performing countries as a minimum standard for what can be achieved).

In drawing attention to the depth of disparities revealed, and in summarizing what is known about the consequences, it argues that ‘falling behind’ is a critical issue not only for millions of individual children today but for the economic and social future of their nations tomorrow.

http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/619

Download report in PDF:
• (pdf) Full text – Kb 1512 http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc9_eng.pdf
• (zip) Compressed – Kb 752 http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc9_eng.zip

9/12/2010
Senegal: Reviewing implementation of UN WOMEN and Millennium Development Goals
“We are moving beyond simply asking for gender equality, that was then! we are now calling for technical and specialized skills to use effective tools in bringing the political will into reality across all sectors in terms of gender” A quote statement by HE Mrs Awa Ndiaye, Minister of State, for Gender and Relations with African Women Associations and Foreign. Dakar, Senegal, on Nov 30, 2010.

8/12/2010
International: Structures of Violence: Defining Intersections of Militarism & VAW
On the occasion of the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders on November 29 and the 10th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) critically reflects on Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women, the theme of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence for 2010. The experience of discrimination, intimidation and attack of women human rights defenders lies at the intersection of their gender identity and their position as dissenters in their societies, particularly when working on women’s or sexual rights.

8/12/2010
Israel/Palestine: Coalition of Women for Peace Report “All-Out War: Israel Against Democracy”
CWP published a new report today, titled “All-Out War: Israel Against Democracy.” This comprehensive report documents the increasing political persecution of peace and human rights organizations and activists, and describes the connections between the assaults led by Israeli government officials, security forces, courts, journalists, and extreme-right organizations in this well-orchestrated offensive on democracy. The report was published in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and English. To download the full report (in English): http://coalitionofwomen.org/home/english/articles/Political_Persecution_Report/AllOutWar-internet-ENG.pdf

7/12/2010
Iran: Unprecedented Death Sentence for Christian Pastor on Charge of Apostasy
The Supreme Court of Iran should immediately reverse the apostasy conviction and death sentence of Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and release him from prison, theInternational Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. The judiciary should also release another pastor, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, who faces a similar prosecution.

7/12/2010
Bahrain: Targeting and harassment of human rights defenders
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses deep concern about the Bahraini authorities persistence in targeting and harassing human rights defenders, which was shown recently in the ill treatment inflicted upon the president of BCHR, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, through selective security measures practiced against him. Mr. Rajab was detained for about one hour by national security agents upon his departure to Greece through Bahrain National airport, after being threatened, his personal laptop and mobile phone were forcibly confiscated (in addition to the rest of the electronic devices that were in his possession), all files and information on these devices were copied, even family pictures and files related to his human rights work.

6/12/2010
Malaysia: Sisters in Islam statement on reports of child marriage
Sisters in Islam (SIS) expresses its utmost concern over news reports of a 14-year-old child married off to an adult man in July this year. This only came to light when the child and the man who married her participated in a mass wedding celebration at the Federal Territory Mosque on 4th December 2010, where couples were given RM1,000 and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom was in attendance as guest of honour.

6/12/2010
UK: Hate crime against Ahmadi Muslims
It’s not known exactly how many Ahmadis have settled in Britain – because many are too fearful to even admit they belong to the religion. They are a small, peaceful community who came here after fleeing persecution in Pakistan. But many Ahmadis are now living in fear for their lives – because they claim a campaign of hatred against them by other, extremist Muslims, is being exported from Pakistan onto the streets of the UK.

3/12/2010
Aceh: Local Sharia Laws Violate Rights
Two local Sharia laws in Indonesia’s Aceh province violate rights and are often enforced abusively by public officials and even private individuals, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The country’s central government and the Aceh provincial government should take steps to repeal the two laws, Human Rights Watch said.

2/12/2010
Afghanistan: Female prisoners not released in absence of male relative
Zarghoona* has completed her three-month sentence at a prison in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan, but she is not allowed home because no male relative has shown up to guarantee that she will not run away from home again. “All my family has abandoned me. I am dead for them but they [prison authorities] say they will only release me to a man from my family,” the woman told IRIN in a phone interview facilitated by an official who preferred anonymity.

2/12/2010
Pakistan: Sherry Rehman submits bill seeking end to death penalty under existing blasphemy laws
Amid announcements by the religious forces in the country to resist any move to change the blasphemy laws, former information minister and Pakistan People’s Party MNA Sherry Rehman has submitted a bill to the National Assembly Secretariat seeking an end to the death penalty under the existing blasphemy laws.

More at http://www.wluml.org/section/news/latest

The Montréal Massacre of December 6, 1989, in which 14 women students at the École Polytechnique were systematically killed and 13 other students wounded by a lone gunman, is indelibly imprinted on the minds of Quebeckers and others who struggled to comprehend the worst single-day massacre in Canadian history.

Since the beginning of Québec’s “Quiet Revolution” in the 1960s, women had been making increasing strides in non-traditional occupations and educational programs. In the 1970s and 1980s, growing numbers flocked to the École Polytechnique, the School of Engineering at the University of Montréal. While most men in Québec and elsewhere accepted and even welcomed these transformations, a minority felt themselves disadvantaged by attempts to encourage women’s new roles and opportunities.

One of these was Marc Lépine, a 25-year-old Quebecker and child-abuse survivor who, as an adult, was described by acquaintances as a moody loner. Lépine had sought to join the Canadian Armed Forces, but was rejected. He had also studied for admission to the École Polytechnique, but was not accepted — a decision he apparently blamed on “affirmative action” policies promoted by feminists and their sympathizers. In the suicide note he would leave on his body, Lépine provided some insights into the virulent mindset that fuelled his rage against women and feminists:

Please note that if I am committing suicide today … it is not for economic reasons … but for political reasons. For I have decided to send Ad Patres [Latin: “to the fathers”] the feminists who have ruined my life. … The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women … while trying to grab those of men. … They are so opportunistic that they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can.

Attached to the letter was a list of 19 prominent Québec women in non-traditional occupations, including the province’s first woman firefighter and police captain. Beneath the list Lépine wrote: “[These women] nearly died today. The lack of time (because I started too late) has allowed these radical feminists to survive.” It was, instead, dozens of ordinary women at the École Polytechnique who would bear the brunt of his fury.

The act of gendercide

On the evening of December 6, 1989, shortly after 5 o’clock on the penultimate day of classes before the Christmas holidays, Lépine carried a concealed Sturm Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle into the École Polytechnique. His first female victim, Maryse Laganiere, was killed in a corridor. He then proceeded to Room 303, a classroom which held 10 women students and 48 men, along with a male professor. Firing two shots into the ceiling and shouting, “I want the women. I hate feminists!,” Lépine enacted a gendercidal ritual that will be familiar to readers of other case-studies on this site (Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia) — only this time, the victims were female. Separating the men from the women, he expelled the men at gunpoint, lined up the remaining women students against the wall, and began to fire. Six women died; the others were injured, but survived.

“Then, Lépine went down to the first floor,” wrote Maclean’s (December 18, 1989). “Firing at diving, ducking students as he went, he entered the cafeteria, where he killed [Anne-Marie] Edward and two of her classmates. Still on the hunt, Lépine climbed back up to the third floor, where he strode into Room 311. Students, unaware of the unfolding tragedy, were delivering end-of-semester oral presentations. ‘At first, nobody did anything,’ recalled Eric Forget, 21. Then, the gunman opened fire, sending two professors and 26 students scrambling for cover beneath their desks. ‘We were trapped like rats,’ said Forget. ‘He was shooting all over the place.’ Other witnesses said that Lépine leaped onto several desks and shot at women cowering beneath them. Four more women were killed. Then, roughly 20 minutes after embarking on his rampage, Lépine took his own life.” By the time he blew off the back of his own head, fourteen women lay dead, and thirteen other students were injured (nine women, four men).

The murdered women were:
* Geneviève Bergeron, aged 21;
* Hélène Colgan, 23;
* Nathalie Croteau, 23;
* Barbara Daigneault, 22;
* Anne-Marie Edward, 21;
* Maud Haviernick, 29;
* Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31;
* Maryse Leclair, 23;
* Annie St.-Arneault, 23;
* Michèle Richard, 21;
* Maryse Laganière, 25;
* Anne-Marie Lemay, 22;
* Sonia Pelletier, 28; and
* Annie Turcotte, aged 21.

The aftermath — A shared responsibility?

In the wake of the horrific murders, Quebeckers and Canadians — along with many others around the world — rallied to commemorate the victims and denounce the anti-feminist wrath of their attacker. Many called Lépine a “madman,” but others rejected the term as downplaying the calculating nature of his hatred towards women and feminists. Indeed, Lépine himself had rejected it in his suicide note: “Even though the Mad Killer epithet will be attributed to me by the media, I consider myself a rational and erudite person that only the arrival of the Grim Reaper has forced to undertake extreme acts.” Declared Judy Rebick, who was spurred by the massacre to run for the leadership of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women: “If he’d killed 14 Jews, he’d have been seen as disturbed, but also anti-Semitic.”

Municipal and provincial authorities declared three days of mourning; the flag at the Canadian parliament flew at half-mast. Candlelight vigils were held across Canada, and on the Sunday following the massacre, tens of thousands of Québec residents and visitors queued in sub-zero temperatures outside the University of Montréal chapel to view the closed caskets of the murdered young women. One of them was Gendercide Watch executive director Adam Jones, who recalls: “I have never seen such a collective outpouring of grief. The murders united many Quebeckers across generational, ethnic, and gender lines; all turned out to pay their respects. Personally, it was a transforming experience. I had never seriously examined the gendering of violence in our society, and around the world, before those 14 women died.”

Since 1989, December 6 has been officially designated a national day of commemoration. Over the years, debate has raged (renewed for the tenth anniversary commemorations in 1999) as to whether the slaughter was an isolated act, or a symbol of male violence against women. It was certainly, as noted, an act of mass murder unprecedented in Canadian history. And the ritual, gendercidal separation of women from men — as also noted — usually leaves men dead and women still alive. Nonetheless, Lépine’s rampage had strong echoes in the numerous acts of domestic murder and abuse committed by men fearful that “their” women will assert greater independence and move beyond traditional female roles. (Lépine’s suicide also typified the pathological self-hatred and self-destructiveness which regularly features in such acts, and which makes it difficult to speak of a simple exercise of “patriarchal power.”)

Some carried the argument of generalized male responsibility further still. “Men kill women and children as a proprietary, vengeful and terrorist act,” wrote Montréal Men Against Sexism. “They do so with the support of a sexist society and judicial system. As pro-feminist men, we try to reveal and to end this continuing massacre, which will go on as along as we do not end sexism and sexist violence, along with all of men’s alibis for them.”

Thinking along similar lines, Toronto city councillor Jack Layton co-founded the White Ribbon Movement in 1991 to remember the victims of the massacre and protest against violence against women. “Until Montréal, most of the discussion was introspective,” Layton recalled in 1999. “Then the massacre happened, and it got us off our butts. My head exploded that year. ‘What must it be like for women?’ I thought. It was time to speak out and own up to this behaviour.” “Eight years later,” writes Hurst, “the cause has spread to a dozen countries around the world. Its comprehensive curriculum on gender violence — taught at public, junior high and senior high school levels — is used in 100 schools across Canada, 1,000 in the U.S.” The movement has also attracted criticism from those who believe it makes unwarranted generalizations about the attitudes and behaviour of men (see Jones, “Why I Won’t Wear A White Ribbon”).

In November 1996, the Canadian Women’s Internet Association founded the “Candlelight Vigil Across the Internet”, with the stated aim of “rais[ing] awareness of violence against women across Canada and throughout cyberspace.” Now in its third year, the response has “far surpassed expectations,” according to organizers.

The Montréal Massacre was also a key moment in the struggle for gun control in Canada. In the wake of the massacre — “it came right out of it,” she said — Wendy Cukier founded the Coalition for Gun Control. The Coalition “would go on to play a major part in lobbying Ottawa for laws, in 1991 and in 1998, that would ban all semi-automatic, military assault weapons and short-barrelled handguns, and require the registration of all firearms, starting in 2003, and strict screening for all owners.” Ontario and a number of other provinces mounted Supreme Court challenges to the legislation, but in December 1999 Cukier stated she was “confident the court will come through.” (See Lynda Hurst, “10 Years Later, How a Massacre Changed Us All,” Toronto Star, November 27, 1999.)

Lastly, if Lépine had sought to terrorize Canadian women into staying put in their traditional roles, his rampage may have had the opposite effect. Between 1989 and 1999, the proportion of women enrolled in Canadian engineering faculties rose from 13 to 19 percent. And in absolute numbers, it more than doubled, to nearly 9,000.

Read more at http://www.gendercide.org/case_montreal.html

redribbonWorld AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007,[1] and an estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV as of 2007,[2] making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2 million lives in 2007,[3] of which about 270,000 were children.[4]

Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_AIDS_Day

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

Continues at http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/2010-campaign/theme-announcement

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!

http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/about-16-days

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.

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).

http://www.ghananewsagency.org/s_politics/r_22502/

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!

Source http://www.worldmarchofwomen.org/news/mmfnewsitem.2010-11-08.5675494454/en

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

See also: Encouraging police to tackle violence against women in Rwanda