Archive for the ‘Demonstration March’ Category

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

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Women at the International Women’s Istanbul Meeting protested Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his speech at the Istanbul Congress Centre. They rose to their feet and held up banners reading “More of us are being killed when you say we are not equal” and “The men’s love kills three women per day”.

The women protested quietly. Security personnel in the hall took the banners and removed the women from the venue.

Members of the Feminist Collective underlined that 236 women were killed in the first seven months of 2010. “Prime Minister Erdoğan continues to tell women to give birth to three children whereas he does not mention the women who died”, they criticized.

The women reminded Erdoğan’s statement made in a meeting with women organizations in Istanbul where he said, “I do not believe in gender equality”. The women questioned “Prime Minister Erdoğan’s policies to be implemented to provide safety for the life of women”.

“We do not ask Prime Minister Erdoğan to work on the women’s ‘disposition’ or on ‘how many children they should have’. We want him to fulfil his duty and prevent violence against women, oppression and discrimination. We want to hear that steps are being taken and policies are being implemented that guarantee our right to life and life safety. We want to hear that very urgently because on every day that passes with all these announcements, another three women are being killed”.

The women made a press release including the following issues:

* According to the standards of the European Union (EU), one women’s shelter should be opened per 7,500 people. Hence, there should be 7,500 shelters in Turkey, but in reality there are 38. They have a total capacity of 867 people.

* In the Gender Equality report of the World Economic Forum Turkey ranks in 126th position among a total of 134 countries.

* The number of women murders increased by 1,400 percent within the past seven years. There is no action plan to stop this development. In fact, the legislature and the executive do not even have an according agenda.

* At court, the murders benefit from an unjust mitigation of punishment because of provocation. The women are killed by their husbands after they come back from the police, from shelters and prosecutors.

Part of a longer article at http://www.bianet.org/english/gender/125938-women-protest-pm-erdogan-in-womens-meeting

Over 25 women’s organizations from across Maharashtra came together on Wednesday to protest against the women’s policy that the state government is in the process of framing. The state government has decided to bring in a new policy to tackle problems related to gender disparity. The policy aims to take into consideration the problems related to the skewed sex ratio.

Women’s groups want the state women’s commission and the department of women and child welfare to formulate the policy.

“An independent department of women and child development was set up in the state in June 1993. This department has been the nodal agency for formulating the women’s policies. In spite of this, a government corporation, Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM), with the limited mandate of implementing various women empowerment programmes through self-help groups has been entrusted with the task,” said Kiran Moghe, state president of Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana.

The groups also questioned the effectiveness of policies that had been framed earlier. “The state first adopted a comprehensive women’s policy in 1994 during chief minister Sharad Pawar’s tenure. After that, another one was framed in 1998 and then in 2001. How effective were these policies? Has the government reviewed the implemented of these policies? If yes, the review should be made available to the public,” said Sonya Gill of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).

“The policy is null and void if proper budgetary provisions are not made to ensure that it is implemented properly,” said Varsha Deshpande of the Dalit Mahila Vikas Mandal.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Womens-forums-protest-against-new-state-policy/articleshow/6825154.cms

Women’s rights groups came together to denounce the government’s plan to decriminalize prostitution and allow sex workers to set up small businesses, challenging the administration’s stance by asking whether it wished to boost the sex trade industry or reduce it.

At a press conference centered around the theme of “Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation,” members of The Garden of Hope Foundation and the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation called for Executive Yuan Premier Wu Den-yih to withdraw plans to completely decriminalize the sex trade by the end of this year.

They stressed that until the social community reaches a consensus on the issue, the government should not implement a timetable and make relevant policies or legislation in haste.

Premier Wu has responded to the claims by clarifying that discussions on the topic are currently in the public hearing stage and have not yet become legislative policies.

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) said four public hearings have been conducted since August and that the current announcements were made in line with expert and scholarly opinions at the hearings.

The MOI announced on Wednesday its plan to decriminalize the sex trade and allow prostitutes to operate small-scale business brothels in proposed “sex zones.”

Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation director Kang Shu-hua described the government’s declaration as shirking management responsibilities from the central government to its local counterparts, a sign of the government making the sex trade a legitimate industry, thus jeopardizing the disadvantaged women by exposing them to the control of crime syndicates.

Lee Li-fen, a spokesperson for End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) Taiwan said that written in the Grand Justices Council Adjudication Act is the idea that the administration will help disadvantaged women with vocational training, counseling, education, employment or other means to enhance their work capacity and economic situation in order to eliminate sex trade as a means of livelihood.

However, the MOI policy has not only inadvertently presented prostitution as the central means of livelihood for vulnerable women, Lee argued, but also demonstrates that the administration cares only for policies that are easy and expedient though completely ignoring the wellbeing of disadvantaged women.

According to Wang Yue of the Garden of Hope Foundation, the MOI is leaning towards the one-woman brothel model of Hong Kong by trying to integrate sex work with public life, thus condoning the industry of sexual transactions. By opening this window, Wang described the government as ushering in the operations of the underworld, giving more opportunities to crime syndicates in the issue of human trafficking.

All the women’s rights group who attended the “Coalition against Sexual Exploitation” were firmly against the legalization of the sex trade. Describing themselves as strong advocates in reducing the sex industry, the women did say they were for the punishment of clients, who on top of being penalized, should contribute “social monetary donations” to foundations for disadvantaged and sexually abused women.

Taiwan’s existing law bans prostitution, although if caught in the act, sex workers are the ones punished while their clients are free from persecution.

http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20101017-242690.html

Thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo marched against mass rapes, which have become increasingly prevalent in the country as a weapon of war. According to CNN, many of the marchers were rape survivors. The march took place in Bukavu, located in eastern Congo and followed a peace and development forum, reports Agence France Presse.

World March of Women, together with local women’s groups, organized the march. Organizers aimed to use the event to fight the stigma often faced by rape victims and to draw global attention to the use of rape as a tactic of war. Congolese women’s activist Nita Vielle commented to CNN,”they have had enough…enough of the war, of the rape, of nobody paying attention to what’s happening to them.” World March of Women representative, Celia Alldridge, told CNN, “it’s just great to have so many women out on the streets. We believe that women should not be made prisoners in their own homes.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been named the “rape capital of the world” by the United Nations. According to CNN, there were 15,000 women raped by armed rebel groups in eastern Congo in 2009. Between July 30 and August 2 of this year alone, more than 300 people, mostly women, were raped in the country’s North Kivu province. The United Nations has condemned the lack of civilian protection provided by Congolese police, military, and UN stabilization forces in the area. Since the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo began in 1998, tens of thousands of civilians have been raped.

http://www.msmagazine.com/news/uswirestory.asp?ID=12679

See also: British women march in The Democratic Republic of Congo in solidarity with Congolese women, issue call for end to violence

Heartened by the passage of a same-sex marriage law in Argentina, women’s organisations in this South American country stepped up their demands for the legalisation of abortion, on the Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Some 1,000 members of the Juana Azurduy Women’s Collective, better known as Las Juanas, filed a “collective and preventive” writ of habeas corpus at different courtrooms around the country, demanding that the criminalisation of abortion be declared unconstitutional.

They also asked the courts to press the legislature to bring the law that penalises abortion into line with international norms that recognise a woman’s right to make decisions about her body.

In Argentina, abortion is a crime punishable by prison, except in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape, the expectant mother’s life is in danger or she is mentally ill or disabled.

But every year some 460,000 to 600,000 women resort to abortion in this country of 40 million people, according to the report “Estimate of the Extent of the Practice of Induced Abortion in Argentina”, prepared by experts from the University of Buenos Aires and the Centre for Population Studies.

In Latin America, abortion is only legal in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico City. With the exception of Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua, where abortion is illegal under any circumstances, in the rest of the countries in the region “therapeutic” abortion is legal in certain cases, such as rape, incest, fetal malformation or risk to the mother’s life.

Nevertheless, more than four million illegal abortions a year are practiced in the region, according to different sources, and 13 percent of maternal deaths are caused by abortion-related complications.

In Argentina, unsafe abortions are the main cause of maternal mortality, the Juana Azurduy Women’s Collective reports.

Against that backdrop, Las Juanas presented their legal action on Tuesday Sept. 28, observed as the Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion by the women’s movement in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1990.

For years, women’s groups in Argentina have been campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion, but have continually run up against the fierce resistance of the powerful Catholic Church and other conservative sectors of society.

However, this year the situation looks more favourable. Since March, the lower house of Congress has been studying a draft law that would decriminalise abortion, which has the backing of around 50 lawmakers from different parties.

The bill, which may be debated in October, was introduced by Cecilia Merchán, a legislator with the left-wing movement Libres del Sur, and would legalise first-trimester abortion on demand, similar to the law in effect in the Federal District of Mexico City.

None of the nearly 20 earlier bills on abortion introduced in the Argentine legislature over the years progressed. But the current draft law has already made it through several committees and is on its way to a full session debate in the lower house.

However, while the legislators are preparing their offensive in the lower house, another bill has been presented in the Senate, which would merely expand the circumstances under which therapeutic abortion is legal.

The idea underlying the initiative by several women senators is that legal abortion would also be made available to women facing risks to their health, a concept that would be broadly defined as physical and mental health.

The women’s organisations do not have the support of President Cristina Fernández, who has spoken out against the legalisation of abortion. But Merchán is confident that the president’s position will not impose itself in the legislative debate. (END)

Part of a longer article at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52989

Iranian women’s groups and other organizations are fighting a much-discussed proposed law which they say would encourage polygamy by allowing a man to take a second wife without the permission of the first under certain circumstances. The proposal comes at a time when the country has been rocked by protests, in which women have played a major part, following the disputed re-election last June of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Although Islamic law permits a man to marry up to four wives (with strict restrictions), polygamy is not widely practiced in Iran. At present, an Iranian man needs his wife’s permission to take a second wife.

A so-called Family Protection Law, proposed by the government in 2008, stated that a man could marry a second wife on the condition that he could afford both wives financially. The Parliament dropped that clause following a wave of opposition from women. However, it is now reconsidering a different version of the same provision.

The spokesman for the Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission, Amir Hussein Rahimi, announced recently that the commission has now approved Article 23 of the proposed Family Protection Law that states, “A man can marry a second wife under 10 conditions.” The new version still requires the first wife to give her husband permission, though, much more controversially, this permission would not be required under certain conditions, such as if she is mentally ill, suffers from infertility, does not cooperate sexually or has a chronic medical condition or drug addiction.

Iranian women still oppose the legalization of polygamy, saying it weakens their role and status at home and in society.

The original plan was dropped after a group of intellectuals, religious, social and human rights activists created a movement to voice their opposition to the law. In September 2008, a group of 50 well-known women, including poet Simin Behbahani, politician Azam Taleghani and lawyer and Noble laureate Shirin Ebadi, met representatives from the Parliament to express their concerns about what they called “an anti-family protection law.”

Islamic organizations such as the Zeinab Association and the Women’s Organization of the Islamic Revolution also supported the movement. And the One Million Signatures campaign, which opposes discrimination against women, played a significant role in mobilizing public opinion.

The law was also controversial among government officials. Several reformists protested against it openly. Iran’s former president, Mohammad Khatami, called it “persecution.” And a leading cleric, Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, stated, “If the first wife does not permit her husband to take another wife, the marriage will not be legitimate, even if a man can support both wives financially.”

Nevertheless, the Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, has declared that the legislature will consider a slightly amended version of the controversial article. To which a young member of the Center for Iranian Women, Taraneh Bani Yaghoub, replied, “The women’s movement will not remain quiet.”

Iran’s first law recognizing polygamy was passed when Reza Shah, who ruled between 1925 and 1941, was in power. In 1970, female activists demanded that the secular regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi outlaw polygamy, but despite the government’s positive reaction to their demand, clerics prevented it. In 1975, an alternative law was adopted, stating that polygamy was permitted under certain conditions, such as obtaining the first wife’s permission.

Much has changed in Iran since 1976, when only 36 percent of women were literate. Now, according to the Statistical Center of Iran, 80 percent of women are educated, and almost 1.6 million are university graduates – compared to 46,000 in 1976. Despite government restrictions on women, the number of female professionals has increased to around 6 percent a year, or 2.5 million women in 2006, according to official statistics. A large group of educated women has shaped today’s Iranian society. For years, these women have demanded legal and social rights and equal treatment with men. They have resisted any law that weakens their rights or degrades their position in society.

Women are angry with the proposed law, and they have been disappointed by the reaction of key figures of the opposition movement. A recent statement signed by a group of women activists accused defeated presidential contenders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi of ignoring women’s rights and even their existence in their political manifestos. The women affirmed that “women’s issues are a major part of the current crisis and no solution will be achieved unless this issue is included.”

The full text can be found at www.mianeh.net.

South Korean activists have staged a protest against a government crackdown on abortion, saying women should have the right to decide on the issue.

About 40 activists — mainly women — from 24 groups shouted “Stop a crackdown on abortion that violates women’s rights” in a Seoul park, after issuing a joint statement to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.

Abortion is officially illegal unless there is a risk to the mother’s health or in cases of rape or foetal malformation. But it has been widely tolerated in the crowded nation, partly to reduce the birth rate.

About one month ago a group of obstetricians supporting tough abortion rules began reporting colleagues who perform the operation.

Last week the health ministry announced its own crackdown, saying criminal penalties for illegal abortions would be enforced. It estimates that 350,000 abortions were carried out in 2005.

After decades spent trying to curb population growth, officials in recent years have been trying to boost the birth rate — one of the world’s lowest — to counter the ageing of society.

“Abortion for social and economic reasons must be tolerated,” the activists said in the statement.

They accused the government of using women’s bodies “as mere tools to control population” and said their interests should not be sacrificed to boost the birth figures.

“Decisions on pregnancy, abortion and childbirth must be left to women,” the statement said, describing the crackdown as violating women’s rights.

The campaign against abortion has prompted many obstetricians to refuse to conduct the procedure, sent the price of the operation soaring and caused more trouble to pregnant women, said Choi Mi-Jin, a leading activist.

“There are desperate calls from women asking for help because hospitals refuse abortion,” she said.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iBWa719ZW03aDHVJZHCHw1N4Oqgw

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma denounces the abuses inflicted on women fighting for democracy and human rights. Ranging in age from 21 to 68, these women have been victims of harassment, miscarriages and rape. They include Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner who has spent more than 14 years under arrest.

Tin Tin Htwe, also known as Ma Pae, is only the latest Burmese political prisoner to die in prison fighting for democracy and human rights. She died on 23 December from a ruptured aneurism. For those who do not die, prison life includes torture, violence and miscarriages. This is what happened to Kai Thi Aung, who lost her baby in the final weeks of pregnancy for lack of medical care.

Today, 8 March, International Women’s Day, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP-Burma), a dissident Burmese group, released a brief on the mistreatment of women involved in the fight for political and civil rights in Myanmar. According to AAPP, 177 women are in prison for political reasons, ages ranging from 21 to 68. Three of them suffer from acute health problems but the authorities have denied them proper medical care. Others are behind bars for the simple reason that they are the daughters, sisters or wives of men fighting for democracy.

For AAPP secretary Tate Naing, “these women are a powerful force for the future of Burma. They need to be treated with respect and dignity and released immediately”. They play a key role in the country’s pro-democracy movement and “will continue to make valuable contributions.”

The brief describes how women are interrogated, tortured, subjected to psychological violence and rape. It presents the case of Ma Ma Cherry, an invented name, a woman who spent 11 years in prison. In that period, she suffered major heart problems, and yet the authorities refused her outside medical treatment.

In addition to heart problems, Ma Ma Cherry experienced severe dysentery on a number of occasions, one of her worst experiences in prison. She has also vomited blood and been examined for TB. Because of the conditions in which she has to survive, she had a bout with depression over a two-year period.

Political prisoners are in principle entitled to a separate section, but in fact are treated like common criminals, abused sometimes by prison guards and other inmates.

Women prisoners are of different ethnic background: Burmese, Karen and (Muslim) Rohingya. They are denied access to their children, usually left with grandmothers or other relatives, under the close watch of the military.

Women activists who helped residents of the Irrawaddy Delta affected by devastating cyclone Nargis in May 2008 are also among the prisoners.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the only Nobel Prize laureate still under arrest for thought crimes, is one of the 177 prisoners. Daughter of the country’s founding father and hero of the struggle for national independence, she has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest. She too has health problems but continues her silent and peaceful struggle for peace and democracy in Myanmar.

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/International-Women%E2%80%99s-Day:-177-women-endure-violence-and-abuse-in-Burmese-prisons-17818.html

Several dozen centre-right opposition party joined the demonstration, which was backed by Roman Catholic bishops.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wants to introduce abortion on demand.

At present, a pregnancy can only be terminated in mainly Catholic Spain under specific circumstances.

The government wants the procedure to be available to all women up until the 14th week of pregnancy.

Most controversially, the draft law currently before parliament would also permit girls aged 16 and 17 to have an abortion without their parents’ knowledge.

It is the latest in a series of ethical issues which have pitted the Catholic right against the government, which has legalised gay marriage and made divorce easier.

Police estimates put the crowd at 250,000, but the regional government said that over a million had turned out, with the organisers claiming a turnout of two million.

The march brought together more than 40 religious and civil society groups calling for the government to withdraw the draft bill.

“This new law is a barbarity,” said one protester, Jose Carlos Felicidad, from the southern town of Algeciras.

“In this country, they protect animals more than human beings,” he told AFP news agency.

A broad cross-section of Spanish society were represented, says the BBC’s Steve Kingstone in Madrid – old and young, parents with babies, priests, nuns, immigrant families and organised groups coached in from all over the country.

They gathered in the heart of Madrid under an enormous blue banner the height of a two-storey building emblazoned with the simple message: “Every life matters.”

The crowd stretched all the way up the city’s main avenue in what our correspondent says was a show of strength by Spain’s traditional Catholic right.

The demonstrators would have been hoping that lawmakers at the parliament nearby were listening, our correspondent adds, because it is they who in due course will vote on this controversial legislation.

Spain’s existing law, dating from 1985, allows abortion in cases of rape and when there are signs of foetal abnormality.

Spanish women can also end a pregnancy if their physical or psychological health is at risk. In practice, the last category has been used to justify the vast majority of abortions – of which there were 112,000 in 2007.

The government says the new law is about respect and rights for women, and that anyone wanting to terminate a pregnancy will first be explained the alternatives – including state help for young mothers.

It also claims its proposal will make abortion safer – by ensuring the procedure does not happen beyond 22 weeks of a pregnancy.

In recent years shocking cases have emerged in which doctors performed abortions on women eight months pregnant, with the justification that their mental health was under threat.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8311824.stm

Rioters attacked and stripped about 20 Ugandan women who were wearing trousers last week during deadly riots in Kampala. The humiliations were part of a major confrontation between a traditional kingdom and President Yoweri Museveni’s government.

Male rioters in a suburb here on September 11 attacked about 20 women wearing trousers.

The men, in Rubaga, a Kampala suburb, began detaining women during their protests, police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said at a press conference that took place that same day.

Women wearing skirts were allowed to pass, Nabakooba said, but those wearing trousers were forcibly undressed and left to walk home in their underwear.

The abuse occurred amid violence in the Ugandan capital, which officials say has claimed 14 lives and injured about 70.

Women’s rights advocate Jackie Asiimwe denounced the rioters for using the clash to abuse women and commit criminal acts in New Vision, a Kampala-based newspaper. “It is an invasion of women’s privacy,” the newspaper quoted Asiimwe as saying.

“Traditionally, trousers are not acceptable and are a Western thing,” Rizzan Nassuna, a writer and human rights advocate in Kampala told Women’s eNews. “In (the kingdom of) Buganda, you are supposed to wear long skirts. This is coming out of a local belief that women are not supposed to wear trousers, but this has never been formalized or really come out in the open. They violated their dignity as women, making them walk naked, because they are wearing trousers.”

In neighboring Sudan, journalist Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein was recently arrested for wearing trousers in Khartoum before being released on September 8.

Nassuna, however, said she doubted any direct connection between the two incidents. Instead, she viewed the attack on women wearing pants as a byproduct of a larger effort by protesters to assert the customs of their Buganda kingdom, a pre-colonial cultural and political structure that, with 5.5 million members in a country of 30.9 million, is the largest of Uganda’s traditional communities.

The riots were sparked on September 10 when the Ugandan government blocked an advance team for the Kabaka, the king of the Buganda kingdom, from entering Kayunga, a district in central Uganda.

The inspector general of police, Major General Kale Kayihura, said in a press conference on September 12 that the clashes spread from the city center to more than 11 suburbs of Kampala, a city of about 1.6 million people. He said that so far 14 people have died in the disturbances and more than 70 have been injured.

Kayihura said that the police had arrested 550 people since Thursday and charged 83. “Investigations are still on,” he said at the press conference.

Some Unnecessary Force Used
He said some police officers had used unnecessary force after they were instructed by their commanders and the Ugandan president to kill looters on sight. “I know that some police officers mistreated civilians during the riots,” said Kayihura. “This should stop immediately.”

Two minority ethnic groups in Kayunga, the Banyala and Baluuli, have been demanding this month to secede from the kingdom to establish cultural autonomy.

On September 9, President Yoweri Museveni, citing fears that the king’s visit might trigger violence in the district, said that the Kabaka could not visit Kayunga unless leaders from the minority groups, Buganda representatives and government officials met beforehand.

In the ensuing violent backlash to that decision, a mob burned two people to death in the suburb of Ndeeba on September 10. One woman was almost lynched by a mob in Namirembe, a neighborhood in Kampala, after youth declared her not to be a Muganda, or a member of the Baganda people. She was saved by police.

Justine Busulwa, an accountant who works in Kampala, gave Women’s eNews an account of barely surviving the riots.

She said in an interview that when news of the riots first broke last week her boss initially locked the office to protect the workers. She eventually left her office late and had a motorbike driver take her home to avoid using public transport. On her way home, she passed through Wandegaya, a Kampala neighborhood, and saw riots erupting.

A Ugandan soldier stopped her, but rather than protecting her, she said he asked her to lie down on the ground and began taunting her for not being a Muganda, or member of the kingdom, even though she belongs to that ethnic group.

Mob Begins Harassment
After begging for the release of her driver and herself, the soldier let her go. But then Busulwa said she was stopped by a mob that had formed in another section of the city, which began harassing her. She said she only got away by giving the rioters money.

“I was almost killed,” Busulwa said. “My son came home at midnight when the riots almost reached his university, too afraid to stay in his hostel.”

She waited until Sunday before entering town again.

The government called on the police, military and the Presidential Guard, raising hope that the violence would be curbed. But gunfire began in Kampala early on Friday, September 11. Public transport was paralyzed and rioters began humiliating women and attacking Indian merchants. Many Indian business owners closed their stores on that day to prevent attacks, and some Indian families took refuge at police stations.

Although the riots subsided somewhat on Saturday, gunshots were still audible throughout the city.

The crisis could be one of the biggest tests of Museveni’s career.

The president, an ethnic Ankole from southwestern Uganda, took power in 1986 and is up for re-election in 2011.

Although praised initially for his regime’s efforts to both empower women and reinstate the cultural kingdoms, his government has clashed with Buganda officials in recent years over land issues in Kampala, positioned at the heart of the traditional kingdom.

Museveni said he has tried to communicate with the Kabaka for the past two years, but the cultural leader refused to take his phone calls.

“Whenever any controversy came up, I would telephone His Highness, the Kabaka, but he would not answer my telephone as usual,” said Museveni, who took a hard line against rioters harassing and humiliating civilians, in a press statement. “The ring leaders are being hunted down and some have been arrested. Looters will be shot on sight, as will those who attack other civilians.”

———————————————————–
Rebecca Harshbarger is a journalist based in Kampala, Uganda. You can visit her Web site at http://www.ugandabeat.wordpress.com.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm?aid=4140

Linda Carty, 50, was sentenced to death in 2002 for her part in abducting and killing a 25-year-old woman, but claims she was framed.

A recorded plea from Carty was played aloud from the plinth. (play http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8246965.stm)

The Foreign Office said it had made a number of representations on her behalf to the US government.

Carty’s supporters erected a cardboard cut-out of her on the plinth, which is being used for temporary live statues in the London square.

They played the recording she made in the Texas jail where, if appeals fail, she will be put to death by lethal injection.

At the same time, campaigner Brian Capaloff, 46, from Falkirk, Stirlingshire, held up pieces of cardboard featuring extracts from her plea.

In the message, she stated: “Time is now running out and I appeal to every one of you and to the British government to please help me.”

She added: “I’m sorry if I sound like a desperate woman. I am desperate, because the British people may be my last hope. If they ask for my life to be spared, maybe Texas will listen.”

Legal charity Reprieve described Carty as the most at-risk British national they are following. It is thought her execution could take place as early as next summer.

Speaking from her Texas prison, Carty said she was hopeful that her appeal, currently lodged with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, would be successful.

Asked if she thought Prime Minister Gordon Brown could assert more pressure, she said: “He has to. You cannot sit passively by and, because you have a good relationship with the US, say ‘I don’t want to rock the boat’.

“You are talking about somebody’s life here. He has to get up and say ‘I am not going to allow you to kill this lady’.”

Clive Stafford-Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve, said: “Linda Carty’s speech to Trafalgar Square shows that she is a terrified woman, and with good reason. Texas plans to kill her by lethal injection, which is a painful and lonely death.

“The British government must do everything in its power to prevent Linda’s death.”

Carty was convicted in connection to the kidnap and murder of Joana Rodriguez, who was seized with her four-day-old son by three men on 16 May 2001.

But she says she was framed by three men in revenge for her work as an informant with a Drug Enforcement Agency.

Campaigners claim there were a number of defence failings during the trial.

The Foreign Office said that it had made its “usual representations” against the death penalty and that it had registered a complaint with the US Appeals Court about not being informed when Me Carty was first arrested.

A Foreign Office statement said: “We are resolutely opposed to the use of the death penalty.

“Our prime concern is to avoid the execution of British nationals.

“We have made a number of representations to the US Government, on this case and others, concerning our view on the death penalty. The US are fully aware of HMG’s stance on the death penalty.”

A spokesman for the British Consulate-General in Houston said the consulate remained in “close contact” with Carty and her legal representation in the US and UK, and would continue to provide Carty with consular assistance.

Carty has British dependent territory citizenship because she was born on the island of St Kitts, in the Caribbean, to Anguillan parents.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8247564.stm

See also:
* Linda Carty interview
In an interview given in prison in Texas, she maintained her innocence and said circumstances had counted against her. Can be viewed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8247656.stm

Two people died and at least 11 were hurt when the gunman opened fire at the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association before fleeing.

The city’s Mayor, Ron Huldai, said the motive was unclear and police declined to comment except to say a Palestinian link was not suspected.

But the protesters condemned the attack as Israel’s worst hate crime.

“I fear that if the man who did this is not found, the consequences to the gay community might be far-reaching – they might live in fear,” said 47-year-old lawyer Arnon Hirsch.

The attacker, wearing a mask, opened fire indiscriminately with a pistol inside the centre on Nachmani Street.

The two people he killed were a man aged 26 and a 17-year-old girl.

Survivors described how the attacker kept firing as visitors to the centre dived for cover.

“I took cover with someone under a table, and he kept firing,” said one injured teenager, Or Gil.

“When I got up it was horrifying, I just saw blood.”

Gay rights activist Mike Hamel criticised religiously-driven hatred of homosexuals.

“Beyond the pain, the frustration and the anger, we are facing a situation in which the incitement to hate creates an environment that allows this to happen,” he said.

One worker at the centre said some parents of the teenagers did not know their children were gay until they received phone calls telling them their children had been injured.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to bring the killer to justice.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who attended the rally, said the attack should strengthen young people who wanted to come out of the closet.

People from the gay community are allowed to serve openly in the military, and couples are given a measure of legal recognition.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8180655.stm

Hundreds of people participated on Saturday in Luanda in a march against domestic violence, which was dubbed “Zero Tolerance”.

The march was held in the ambit of the commemorations of the African Women Day, to be marked on July 31.

During the event, which took place under the theme “Impact of the financial crisis in the life of families”, the participants walked past the Deolinda Rodrigues Avenue, the Independence Square, Ho Chi Min Avenue, Hoji-ya-Henda Avenue, culminating in Cidadela sports complex.

The march aimed to sensitise citizens about the various forms of violence, consequences, the advantages of being tolerant at home, in school, at work, and in the street, as well as the need to denounce all types of aggression.

The march, which was organised by the provincial department of family issues and promotion of women, was attended by the minister with this portfolio, Genoveva Lino, the Luanda governor, Francisca do Espírito Santo, and the vice-president of the ruling MPLA party, Roberto de Almeida, among other officials.

http://www.portalangop.co.ao/motix/en_us/noticias/sociedade/Citizens-join-march-against-domestic-violence,10c23959-2e0f-4786-be36-4e5a9b5de204.html

Employees of abortion clinics in the Netherlands held a minute of silence on July 1 to raise awareness about violence against women seeking abortions and against the doctors and clinics conducting them.

‘This is a silent protest against those who are violent against women who want to undergo an abortion and their physicians,’ Thea Schipper, director of the Bea Huis en Bloemenkliniek which performs abortions, told the German Press Agency dpa on Tuesday.

The Dutch minute of silence is part of a series of protests being planned by other abortion clinics in France, Belgium, Spain, among others.

The staff of Belgian abortion clinics are due to dress in black, while French abortion clinics will hold a strike soon.

The international initiative was launched to protest the murder of US abortion physician George Tiller who was killed on May 31.

‘Violence and aggression against aid workers is an increasing problem,’ Schipper said.

‘In the Netherlands, we fortunately do not see the kind of violence like in the US against abortion clinics and physicians. However, general aggression against aid workers is a growing problem here too,’ she added.

Abortion clinics have existed in the Netherlands since 1971, but it was not until 1981 that it was legalized.

The number of abortions performed in the Netherlands each year remains relatively stable with 33,000 procedures, according to the 2007 Dutch health inspection year report.

Nearly 14 per cent of all abortions in this country are performed on foreign women who cannot undergo the procedure in their home countries.

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/health/news/article_1486849.php/Dutch_abortion_medics_protest_violence_against_clinics_women_

Two Burmese women’s organizations in the Indo-Burmese border town of Moreh were forced to cancel a planned protest rally to be held on Friday after authorities pressured the officer who had issued permission for the rally to cancel the authorization.

The Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organisation (KWHRO) and the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) sought permission from the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Tengnoupal Subdivision of Moreh in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, bordering Burma, to hold a protest rally demanding the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her 64th birthday on June 19.

Though the ADC gave permission, the women’s leaders said they were later persuaded by the ADC to cancel the plan.

“We already received permission on June 16. But this morning we were requested to cancel the plan,” Ngangai Haokip, a presidium board member of WLB told Mizzima.

She said the reasons for the request to cancel the plan were not officially declared, though the ADC had been pressured by his superiors to rescind the permission.

“The ADC was also pressured to ensure that we publish the cancellation of the program in the newspaper,” Ngangai added.

Earlier, the KWHRO, an ethnic Kuki women’s group working to promote the rights of women in Burma, and WLB, an umbrella Burmese women’s organization, planned to march through Moreh in protest against the continued detention of Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the current trial against her.

The program was planned as part of the global action for commemoration of the detained Burmese pro-democracy leader’s 64th birthday, on June 19. On Friday, Burmese activists and supporters across the world are set to hold prayer meetings, protest rallies, solidarity concerts and speeches in honor and solidarity with the Burmese democracy icon.

But Ngangai said the program in Moreh had been rescheduled to a simple and small cake-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion

Pressure from the ADC on the women’s groups to cancel their program came after the Imphal-based online Hueiyen News Service published a critical article on June 17 questioning the authority of the ADC to grant permission to protest to foreign organizations.

The article, entitled “How can an ADC permit foreigners to hold protest rally at Moreh?”, points out that allowing Burmese activists to protest in Moreh could provoke Burma’s military junta and eventually jeopardize diplomatic ties between India and Burma.

“With Moreh, being a town bordering Myanmar [Burma], any activity such as an open protest rally held there aimed at criticizing the ruling junta in Myanmar [Burma] is bound to certainly provoke the junta,” the article argued.

While it is still unknown who pressured the ADC to alter the original ruling, Ngangai speculated, “Now the ADC is worrying for his life and position after having originally given permission.”

Meanwhile, observers in Moreh conjectured pressure by Manipuri militants on the behest of the Burmese military could be behind the reversal of fortunes, as several Manipuri armed groups, including the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), reportedly benefit from close relationships with the Burmese military, even maintaining bases on Burmese soil.

http://www.mizzima.com/news/regional/2322-burmese-womens-groups-pressured-to-cancel-protest.html

See: Protests mark Suu Kyi’s birthday and What is 64 for Suu?
Also: Free Aung San Suu Kyi

In recent years, Egypt has witnessed increasing participation by women in grassroots political activism. Local civil rights advocates attribute the phenomenon to novel means of communication and organisation, especially the social networking website Facebook.

“Technological advances have provided a greater scope for political participation by a new generation of young women, traditionally inclined to staying in the home,” Hossam Bahgat, director of the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told IPS.

The phenomenon has become particularly notable since the advent of the ‘April 6 Youth’, a grassroots movement seeking peaceful political change. The movement takes its name from a general strike held on Apr. 6, 2008, when a planned labour action at a public-sector textiles company turned into a nationwide protest against skyrocketing food prices and political stasis.

The young were mobilised through mobile-phone text messages and Facebook – where one of its online groups currently boasts more than 75,000 members.

On Apr. 6 this year, the ‘April 6 Youth’, which is not affiliated to any particular political party or ideology, again urged Egyptians to voice dissatisfaction with the ruling regime by staging peaceful demonstrations countrywide.

Last year’s strike saw the arrest of hundreds of activists and strike leaders, including 29-year-old Israa Abdel-Fattah Ahmed, a founding member of a Facebook group. Although she was released some two weeks later, Israa – who became the face of the nascent April 6 Youth movement – was the only woman to be detained over the course of the strike.

This year’s action, dubbed a national ‘Day of Anger’, saw a total of seven young women briefly detained on charges of inciting unrest.

On Apr. 1, security forces arrested Sarah Rizk and Omniya Taha, both 19 years old, on charges of disrupting traffic and “incitement against the ruling establishment.” The two university students had been distributing flyers on the campus of Kafr al-Sheikh University calling on citizens to participate in planned demonstrations.

Three days later, a group of 17 young people were arrested, including five women, while protesting Rizk’s and Taha’s detention outside a Kafr al-Sheikh courthouse in Egypt’s Nile Delta.

On Apr. 5, all seven women were released, Rizk and Taha having posted bail payments of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (roughly 180 U.S. dollars) each.

While Rizk calls her and her compatriots’ release a “victory”, it remains unclear whether or not they will eventually face trial. “We don’t know whether the case will go to court or not,” Rizk told IPS. “Even my lawyers are confused as to what the next step is.”

Esmaa Mahfouz, a 24-year-old administrator on an April 6 Facebook group, attributes the speedy release to government fears of making popular heroes of the detained women.

Female interest and participation in political activism are clearly on the rise. “Young women constitute one of the country’s biggest demographic groupings, and I suspect they will become increasingly influential in the future,” observes Bahgat.

Egypt, a conservative, majority-Muslim country, has traditionally seen limited female political participation. Of the 454 representatives in Egypt’s national assembly, less than 10 are women, although draft legislation establishing a minimum quota for female MPs is now under discussion.

According to Bahgat, the recent spike in female political activism has been driven primarily by innovations in communications technology.

“All over the world, novel means of communication have opened up new channels for political involvement,” he said. “And Facebook in particular has provided a new forum through which Egyptian women are both broadening their political horizons and making their voices heard.”

Bahgat’s assertion was substantiated in conversations with a number of politically active young women.

“It’s not common in Egypt for women our age to be active politically, but through Facebook we have found a means to meet likeminded women our age and exchange views about ways to improve the country,” said Rizk, an April 6 member since last July. “Political activism shouldn’t be dependent on age or gender. Women, too, should participate – even at the street level.”

Mahfouz, who also works for a private telecommunication firm, agreed that the social-networking website had opened her up to a new world of political activism.

“As a woman, I didn’t have much political experience and only saw popular demonstrations from a safe distance,” said Mahfouz. “But since I discovered Facebook and began sharing my political opinions, I have even begun joining in street protests.”

“I used to be mainly concerned about marriage and my everyday needs, like most women my age,” Mahfouz added. “Now, though, I have a new interest in political activism – after all, I eventually want to raise my family in a secure and economically-viable environment.”

Spokesmen for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood say they have no objection to the recent surge of female participation in political activism, despite the group’s reputation for conservatism. The brotherhood, which officially supported this year’s April 6 action, represents the country’s largest opposition movement.

“The Muslim Brotherhood appreciates the role women are playing in the April 6 Youth movement, and the price they are paying for that participation,” Hamdi Hassan, prominent Muslim Brotherhood MP, told IPS. “The government claims it supports women’s rights, yet when women participate in peaceful political activism, they’re arrested.”

Although Rizk complains she was subject to some mistreatment during her recent detention, she has no plans to give up her newfound activism.

“Despite the intimidation, I know the Egyptian people are on our side,” she said. “My recent brush with the law has only made me more resolute.”

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46853

(Reminder: We have now included a feed from IPS News Genderwire – see first column on the right so are less likely to post them to this blog. So if you see a story you are interested in you need to follow the link from the feed to get it in full.

Eight women’s groups protested outside the offices of the Times Group — the publishers of The Times of India — accusing the Mumbai Mirror newspaper, also published by the group, of sensationalising the story of a rape victim and violating her right to privacy.

A student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai was reportedly raped by six men. Following the registration of a case with the local police on Tuesday evening, newspapers in Mumbai have extensively reported on the case, featuring the story on their front pages every day since the story broke.

The Mumbai Mirror published in entirety the statement made by the victim to the local police, detailing her age, her country of origin — she was an international student — and even the course she was enrolled at the TISS, an institute which does not have many international students. The statement also graphically described how the victim was attacked by the alleged offenders.

The eight women’s groups filed a complaint with the police, who registered an FIR against the Mumbai Mirror, the Times Group and its owners Bennett, Coleman and Co. under Section 228 (A) of the Indian Penal Code for disclosing the identity of a rape victim, said Sandhya Gokhale of the Forum against Oppression of Women, one of the groups involved in the protest.

While the newspaper did not reveal her name, women’s groups said that by revealing the other details, the newspaper left no scope for her identity to remain confidential thereby violating her right to privacy. “This isn’t ethical journalism at all, it’s a violation of her privacy,” Ms. Gokhale said.

“Everyone in her college, and elsewhere, knows her identity now. This is irresponsible reporting.”

The Mumbai Mirror carried an apology in its pages after many readers wrote in to complain about the graphic descriptions of the girl’s rape that was contained in her statement.

The women’s groups said this was not enough as the newspaper apologised only for offending the readers’ sensibilities, and not to the victim. “We want the newspaper to apologise to the victim,” Ms. Gokhale said.

The incident has ignited a debate on where boundaries lie in reporting such crimes and when newspapers should refrain from publishing information that may offend the sentiments of victims, or possibly worse, disclose their identity.

Nandita Gandhi, a prominent women’s rights activist with the non-governmental organisation Akshara, said this was in her opinion “the grossest incident of reporting a rape case in recent memory.”

“An FIR may be a public document, but it’s not a document that is meant to titillate or sensationalise,” Ms. Gandhi said. “The competition between newspapers is so vitiated that they are pulling out all the stops. The newspaper can argue they have not named her, but they have otherwise revealed her identity. They may have kept the law, but they violated its spirit.”

http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/19/stories/2009041960840900.htm

Hundreds of angry Afghan women gathered outside the Kabul mosque run by a hardline Shia cleric to protest against a law that human rights organisations claim legalises marital rape.

About 200 women chanted slogans and carried banners outside the imposing Khatam Al Nabi mosque and seminary run by Mohammad Asif Mohseni, the cleric who has strongly promoted a law that also bans women from leaving their homes without the permission of their husbands.

Meanwhile, a roughly equal number of largely male counter-protesters shouted “Allahu Akbar” and furiously protested against what they see as largely foreign pressure to impose western cultural norms on Afghanistan.

According to Associated Press, some of the women were pelted with stones by opponents.

News that the law, which only affects Afghanistan’s Shia minority, had been quietly passed by President Hamid Karzai last month, prompted international fury when the Guardian revealed details of legislation that the US president, Barack Obama, described as “abhorrent”.

But today’s demonstration shows at least some Afghan women are as angered by the law as leading international critics, which also included Gordon Brown, Hillary Clinton and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary general.

A statement by the group of civil rights groups who organised the rally said it had been called to protest against a law that “insults dignity of women as fellow human beings and increases ethnocentrism and inequality”.

It said the law contradicted equal rights provisions in the constitution and demanded the scrapping of articles that give husbands the right to have sex with their wives whenever they chose, except during times when they are ill or menstruating.

Ayatollah Mohseni is a leading figure among Afghanistan’s Shias, who represent about 15% of the population and are seen as an important voting block in this year’s presidential elections.

The cleric recently defended the law, saying Karzai was wrong to bow to international pressure by ordering the justice ministry to review it.

He described the political pressure from western leaders as “cultural invasion, thinking one’s culture is better than others”.

Human Rights Watch strongly supported today’s protest and said Karzai should repeal the law.

“President Karzai should not sacrifice women for short-term political deal-making,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“He is playing with fire. How will he be able to refuse demands for similar discriminatory laws from other communities?”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/15/afghan-women-protest

Videos:
Afghan women protest against ‘rape’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7999875.stm
Stones Thrown at Afghan Women Protesters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dBX25jJWto
Afghanistan Women Protest http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o2RyUzRDvY

Women marched through the Southern Sudanese town of Bor recently to highlight an important message: “Treat women with respect”.

“Bring an end to violence against women, and let women contribute to develop the nation,” said some 100 women parading through the capital of the vast and swampy eastern Jonglei state.

The march was a rare message of hope for women in South Sudan – a severely underdeveloped region slowly recovering from a 21-year war that ended with the 2005 peace deal.

About 90 percent of the people in the region live on less than US$1 a day, but it is especially tough for women.

Decades of violence, coupled with traditional cultures where women are often treated as property, mean Southern Sudan has some of the worst development indicators in the world.

One in 50 women dies in childbirth and female literacy rates remain extremely low at an estimated 2 percent, while some 17 percent of girls will be married off before they reach 15, according to a 2006 government survey.

Now efforts are being made to try to tackle the problem. This month, representatives of women’s groups and government ministries gathered in Bor for a five-day workshop on gender-based violence.

“We want women to be involved in decision-making, and to show people that women are equal to men,” said John Chuol Mamuth, director of the Upper Nile Youth Mobilisation for Peace and Development Agency, which organised the meeting.

“That is why we are working to spread this message: there are many challenges but if peace will continue, the situation will change.”

Women in Southern Sudan face a wide range of problems. With some 60 percent of households headed by women, many face daily sexual harassment and unequal treatment.

“Gender based violence includes underage marriage and domestic violence,” said Silje Heitmann, gender officer for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Southern Sudan, which helped fund the conference.

“It hinders [the] economic and social development of Southern Sudan.”

Many cases of violence against women are settled by traditional courts, but these are male-dominated and closely tied to traditional values, which rarely promote the best interests of women.

“The poor situation of women … and marginalisation are caused by our customary law and culture, where the power in society is the men,” said Rachael Nyadek Paul, Jonglei state minister for social development.

“But these laws are man-made things: we can decide on something new for a law.”

Any change is a major challenge, but is backed by the southern leadership. The semi-autonomous region’s interim constitution guarantees that at least a quarter of posts in office will be held by women.

“Understand, when I talk of women’s employment, do not think I mean just the ladies who make your tea or carry your documents from office to office, or of the pretty girl who sits at your reception desk,” Southern President Salva Kiir told political leaders this month.

“No, we must promote able, educated and mature women to positions of responsibility and influence if we are to ensure that we will meet the needs of the mothers and sisters and daughters in our community.”

“In the past women were treated like property, [with] less value than cows,” said demonstrator Akerwo Bol. “Today, because of this government, women are to come out and do what men do. They are equal.”

But in a region where men must pay large numbers of cattle as part of a marriage deal – the traditional basis of the economy – others were not so impressed.

“If you pay cows for a woman, then of course you can beat her,” said Akoch John, an elder. “If you want to give me your daughter for free, maybe we can talk.”

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/57869171156372b1f4a7e18dcce69fa9.htm