Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

The number of sexual harassment cases among civil service employees rose 40 percent last year, according to the annual report released by the Civil Service Commission’s disciplinary division.

Over the year, 125 sexual harassment files were opened compared with 90 the year before. As recently as three years ago, the annual figure was 65. Of the 125 cases filed last year, 20 were filed with the disciplinary court for civil service employees.

The executive director general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Michal Rozin, said highly publicized cases encourage victims of sexual harassment to file complaints. Such cases include the allegations of sexual misconduct against police commissioner candidate Uri Bar-Lev, and the trial and conviction of former President Moshe Katsav on rape and other charges.

“We have seen this reflected in a substantial way in the flood of phone calls to rape crisis centers and to our emergency hotlines beginning on Thursday morning when the verdict in the Katsav case was announced,” Rozin said. “We have just been swamped with calls in the past several days.”

Some observers say more complainants came forward in 2010 after Orly Innes’ complaint filed with the Civil Service Commission. Innes said she was sexually harassed by the outgoing director general of the Public Security Ministry, Hagai Peleg.

The report from the Civil Service Commission, which was recently provided to the Justice Ministry, shows that the Education Ministry suffered the largest number of complaints in 2010. That year, 26 files were opened, compared with 12 the year before.

The Health Ministry had the second largest number of complaints, 23, followed by the Israel Postal Company and the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which each had eight.

Agencies with smaller numbers of complaints included the court administration, the Nuclear Research Center and educational television, with one each. The Prime Minister’s Office was the source of two complaints.

Rozin said high-profile sexual misconduct cases such as the Katsav case or the case involving former minister Haim Ramon’s kissing of a female soldier revive painful memories among victims. Many of these victims then feel the need to talk about what they went through.

Rozin said the Katsav case had a major impact. She said that a survey conducted in 2010 showed that 40 percent of women experience sexual harassment at the workplace.

Attorney Rachel Toren, who represented Innes, agreed that media coverage of sexual misconduct cases encourages other victims to come forward. She cautioned, however, that not every complaint is well-founded.

Innes not only filed a complaint against Peleg, but also went public with allegations against Uri Bar-Lev, who withdrew his candidacy as police commissioner following allegations of sexual misconduct by Innes and another women.

Tziona Koenig-Yair, who heads the equal employment opportunity commission at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, said publicized cases involving sexual harassment cause an increase in the number of complaints filed. But some people dispute this, she said.

“The message that has come from labor courts over the past year and from the judicial system as a whole is a message encouraging women to file sexual harassment complaints,” she said.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/sexual-harassment-cases-in-israel-s-civil-service-rose-40-in-2010-1.335064

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Research into ‘honour-based’ violence (HBV) and killings in Iraqi Kurdistan and the UK by Professor Aisha Gill (Roehampton University) with colleagues from Bristol University has earned plaudits from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UN.

Criminologist Dr Aisha Gill has called for an urgent consolidation of the legal provisions for robust legal, policing and prosecution procedures in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The new research by researchers at University of Bristol and Roehampton University, has found a need for dedicated service and policy development to demonstrate that the issue is taken seriously and that ‘honour’ based violence (HBV) and killings are no longer acceptable in the way that they may have been in the past.

Researchers from the Centre for Research on Gender and Violence, University of Bristol and Roehampton University are calling on the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq and the Coalition Government in the UK urgently to address violence against women in the name of ‘honour’ in response to a growing concern about alarming levels of violence against women and girls in Kurdish communities.

Dr Gill, Project Manager for the UK section of the research, said: “States across the world have duties under international law to respect, protect and support women’s rights, including taking steps to tackle violence against women.

“Although abuses that occur in the private sphere, such as so-called ‘honour’ killings, are crimes under the domestic laws of most countries, many states around the world continue to fail to demonstrate due diligence in this regard. Even now in the 21st Century, they still fail to prevent or investigate all such crimes, and fail to hold perpetrators to account.

“Thus, although legislation exists to protect women in theory, social tolerance of violence, cultural norms and a lack of political will often combine to nullify the law in practice. Further, cultural practices that have the effect of rendering women “invisible” create the conditions in which they suffer “invisible violence”, and may allow violators to act with impunity.”

Research from women’s organisations working closely with victims and survivors of HBV in Northern Iraq and in the Kurdish Diaspora, highlights the need for ongoing training and support, improved prosecution of individual perpetrators and support projects for victims, together with comprehensive awareness-raising and public education in culturally sensitive ways.

Dr Aisha Gill said: “Our findings call for improved international response. Globally, all states must ensure that victims who have encountered this form of gendered violence and those who have been threatened with or experienced HBV, receive immediate, confidential and comprehensive assistance, including access to legal help, and psychological and social support.”

Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt joined Dr Gill in Iraq to discuss her research and said he was pleased to add his support to this comprehensive study on the honour-based violence (HBV) and honour-based killings in Iraqi-Kurdistan and in the Kurdish Diaspora in the UK.

“Honour crimes have no place in a modern society and I have been heartened by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to crack down on them. No matter how unacceptable, traditions will always be difficult to change. Dealing with these crimes requires courage and determination and I welcome the KRG’s leadership and commitment to bring an end to impunity in this area. I am proud that, through Roehampton and Bristol Universities, the UK is supporting such crucial work,” he said.

“This report marks an important step. The recommendations offer a roadmap to combating honour-based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan. The UK will continue to work with the Kurdistan Regional Government in realising this goal.”

Details of the project in both English and Kurdish are available from Dr Aisha Gill.

http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/news/aishairaq.html

An survey has shown there are more than 100 children under 18 working in Fiji’s sex trade.

The report, by the International Labour Organisation, says there are an increasing number of children involved in child labour.

It says more than 500 children are involved in the worst forms of child labour in Fiji, including drug trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation and collecting and handling scrap metals and chemicals.

The ILO says although the majority of respondents started sex work between the ages of 15 and16 years, the survey also found that some started as early as 10 years old.

More than half of the child sex workers interviewed were living at home with their parents or guardians.

http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=57748

A woman dies from domestic violence every 63 minutes in Russia, with more than 650,000 women beaten by their husbands and other relatives each year, a non-governmental organisation reported earlier in December.

The violence “results in the death of 14,000 women each year” in Russia, the ANNA women’s support group said in a report.

“In other words, this translates into another woman being killed by her husband once every 63 minutes,” the organisation’s president Marina Pisklakova told AFP.

She said the rate had remained relatively stable since 1995, although the interior ministry only began issuing official domestic violence figures in 2008.

For comparison, a woman is killed in a British domestic violence case once every three days, according to the Refuge women’s centre.

Pisklakova said the violence in Russia could be partially explained by a patriarchal society “in which women are accustomed to violence, which they treat as simple marital conflict.”

Though aware of the problem, Russian authorities have done little to help, Pisklakova said.

“There is one 35-bed (female) shelter in a Russian capital of 10 million inhabitants,” she said.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hdEuUheTDYIfQWO6mjKiSX9yS3BQ?docId=CNG.9567db7c53d50c9a061453a81786b8d0.51

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

More than one in three South African men questioned in a survey admitted to rape, the latest evidence in the country of a violent culture of patriarchy.

Researchers found that more than three in four men said they had perpetrated violence against women.

Nearly nine in 10 men believe that a woman should obey her husband – and almost six in 10 women also agreed with the statement.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Last year a survey by the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that 28% of men in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces said they had raped a woman or girl.

A new MRC study in Gauteng, the country’s wealthiest province, found that 37.4% of men admitted having committed a rape, while 25.3% of women said they had been raped.

The survey questioned 511 women and 487 men, of whom 90% were black and 10% white.

Rachel Jewkes of the MRC said: “We see a situation where the use of violence is so widespread that not only is it seen as being legitimate but I think quite often women forget it. They just see it as a normal effect.”

Jewkes cited her survey’s findings on gender attitudes. Although both largely agreed that “people should be treated the same whether they are male or female”, 86.7% of men and 57.9% of women also endorsed the statement that “a woman should obey her husband”.

Some 53.9% of men and 29.8% of women agreed that “a man should have the final say in all family matters”, while 37.3% of men and 23.2% of women supported the view that “a woman needs her husband’s permission to do paid work”.

Asked about sexual entitlement in marriage, only 55% of both men and women said they thought “it is possible for a woman to be raped by her husband”. Some 38.7% of men and 29.3% of women thought that “a woman cannot refuse to have sex with her husband” and 22.3% of men and 8.8% of women felt that “if a wife does something wrong, her husband has the right to punish her”.

The survey also found that 32% of men and women agreed that “in any rape case, one would have to question whether the victim is promiscuous”, while 20.1% of men and 15.6% of women said that “in some rape cases, women want it to happen”.

Jewkes said: “What we see here is a set of attitudes reflecting men’s views that they are legitimate in the use of violence against women, and women in many respects acquiescing to this.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/25/south-african-rape-survey

The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) issued a short report on the campaign for November 28′s Egyptian Parliamentary elections, saying women have a number of complaints that must be looked into for a better election.

According to the leading women’s organization in Egypt, they have “received many complaints from female candidates of the National Democratic Party who were excluded from nomination in the upcoming elections.”

The organization listed the complaints from the potential candidates:

1. NDP’s exploitation

The party made the best use of some female candidates by taking donations from each candidate of up to 10,000 Egyptian pounds. This is why there are calls for the return of the money.

2. Nominating candidates out of the electoral college, based on criteria of relatives and not on partisan basis

The party excluded some female candidates in favor of others who are relatives of some secretaries in the party. Moreover, many women in Beheira claimed that they were excluded in favor of others who came out of the Electoral College.

3. Prevent entering the headquarter to look at results of the Electoral College

ECWR received a complaint from one of the National Democratic Party’s female candidates in Assuit who has been excluded from nomination in the elections. She said that she was prevented from entering the secretariat of the NDP in Cairo when she went there to know the number of votes that she gained; this happened after she went to the secretariat of the party in Assuit and was informed that ballot boxes had been moved into Cairo.

4. Changing the nomination category

ECWR received a complaint from one of the National Democratic Party’s female candidates in Kafr El Shekh for labor seat within the quota system. She said that the party chose her for the professional seat, though she submitted her documents for the labor seat. Thus, it became necessary for her to change the category of her nomination, though the party has affirmed to her before that she will be nominated as labor candidate in Assuit.

The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights is still following the election process and is receiving complaints from women in all the Egyptian governorates.

http://bikyamasr.com/wordpress/?p=20533

One small study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, rather than take on the whole industry, the institute only focuses on what’s produced for children and who’s involved in those productions.

Over the years, the institute’s studies have shattered any illusion that children’s programming doesn’t share the same prejudices of adult entertainment.

The institute’s most recent study is the largest content survey ever done of U.S.-produced children’s films. And since the United States produces 80 per cent of all movies in the world, it’s the largest ever, anywhere. (Download http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/downloads/FullStudy_GenderDisparityFamilyFilms.pdf)

It was done by Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who analyzed films released in the United States and Canada between Sept. 5, 2006, and Sept. 7, 2009.

They and more than 80 students looked at all G-rated, English-language fictional narratives and the 50 top grossing PG and PG-13 movies.

What they found is that the world portrayed in kids’ shows is dominated by men — or at least males, since some of the kids’ characters are animals and even cars.

Of the 5,554 speaking roles, 71 per cent of the characters had men’s or boy’s voices.

But in three years’ worth of children’s movies ranging from fictional narratives to dramas and cartoons, the most shocking conclusion is how the few female characters are portrayed.

Whether they’re fish, penguins, stuffed animals or people, the female characters are mostly young, sexy, beautiful and passive sidekicks. Eye candy.

A quarter of the female characters wore sexy attire. One in five was partly nude.

The tiny-waisted female bodies depicted veer so substantially from the norm that researchers noted there is “little room for a womb or for any other internal organ.”

Even in their small numbers, female characters are disproportionately young. One in five is under 21, nearly double the number of male characters that age. But after 40? Women fall off the cliff, says Smith, who presented her research at Vancouver’s SexMediaMoney symposium.

Smith and the Davis Institute aren’t just interested in how females are depicted in children’s programming, they want to know why and how to change it. Again, they’ve got the statistics to make their case.

Women behind the scenes — the content creators who include producers, directors, writers, camera operators and so on — are even rarer than females onscreen. Again, the statistics seem shocking in an age when people have come to believe that the equality battles have all been won.

In those three years’ worth of children’s movies, the content creators were almost all men. They comprised 93 per cent of the directors, 87 per cent of the writers, 80 per cent of the producers.

So why does that matter? Because even where there was a single female director or writer, the percentage of female characters rose.

But here’s the more significant statistic — and it’s the point that Madeline Di Nonno, the Davis Institute’s executive director, drives home in meetings with media executives. When there are two or more women behind the scenes, the number of onscreen female characters jumps.

Two seems to be a tipping point akin to the 30 per cent that female politicians say is necessary for their voices and issues to be heard and taken seriously.

So why should it matter whether there’s a strong female character in Finding Nemo, Madagascar or Ice Age? Why does it matter if the female characters in children’s shows are hyper-sexualized?

A multi-year study by Rand Corp. found, for example, that the teens who watch the most sex on television are the first to have sex and the first to get pregnant.

Like little boys, girls need strong role models, too. They need more than just Dora the Explorer and teeny-bikini-clad Little Mermaid. And the way to get there is to provide more opportunities for those children’s mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and even grandmothers to write and produce those characters for them.

Part of a longer article at http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/movie-guide/dominate+shows+kids+actor+wants+something+done+about/3682386/story.html

See also: SEXMONEYMEDIA an international symposium on women in the media

Women’s groups across Italy are angered by the news that the country ranks 74 in the new report of 2010 World Economic Forum on gender equality ranking.

The report shows Italy ranks worst in the whole of Europe for equality between men and women and behind countries such as Ghana and Malawi, and Vietnam from the developing world.

“I think it’s in theory we are moving in the right way but then in practice there is still much to be done. The thing is more cultural than legal. For example women still face some troubles in working, specially at some levels, and combining their private lives as mothers and their lives as workers,” Maria Stasi, an Italian lawyer, told a Press TV correspondent.

The report which says how income, resources, and opportunities are distributed between the sexes also gave particular praise to the Philippines in Asia, and Lesotho in Africa which were both in world’s top ten.

Italy dropped two places from 2009 and the report is particular critical of the fewer opportunities available to women in business and politics. The report comes as little surprise to many businesswomen in Italy who claim their earnings and promotion prospects are not as high as those of men and that they are treated worse than their male counterparts.

Currently over half of university graduates in Italy are female. But for those levels to be translated into leaders in the work place and politics significant steps still need to be taken.

The world economic forum report placed Iceland, Norway, and Finland as its top three countries, with high rankings for fellow European nations Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany.

Pakistan, Chad, and Yemen were at the bottom of the 134-nation forum rankings.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/146696.html

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Despite successful campaigns to promote gender equality, China continues to struggle with high rates of domestic violence, which experts say impacts not only families but society as a whole.

One-third of Chinese households cope with domestic abuse, both physical and psychological, according to a national survey by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), the largest women’s non-government organisation in China.

The study found that the violence mostly takes place in rural areas, in young families and in households with lower educational levels. Men commit 90 percent of the violent acts, the study found.

Another study conducted by the China Law Institute in Gansu, Hunan and Zhejiang provinces found that one-third of the families surveyed had experienced family violence and that 85 percent of the victims were women. It found that domestic abuse was so prevalent that both men and women identified it as a part of normal family life. Just 5 percent of respondents said their marriage was unhappy.

Domestic violence “has a pernicious influence on families and society as a whole. It threatens social stability, imperils marriages and threatens children’s well-being,” said Xu Rong, chief of the projects section at the Beijing Cultural Development Centre for Rural Women.

In rural areas in particular, the long-standing idea that women should be in subordinate positions to men is a primary contributor to abuse. In China, as in many other countries, domestic violence is considered a private matter and this makes it difficult for women in distress to seek help.

Domestic violence is also a main contributor to high rates of suicide among women in rural areas.

According to a report posted on Da Ai Net, a news portal that focuses on mental health and family education, about 157,000 Chinese women kill themselves each year, and the rate of suicide is three to five times higher in rural areas than urban centres.

According to one survey based on 260 cases of suicide among rural women, 66 percent had been victims of domestic violence. Xie Lihua, editor of ‘Rural Women’ magazine and secretary-general of the Development Centre for Rural Women, attributed the violence to the traditional belief that boys are more valuable that girls, the subordinate position of women in the countryside and the lack of assistance available to abused women, according to Da Ai Net.

But there is evidence that domestic violence is prevalent in higher-income families as well. A survey by the Guangdong Municipal Women’s Federation showed that of 548 cases of household abuse, 111 had members with college diplomas, 72 were public servant households and 88 of the households had incomes above 2,000 yuan (298 U.S. dollars) per month.

China’s constitution stipulates that “women in the P.R.C. (People’s Republic of China) enjoy equal rights to men in all spheres of life.” But until recently, there were no laws specifically addressing domestic violence in China, said Li Yinhe, China’s first female sociologist who currently works as a researcher and mentor to doctoral students at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Sociology.

In 2001, an amendment to the marriage law included the term “domestic violence” for the first time in Chinese law. In that same year, stipulations about domestic violence appeared for the first time in an amendments to the General Provisions of the Marriage Law.

China has since signed The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and has its own stand-alone laws that ban domestic violence against women and children.

An alliance of civil society organisations was recently created to conduct a project they call ‘Domestic Violence in China: Research, Intervention and Prevention’, and Chinese courts are starting to tackle the problem.

In August 2008, a court in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, issued China’s first court order on the protection of personal safety when it prohibited a husband from beating or humiliating his wife.

Xu, whose work focuses primarily on suicide prevention in rural areas, said that despite still high rates of domestic violence, there have been significant improvements in recent years. Notably, increased rural incomes have helped alleviate the problem somewhat.

Still, much more needs to be done.

Li said China needs to increase funds for women’s shelters and promote gender education. Xu added that China should also strengthen its laws against domestic violence, and promote prevention and protection. “We need to spread the idea that domestic violence is illegal across the whole society,” Xu said. (END)

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53071

At least 245 million women around the world have been widowed and more than 115 million of them live in devastating poverty, according to a new study launched Tuesday night by Cherie Blair, wife of the former British prime minister.

The most dire consequences are faced by 2 million Afghan widows and at least 740,000 Iraqi widows who lost their husbands as a result of the ongoing conflicts; by widows and their children evicted from their family homes in sub-Saharan Africa; by elderly widows caring for grandchildren orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis, and by child widows aged 7 to 17 in developing countries, the report said.

“Across the world, widows suffer dreadful discrimination and abuse,” Blair said. “In too many cases they’re pushed to the very margins of society, trapped in poverty and left vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.”

She said many are cheated out of their husbands’ assets and property and expelled from their family home — and since they have no money they can’t support their children, “so misery is heaped on grief.”

Blair was in New York to launch the report entitled “Invisible Forgotten Sufferers: The Plight of Widows around the World,” commissioned by the Loomba Foundation which works in a dozen countries to help widows and educate their children.

“The plight of widows — in the shadows of the world — is a human rights catastrophe,” said Blair, the foundation’s president. “It’s really a hidden humanitarian crisis.”

She said the foundation had been working on the basis that there were about 100 million widows but decided to do a study from published sources to get a more accurate figure. She said the foundation was surprised to discover there were at least 245 million widows worldwide, almost half living in poverty.

The report stressed that persecution against widows and their children is not limited to the developing world, noting that large numbers of widows are also found in Europe and Central Asia.

According to the report, the countries with the highest number of widows in 2010 were China with 43 million, India with 42.4 million, the United States with 13.6 million, Indonesia with 9.4 million, Japan with 7.4 million, Russia with 7.1 million, Brazil with 5.6 million, Germany with 5.1 million, and Bangladesh and Vietnam with about 4.7 million each.

Blair said women become widows when their husbands are killed in conflicts, die of diseases including HIV/AIDS, or are killed because they work in dangerous conditions, the only jobs available to many poor men.

When their husbands die, she said, some women are required to be “cleansed,” some are erroneously accused of murder or witchcraft, some are required to marry another member of the family, many are disinherited and forced out of their homes and many are raped.

According to the report, over 500 million dependent and adult children of widows are caught in a vicious underworld in which disease, forced servitude, homelessness and violence are rampant and youngsters are denied schooling, enslaved or preyed upon by human traffickers.

The foundation was established in 1997 by Raj and Veena Loomba in honor of Loomba’s mother, who was widowed at the age of 37 in India when her husband died of tuberculosis and raised her seven children by herself.

“There are few resources in the world available to help widows achieve a safer, more comfortable existence and to promote their equality and pursue justice on their behalf,” Loomba said.

He said that’s why the foundation is campaigning to put the plight of the world’s widows on the U.N. agenda and to have June 23 — his mother’s birthday — declared International Widows Day to raise awareness of the crisis.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gNgKvlVIH_8PRBJMtkMkfBHe1-fQD9GGR8NO0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kurdistan Regional Government Should Outlaw the Practice

A significant number of girls and women in Iraqi Kurdistan suffer female genital mutilation (FGM) and its destructive after-effects, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report. The Kurdistan Regional Government should take immediate action to end FGM and develop a long term plan for its eradication, including passing a law to ban the practice, Human Rights Watch said.

The 73-page report, “‘They Took Me and Told Me Nothing’: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan” (download from http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/06/16/they-took-me-and-told-me-nothing-0 ) documents the experiences of young girls and women who undergo FGM against a backdrop of conflicting messages from some religious leaders and healthcare professionals about the practice’s legitimacy and safety. The report describes the pain and fear that girls and young women experience when they are cut, and the terrible toll that it takes on their physical and emotional health. It says the regional government has been unwilling to prohibit FGM, despite its readiness to address other forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence and so-called honor killings.

“FGM violates women’s and children’s rights, including their rights to life, health, and bodily integrity,” said Nadya Khalife, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s time for the regional government to step up to the plate and take concrete actions to eliminate this harmful practice because it simply won’t go away on its own.”

Human Rights Watch researchers conducted interviews during May and June 2009, with 31 girls and women in four villages of northern Iraq and in the town of Halabja. Researchers also interviewed Muslim clerics, midwives, healthcare workers, and government officials. Local nongovernmental organizations say that FGM may also be practiced among other communities in the rest of Iraq, but there are no data on its prevalence outside the Kurdish region.

The prevalence of FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan is not fully known as the government does not routinely collect information on the practice. However, research conducted by local organizations indicates that the practice is widespread and affects a significant number of girls and women.

The evidence obtained by Human Rights Watch suggests that for many girls and women in Iraqi Kurdistan, FGM is an unavoidable procedure that they undergo sometimes between the ages of 3 and 12. In some cases documented by Human Rights Watch, societal pressures also led adult women to undergo the procedure, sometimes as a precondition of marriage.

Human Rights Watch met Gola, a 17-year-old student from the village of Plangan. Gola told Human Rights Watch, “I remember my mother and her sister-in-law took us two girls, and there were four other girls. We went to Sarkapkan for the procedure. They put us in the bathroom, held our legs open, and cut something. They did it one by one with no anesthetics. I was afraid, but endured the pain. I have lots of pain in this specific area they cut when I menstruate.”

Young girls and women described how their mothers had taken them to the home of the village midwife, a non-licensed practitioner. They were almost never told in advance what was going to happen to them. When they arrived, the midwife, sometimes with the help of the mother, spread the girl’s legs and cut her clitoris with a razor blade. Often, the midwife used the same razor to cut several girls in succession.

Doctors in Iraqi Kurdistan told Human Rights Watch that the most common type of FGM believed to be practiced there is partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or prepuce, also known as clitoridectomy. Health care workers said that an even more invasive procedure was sometimes performed on adult women in hospitals. The practice serves no medical purpose and can lead to serious physical and emotional consequences.

The previous regional government took some steps to address FGM, including a 2007 Justice Ministry decree, supposedly binding on all police precincts, that perpetrators of FGM should be arrested and punished. However, the existence of the decree is not widely known, and Human Rights Watch found no evidence that it has ever been enforced.

In 2008, the majority of members of the Kurdistan National Assembly (KNA) supported the introduction of a law banning FGM, but the bill was never enacted into law and its status is unknown. In early 2009, the Health Ministry developed a comprehensive anti-FGM strategy in collaboration with a nongovernmental organization. But the ministry later withdrew its support and halted efforts to combat FGM. A public awareness campaign about FGM and its consequences has also been inexplicably delayed.

The new government, elected in July 2009, has taken no steps to eradicate the practice.

The origins of FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan are unclear. Some girls and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were told that it is rooted in a belief that anything they touch is haram, or unclean, until they go through this painful procedure, while others said that FGM was a traditional custom. Most women referred to FGM as an Islamic sunnah, an action taken to strengthen one’s religion that is not obligatory.

The association of FGM with Islam has been rejected by many Muslim scholars and theologians, who say that FGM is not prescribed in the Quran and is contradictory to the teachings of Islam. Women and girls interviewed said they had received mixed messages from clerics about whether it was a religious obligation. Clerics interviewed said that when any practice interpreted as sunnah endangers people’s lives, it is the duty of the clerics to stop it.

Health care workers interviewed gave mixed responses both about their concerns about the harm FGM causes and about their obligation to raise awareness about the dangers of FGM.

Two studies have been conducted recently to try to determine the prevalence of the practice. In January 2009, the former Human Rights Ministry conducted a study in the Chamchamal district with a sample of 521 students ages 11 to 24. It found that 40.7 percent of the sample had undergone the procedure – 23 percent of girls under age13, and 45 percent of those ages 14 and older.

In 2010, the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation (WADI), a German-Iraqi human rights nongovernmental organization, published the results of a study conducted between September 2007 and May 2008 in the provinces of Arbil and Sulaimaniya, and the Germian/Kirkuk region. Interviews with 1,408 women and girls ages 14 and over found that 72.7 percent had undergone the procedure – 77.9 percent in Sulaimaniya, 81.2 percent in Germian, and 63 percent in Arbil.

The wider age range of girls and women interviewed may account in part for the higher overall percentages. The percentage was 57 percent for those ages 14 to 18 in this study.

Human Rights Watch called on the regional authorities to develop a long-term plan that involves government, health care workers, clerics, and communities in efforts to eradicate the practice. The strategy should include a law to ban FGM for children and non-consenting adult women; awareness raising programs on the health consequences of FGM; and the mainstreaming of FGM prevention into policies and programs for reproductive health, education, and literacy development.

The government also should work closely with communities and people of influence in those communities to encourage debate about the practice among men, women, and children, including awareness and understanding of the human rights of girls and women, Human Rights Watch said.

“The government not only needs to take action to end this practice, but to work for public affirmation of a new standard – not mutilating their girls,” Khalife said.

“FGM is a complex issue, but its harm to girls and women is clear,” Khalife said. “Eradicating it in Iraqi Kurdistan will require strong and dedicated leadership on the part of the regional government, including a clear message that FGM will no longer be tolerated.”

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/06/16/iraqi-kurdistan-girls-and-women-suffer-consequences-female-genital-mutilation

Decriminalisation of New Zealand’s sex industry has resulted in safer, healthier sex workers, a new book by University of Otago, Christchurch, researcher Gillian Abel shows.

Since decriminalisation seven years ago sex workers are more empowered to insist on safe sex, Abel’s book “Taking the crime out of sex work – New Zealand sex workers’ fight for decriminalisation’’ shows.

Abel is a senior lecturer at the University of Otago, Christchurch’s Public Health and General Practice department.

She edited the book with Lisa Fitzgerald (a former Otago University, Christchurch, health promotion lecturer) and Catherine Healy (with Aline Taylor).

They interviewed 772 sex workers for the book.

Abel says the book provides compelling evidence decriminalisation has achieved the aim of addressing sex workers’ human rights and has had a positive effect on their health and safety.

Decriminalisation has also provided sex workers with more tools to manage their work environment. With knowledge of their employment rights, brothel workers are better able to assert these rights with brothel operators and clients, Abel says.

The relationship between sex workers – particularly street workers – and police has improved, the book shows.

They are more likely to report violence against them to police, Abel says.

Despite vast improvements in the safety of sex workers since decriminalisation, there is still work to be done, she says.

There is still stigma associated with the job.

Government social policies need to be improved to protect those aged under 18 entering sex work, such as freeing up access to the independent youth benefit. Likewise, greater support is needed for transgender youth, who are particularly vulnerable to being drawn into the industry, Abel says.

The book can be bought from http://policypress.co.uk

For further information contact:

Gillian Abel.
University of Otago, Christchurch
Tel: 03 3643619 / 021 337 240
gillian.abel@otago.ac.nz

Or Kim Thomas, Senior Communications Advisor
University of Otago, Christchurch
027 222 6016.

http://www.chmeds.ac.nz/newsevents/media_release/2010/decriminalisation.htm

The proportion of abortion patients who were poor increased by almost 60%—from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008, according to “Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008,” by Rachel K. Jones, Lawrence B. Finer and Susheela Singh of the Guttmacher Institute. This shift is the most striking change in the profile of women obtaining abortions.

The growing concentration of abortion among women with incomes below the federal poverty line likely reflects a combination of factors. Between 2000 and 2008, the proportion of women in the overall population who were poor increased by 25%. And a Guttmacher study published in the Fall of 2009 showed that the deep economic recession may also have played a role, as financial concerns led more women to want to delay childbearing or limit the number of children they have. Meanwhile, abortion service providers and nonprofit abortion funds across the country have sought to meet the growing need among poor and low-income women by providing services on sliding fee scales and by subsidizing abortion services through charitable donations, which may have allowed some poor women to access services they might not have otherwise been able to afford.

“Gaps in unintended pregnancy and abortion between poor and more affluent women have been increasing since the mid-1990s, so—sadly—none of this comes as a surprise,” says Sharon L. Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “Reproductive health disparities, and health disparities more generally, are endemic in this country and stem from broader, persistent economic and social inequities. We need to bridge these reproductive health gaps by ensuring that all women, regardless of their economic circumstances, have meaningful access to the full spectrum of information and services—both contraceptive services to reduce levels of unintended pregnancy and abortion services.”

Aside from poverty, little changed in the profile of women obtaining abortions between 2000 and 2008. A broad cross section of U.S. women have abortions: Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients in 2008 were in their 20s; 45% were never-married and not living with a partner; 61% were already mothers; 42% were living below the federal poverty line; 36% were white; 59% had at least some college education; and 73% were religiously affiliated. But certain groups of women—those who were in their 20s, cohabiting, black or poor—were overrepresented among abortion patients.

For the first time, the survey on which this report is based asked abortion patients about their health insurance status and how they paid for abortion services. Results showed that these women were fairly evenly divided among those with private insurance (30%), those with no insurance (33%) and those covered by Medicaid (31%). Although a majority had some type of public or private health insurance, it is not clear how many of those plans actually included abortion coverage or had a high deductible that discouraged its use for coverage of abortion.

Fifty-seven percent of all women obtaining abortions reported that they paid out of pocket for the procedure, while 12% used private insurance. (Among those with private insurance, nearly two-thirds paid out of pocket, and about one-third used their insurance.) Twenty percent of women relied on Medicaid; almost all of these women lived in the few states that use their own funds to pay for abortions. Among women on Medicaid who lived in states that use their own funds to pay for abortions, more than nine in 10 relied on this method to pay for their abortion. Some 13% of abortion patients relied on financial assistance programs to cover at least some of the cost of the procedure.

This report is based on a nationally representative survey of women obtaining abortions in the United States. While the data permitted the researchers to calculate the proportion of women obtaining abortions in each socioeconomic category, it did not provide the number or rate of abortions in the United States. The Guttmacher Institute’s Abortion Provider Census is currently in the field; results of that survey will provide information needed for calculating abortion numbers and rates in 2011.

Source http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2010/05/04/index.html

Click here for “Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008,” by Rachel K. Jones, Lawrence B. Finer and Susheela Singh. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/US-Abortion-Patients.pdf

Click here for Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.pdf

Eight of the bottom 10-ranked countries in Save the Children’s annual Mothers Index, which ranks the best and worst places to be a mother, are in sub-Saharan Africa, says the NGO. [http://www.savethechildren.net/alliance/what_we_do/every_one/news.html]

Afghanistan, Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea form the bottom 10; while Norway, Australia, Iceland and Sweden come top.

One in seven women dies in pregnancy or childbirth in Niger and one in eight in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone; while the risk is one in 25,000 in Greece and one in 47,600 in Ireland. [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=75869; http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=87198; http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=88280]

“The problems around maternal and newborn health have been raised for many years, but there still remains so much to be done,” Houleyemata Diarra, Save the Children’s newborn health regional adviser for Africa, told IRIN from Mali. “There are not enough skilled attendants at births, and governments are not taking into account where health workers are needed – in communities.”

Over half of deliveries take place at home in most sub-Saharan African countries, with no skilled birth attendant present, according to the UN Children’s Fund. [http://www.unicef.org/sowc09/]

Save the Children is calling on governments and donors to prioritize building up a workforce of female health workers to serve in their communities and local clinics.

These workers should be incentivized with better training, pay, and support for career growth, says the NGO.

It costs a lot to train a doctor or run a hospital, but the cost of giving community health workers basic training – to diagnose and treat common early childhood illnesses, organize vaccinations and promote good nutrition and newborn care – does not have to be exorbitant, says Save the Children.

In Bangladesh the NGO found that providing female community health-workers with six weeks of hands-on training and some formal education caused infant mortality rates in affected areas to drop by a third.

“There are a lot of models of this working well around the world,” said Save the Children’s Diarra. “African countries need to follow these examples.”

Source http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/fa53d89ad4c07a343b4c1886f6943c60.htm

* Rates down the most in Egypt, Bolivia, Maldives
* Maternal death rates in Canada, U.S., Norway high
* Successes can point to policy changes

Deaths of women in and around childbirth have gone down by an average of 35 percent globally, according to a study using new methods, but are surprisingly high in the United States, Canada and Norway.

The researchers said their findings show it is possible to save women’s lives if countries want to and said their analysis should point to ways to do so.

The AIDS pandemic alone, they said, killed more than 61,000 women in and around the time of childbirth in 2008, most of them in Africa.

“These findings are very encouraging and quite surprising. There are still too many mothers dying worldwide, but now we have a greater reason for optimism than has generally been perceived,” said Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study.

The findings contradict work done by the World Health Organization, which reported last May that mothers and newborns are no more likely to survive now than 20 years ago.

Murray and colleagues took every bit of data they could find on deaths of women from records in 181 countries and plugged this information into a computer model.

“We estimated that there were 342,900 deaths worldwide in 2008, down from 526,300 in 1980,” they wrote in their report, published in the Lancet medical journal.

They found the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes has dropped by more than 35 percent globally in the past 30 years.

“One of the most surprising results is the apparent rise in the maternal mortality rate in the USA, Canada, and Norway,” they added. But it can partly be because U.S. death certificates recently started asking about pregnancy, they added.

But this does not explain why U.S. maternal deaths are double the rates in Britain, triple the rates in Australia and four times the rate in Italy, they said.

In the United States the rate rose from 12 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1980 to 17 in 2008. In Canada, the rate hovered between 6 and 7 for the whole time and Norway’s rose from 7 per 100,000 in 1980 to 8 per 100,000 in 2008.

The United States is currently embroiled in reforming its healthcare system, where more is spent per capita than in comparable developed countries but with poorer results, as demonstrated by maternal and newborn death rates and high rates of diabetes and heart disease.

China, Egypt, Ecuador and Bolivia made some of the most progress in lowering maternal death rates, Murray’s team found.

In China, the rate fell from 165 per 100,000 to 40 per 100,000.

“Progress overall would have been greater if the HIV epidemic had not contributed to substantial increases in maternal mortality in eastern and southern Africa,” they added.

Nearly one out of every five maternal deaths or a total of 61,400 in 2008, were associated with AIDS infections.

About 80 percent of all deaths of pregnant women or new mothers were in 21 countries, with half of all such deaths in just six countries — India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Finding out why a country such as Egypt has had such enormous success in driving down the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes could enable us to export that success to countries that have been lagging behind,” Murray said.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N12191759.htm

Here are some statistics from the study by Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published in the Lancet medical journal.

* Maternal mortality is defined as the death of women during pregnancy, childbirth or in the 42 days after delivery.
* The maternal mortality rate rose 42 percent in the United States, from 12 per 100,000 in 1980 to 17 per 100,000 in 2008.
* Rates in Japan fell from 20 per 100,000 in 1980 to seven in 2008.
* Rates in China fell from 165 per 100,000 in 1980 to 40 per 100,000 in 2008.
* Australia had the best rates with nine per 100,000 in 1980 and five per 100,000 in 2008.
* Rates in Norway rose slightly from seven in 1980 to eight in 2008.
* Canada’s rate fluctuated between seven and six and was seven per 100,000 in 2008.
* Afghanistan’s maternal mortality rate fell from 1,640 per 100,000 in 1980 to 1,261 in 1990 but was back up to 1,575 in 2008. This could be in part due to better monitoring, Murray said.
* Britain’s rate was 10 per 100,000 in 1980 and fell to eight per 100,000 in 2008.
* Bolivia’s rate plummeted from 547 per 100,000 in 1980 to 180 in 2008.
* Mexico’s rate was 124 in 1980 and 52 in 2008.
* The rate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was 498 in 1980 and 534 in 2008.
* The rate in the Central African Republic ballooned from 990 per 100,000 in 1980 to 1,570 in 2008. Source: The Lancet medical journal

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N12193833.htm

Rights activists blame the economy, Hamas-Fatah tensions and the conflict with Israel for the rising number of cases of violence against women. Disinterest in domestic abuse by the judicial authorities and the apparent impunity of violators have made matters worse, they say.

A March 2010 report by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) explores women’s perceptions of the organizations or legal bodies designed to protect them, based on focus group discussions and interviews with women and girls in the West Bank and Gaza between June and November 2009.

“Women and girls revealed that their feelings of insecurity are related to the ongoing conflict, society’s tacit acceptance of violence against women, their own lack of awareness of service providers, and their distrust of the available services,” the report said.

“Women and girls explained that they were reluctant to resort to women’s organizations, human rights organizations, or security and justice providers, such as the police and courts, because of the strong social stigma attached to reporting abuse.”

The report said women recommended more awareness-raising events and education campaigns for all segments of society about women’s rights and the institutions in place to uphold them. They also felt better training was needed for members of the social services, women’s and human rights organizations and hospital staff and police – in addition to increased female representation in these organizations and political life in general.

A 2008 survey of 2,400 Palestinians by Ramallah-based independent research centre Arab World for Research & Development (AWRAD) found that 74 percent of Palestinians did not know of a women’s or human rights organization working in the field of women’s rights; and 77 percent of respondents believed that laws needed to be enacted to protect women from domestic violence.

In December 2009, a report by the Gaza-based Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Center (PWIC) noted an upsurge in violence against women since Israel imposed an economic blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, after Hamas became the de facto authority there.

The study – based on 24 workshops and interviews with 350 other women in the last quarter of 2009 – found that 77 percent of women in Gaza had experienced violence of various sorts, 53 percent had experienced physical violence and 15 percent sexual abuse.

“The levels of violence against women in the Gaza Strip are higher than they were in previous years, and compared to other countries the rates are certainly higher,” Huda Hamouda, director of PWIC, said. “Women are exposed to hardships in every sphere, be it financial, social, political or lack of security.”

She said widespread unemployment was one of the biggest contributors to household stress, and in turn male violence towards females.

“It’s hard to imagine a family living in dignity when they live on less than three dollars a day. Many say they don’t feel respected and suffer depression. Poverty affects education and public participation. It limits their social standing,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Commission on the Status of Women, a commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), on 12 March approved a text on the status of and assistance to Palestinian women, to be sent to ECOSOC for adoption.

The draft resolution expresses concern about the “grave situation of Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, resulting from the severe impact of the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation and all of its manifestations”.

Part of a longer report at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/5388c80a0ea6a90926a7ae6de59abaa1.htm

Domestic violence in Japan increased 11.7 per cent in 2009 to 28,158 reported cases, the highest since surveys began in 2002 according to the National Police Agency (NPA).

The number included 2,429 serious cases where courts issued restraining orders against partners, spouses or other family members under the domestic violence prevention law, the NPA said.

A further 1,658 cases of domestic violence were handled under other laws, including 552 assaults, 853 injuries, and 44 murders or attempted murders, they added.

In 2008, a government survey of 1,358 women with current or former partners found that 33.2 per cent reported suffering physical assaults, psychological threats or sexual coercion from their partner.

However, about half of the victims never reported the incidents nor mentioned them to anyone, the Cabinet Office said in its report.

Asked why, 50 per cent of these silent victims said that they did not consider the problem serious enough, and 36 per cent said they blamed themselves.

‘Some women think some of the fault might be theirs,’ said Mie Ueda, an executive board member of Japan Women’s Shelter Network for victims of domestic violence.

‘The first thing that I tell a battered woman is, ‘You are not the one in the wrong’,’ she said.

Experts and activists claim the incidence of domestic violence is likely to be much higher than reported, since many Japanese people still regard violence against women as a family matter rather than a violation of the women’s human rights.

‘One of the biggest problems is that the commercialization of women’s bodies is taken for granted in Japanese society,’ Ueda said. ‘The media have also failed to provide a serious debate about the issue of domestic violence.’

Activists, lawyers and victims have long been pushing for more effective laws to protect victims of domestic violence.

In April 2001, the Japanese Diet passed a law – which came into force in October 2001 – allowing courts to impose restraining orders on abusive husbands. In 2007, the remit of this law was extended to included unmarried partners.

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/asiapacific/news/article_1541927.php/Domestic-violence-in-Japan-hits-record-high-in-2009

Women in the Asia-Pacific region are lagging behind most of the world with little economic power, political voice and legal rights, while their reduced status is depressing economic growth prospects in developing nations.

Those are the conclusions of the U.N.’s Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, which was published on Monday to mark International Women’s Day.

The report ranked the region near the worst in the world — often lower than sub-Saharan Africa — on issues related to women’s employment, parliamentary participation and property ownership.

“The key message (of the report) is that to meet any development goals that a society sets, you need the full participation and involvement of women,” Helen Clark, head of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) told AlertNet.

“The fact is that when women do have equal rights, it is very good for the society they live in and it is very good for the economy they live in, so there are many levels on which we should be promoting equal rights for women.”

Asia-Pacific is currently losing an estimated $89 billion every year due to the lack of women in the workforce, according to the report titled: “Power, rights and voice.”

Clark said raising the rates of women in the workforce to levels in developed countries would certainly raise the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of many of the countries in the region.

In countries like India, Indonesia and Malaysia, conservative estimates show that GDP would increase by two to four percent if women’s employment rates were raised to 70 percent — comparable to the United States, the report said.

While many women in the Asia-Pacific region have benefitted from improved education, health and prosperity, they continue to face barriers to the same opportunities available to men.

Almost half the adult women in South Asia are illiterate, more than any other region in the world, and women in this region can expect to live five years less than the world average of 71 years, the report said.

Asia-Pacific women also hold only a handful of legislative seats — fewer than anywhere else in the world except the Arab region — with the Pacific sub-region accounting for four of the world’s six countries with no women parliamentarians.

Those who do manage to gain a voice at local or national level face trouble.

“Women politicians, particularly those with extra vulnerabilities of poverty or association with marginalised groups, have been killed, raped or faced physical threats for challenging the status quo,” the report said.

It cited an example of a village council in India where male members spread stories that female members were sexually promiscuous, harassed them with obscene phone calls and made sexual innuendoes during meetings.

The report added that legal rights of women were also lacking with laws related to property and assets biased in favour of men.

While agricultural jobs account for more than 40 percent of women’s jobs in East Asia, and 65 percent in South Asia, only 7 percent of farms in these regions are controlled by women, compared to 20 percent in most other regions of the world.

It said that the lack of property and asset ownership left women in vulnerable to poverty, with no control over household finances.

Few countries have also adopted laws prohibiting violence against women and nearly half of the countries in South Asia and more than 60 percent of those in Pacific have no laws against domestic violence.

UNDP’s Clark called on policymakers to make it a priority to correct gender imbalances.

“Human development cannot be achieved if 50 percent of the population is excluded,” she said.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SGE62600N.htm