Shameful Republicans

My stomach dropped when I read this…

Republicans kill bill to prevent child marriage

An estimated 60 million girls in developing countries now ages 20 to 24 were married before they reached the age of 18.  The Population Council estimates that the number will increase by 100 million over the next decade if current trends continue.

Child marriage, noted Durbin, is often carried out through force or coercion.

It deprives young girls – and sometimes boys – of their dignity and human rights.  In some countries, it is not uncommon for girls as young as seven or eight years old to be married. These young victims are robbed of their childhoods. In addition to denying tens of millions of women and girls their dignity, child marriage also endangers their health.  Marriage at an early age puts girls at greater risk of dying as a result of childbirth. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for women 15 to 19 years old in developing countries.  Their children also face higher mortality rates.

Crimes that shame: Gender-based violence

The crimewave that shames the world

Robert Fisk: The crimewave that shames the world

 It’s one of the last great taboos: the murder of at least 20,000 women a year in the name of ‘honour’. Nor is the problem confined to the Middle East: the contagion is spreading rapidly

 Tuesday, 7 September 2010

It is a tragedy, a horror, a crime against humanity. The details of the murders – of the women beheaded, burned to death, stoned to death, stabbed, electrocuted, strangled and buried alive for the “honour” of their families – are as barbaric as they are shameful. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and South-west Asia suspect the victims are at least four times the United Nations’ latest world figure of around 5,000 deaths a year. Most of the victims are young, many are teenagers, slaughtered under a vile tradition that goes back hundreds of years but which now spans half the globe.

A 10-month investigation by The Independent in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank has unearthed terrifying details of murder most foul. Men are also killed for “honour” and, despite its identification by journalists as a largely Muslim practice, Christian and Hindu communities have stooped to the same crimes. Indeed, the “honour” (or ird) of families, communities and tribes transcends religion and human mercy. But voluntary women’s groups, human rights organisations, Amnesty International and news archives suggest that the slaughter of the innocent for “dishonouring” their families is increasing by the year.

Iraqi Kurds, Palestinians in Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey appear to be the worst offenders but media freedoms in these countries may over-compensate for the secrecy which surrounds “honour” killings in Egypt – which untruthfully claims there are none – and other Middle East nations in the Gulf and the Levant. But honour crimes long ago spread to Britain, Belgium, Russia and Canada and many other nations. Security authorities and courts across much of the Middle East have connived in reducing or abrogating prison sentences for the family murder of women, often classifying them as suicides to prevent prosecutions.

It is difficult to remain unemotional at the vast and detailed catalogue of these crimes. How should one react to a man – this has happened in both Jordan and Egypt – who rapes his own daughter and then, when she becomes pregnant, kills her to save the “honour” of his family? Or the Turkish father and grandfather of a 16-year-old girl, Medine Mehmi, in the province of Adiyaman, who was buried alive beneath a chicken coop in February for “befriending boys”? Her body was found 40 days later, in a sitting position and with her hands tied.

Or Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, 13, who in Somalia in 2008, in front of a thousand people, was dragged to a hole in the ground – all the while screaming, “I’m not going – don’t kill me” – then buried up to her neck and stoned by 50 men for adultery? After 10 minutes, she was dug up, found to be still alive and put back in the hole for further stoning. Her crime? She had been raped by three men and, fatally, her family decided to report the facts to the Al-Shabab militia that runs Kismayo. Or the Al-Shabab Islamic “judge” in the same country who announced the 2009 stoning to death of a woman – the second of its kind the same year – for having an affair? Her boyfriend received a mere 100 lashes.

 Or the young woman found in a drainage ditch near Daharki in Pakistan, “honour” killed by her family as she gave birth to her second child, her nose, ears and lips chopped off before being axed to death, her first infant lying dead among her clothes, her newborn’s torso still in her womb, its head already emerging from her body? She was badly decomposed; the local police were asked to bury her. Women carried the three to a grave, but a Muslim cleric refused to say prayers for her because it was “irreligious” to participate in the namaz-e-janaza prayers for “a cursed woman and her illegitimate children”.

 So terrible are the details of these “honour” killings, and so many are the women who have been slaughtered, that the story of each one might turn horror into banality. But lest these acts – and the names of the victims, when we are able to discover them – be forgotten, here are the sufferings of a mere handful of women over the past decade, selected at random, country by country, crime after crime.

 Last March, Munawar Gul shot and killed his 20-year-old sister, Saanga, in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, along with the man he suspected was having “illicit relations” with her, Aslam Khan.

 In August of 2008, five women were buried alive for “honour crimes” in Baluchistan by armed tribesmen; three of them – Hameeda, Raheema and Fauzia – were teenagers who, after being beaten and shot, were thrown still alive into a ditch where they were covered with stones and earth. When the two older women, aged 45 and 38, protested, they suffered the same fate. The three younger women had tried to choose their own husbands. In the Pakistani parliament, the MP Israrullah Zehri referred to the murders as part of a “centuries-old tradition” which he would “continue to defend”.

 In December 2003, a 23-year-old woman in Multan, identified only as Afsheen, was murdered by her father because, after an unhappy arranged marriage, she ran off with a man called Hassan who was from a rival, feuding tribe. Her family was educated – they included civil servants, engineers and lawyers. “I gave her sleeping pills in a cup of tea and then strangled her with a dapatta [a long scarf, part of a woman’s traditional dress],” her father confessed. He told the police: “Honour is the only thing a man has. I can still hear her screams, she was my favourite daughter. I want to destroy my hands and end my life.” The family had found Afsheen with Hassan in Rawalpindi and promised she would not be harmed if she returned home. They were lying.

 Zakir Hussain Shah slit the throat of his daughter Sabiha, 18, at Bara Kau in June 2002 because she had “dishonoured” her family. But under Pakistan’s notorious qisas law, heirs have powers to pardon a murderer. In this case, Sabiha’s mother and brother “pardoned” the father and he was freed. When a man killed his four sisters in Mardan in the same year, because they wanted a share of his inheritance, his mother “pardoned” him under the same law. In Sarghoda around the same time, a man opened fire on female members of his family, killing two of his daughters. Yet again, his wife – and several other daughters wounded by him – “pardoned” the murderer because they were his heirs.

 Outrageously, rape is also used as a punishment for “honour” crimes. In Meerwala village in the Punjab in 2002, a tribal “jury” claimed that an 11-year-old boy from the Gujar tribe, Abdul Shakoor, had been walking unchaperoned with a 30-year-old woman from the Mastoi tribe, which “dishonoured” the Mastois. The tribal elders decided that to “return” honour to the group, the boy’s 18-year-old sister, Mukhtaran Bibi, should be gang-raped. Her father, warned that all the female members of his family would be raped if he did not bring Mukhtar to them, dutifully brought his daughter to this unholy “jury”. Four men, including one of the “jury”, immediately dragged the girl to a hut and raped her while up to a hundred men laughed and cheered outside. She was then forced to walk naked through the village to her home. It took a week before the police even registered the crime – as a “complaint”.

 Acid attacks also play their part in “honour” crime punishments. The Independent itself gave wide coverage in 2001 to a Karachi man called Bilal Khar who poured acid over his wife Fakhra Yunus’s face after she left him and returned to her mother’s home in the red-light area of the city. The acid fused her lips, burned off her hair, melted her breasts and an ear, and turned her face into “a look of melted rubber”. That same year, a 20-year-old woman called Hafiza was shot twice by her brother, Asadullah, in front of a dozen policemen outside a Quetta courthouse because she had refused to follow the tradition of marrying her dead husband’s elder brother. She had then married another man, Fayyaz Moon, but police arrested the girl and brought her back to her family in Quetta on the pretext that the couple could formally marry there. But she was forced to make a claim that Fayaz had kidnapped and raped her. It was when she went to court to announce that her statement was made under pressure – and that she still regarded Fayaz as her husband – that Asadullah murdered her. He handed his pistol to a police constable who had witnessed the killing.

 One of the most terrible murders in 1999 was that of a mentally retarded 16-year-old, Lal Jamilla Mandokhel, who was reportedly raped by a junior civil servant in Parachinar in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Her uncle filed a complaint with the police but handed Lal over to her tribe, whose elders decided she should be killed to preserve tribal “honour”. She was shot dead in front of them. Arbab Khatoon was raped by three men in the Jacobabad district. She filed a complaint with the police. Seven hours later, she was murdered by relatives who claimed she had “dishonoured” them by reporting the crime.

 Over 10 years ago, Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission was recording “honour” killings at the rate of a thousand a year. But if Pakistan seems to have the worst track record of “honour” crimes – and we must remember that many countries falsely claim to have none – Turkey might run a close second. According to police figures between 2000 and 2006, a reported 480 women – 20 per cent of them between the ages of 19 and 25 – were killed in “honour” crimes and feuds. Other Turkish statistics, drawn up more than five years ago by women’s groups, suggest that at least 200 girls and women are murdered every year for “honour”. These figures are now regarded as a vast underestimate. Many took place in Kurdish areas of the country; an opinion poll found that 37 per cent of Diyabakir’s citizens approved of killing a woman for an extramarital affair. Medine Mehmi, the girl who was buried alive, lived in the Kurdish town of Kahta.

 In 2006, authorities in the Kurdish area of South-east Anatolia were recording that a woman tried to commit suicide every few weeks on the orders of her family. Others were stoned to death, shot, buried alive or strangled. A 17-year-old woman called Derya who fell in love with a boy at her school received a text message from her uncle on her mobile phone. It read: “You have blackened our name. Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.” Derya’s aunt had been killed by her grandfather for an identical reason. Her brothers also sent text messages, sometimes 15 a day. Derya tried to carry out her family’s wishes. She jumped into the Tigris river, tried to hang herself and slashed her wrists – all to no avail. Then she ran away to a women’s shelter.

 It took 13 years before Murat Kara, 40, admitted in 2007 that he had fired seven bullets into his younger sister after his widowed mother and uncles told him to kill her for eloping with her boyfriend. Before he murdered his sister in the Kurdish city of Dyabakir, neighbours had refused to talk to Murat Kara and the imam said he was disobeying the word of God if he did not kill his sister. So he became a murderer. Honour restored.

 In his book Women In The Grip Of Tribal Customs, a Turkish journalist, Mehmet Farac, records the “honour” killing of five girls in the late 1990s in the province of Sanliurfa. Two of them – one was only 12 – had their throats slit in public squares, two others had tractors driven over them, the fifth was shot dead by her younger brother. One of the women who had her throat cut was called Sevda Gok. Her brothers held her arms down as her adolescent cousin cut her throat.

 But the “honour” killing of women is not a uniquely Kurdish crime, even if it is committed in rural areas of the country. In 2001, Sait Kina stabbed his 13-year-old daughter to death for talking to boys in the street. He attacked her in the bathroom with an axe and a kitchen knife. When the police discovered her corpse, they found the girl’s head had been so mutilated that the family had tied it together with a scarf. Sait Kina told the police: “I have fulfilled my duty.”

 In the same year, an Istanbul court reduced a sentence against three brothers from life imprisonment to between four and 12 years after they threw their sister to her death from a bridge after accusing her of being a prostitute. The court concluded that her behaviour had “provoked” the murder. For centuries, virginity tests have been considered a normal part of rural tradition before a woman’s marriage. In 1998, when five young women attempted suicide before these tests, the Turkish family affairs minister defended mandated medical examinations for girls in foster homes.

 British Kurdish Iraqi campaigner Aso Kamal, of the Doaa Network Against Violence, believes that between 1991 and 2007, 12,500 women were murdered for reasons of “honour” in the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq alone – 350 of them in the first seven months of 2007, for which there were only five convictions. Many women are ordered by their families to commit suicide by burning themselves with cooking oil. In Sulimaniya hospital in 2007, surgeons were treating many women for critical burns which could never have been caused by cooking “accidents” as the women claimed. One patient, Sirwa Hassan, was dying of 86 per cent burns. She was a Kurdish mother of three from a village near the Iranian border. In 2008, a medical officer in Sulimaniya told the AFP news agency that in May alone, 14 young women had been murdered for “honour” crimes in 10 days. In 2000, Kurdish authorities in Sulimaniya had decreed that “the killing or abuse of women under the pretext of cleansing ‘shame’ is not considered to be a mitigating excuse”. The courts, they said, could not apply an old 1969 law “to reduce the penalty of the perpetrator”. The new law, of course, made no difference.

 But again, in Iraq, it is not only Kurds who believe in “honour” killings. In Tikrit, a young woman in the local prison sent a letter to her brother in 2008, telling him that she had become pregnant after being raped by a prison guard. The brother was permitted to visit the prison, walked into the cell where his now visibly pregnant sister was held, and shot her dead to spare his family “dishonour”. The mortuary in Baghdad took DNA samples from the woman’s foetus and also from guards at the Tikrit prison. The rapist was a police lieutenant-colonel. The reason for the woman’s imprisonment was unclear. One report said the colonel’s family had “paid off” the woman’s relatives to escape punishment.

 In Basra in 2008, police were reporting that 15 women a month were being murdered for breaching “Islamic dress codes”. One 17-year-old girl, Rand Abdel-Qader, was beaten to death by her father two years ago because she had become infatuated with a British soldier. Another, Shawbo Ali Rauf, 19, was taken by her family to a picnic in Dokan and shot seven times because they had found an unfamiliar number on her mobile phone.

 In Nineveh, Du’a Khalil Aswad was 17 when she was stoned to death by a mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a man outside her tribe.

 In Jordan, women’s organisations say that per capita, the Christian minority in this country of just over five million people are involved in more “honour” killings than Muslims – often because Christian women want to marry Muslim men. But the Christian community is loath to discuss its crimes and the majority of known cases of murder are committed by Muslims. Their stories are wearily and sickeningly familiar. Here is Sirhan in 1999, boasting of the efficiency with which he killed his young sister, Suzanne. Three days after the 16-year-old had told police she had been raped, Sirhan shot her in the head four times. “She committed a mistake, even if it was against her will,” he said. “Anyway, it’s better to have one person die than to have the whole family die of shame.” Since then, a deeply distressing pageant of “honour” crimes has been revealed to the Jordanian public, condemned by the royal family and slowly countered with ever tougher criminal penalties by the courts.

 Yet in 2001, we find a 22-year-old Jordanian man strangling his 17-year-old married sister – the 12th murder of its kind in seven months – because he suspected her of having an affair. Her husband lived in Saudi Arabia. In 2002, Souad Mahmoud strangled his own sister for the same reason. She had been forced to marry her lover – but when the family found out she had been pregnant before her wedding, they decided to execute her.

 In 2005, three Jordanians stabbed their 22-year-old married sister to death for taking a lover. After witnessing the man enter her home, the brothers stormed into the house and killed her. They did not harm her lover.

 By March 2008, the Jordanian courts were still treating “honour” killings leniently. That month, the Jordanian Criminal Court sentenced two men for killing close female relatives “in a fit of fury” to a mere six months and three months in prison. In the first case, a husband had found a man in his home with his wife and suspected she was having an affair. In the second, a man shot dead his 29-year-old married sister for leaving home without her husband’s consent and “talking to other men on her mobile phone”. In 2009, a Jordanian man confessed to stabbing his pregnant sister to death because she had moved back to her family after an argument with her husband; the brother believed she was “seeing other men”.

  And so it goes on. Three men in Amman stabbing their 40-year-old divorced sister 15 times last year for taking a lover; a Jordanian man charged with stabbing to death his daughter, 22, with a sword because she was pregnant outside wedlock. Many of the Jordanian families were originally Palestinian. Nine months ago, a Palestinian stabbed his married sister to death because of her “bad behaviour”. But last month, the Amman criminal court sentenced another sister-killer to 10 years in prison, rejecting his claim of an “honour” killing – but only because there were no witnesses to his claim that she had committed adultery.

 In “Palestine” itself, Human Rights Watch has long blamed the Palestinian police and justice system for the near-total failure to protect women in Gaza and the West Bank from “honour” killings. Take, for example, the 17-year-old girl who was strangled by her older brother in 2005 for becoming pregnant – by her own father.

 He was present during her murder. She had earlier reported her father to the police. They neither arrested nor interrogated him. In the same year, masked Hamas gunmen shot dead a 20-year-old, Yusra Azzami, for “immoral behaviour” as she spent a day out with her fiancée. Azzami was a Hamas member, her husband-to-be a member of Fatah. Hamas tried to apologise and called the dead woman a “martyr” – to the outrage of her family. Yet only last year, long after Hamas won the Palestinian elections and took over the Gaza Strip, a Gaza man was detained for bludgeoning his daughter to death with an iron chain because he discovered she owned a mobile phone on which he feared she was talking to a man outside the family. He was later released.

 Even in liberal Lebanon, there are occasional “honour” killings, the most notorious that of a 31-year-old woman, Mona Kaham, whose father entered her bedroom and cut her throat after learning she had been made pregnant by her cousin. He walked to the police station in Roueiss in the southern suburbs of Beirut with the knife still in his hand. “My conscience is clear,” he told the police. “I have killed to clean my honour.” Unsurprisingly, a public opinion poll showed that 90.7 per cent of the Lebanese public opposed “honour” crimes. Of the few who approved of them, several believed that it helped to limit interreligious marriage.

 Syria reflects the pattern of Lebanon. While civil rights groups are demanding a stiffening of the laws against women-killers, government legislation only raised the term of imprisonment for men who kill female relatives for extramarital sex to two years. Among the most recent cases was that of Lubna, a 17-year-old living in Homs, murdered by her family because she fled to her sister’s house after refusing to marry a man they had chosen for her. They also believed – wrongly – that she was no longer a virgin.

 Tribal feuds often provoke “honour” killings in Iran and Afghanistan. In Iran, for example, a governor’s official in the ethnic Arab province of Khuzestan stated in 2003 that 45 young women under the age of 20 had been murdered in “honour” killings in just two months, none of which brought convictions. All were slaughtered because of the girl’s refusal to agree to an arranged marriage, failing to abide by Islamic dress code or suspected of having contacts with men outside the family.

 Through the dark veil of Afghanistan’s village punishments, we glimpse just occasionally the terror of teenage executions. When Siddiqa, who was only 19, and her 25-year-old fiancé Khayyam were brought before a Taliban-approved religious court in Kunduz province this month, their last words were: “We love each other, no matter what happens.” In the bazaar at Mulla Quli, a crowd – including members of both families – stoned to death first Siddiqa, then Khayyam.

 A week earlier, a woman identified as Bibi Sanubar, a pregnant widow, was lashed a hundred times and then shot in the head by a Taliban commander. In April of last year, Taliban gunmen executed by firing squad a man and a girl in Nimruz for eloping when the young woman was already engaged to someone else. History may never disclose how many hundreds of women – and men – have suffered a similar fates at the hands of deeply traditional village families or the Taliban.

  But the contagion of “honour” crimes has spread across the globe, including acid attacks on women in Bangladesh for refusing marriages. In one of the most terrible Hindu “honour” killings in India this year, an engaged couple, Yogesh Kumar and Asha Saini, were murdered by the 19-year-old bride-to-be’s family because her fiancée was of lower caste. They were apparently tied up and electrocuted to death.

 A similar fate awaited 18-year-old Vishal Sharma, a Hindu Brahmin, who wanted to marry Sonu Singh, a 17- year-old Jat – an “inferior” caste which is usually Muslim. The couple were hanged and their bodies burned in Uttar Pradesh. Three years earlier, a New Delhi court had sentenced to death five men for killing another couple who were of the same sub-caste, which in the eyes of the local “caste council” made them brother and sister.

 In Chechnya, Russia’s chosen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been positively encouraging men to kill for “honour”. When seven murdered women were found in Grozny, shot in the head and chest, Kadyrov announced – without any proof, but with obvious approval – that they had been killed for living “an immoral life”. Commenting on a report that a Chechen girl had called the police to complain of her abusive father, he suggested the man should be able to murder his daughter. “… if he doesn’t kill her, what kind of man is he? He brings shame on himself!”

 And so to the “West”, as we like to call it, where immigrant families have sometimes brought amid their baggage the cruel traditions of their home villages: an Azeri immigrant charged in St Petersburg for hiring hitmen to kill his daughter because she “flouted national tradition” by wearing a miniskirt; near the Belgian city of Charleroi, Sadia Sheikh shot dead by her brother, Moussafa, because she refused to marry a Pakistani man chosen by her family; in the suburbs of Toronto, Kamikar Kaur Dhillon slashes his Punjabi daughter-in-law, Amandeep, across the throat because she wants to leave her arranged marriage, perhaps for another man. He told Canadian police that her separation would “disgrace the family name”.

 And, of course, we should perhaps end this catalogue of crime in Britain, where only in the past few years have we ourselves woken to the reality of “honour” crimes; of Surjit Athwal, a Punjabi Sikh woman murdered on the orders of her London-based mother-in-law for trying to escape a violent marriage; of 15-year-old Tulay Goren, a Turkish Kurd from north London, tortured and murdered by her Shia Muslim father because she wished to marry a Sunni Muslim man; of Heshu Yones, 16, stabbed to death by her father in 2005 for going out with a Christian boy; of Caneze Riaz, burned alive by her husband in Accrington, along with their four children – the youngest 10 years old – because of their “Western ways”. Mohamed Riaz was a Muslim Pakistani from the North-West Frontier Province. He died of burns two days after the murders.

 Scotland Yard long ago admitted it would have to review over a hundred deaths, some going back more than a decade, which now appear to have been “honour” killings.

 These are just a few of the murders, a few names, a small selection of horror stories across the world to prove the pervasive, spreading infection of what must be recognised as a mass crime, a tradition of family savagery that brooks no merciful intervention, no state law, rarely any remorse.

 Surjit Athwal

  Murdered in 1998 by her in-laws on a trip to the Indian Punjab for daring to seek a divorce from an unhappy marriage

 Du’a Khalil Aswad

  Aged 17, she was stoned to death in Nineveh, Iraq, by a mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a man outside her tribe

 Rand Abdel-Qader

  The Iraqi 17-year-old was stabbed to death by her father two years ago after falling in love with a British soldier in Basra

 Fakhra Khar

  In 2001 in Karachi, her husband poured acid on her face, after she left him and returned to her mother’s home in the red-light district of the city

 Mukhtaran Bibi

  The 18-year-old was gang-raped by four men in a hut in the Punjab in 2002, while up to 100 men laughed and cheered outside

 Heshu Yones

  The 16-year-old was stabbed to death by her Muslim father Abdullah, in west London in 2002, because he disapproved of her Christian boyfriend

 Tasleem Solangi

 The Pakistani village girl, 17, was falsely accused of immorality and had dogs set on her as a punishment before she was shot dead by in-laws

 Shawbo Ali Rauf

 Aged 19, she was taken by her family to a picnic in Dokan, Iraq, and shot seven times after they had found an unfamiliar number on her phone

 Tulay Goren

  The 15-year-old Kurdish girl was killed in north London by her father because the family objected to her choice of husband

 Banaz Mahmod Babakir Agha

The 20-year-old’s father and uncle murdered her in 2007, after she fell in love with a man her family did not want her to marry

Ayesha Baloch

Accused of having sexual relations with another man before she married, her husband slit her lip and nostril with a knife in Pakistan in 2006

Event: Congressional hearing on rape in the US

Please consider attending the Congressional hearing  “Rape in the United States: The Chronic Failure to Report and Investigate Rape Cases”  this Tuesday, September 14, 2010, at 2:15 p.m.

The information is on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Web site.

Women ignored

Excellent article in the New York Times about sexual violence against Bangladeshi women. Just makes me wonder – how can the NY Times keep ignoring women’s human rights violations at the same time they print such an illuminating article on how this issue gets ignored?!?

Note the use of the term “women raped” – this is a passive construct that ignores the perpetrators and highlights the undesirable status women being victims.

Bangladesh war’s toll on women still undiscussed 

As the 40th anniversary of the 1971 war approaches, the Bangladeshi government has set up an International Crimes Tribunal to investigate the atrocities of that era. But human rights advocates and lawyers fear that the mass rapes and killings of women will not be adequately addressed. They hope to ensure they are.

There has been a denial by certain political groups of the history of the war, and a failure to account for the crimes of sexual violence against women,” said Sara Hossain, a human rights lawyer based in Dhaka.

For years, the experiences of women — the independence fighters, the victims of rape, the widows — during the war received little attention, their stories seldom told, the violence they experienced rarely acknowledged.

“As a young teenager in 1971, I had heard a lot about female university students, young village girls and women being raped and held captive, effectively forced into sexual slavery, in the military cantonment. But after the war, very soon, one heard nothing more,” said Irene Khan, former secretary general of Amnesty International.

Irene Khan also says this,

A conservative Muslim society has preferred to throw a veil of negligence and denial on the issue, allowed those who committed or colluded with gender violence to thrive, and left the women victims to struggle in anonymity and shame and without much state or community support.”

One less

Check out Jodi Jacobson’s great article in RH Reality Check: The Millennium Development…Guys? It made me heartsick to read about an agency like the UN putting a bunch of males, particularly males holding the viewpoints that these guys do, in charge of groups responsible for advocating for maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, economic development, etc.

Consider also that virtually all of these issues remained invisible–or just plain unimportant–to the largely male power structures in every country for the past several decades, until the global women’s movement gained traction in their fight to put them on the global agenda.

Given these realities, it would seem that appointments to a recently convened United Nations High-level Advocacy Group focused on pushing for progress on the Millennium Development Goals would take pains to put high-level women in charge–at least in equal numbers to their male counterparts–of advocating for maternal health, child health, and HIV and AIDS, as well as those “other things” like economic development, in which women, as all the development literature has repeated ad nauseum for 40 years, are essential actors.  

This is especially problematic because:

Men continue to control the agenda and to decide how much or how little money and attention will be paid to ending the epidemic of pregnancy- and sexually-transmitted infection-related deaths and illnesses that robs millions of women of their lives and health every year worldwide.  Men continue to decide what priorities will be on the table when they do “pay attention” to these issues, and when they won’t, for reasons of their own political or financial agendas or their own ideological or political affiliations or all of the above, address honestly one of the leading and most preventable causes of pregnancy-related death and illness, that being unsafe abortion. Men continue to decide  whether they will, for the sake of ideology cloaked as “common ground,” push for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that leave women disproportionately vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, leave the issue of safe abortion out of research and international documents, confront other issues like stoning as “adulterers” women who’ve been raped, or “accept” that ending the war in Afghanistan likely means leaving women to the “mercy” of the Taliban.

Personally, this paragraph was one of the most upsetting:

So why is it that Bob Geldof, the Irish singer and political advocate is being assigned to advocate for “all MDGs”–including those addressing maternal and child health and HIV and AIDS, when Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile who grappled directly with high rates of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion in her own country, is assigned only to the MDG focused on gender equality and empowerment? (The MDG, by the way, which everyone agrees is the lowest priority in terms of funding and which also can’t be separated from the others.) Geldof and his colleague Bono–no matter how well-intentioned–both are associated with the ONE campaign, which, while it advocates for ending poverty in Africa, has also advocated for abstinence-only-until marriage programs in PEPFAR, to deny HIV-positive women access to family planning services, and against efforts to address safe abortion as an integral aspect of women’s health and rights.

I used to be a member of the ONE campaign. Ugh. I don’t know why, but I was unaware they supported abstinence-only or denied family planning services, including abortion. Moreover, I’m flabbergasted Bob Geldof, a known fathers rights proponent, is heading a maternal and child health group. Has the world gone mad? Here’s the comment I posted on Jodi’s article:

Bob Geldof is a Fathers Rights Advocate – Here he is on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-MGHd5rz84

Note how he blames fatherlessness (read: single moms) for raising criminals and causing other social ills. Gender & marital status have little to do with raising a criminal – poverty, racism, sexism, lack of resources, lack of role models in general, drug policies, lack of gun laws, etc. have to do with social ills and crime – not single women.

 In regard to his stats & philosophies on family court, it should be noted that family court IS for couples with high conflict, most of them with domestic violence, child abuse, or child sexual abuse. Other couples (85-90%) create their own parenting plans – those that can’t – go to Family Court.

 Research finds that when men SEEK (key word) custody, they actually have higher rates of success than women. Disturbingly, batterers often seek custody (to further their control) and GET IT.

 Here’s an overview on Wikipedia on Fathers Rights Movement. Note that it has been extremely difficult to get an opposing view of the  FR movement on Wikipedia, but currently I see some sentences have been inserted that reflect opposition – thankfully. Geldof is listed at the end as a notable supporter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fathers’_rights_movement

 It should also be noted that some advocates refer to the FR gang as the Abusers Lobby. Many of their members have had prior conflict, charges of abuse, convictions, stalking charges, etc. Here’s a compilation of charges by researcher Michael Flood: http://angelzfury.blogspot.com/2010/02/use-of-violence-by-fathers-rights.html 

 Geldof, like many other FR proponents, support traditional families – meaning they’d like to make it harder for women to get a divorce, they don’t like losing the respect of being a father/bread winner/family man, they’d like to have control over women and children, etc. — this is NOT the person who should be heading a committee for maternal and child health — this makes me sick to my stomach.

Count me as ONE LESS member of the ONE Campaign and one more of the disheartened women who has looked – but often fails to see –  progress from the UN.

Where is the outrage?

Another gruesome killer preys on women – and is virtually ignored by the police…

Neighbor says police knew about rapist’s house

The police in Cleveland were notified repeatedly about violence in the house of a convicted rapist where the decomposed bodies of six women were found last week, a neighbor said Monday.

The neighbor of the man, who was arrested Saturday night after the bodies were found, said the police had done little, despite the calls.

Fawcett Bess, 57, the owner of Bess Chicken and Pizza, across the street from the house, said that about two weeks ago, he found the man, Anthony Sowell, in the bushes alongside Mr. Sowell’s house naked and standing over a woman who was bloodied, beaten and also naked. Mr. Bess called 911, he said, and an ambulance soon took the woman away. But the police showed up two hours later and never interviewed him, he said.

“Nobody did anything because she is a girl walking around the streets,” Mr. Bess said. He said he did not know what had happened to the woman, or if the police had followed up on the matter.

Mr. Bess said that a month earlier, he had been approached by another woman who showed him bruises and blood on her neck that she claimed were from an attack by Mr. Sowell. The woman told Mr. Bess that the police had taken a report but appeared to do little investigating, he said.

“If people had come to tell us about this guy’s history, then maybe we would have paid more attention,” he said.

and

Ms. Anderson said the Sowell case raised questions that were also raised in the case of Jaycee Dugard, the young California girl who was kidnapped and held for 18 years. The man charged with kidnapping her, Phillip Garrido, was also a convicted sex offender. The police visited him regularly to confirm his whereabouts.

As a society, we’re still debating where the acceptable line is between an offender’s rights and privacy versus public safety,” Ms. Anderson said.

I’m not really sure we’ve come to terms with victims’ rights. They still struggle for justice. Meanwhile, perps get custody rights, can wed (including women from overseas – and get them visas), work, get an education, etc. etc. etc.
Women, and particularly women of color, have a human right – to safety, to protection, to dignity.
Until there is outrage, these injustices will continue.

Saving the world’s women

When I started reading this piece in the New York Times Magazine, I wanted to scream, “They get it! They finally get it!” Well, they’re close enough anyway and I’ll take this as a very positive step forward.

Saving the world’s women is a 7-page article written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Traditionally, the status of women was seen as a “soft” issue — worthy but marginal. We initially reflected that view ourselves in our work as journalists. We preferred to focus instead on the “serious” international issues, like trade disputes or arms proliferation. Our awakening came in China.

After we married in 1988, we moved to Beijing to be correspondents for The New York Times. Seven months later we found ourselves standing on the edge of Tiananmen Square watching troops fire their automatic weapons at prodemocracy protesters. The massacre claimed between 400 and 800 lives and transfixed the world; wrenching images of the killings appeared constantly on the front page and on television screens.

Yet the following year we came across an obscure but meticulous demographic study that outlined a human rights violation that had claimed tens of thousands more lives. This study found that 39,000 baby girls died annually in China because parents didn’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys received — and that was just in the first year of life. A result is that as many infant girls died unnecessarily every week in China as protesters died at Tiananmen Square. Those Chinese girls never received a column inch of news coverage, and we began to wonder if our journalistic priorities were skewed.

A similar pattern emerged in other countries. In India, a “bride burning” takes place approximately once every two hours, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry — but these rarely constitute news. When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news.

Finally, an awakening!!!

The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine “gendercide” far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.

I’ve also read that 1.5 to 3 million women and girls are killed each year (the source was the Economist). That’s a Holocaust every 3 years….It’s about time the media started to pay attention.

For those women who live, mistreatment is sometimes shockingly brutal. If you’re reading this article, the phrase “gender discrimination” might conjure thoughts of unequal pay, underfinanced sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In the developing world, meanwhile, millions of women and girls are actually enslaved.

Well, sadly the authors are not as up to date about the conditions of women in the USA – sexual assaults on campus, rape in our communities, low prosecution rates of rape and high rates of not reporting, misogyny in music and media, gender-based violence as a form of entertainment, dating violence, domestic violence, becoming homeless due to violence, losing custody of children to a batterer, the use of pseudo-science in family court, low credibility of women and children, homicide of pregnant women, homicide of prostitutes, mutilation of bodies, porn culture, facial abuse, stalking, etc. etc. etc.

We may have it better than women elsewhere, but we still don’t have equality in the USA. We face many problems related to poverty and violence. And, on fact, I believe our country ranks #27 on the Gender Equality Index scales. We have a long way to go, baby.

If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries.

We could do the same in America and we can call this program, “Porn to Poverty.” Come on, fellas, will you give up your prostitutes and porn to help alleve poverty?

I have to say I believe  a man had to be one of these writers, because when women say things like this, while it can be the truth, we are labeled man-haters. (Strange how those working on child abuse are not adult-haters and those working with the poor are not rich-bashers).

It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country’s population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room.

Is that why I feel like I’m living in the O.K. Corral here in the US – with all our guns rights folks, violence on TV and in movies, and violence in our communities? And why we have to have highly sexualized women in the media but not men? It sure does feel like a boys locker room.

The article ends by giving recommendations on how to incorporate women into aid programs. 

Over at Shakesville, Melissa McEwan wrote a great blog on this NY Times article. I wholeheartedly agree with her that the writers never say “who” the oppressors are, but that’s common. Many of us are still not able to boldly state that men have committed violence towards women. No way, then they’ll brand us as man-haters. The media, ever so careful and ever so male-dominated, have always used this passive construct as well. If you think about it, writers are taught to use the active voice not the passive one – yet, writers continue to write about violence towards women in the passive voice.  

Here’s Melissa’s blog:   

Here’s your big chance to ask: What about the men?

 

 

Violence against women in Guatemala

In Guatemala, over 5,000 women and girls have been brutally murdered since the year 2000. They are often tortured and raped before they draw their last breath. Perpetrators are rarely caught. Impunity allows the femicide to continue unabated.

Read Violence against women in Guatemala blogpost, written by members on a human rights delegation sponsored by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission. I went on this delegation in 2007 and am currently on the board.

“Women are not dying because of diseases we can’t treat….. they are dying because societies have not made the decision that their lives are worth saving. “

Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla – Egypt

Have women really progressed?

Here’s a press release from the UN discussing the status of women’s rights in the world. As Hillary Clinton has said, women’s rights are human rights. Unfortunately, they are often seen as “women’s issues” or as something that, since women tolerate the abuses, must be okay. People that work in sweat factories can be said to be working “voluntarily” or accepting their condition, but it’s a human rights abuse nonetheless. We have to stop rationalizing women’s human rights abuses and start resolving these issues.

Ms. Yade said 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the situation of women had not really improved. They had progressed, of course, but it was a path filled with obstacles, where steps backwards remained a possibility. Discrimination against women found its source in the continuance throughout the world of practices and prejudices from another time, in the persistence of both de facto and judicial discrimination. These inequalities were linked to the inferior social status which continued to be applied to women, and by the public debate that was tainted by this.

Mr. Despouy said sometimes inequality stemmed from the application of the law and not the text itself, for example in the area of property and ownership. As to administration of justice, women often had problems participating in it. Important issues were at stake for women, such as child custody among others, and therefore they needed access to the judiciary. Discrimination against women continued to be a major issue on the human rights agenda and the Human Rights Council could not turn a blind eye on it. Discrimination did not only take place in one area, women suffered discrimination everywhere.

Mr. La Rue said all human beings regardless of age, culture, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, among others, should have the right to develop their opinions and express them. It was very important to focus on freedom of expression from the point of view of women. Women had been silenced both in domestic legislation, international practice and customs in some countries around the world. It was necessary to create a safe space for freedom of expression and for the exchange of opinion, in all spheres of life: the family, society, domestic legislation and international instruments. Freedom of expression was a main instrument to halt violence against women and all forms of discrimination.