NORTH KOREA: Reports of rape and sexual abuse

By Euan McKirdy and Jake Kwon


CNN (1.11.2018) –– Harrowing accounts of widespread sexual abuse allegedly carried out by North Korean officials against ordinary women have been laid out in a new report, that details evidence of a culture where officials commit acts with near total impunity.


The extensive 98-page report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which was released Thursday and took more than two years to compile, is based on dozens of interviews with sexual abuse victims who have fled from North Korea. It reveals an oppressive world where officials — from police officers and prison guards to market supervisors — faced virtually no consequences for their routine abuse of women.


“Unwanted sexual contact and violence that is so common in North Korea it has come to be accepted as part of ordinary life,” the report alleges.


Sexual violence in the country is “an open, unaddressed, and widely tolerated secret,” said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director. “North Korean woman would probably say ‘Me Too’ if they thought there was any way to obtain justice, but their voices are silenced in Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship.”


Harrowing accounts


Of all the sexual assault survivors interviewed for the report, only one said she had tried to report it. None of the others report the assault they suffered because “they did not trust the police and did not believe police would be willing to take action,” the report says.


“On the days they felt like it, market guards or police officials could ask me to follow them to an empty room outside the market, or some other place they’d pick,” the report quoted a former trader in her 40s who fled North Korea in 2014 (HRW uses an alias). She says she had been sexually assaulted many times.


“They consider us (sex) toys. We are at the mercy of men.” She said that the climate of sexual abuse was so pervasive that it had been normalized — both by the perpetrators and their victims, but nonetheless, “sometimes, out of nowhere, you cry at night and don’t know why.”


Medical professionals who fled the repressive country said that “there are no protocols for medical treatment and examination of victims of sexual violence to provide therapeutic care or secure medical evidence,” the report adds.


The rights organization interviewed a total of 106 North Koreans, comprised of 72 women, four girls, and 30 men. All were interviewed outside the country.


Former police officer: Nine out of ten women assaulted

A former police officer from North Korea, herself a victim of sexual abuse, Heo Jong-hae told CNN that 90% of the women she knew had been sexually assaulted.


She said that one of her friends contemplated suicide after being attacked at age 17.


“She said she cried and wanted to die. Her parents told her to come home before dark to avoid rape but things like this happens in broad daylight. She tried to kill herself. It was worse in Pyongyang where everyone was forced to go to work every day.”


Heo said that in order to advance, many women join the military, but “the officials in charge will demand sexual favors. To join the (worker’s) party, one must comply.”


She added that, in her experience, in the rare event of a case being reported to the police, there is pressure to drop the investigation. “When the perpetrator is an official, even if the case comes to the police, it will be ignored,” she said.


“Even if I or others in the station try to investigate, someone higher up like the chief will tell us to drop it. They are untouchable.”


Heo said that her personal experience of assault largely informed her decision to defect.


“I couldn’t live in that environment with stress. When I share my story, (I hope) other women share theirs too.”


‘No sense of right and wrong’


Even when men who sexually abuse women are held to account, their victims also suffer.


Director of New Korea Women’s Union Lee So-yeon, a North Korean living in Seoul, told CNN that while she was serving in the North Korean military, a commander of her company sexually assaulted female soldiers. He faced a forced discharge, while his vice commander was assigned to a different unit. The commander’s female victims were dishonorably discharged.


“The perpetrators are usually not punished if the victims number one or two. There is also less chance of being punished the higher the ranking of the perpetrator. In this case, he assaulted about 30 women.


“The victims were dishonorably discharged because it was considered that they simply had sexual relations with the commander while on duty. That they had actively taken part.”


Even after the incident is over, the women continue to suffer its consequences.


“Once the word gets out that a woman had been victimized, the society doesn’t look kindly at her. Instead, she is blamed for her reckless and seductive behavior,” Lee said.


“There is no sense of right and wrong. The party officials must see these as a problem in order for the situation to change but they do not. They are the perpetrators themselves.”


Nonexistent conviction rates


While Pyongyang has laws criminalizing rape, trafficking and having sexual relations with subordinates, the report notes that the North Korean government barely acknowledges the existence of rape in the country.


Last July, the North Korean government told the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that only nine people in all of North Korea were convicted of rape in 2008, seven in 2011, and five in 2015.


A 2014 UN report on human rights found that human rights violations — including murder, enslavement and torture — were prevalent in the country.


It added that sexual and gender-based violence was common throughout North Korean society, including in dealing with officials. Some of the incidences of sexual violence, including forced abortions, and rape committed against detained and imprisoned women, qualified as crimes against humanity.


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EL SALVADOR: Woman who bore rapist’s baby faces 20 years in jail

Imelda Cortez, 20, faces trial in country where abortion is illegal under all circumstances


By Nina Lakhani


The Guardian (12.11.2018) –– A rape victim is facing 20 years in jail charged with attempted murder, after she gave birth to her abuser’s baby in a latrine in El Salvador.


In a case that highlights the rigidity of the country’s abortion laws, Imelda Cortez, 20, from an impoverished rural family in San Miguel, has been in custody since April 2017 after giving birth to a baby girl fathered by her abusive elderly stepfather.


Cortez was rushed to hospital after her mother discovered her in severe pain and bleeding heavily. The emergency room doctor suspected an abortion and called the police. Officers found the baby healthy and alive.


Cortez had been abused by her 70-year-old stepfather since she was 12 years old and said she had no idea she was pregnant. The baby survived, but Cortez was charged with attempted murder, denied bail and sent to jail after a week in hospital.


“This is the most extreme, scandalous injustice against a woman I’ve ever seen,” said Bertha María Deleón, one of Cortez’s defence lawyers. “The state has repeatedly violated Imelda’s rights as a victim; she’s deeply affected but denied psychological attention.”


Abortion is illegal in all circumstances in El Salvador and the total ban has led to aggressive persecution of women.


Like Cortez, most are poor, single rural-dwellers convicted on tenuous evidence after having a gynaecological complication such as a miscarriage or stillbirth. In many cases, the women did not realise they were pregnant.


This pattern of prosecutions targeting a particular demographic suggests a discriminatory state policy which violates multiple human rights, according to Paula Avila-Guillen, director of Latin America Initiatives at the New York based Women’s Equality Centre.


Cortez’s case is a stark illustration of how the law criminalises victims.


While Cortez was in hospital, her stepfather visited her, threatening to kill her, her siblings and her mother if she reported the abuse. Another patient overheard and told a nurse, who called the police.


At first, prosecutors accused Cortez of inventing the abuse to justify her crime, until a DNA test confirmed the baby’s paternity. Her stepfather is yet to be charged.


The criminal trial against Cortez opens today, with a ruling by the three judges expected within a week.


A psychological evaluation detected cognitive and emotional deficits consistent with abuse and trauma, yet Cortez has received no psychological support since being detained 18 months ago. She has never been allowed to hold her baby daughter.


“When you thought nothing could be crueller in El Salvador, you get Imelda’s case, which shows the fierce determination of prosecutors to go after poor women regardless of the circumstances and evidence. By shackling these women to hospital beds and sending them to prison, it sends a strong message: if you’re poor, it’s not safe to seek healthcare,” said Paula Avila-Guillen.


Abortion was criminalised in El Salvador 21 years ago, by legislators from across the political spectrum. Hopes have plummeted of the ban being relaxed to allow abortion in cases of rape or human trafficking, when the foetus is unviable, or to protect the pregnant woman’s life.


A parliamentary bill, drawn up almost two years ago amid a groundswell of public and medical support for reform, remains stuck at the committee stage, with no hope of a vote as political parties gear up for next year’s general election.


Yet campaigners refuse to give up. Five women wrongly imprisoned for murder – Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, Mayra Figueroa, Elsy Rivera, Katherine Mazariego and Maria Lopez – have been freed so far this year after dogged campaigning by domestic and international human rights groups.


A further 24 women known to activists are still serving 15 to 30 years in jail. Cortez is one of four awaiting trial or, in the case of Evelyn Hernández, a new ruling after her 2017 guilty verdict was recently overturned.


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AFRICA: FGM rates in east Africa drop from 71% to 8% in 20 years, study shows

Analysis in BMJ Global Health suggests dramatic decline in number of girls undergoing the practice, yet experts advise caution over the figures

By Rebecca Ratcliffe


The Guardian (7.11.2018) –– The number of girls undergoing female genital mutilation has fallen dramatically in east Africa over the past two decades, according to a study published in BMJ Global Health.


The study, which looked at rates of FGM among girls aged 14 and under, suggests that prevalence in east Africa has dropped from 71.4% in 1995, to 8% in 2016.


The reported falls in the rates of FGM are far greater than previous studies have suggested, though some in the development community have advised caution over the figures.


In February, the United Nations Population Fund warned the number of women predicted to be mutilated each year could rise to 4.6 million by 2030, an increase driven by population growth in communities that carry out the practice.


According to the study in the BMJ, the rates of FGM practised on children have fallen in north Africa, from 57.7% in 1990 to 14.1% in 2015. In west Africa, prevalence is also reported to have decreased from 73.6% in 1996 to 25.4% in 2017.


The study aimed to assess if FGM awareness campaigns targeted at mothers had been successful. Unlike many other studies, older teenagers and adult women – who tend to have higher rates of FGM – were not included. The research developed estimates by pooling and comparing FGM data by proportion across countries and regions, using a meta-analysis technique.


Nafissatou Diop, coordinator of UNFPA-Unicef joint programme, said it was possible that girls included in the study would still undergo FGM at a later point in their teenage years.


“Some girls who have not undergone FGM may not have reached the customary age for cutting and may still be at risk,” said Diop. “The age at which the girls are undergoing FGM changes from ethnic group to ethnic group. In Kenya, for example, the Somali community practice FGM on girls aged three to seven. But in the Maasai community they practice FGM when the girl is a teenager, aged between 12 and 14.”


Although global FGM rates are falling, she added, increasing numbers of girls will be living in countries where FGM remains prevalent by 2030.


“Because of the demographic trends, the absolute number of girls and women undergoing FGM will continue to increase,” said Diop.


UN analysis suggests that rates of FGM among girls aged 15-19 have fallen from 46% in 2000 to 35% in 2015, according to statistics across 30 countries with nationally representative data.


The authors also warn that while rates of FGM are falling in many areas, this downwards trend could easily be reversed.


“If we think, ‘OK, let’s celebrate,’ and we don’t continue with the same efforts, that may have reverse consequences,” said Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala, the report author and professor of biostatistics at Northumbria University. Risk factors – such as poverty, poor quality education and support for FGM among some religious leaders – continued to persist, he said.


The study was based on data collected through demographic health surveys, developed by ICF International, and multiple indicator cluster surveys, which are directed by Unicef. Data ranged from the years 1990 to 2017 for 29 countries across Africa, and two countries in western Asia: Iraq and Yemen.


Kandala added that trends varied both within and between countries.


Across Yemen and Iraq, FGM prevalence increased by 19.2% per year between 1997 and 2015, though rates remained lower than elsewhere.


The report drew on 90 sets of survey data, covering 208,195 girls.


The report did not examine the reasons why FGM rates had fallen, but said it was likely to have been driven by policy changes, national and international investment. National laws banning FGM have been introduced in 22 out of 28 practising African countries, according to the campaign group 28 Too Many.


In Somalia, where there is no national legislation expressly criminalising FGM, anti-FGM campaigner Ifrah Ahmed said the practice was still prevalent. “I remember being at a school in Mogadishu asking girls about FGM. All the girls said they were already cut. Just one said she hasn’t yet,” she said, adding the girls were aged between seven and 12 years old.


“Nothing will change until you change the religious leaders’ [attitudes] because they are very powerful in the community,” added Ahmed, founder of the Ifrah Foundation, which supports women and girls who have undergone FGM, and girls who are at risk.


The report concluded that if the goal of eliminating FGM was to be reached, further efforts were urgently needed, including working with religious and community leaders, youth and health workers.


“This package of comprehensive intervention could include legislation, advocacy, education and multimedia communication,” the report said.


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AFGHANISTAN: Taliban floggings hint at crackdown on smartphones

By Frud Bezhan


RFERL (20.10.2018) – – The scenes of a public flogging in a Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan showed two women in blue burqas kneeling nearly motionless as a man beat them over their heads and bodies with a cane.


The women, whose names have not been released, had been found guilty of breaking the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law after police said they visited a local health clinic without a male relative being present. They were also said to have been seen by Taliban fighters communicating on mobile phones.


While the fundamentalist Taliban has long forced women to be accompanied by a male relative when venturing outside their homes, reports of the second charge appear to point to the recent enforcement of strictures on the use of mobile devices, particularly smartphones, in militant-controlled areas.


It was unclear if the women, both of whom were married, were punished simply for using the phones or specifically for communicating with men outside their immediate families — a charge that has led to public floggings in the past.


While men on mobile devices are a common sight, local conservative culture frequently frowns on women using mobile phones in public.


Fear of drone strikes, surveillance


Obaid Ali, an expert on the Afghan insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul, says the Taliban’s cultural commission banned all fighters from using smartphones in 2016 for security and religious reasons. Since then, Ali says, the militants have enforced the ban on civilians in some areas under their control. But he says primitive mobile phones without Internet access or the ability to record images or video are tolerated in many of those same locations, which frequently lack fixed-line telephone services.


“One of the main reasons the Taliban banned smartphones was because of the growing threat of U.S. drone strikes and surveillance,” says Ali. “The Taliban also fears smartphones being used among civilians because people can access independent information, take photos and videos, and might give away the militants’ activities and locations.”


The Taliban has restricted mobile-phone use in most areas under its control. In parts of the southern Helmand Province, mobile phones and the Internet are banned. Taliban fighters communicate via walkie-talkies.


In the northern Kunduz Province, where Taliban fighters control several districts, the group has forced mobile service providers to switch off coverage every day between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.


Brutal punishments


It was unclear if the women who were flogged in Jawzjan were using smartphones.


The incident occurred in the Beron Sena area of the Darzab district, a former stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, which was ousted from the area by the rival Taliban and government forces in August.


Mohammad Ismail, Darzab’s chief of police, this week confirmed that the floggings had taken place and said the incident occurred about 10 days ago. He said the women had since returned to their homes.


The news of the floggings only reached mainstream Afghan media on October 28. Videos purportedly showing the punishments have since been widely shared on social media.


‘Moral crimes’


This is not the first time the Taliban, which ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, has meted out public punishments for so-called moral crimes.


In the northern province of Faryab, a young girl was publicly flogged in a market last month for not being accompanied by a male relative.


Moral offenses, including adultery or even running away from home, are not considered crimes under the Afghan Criminal Code. But hundreds of women and girls have nevertheless been imprisoned after “immorality” verdicts by courts dominated by religious conservatives.


In some rural areas, where Taliban militants exert considerable influence, residents view government bodies as corrupt or unreliable and turn to Taliban courts to settle disputes. The Taliban courts employ Shari’a law, which prescribes public flogging, stoning, or execution for men or women found guilty of having a relationship outside marriage or an extramarital affair and for women who had contact with men outside their immediate families.


Recent years have seen a spate of chilling public punishments of women accused of such offenses.


In February 2017, an armed mob killed an 18-year-old woman and the man she had eloped with in the eastern Nuristan Province.


In October 2015, 19-year-old Rokhsana was stoned to death by Taliban militants in the central Ghor Province after being accused of having premarital sex.


In November 2015, a 26-year-old Afghan woman died of her injuries after being publicly lashed, also in Ghor. She had been accused of running away from home.


In August 2016, also in Ghor Province, a young man and woman found guilty of having sex outside marriage were publicly lashed.



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UNITED STATES: Reporting on women’s and LGBTI rights deteriorating under Trump administration

New Oxfam analysis finds significant omissions in State Department human rights reports

Oxfam (01.11.2018) – – A new joint analysis released today from Oxfam America and The Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver found that reporting on women’s rights and issues in the State Department annual Country Reports is down 32% under President Trump’s Administration, while reporting on LGBTI rights and issues abroad is down 21%. Alarmingly, countries of origin for asylum seekers and countries with greater gender inequalities saw their reporting decline at even higher rates of around 50%.


These reports are important inputs into US policy and help support human rights defenders at home and abroad. They are also a critically important trove of systematic data on human rights practices available to advocates, scholars, asylum seekers, and multinational firms.


“Our findings signal one thing: under the Trump Administration women’s and LGBTI rights reporting worldwide is deteriorating, particularly in the places with the worst gender inequality and where asylum seekers originate,” said Abby Maxman, President of Oxfam America. “The numbers only tell a part of the story. Changes in tone, language, and content suggest the Trump Administration is shaping these reports to diminish the profile and importance of women’s rights and LGBTI people, which could have disastrous impacts on the United States’ capacity to defend human rights.”


Under the Trump administration, the State Department has cut back on discussing women’s rights and issues for countries that send the most asylum seekers. Additionally, the worse a country scored on the Gender Inequality Index the bigger the decrease in reporting from 2016 to 2017. For example, Afghanistan saw a decrease of 56% in the number of mentions of women from 2016 – 2017. El Salvador saw a decrease in references to women of 50%, and Yemen saw a decrease of 52%.


Despite reasoning provided by the State Department, these decreases are not just about shorter, more concise reports. Our research found that the 2017 reports are not statistically significantly shorter than 2016 reports. Nor do the reports reflect conditions improving much on the ground. Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch suggest that while women’s and LGBTI rights are improving for some in particular contexts, they are deteriorating in others.


“Our research confirms a broad, distressing trend: the Trump administration is writing women and LGBTI rights and issues out of US policy documents, undermining decades of US leadership on these issues and threatening to imperil women and LGBTI communities across the world,” said Dr. Marie Berry, Assistant Professor at the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.



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USA: For transgender Americans, the political gets even more personal

The Trump administration delivered a one-two punch to transgender people just weeks before a midterm election in which a record number of L.G.B.T.Q. candidates are seeking office.


By Maya Salam


NY Times (26.10.2018) –– On a panel of L.G.B.T.Q. journalists a couple of weeks ago, I was asked what news organizations were missing in our coverage of issues affecting this segment of the population.


For me, the answer was easy: Americans deserve a wider and more thorough examination of local and state legislation that relates to gender identity and sexual orientation. The Human Rights Campaign, which advocates protections of L.G.B.T.Q. people, tracked 129 bills introduced across 30 states last year that it described as anti-L.G.B.T.Q.


And that was before new reports this week that the Trump administration is moving to roll back protections for transgender Americans, possibly legally invalidating their existence by narrowly defining gender as based on sex assignment at birth. About 1.4 million Americans consider themselves transgender, according to a 2016 analysis of federal and state data.


Transgender advocates said that the timing, just weeks before the midterm elections, made them feel like the latest “pawns” in wedge-issue politics.


On Wednesday, the Justice Department told the United States Supreme Court that businesses can discriminate against workers based on their gender identity without violating federal law, Bloomberg Law reported.


“Transgender people are frightened,” said Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign. “At every step where the administration has had the choice, they’ve opted to turn their back on transgender people.”


Under President Trump, several federal agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration has also tried to remove questions about gender identity from an upcoming 2020 census survey.


This is happening amid a midterm campaign that has seen a record number of L.G.B.T.Q. candidates.


Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman from Vermont, could become the nation’s first transgender governor. In Texas, Gina Ortiz Jones, a Filipina Air Force veteran, could become the state’s first openly gay woman elected to any office. Brianna Titone could become the first openly transgender member of the Colorado Legislature. These women are all Democrats, as is Danica Roem, whose election last year to the Virginia House of Delegates made her the first openly transgender person to serve in any state legislature.


A Pew Research Center analysis last November showed that 54 percent of Americans believe gender is determined by sex at birth, and 32 percent say society has “gone too far” in accepting transgender people. Views were sharply divided along partisan and religious lines, with more Republicans and more Christians believing gender was determined by sex at birth.

Here are some examples of what is going on at the state level:

  • In November, Massachusetts residents will vote on a whether to undo Senate Bill 2407, which protects transgender people from discrimination in public places. When Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed the bill in 2016, it was heralded as a watershed moment for equal rights.
    A group of conservative and religious activists — who feel 2407 infringes upon the privacy of women and children — collected enough signatures to qualify its repeal for the ballot. It will be the first time a law explicitly banning discrimination against transgender people is put to a statewide vote.


  • MontanaSouth Dakota and Tennessee also saw bills advance this year that aimed to limit protections for transgender people in public places, though all eventually foundered.
    In Montana, the initiative was approved by the attorney general but supporters did not collect enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. In South Dakota and Tennessee, the bills were defeated in committee.


  • In May, after a last-minute push by conservative and religious groups, Governors Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Jeff Colyer of Kansas, both Republicans, signed bills into law that allowed taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse to work with same-sex couples. Similar bills in Georgia and Colorado were introduced and defeated this year.


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PALESTINE: Women face violence and political exclusion, campaigner tells UN

First female Palestinian activist to address UN security council speaks out over political marginalisation and domestic abuse



By Rebecca Ratcliffe


The Guardian (26.10.2018) –– Women are being shut out of Palestinian politics and excluded from peace talks, according to Randa Siniora, the first female Palestinian campaigner to address the UN security council.


Speaking at the UN on Thursday, she said that while women in the occupied territories often face the greatest violence, they are overlooked in the country’s political and humanitarian responses.


“The Israeli occupation and the resulting humanitarian crisis are deeply gendered and exacerbate existing gender inequalities. Women disproportionately endure the violence of occupation borne by all Palestinians, and often with gender-specific consequences,” said Siniora, general director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling in Palestine.


Palestinian women face attacks and discrimination by the Israeli military on a daily basis, she explained, adding that spikes in political violence lead to increased violence in the home.


“Domestic violence is shockingly high, and femicide is on the increase,” Siniora told the UN security council’s debate on women, peace and security. There is a lack of services and little access to justice for women who suffer such abuses.


UN statistics show that, despite international efforts, the representation of women in peace processes has either stalled or declined.


“The ones who do not wage war are being disqualified from making peace. Those who wage war are the preferred occupants for peace tables,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, who told the council that women are either vastly under-represented or completely excluded from peace talks and monitoring committees.


“Between 1990 and 2017, under our watch, women constituted only 2% of mediators, 8% of negotiators, and 5% of witnesses and signatories in major peace processes. Only three out of 11 agreements signed in 2017 contained provisions on gender equality, continuing last year’s worrisome downward trend. Of 1,500 agreements signed between 2000 and 2016, only 25 raise the role of women’s engagement in the implementation phase,” she said.

In Yemen, said Mlambo-Ngcuka, current efforts to resume peace talks do not include women, beyond setting up observer bodies to advise the UN special envoy. “Even in a consultative meeting in London this summer organised by the UN, convening 22 prominent Yemeni leaders to discuss the peace talks, there were only three Yemeni women invited.”


In Palestine, Siniora, who has documented human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories for three decades, said women are excluded from key positions despite evidence that they have been critical to working across political divides, building grassroots support for peace, and providing essential expertise on human rights.


“Representation of women in key decision-making positions, including in Palestinian Authority institutions, is barely 5%,” she said.


“Little space has been made to integrate Palestinian women’s concerns into key political processes, including for achieving Palestinian statehood or for national reconciliation.”


While international efforts to increase female representation are failing, the share of aid channeled through NGOs focused on women has also stalled, said Mlambo-Ngcuka.


In conflict settings, girls are one and a half times more likely to be out of primary school, and more vulnerable to child marriage. Maternal mortality rates are almost twice the global ratio in conflict and post-conflict countries.


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TANZANIA: Special meeting now held to prevent next FGM ritual

Daily News (26.10.2018) –– A committee in-charge of protecting children and women in Tarime District has held a crucial meeting to deliberate on what should be done to prevent the next female genital mutilation (FGM) ritual.


The meeting of the committee was made possible through funding from Children’s Dignity Forum (CDF), a non-governmental organization leading an on-going campaign against FGM and child marriage in the region.


Among others, the committee is composed of government officials from various departments entrusted to protect and safeguard children’s rights.


These include gender and children’s desks at police stations, the Prisons Department, the Social Welfare, Education and Community Development. There is fear that hundreds of girls will be subjected to FGM in the district in December, this year.


The committee, which also includes religious leaders, proposed several measures that will help curb FGM in the area.


Some speakers during the meeting wanted female circumcisers locally known as ‘ngaribas’ to be arrested and kept until January next year, when the FGM season ends.


“These ‘ngaribas’ and traditional leaders should be arrested and kept until January 2019 because they are known.


“Let them be arrested,” suggested Ms Mariam Julius, a villager from Nyasaricho. Ms Julius and other members of the committee also wanted traditional leaders to be benched from the ongoing anti-FGM campaign in the area on grounds that the elders had been betraying them.


“Traditional leaders are the ones planning and coordinating FGM. It is time to keep them away from this campaign and instead educate girls and women. This will be helpful,” the woman, who is well familiar with FGM in the area, noted. Another committee member Mwihechi Marwa said it was time the campaign involved people, who were not seeing FGM as an important culture.


“The traditional leaders cannot help because they are the ones coordinating FGM,” Mr Marwa, who is the chairman fo Saved Aged People in Tarime, said.


The committee further said there would be public announcement banning FGM ceremonies in the area. Government officials in Mara Region have also blamed traditional leaders from betraying the anti-FGM campaign in the area.


“It is very unfortunate that these traditional leaders are dishonest always taking us backward. This is the truth of the matter,” Rorya District Commissioner (DC) Simon Chacha said recently.


The DC made remarks during a crucial meeting held in Tarime to deliberate on measures that they thought could this time save girls from undergoing FGM in Tarime and other parts of the region.


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European Parliament: HRWF debate on child marriage on EU REPORTER TV

– Watch the video here:


Elisa Van Ruiten, a Gender Specialist at Human Rights Without Frontiers International;
Mohinder Watson, a researcher and activist against child marriage, who escaped a forced marriage of her own as a teenager;
Emilio Puccio, the Coordinator of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights, which is a cross-party and cross-national group comprising over 90 MEPs and 25 child-focused organizations.

The presenter was EU Reporter’s Jim Gibbons.

“Every day somewhere in the world, 39,000 young girls are married before they reach the age of majority; more than a third of them are younger than 15, according to the Council of Europe. We may be well into the 21st century but too many girls are still forced to live in a bygone age of male dominance. Human Rights Without Frontiers has just produced a report on women’s rights and the Abrahamic faiths o Christianity, Islam and Judaism.”

EU Reporter –

Next Programme about North Korea (November) –


WORLD: Want gender equality? Let’s start with ending child marriages


The Hill (12.10.2018) –

Each Oct. 11th the global community pauses to recognize and celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. However, girls continue to face unique challenges simply for being young and female.

The mere fact that they are born female often results in a devastating series of consequences, which inhibit girls from attaining gender parity, equal protection under the law, the free exercise of their human rights and the ability to realize their full potential.

The 2018 theme, “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce,” aims to ensure girls have the skills necessary to attain financial viability. One major obstacle preventing girls from achieving these goals is child marriage.

Worldwide, around 15 million — or one in three — girls are annually subject to child marriage, often forced or coerced. Married minors are more likely to experience poverty, domestic violence, lack of access to education, sexual abuse and emotional and physical health challenges. Child marriage frequently leads to adolescent pregnancy and childbirth, which pose dramatic risks due to a girl’s biological immaturity. Moreover, pregnancy is the leading cause of death of girls aged 15-18. Those that survive often grapple with pre-birth complications, fistulas, stillbirth and other physical ramifications to themselves and their children.

Child marriage is recognized as a human rights violation under international law because it adversely affects the rights of girls and women. It bars them from being able to consent to marriage, receive an education, have healthcare and live without fear or exploitation. These rights are explicitly enumerated under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and other international instruments.

Decades of advocacy culminated when the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council adopted its first substantive resolution distinguishing child/forced marriage as a human rights abuse in 2015. The international community has since committed to eliminating child marriage by 2030 per the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

While the practice is prevalent in countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Niger, a lack of laws and law enforcement ensure its existence across social, economic, religious and geographical spectrums. Even in the United States, 24 states have no statutory minimum age for minor unions and 48 states provide for judicial and/or parental exceptions to child marriage restrictions.

In Afghanistan, well over half of all Afghan women are married before 18. Afghan law, however, prohibits marriage before 16 for girls and 18 for boys, although a court or girl’s father may consent to her marriage at 15. Despite this law, the deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes and attendant transactional perspectives towards marriage often give rise to the deployment of child marriage as a bartering mechanism, frequently before the child brides hit puberty.

The practice of “badal” results in the exchange of daughters between two families for marriage, while “ba’ad” involves marrying off a girl to pay a debt, bring peace, or serve as recompense for murder, sexual assault, or other perceived crimes/wrongs committed by one family or community against another.

Poverty, insecurity, gender discrimination, lack of access to health care and education are the key drivers of child marriage. Poor families, particularly in rural areas, sell their daughters to wealthier families in exchange for large dowries, often to men who are significantly older and have additional wives.

The practice of child engagement, wherein two families commit a son and daughter to each other for marriage, remains rampant. Rates of child marriage increase dramatically in internally-displaced person and refugee returnee camps, where extreme financial hardship, illiteracy and lack of educational and economic opportunities are even more common.

Child brides are most often unwittingly thrust into arranged marriages. The power dynamics of these marriages, particularly with significant age disparity, render girls vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological abuse from their husbands and families. In order to escape these challenges, many brides run away from home, subjecting themselves to imprisonment for committing “moral crimes,” while others choose suicide.

Women’s full participation in decision-making and society is imperative to eliminating gender inequality, discrimination, violence and poverty. Restricting child marriage is a critical first step to ensuring girls can continue their education, freely exercise their rights, effectively participate in political, social and economic life and enter the “GirlForce.”

Governments must both enact and enforce appropriate laws, devoid of discriminatory legal loopholes, to unleash the cultural change necessary to achieve the gender equality goal of the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda and give girls the opportunities they deserve.