Unnao rape case: Indian woman set on fire on way to hearing dies

An Indian woman who was set on fire on her way to testify against her alleged rapists has died of her injuries.


BBC News (07.12.2019) – https://bbc.in/2Rz3o7x – The 23-year-old died late on Friday after suffering cardiac arrest at a Delhi hospital. She had 90% burns.


She was attacked on Thursday as she was walking to a hearing in the rape case she filed against two men in March in Unnao, in northern Uttar Pradesh state.


Five men, including the alleged rapists, have been arrested, Indian police say.


The sister of the victim, whose name has not been released, told the BBC that she wanted the death penalty for the pair.


She said the family would continue to fight the case against them in court.


Rape and sexual violence against women have been in focus in India since the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in the capital, Delhi.


But there has been no sign that crimes against women are abating.


According to government figures, police registered 33,658 cases of rape in India in 2017, an average of 92 rapes every day.


Unnao district has itself been in the news over another rape case.


Police opened a murder investigation against a ruling party lawmaker in July after a woman who accused him of rape was seriously injured in a car crash. Two of her aunts were killed and her lawyer was injured.


Separately, on Friday, Indian police shot dead four men suspected of raping and killing a young female vet in the southern city of Hyderabad last week.


That case sparked widespread outrage, and the killing of the suspects, in what rights activists believe may have been an extra-judicial killing, sparked jubilation among local residents.

WORLD: Women and climate change: the challenges women face to be considered as key actors

By Priti Darooka


The Land Portal (04.12.2019) – https://bit.ly/2Rz5bcL – I want to thank IWRAW Asia Pacific for organising a two day strategic dialogue on Women Human Rights and Climate Justice. Some of the points shared here are points discussed at this dialogue in Bangkok in November 2019.


I also want to thank contributions by Feminist Land Platform members, especially Farida Akhter of Bangladesh.


The Feminist Land Platform echoes and endorses the relevant issues raised by the author Priti Darooka, who is a founder member of the Platform. The paper was presented during the International Land Coalition Africa meeting in Abidjan, on the 23rd November 2019.


Climate change impacts women differently


Climate change impacts everyone. However, the impact of climate change is experienced differently based on one’s socio-economic position. It is important to realize that women and men are impacted differently, not only as users of energy, water etc. but also as workers and contributors.


Women are the food producers of the world. (According to FAO women produce more than 50% of global food). Natural calamities such as droughts, floods, hurricane, cyclones, earthquake, landslides etc. due to climate change particularly impact women producers, indigenous women, rural women, women from marginalised groups, whose lives and livelihoods rely on natural resources such as land, water and forest. Millions of women who are in agriculture, the informal economy or are self-employed are exposed to toxic chemicals, extractives, and development projects adopted by countries. They are in the bottom most tier of the supply chain, taking up hazardous occupations with precarious working conditions. Therefore, climate crisis impacts women most critically.


From vulnerable group to active actors


In climate debates, women are profiled as victims or vulnerable groups—severely impacted. However, these platforms generally don’t recognise women as active climate actors with knowledge and agency. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes, including land and natural resource management, and in paid labour market continues to prevent them from being part of climate related planning, policy making and implementation. The question to raise is whether the role of women or the concerns and priorities of women in their multiple realities are taken into account in the climate solutions, in just transition to green economy or green Jobs. Women are often affected by the change and have a more active role to play.


The capitalist and neoliberal model takes nature for granted. It unfortunately believes that nature is a bottomless pit and will continue to sustain this excessive consumption with exploitative patterns of production forever. The same model also renders women’s work invisible, especially the unpaid care work and unpaid work in  subsistence forms of livelihood. In market economy if you consume what you produce you have not produced at all. Production only has value if it is for the market. Most of women’s work, especially in global South is for self-consumption. Hence, most of women’s work is of less or no value. The current economic policies is built on women’s labour but considers women’s labour as the same bottomless pit that will absorb all adversities and continue to provide care and subsistence limitlessly, and always.


Claiming for Climate Justice


The irony of current climate debates is that we want to change nothing, but we want climate change or climate justice. We are not willing to change our consumption patterns or lifestyle. Transition from fossil fuel to renewables for example is not going to resolve the climate crisis. There also needs to be changes in consumption and lifestyles.


The solutions to address climate crisis are sort through science and technology – renewables or reduction in carbon emission through climate change adaptations. The solutions are not human centric but science centric. Women due to their gendered role and cultural norms do have indigenous knowledge in sustainable resource management. The knowledge held by women at community level is scientific but is not valued. For example, in several agricultural communities, seeds are maintained by women and proper gene pool is ensured. This is an in-depth scientific knowledge that is passed from one generation to another – mother to daughters and within the community of women.  And if women’s leadership is engaged to address climate crisis there would surely be sustainable, inclusive and ‘scientific’ solutions.


Climate change effects are aggravated through loss of biodiversity that affects poor women and their food from the common resources and common land.


It is also ironic that the top 10 richest countries of the world are the top countries in global philanthropy. Developed countries hold technical solution and continue to pressure less developing countries to have climate adaptation solutions. Through philanthropic grants these rich countries also provide west based consultants to provide technical support to governments and institutions in the South. This whole process also renders local knowledge, especially held by women on the ground regarding traditional resilience practices absolutely irrelevant and useless.


These same rich countries, however, have their multinationals and brands exploit labour, and environment in these developing countries.


By leaving women out from the solutions, most climate change solutions directly or indirectly further contribute towards gender inequalities. For example, with all the noise around shift towards renewables, governments have not provided women with clean, green energy for cooking. Women still in most parts of the world, especially in the global South, continue to burn biomass for cooking.


Climate change debates and solutions therefore need to recognise women’s role as workers and producers and as guardians of environment and nature and ensure they are at the centre of all discussions and solutions as key stakeholders.

USA: How a divided left is losing the battle on abortion

Miscalculations, and an unexpected victory by President Trump, have put abortion access at its most vulnerable point in decades, and the left on the defensive. Now it is trying to recover.


By Elizabeth Dias and Lisa Lerer


The NY Times (01.12.2019) – https://nyti.ms/34UGStI –  The pin was small, and rusted on the back. Sharon Wood had packed it away in 1973 as a relic of a battle fought and won: the image of a black coat hanger, slashed out by a red line.


Then this spring, her home state, Georgia, joined a cascade of states outlawing abortion at the earliest stages of pregnancy. Ms. Wood did what she never imagined she would need to do again. She dug it out, and pinned it on.


“Don’t ask me how it all happened,” Ms. Wood, 70, a retired social worker northeast of Atlanta, said one Sunday afternoon, the pin on her dress. “I know so many people who said they woke up when Trump was elected. Well, they shouldn’t have been asleep.”


For years, abortion rights supporters like Ms. Wood believed the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling had delivered their ultimate goal, the right to reproductive choice. Now, they are grappling with a new reality: Nationwide access to abortion is more vulnerable than it has been in decades.


A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.


In a six-month period this year, states across the South and Midwest passed 58 abortion restrictions. Alabama banned the procedure almost entirely. Lawmakers in Ohio introduced a similar bill shortly before Thanksgiving. And in March, the Supreme Court will hear its first major abortion case since President Trump added two conservative justices and shifted the court to the right; how it rules could reshape the constitutional principles governing abortion rights.


For abortion opponents, this moment of ascendancy was years in the making. Set back on their heels when President Barack Obama took office, they started methodically working  from the ground up. They focused on delivering state legislatures and gerrymandered districts into Republican control. They passed abortion restrictions in red states and pushed for conservative judges to protect them.


And then unexpectedly, and serendipitously, Mr. Trump won the White House. Ending legal abortion appeared within their reach.


As Planned Parenthood and its progressive allies have rallied the resistance, the shift in fortunes in the abortion wars has been mostly attributed to the right’s well-executed game plan. Less attention has been paid to the left’s role in its own loss of power.


But interviews with more than 50 reproductive rights leaders, clinic directors, political strategists and activists over the past three months reveal a fragmented movement facing longstanding divisions — cultural, financial and political. Many said that abortion rights advocates and leading reproductive rights groups had made several crucial miscalculations that have put them on the defensive.


“It’s really, really complicated and somewhat controversial where the pro-choice movement lost,” said Johanna Schoen, a professor at Rutgers University who has studied the history of abortion.


National leaders became overly reliant on the protections granted by a Democratic presidency under Mr. Obama and a relatively balanced Supreme Court, critics say, leading to overconfidence that their goals were not seriously threatened. Their expectation that Mr. Trump would lose led them to forgo battles they now wish they had fought harder, like Judge Merrick B. Garland’s failed nomination to the bench.


Local activists in states like Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota and Missouri where abortion was under siege say national leaders lost touch with the ways that access to abortion was eroding in Republican strongholds.


“Looking at the prior presidential administration, there was a perception that everything is fine,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, the executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, an independent clinic in Atlanta that has provided abortions since 1976. “We were screaming at the top of our lungs, everything is not fine, please pay attention.”


Discord at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest and most influential abortion provider, exacerbated the problem. In July the group’s new president, Dr. Leana Wen, was forced out in a messy departure highlighting deep internal division over her management style and how much emphasis to place on the political fight for abortion rights.


Planned Parenthood’s acting head, Alexis McGill Johnson, said that Mr. Trump’s election, new abortion restrictions and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court provided a wake-up call to many national leaders, including herself, that forced them to confront the entrenched challenges of class dividing their movement.


“A lot of us are awakening to the fact that if you are wealthy, if you live in the New York ZIP code or California ZIP code or Illinois ZIP code, your ability to access reproductive health care is not in jeopardy in the same way that it is in other states,” Ms. McGill Johnson said in an interview.


The right is pouncing on this moment of tumult, threatening to wield abortion politics to its favor in the 2020 presidential race. A leading anti-abortion political group, the Susan B. Anthony List, has more than doubled its campaign budget, from $18 million in 2016 to $41 million this cycle. Its goal is to reach four million voters, up from 1.2 million in 2016. The group says surveys it has conducted in swing states like Arizona and North Carolina show that portraying Democrats as supporters of infanticide — an allegation the left says is patently false — can win neutral voters to their side.


“They have fallen from that pinnacle of power to this,” Penny Nance, president of the Concerned Women for America, a conservative group that opposes abortion, said of the abortion rights movement.


“I hope they continue doing what they are doing,” she said of the left’s political strategy. “We’ll run the table in 2020.”


On the campaign trail, national Democrats have responded by making unqualified support for abortion a litmus test to shore up a progressive base, boxing in moderate candidates in red states and leaving little room for the complex views on the issue that most Americans hold.


In June, when Joseph R. Biden Jr. reaffirmed his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions, he was harshly criticized by supporters of abortion rights, including from within his own campaign; within a day he had changed his stance. In November, the Democratic Attorneys General Association announced it would support only candidates who support abortion rights and access.


Amid the high political maneuvering, there are fundamental internal divisions that the abortion rights movement has not resolved, especially between Planned Parenthood and the independent clinics that perform most abortion procedures.


This past summer, for instance, after Alabama passed its near-total abortion ban, celebrities and liberal donors opened their checkbooks en masse to support Planned Parenthood. The founder of Tumblr gave $1 million. The pop star Ariana Grande held a benefit concert.


At the same time, Gloria Gray, who heads the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, said she couldn’t afford to give her staff raises or pay for a $20,000 fence to keep the daily protesters off the property. Her crowdfunding effort produced about $4,000.


Ms. Gray’s clinic performed about 3,300 abortions last year, more than half of all the procedures in Alabama. Planned Parenthood’s two clinics performed none.


“With the national organizations,” she said, “we seem to be left out.”


Harsh challenges in the states


The cultural and financial disconnect between regional clinics and national leaders in the abortion rights movement has been brewing for years. Tammi Kromenaker, who runs the only remaining abortion clinic in North Dakota, said she saw the national crisis coming in 2013, when North Dakota became the first state to enact a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.


At an annual working group meeting with abortion rights leaders — “folks from the coasts,” she recalled — the conversation centered not on the challenges to abortion rights in her state but on whether artwork conveying female power in a New York clinic’s waiting area was too provocative and would alienate its changing patient base.


A short time later at a different annual meeting, an activist from California suggested North Dakota advocates should have had a better messaging strategy to prevent the ban. “You don’t think we have the right message?” Ms. Kromenaker remembered in exasperation. “We have given every message.”


“They are never threatened, so they never have to think the way we do,” she said, referring to national leaders.


Independent clinics like Ms. Kromenaker’s and Ms. Gray’s in Alabama — unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood — perform about 60 percent of the country’s abortion procedures, according to groups that track the data. Those clinics have essentially no lobbying or political power.


Few state activists want to question Planned Parenthood or its strategy publicly, especially when they are allies in court and some receive financial support from the national organization. Planned Parenthood affiliates, with counsel like the American Civil Liberties Union, have sued to block the restrictions this year in eight states, offering legal muscle many independent clinics cannot provide for themselves. Some laws have been temporarily blocked from going into effect in the lower courts, though they could end up being decided by the Supreme Court.


Many people interviewed acknowledged the unique pressures Planned Parenthood faced, especially as conservative activists made defunding the group a top policy objective in recent years.


Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that independent clinics “absolutely” needed to be better funded, but that ultimately protecting the clinics depended on bigger changes.


“I don’t think they will be able to continue to operate at all if you don’t shift the culture and politics,” she said. “The trajectory we are on will outlaw service.”


Still, some worry that Planned Parenthood and other national groups have overly prioritized politics and power instead of patients and providers. Though Planned Parenthood is perhaps best known as the nation’s largest abortion provider, it provides a range of health services across more than 600 centers across the country, including contraception; testing for sexually transmitted infections; and hormone therapy for transgender patients.


The tension between Planned Parenthood’s political goals and its mission as a health provider was one of the main reasons Dr. Wen, with a background as a physician, had such a stormy tenure as president.


Pamela Merritt, who co-founded a reproductive rights group called Reproaction in 2015, compared Planned Parenthood’s legal priorities to a lobbyist for a commercial enterprise like McDonald’s, focused on protecting its own business needs. Activists refer to the organization and its outsize influence, she said, as “the big pink elephant in the room.”


“The movement needs independent providers that provide most abortions to be loud and out front,” said Ms. Merritt, who described herself as an “unapologetic lefty.”


For many of those independent providers, the problem extends well beyond politics.


In Alabama, Ms. Gray’s biggest challenges are practical. Drug prices for medical abortions are high, she can’t find a physician to replace her aging medical director, and an electrician recently refused services because he opposed abortion, she said.


Amid these pressures her client base has grown, especially because Planned Parenthood has not provided abortions in Alabama since March 2017, according to state department of health data, though it advertised the service. Critics say that Planned Parenthood has been more focused on using the political climate in Alabama to raise money than on providing health care services.


After multiple inquiries over several weeks from The New York Times about when and why Planned Parenthood clinics stopped providing abortions in Alabama, the regional affiliate president, Staci Fox, said the group planned to resume providing abortions later this year. The group also removed web pages advertising the procedure in Birmingham and Mobile.


Planned Parenthood health centers are all 501(c)(3) nonprofits, but 85 percent of independent clinics are not, according to the Abortion Care Network, the national association for community-based abortion providers, which has 13 staff members and no political advocacy arm. Clinics like Ms. Gray’s are for-profit businesses that rely on payments for services to stay open.


The financial challenges are daunting. In Arizona, independent clinic leaders are expanding the Abortion Fund of Arizona, a NARAL project that provides direct assistance to abortion patients; it has received about $50,000 in donations this year, said Donna Matthews, the fund’s treasurer. In Arkansas, the Little Rock Family Planning Services, a small for-profit that offers the only surgical abortion services in the state, received a $30,000 grant from the National Women’s Law Center.


Ms. McGill Johnson of Planned Parenthood pushed back against criticism that her group was inattentive to the needs of small abortion providers. The broader reproductive rights ecosystem, she said, was crucial. “We recognize that Planned Parenthood is one small piece of the work to defend access,” she said.


“Pitting us against each other makes it impossible to provide health care,” Ms. McGill Johnson added. “The only way we survive is by building the strongest network possible.”

Still, the fragmentation in the movement has persisted. In Alabama, that was evident in the growing popularity of the Yellowhammer Fund, a nonprofit started in 2017 that covers medical, travel and other costs for low-income abortion patients. After Alabama’s ban was enacted, prominent national groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, as well Democratic presidential candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders, rushed to support the group.


The Yellowhammer Fund raised $4 million in 10 weeks, and its director, Amanda Reyes, said about $500,000 was budgeted to cover abortion procedures. Ms. Gray and the two other independent clinic directors in the state had hoped more resources would be directed to meet their needs. But Ms. Reyes has put forth a different vision to address broader challenges that women of color and low-income families might face, like access to financial and health care resources to care for additional children.


Yellowhammer is planning to support other aspects of reproductive rights, like doula care, she said, and hopes to build new “reproductive justice centers” designed to compete with anti-abortion pregnancy centers by providing things like diapers and pregnancy tests.


Their efforts are a sign that the left knows it needs new strategies, but also of the wide disagreement over what they should be. In describing her vision, Ms. Reyes used language some say is similar to the rhetoric frequently deployed by abortion rights’ fiercest opponents.


“If all we do as an organization is pay for abortions for low-income people, we are eugenicists,” Ms. Reyes said. “That is not transformational work. That is slapping a Band-Aid on a huge problem.”


Alignment with the Democratic Party


At a NARAL town hall event with Bernie Sanders this summer, Karina Chávez rallied a crowd in a Des Moines ballroom by describing how she had an abortion at age 14. The father, her boyfriend, would become a drug addict, and her Catholic parents fiercely opposed abortion. The procedure itself, she said, was the easier part.

“Making a decision about your reproductive health doesn’t need to be a traumatic life experience,” Ms. Chavez, a Sanders supporter, told several hundred voters.


Her position reflects a wing of the reproductive rights movement that encourages women to  “Shout your abortion,” and that believes building cultural support for the procedure depends on destigmatizing it.


“Going moderate, it is not a winning strategy,”  said Jessica González-Rojas, who leads the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.


Politically, that means mirroring the right’s successful tactic of doubling down on a firm position — and using energy from the liberal base instead of building bipartisan, cultural support.


This has led to close alignment with the Democratic Party. In recent years, Planned Parenthood has become one of the biggest sources of volunteer power for Democratic campaigns. In 2018, the group’s political arm gave more than $1.1 million to Democrats and just $5,735 to Republicans, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.


The Democratic Party has rejected the message that drove its politics since President Bill Clinton’s administration — that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” — and embraced abortion rights with few stipulations. Every leading Democratic presidential candidate has fallen in line.


But unlike support for same-sex marriage, which rose drastically before it was legalized nationwide, Americans’ views on abortion have remained relatively consistent since 1975. A majority of Americans believe the procedure should be legal — but only in certain cases, according to Gallup’s long-running tracking poll.


Some abortion rights supporters worry that establishing abortion rights as a Democratic litmus test  is too inflexible for Americans conflicted over abortion. They fear that it could hurt the party in rural areas and the more moderate, suburban districts that may hold the key to regaining the White House, and where many of the remaining vulnerable abortion clinics are.


Only five Democrats who oppose abortion rights remain in Congress, according to congressional votes tracked by NARAL, and at least two are facing primary challenges from women who have made support for abortion rights a key part of their campaign. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a rare Democratic officeholder in the South, won re-election last month after campaigning on his support for a state law banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.


J.D. Scholten, a Democrat running to replace Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican, said that about 60 percent of voters in his culturally conservative district considered themselves “pro-life.”


“Where I’m from, we have a pretty big tent,” he said. “We can’t be writing off people. I need all the votes I can get.”


But many activists dispute the notion that compromise with abortion opponents constitutes a success. Appealing to the middle prioritizes the views of white moderates at the expense of the health care needs of women of color, critics like Ms. Merritt of Reproaction say.


“You have to change the structures,” she said. “We have ceded ground we didn’t need to about the power of our ideas.”


Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood and the woman most associated with the reproductive rights movement under President Obama, has shifted her efforts and formed a new organization, Supermajority, that casts abortion as part of a wide range of issues affecting women.


Over a breakfast of eggs and biscuits in Birmingham, Ms. Richards and two of her co-founders said they saw an opening to talk about female empowerment instead of narrower debates like when pregnancy termination should be allowed. That means building an interracial alliance with activists working on issues like immigration, economic justice and gender equality.


“Look, movements ebb and flow, it does not mean that movement was a failure,” Ms. Richards said. “We can learn things from the past, and we can also do things differently.”


All of these efforts will be tested in the coming months, as both parties move into the pressure cooker of a general election and a series of court battles, where abortion politics will be front and center. For Ms. Wood, the woman with the rusted pin, the conflict feels familiar.


As she waited for the kickoff event of the Supermajority tour, she compared the moment to the pre-Roe years. Abortion rights advocates must rebuild their grass-roots power, she said, or risk suffering the consequences.


“I’ve stayed politically active,” Ms. Wood said as she stood in the half-empty hall. “But without a movement around you, it’s hard to feel empowered.”

Bangladeshi migrant female domestic workers face violence

By Nayema Nusrat


Inter Press Service (28.11.2019) – https://bit.ly/2PeBT0i – Millions of Bangladeshi women are facing violence either as domestic housemaids or as migrant workers in Gulf countries. A few days ago, a video in social media, secretly filmed by a Bangladeshi housemaid employed in Saudi Arabia, caught everyone’s attention where she was helplessly crying and begging to be rescued from her abusive employer.


A large number of women from Bangladesh leave their families behind and travel thousands of miles away from home with the hope to get better earnings and ensure a better future for their children and family. While many women realize their expected hope, others face a different reality – suffering through insurmountable cruelty and mistreatment by their foreign employers and find no one to turn to for immediate rescue.


Another extremely common form of violence is inflicted by not getting their due salaries as promised despite the hours of hard labor they provide.


In the video, this young woman Sumi was hiding in the toilet, crying for help and begging to be brought back home. She said, “I might not live any longer; I think I am about to die, please keep me alive, take me back to Bangladesh quickly”, she said in “Bangla”. In the video she stated that her owners locked her up in a room for 15 days and barely gave her any food. They burned her arms with boiling hot oil and tied her down.


She also alleged that she was sexually assaulted by her employers. “They made me go from one home to another. In the first home, they tortured me and hit me repeatedly and then took me to another one where I experienced the same”. She was denied any medical treatment by her former employer.


Another very recent story of Husna, 24, surfaced in social media within just a few days of the Sumi incident, who also went to Saudi Arabia through a Bangladeshi broker agency called “Arab World Distribution”. She sent a video message to her husband Shafiullah, begging for help to free her from the abusive work conditions – she had faced physical violence ever since her arrival there.


The contacts at the local broker agency in Saudi Arabia denied her of any assistance with derogatory words and attempted to hit her. In the video message to her husband she also describes how her owner turned crueler towards her since she expressed the urge to return home.


The recruiting agency in Dhaka demanded an additional 100,000 taka (USD 1178.11) from Akter’s husband if she is to break the two years initial contract to work abroad, as he reached out to them for help.


Most Bangladeshi workers are recruited by “Dalals” (chain of sub-recruiters connected to the recruitment agencies in the country). Women who go for work to Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries come from very poor families in rural areas and are often duped by these “Dalals”, realizing soon after they arrive for work. They often receive false promises of salaries of about 20,000 taka (USD 235) per month but rarely get written job contracts although it’s a legal requirement.


These recruiters typically charge them a large amount of recruitment fee for arranging to work abroad. These poor women arrange money either by mortgaging or selling their properties or getting loans with a very high interest rate.


Rothna Begum, a senior researcher from Human Rights Watch (HRW) told IPS, “Most of these women are already in debt before they even started to work abroad, as the recruitment fees combined with loans with high interest rates keep accumulating”.


These women workers are employed in Gulf countries under ‘Kafala’ immigration system. ‘Kafala’ is an employment framework in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that require sponsorship from a national for migrant workers to be employed and reside in the country. The sponsor, either an individual or a company, possesses substantial control over the worker.


(The GCC is a political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries— Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.)


Begum stressed on how the ‘Kafala’ system across the gulf countries make the domestic workers more vulnerable to abuse. She noted, “in the GCC states under the restrictive ‘Kafala’ immigration rule, migrant workers’ visas are tied to their employers so they cannot change jobs without their employer’s consent. Migrant workers who escape an abusive employer can be punished for “absconding” with imprisonment, fines, and deportation”.


Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed hundreds of migrant domestic workers in GCC countries over the years, and almost all of them claimed that their employers had confiscated their passports, phones and restricted their communication.


Some women claimed that as they are typically already coming with so much debt, they feel trapped in exploitative situations, as they feel bound to stay to recoup their money and pay off debt.


Some brave ones risked their lives trying to escape by climbing down tall buildings or jumping off balconies. But those who escaped typically found little or no help from local police. Their employers accused them of criminal activities such as theft or absconding to the police.


HRW’s Begum said “often domestic workers dropped any claims against their employers, in exchange for their employers dropping their own accusations, just so the women could go home. Others found the process of appealing for their unpaid salaries or filing criminal complaints prohibitively lengthy and costly, as they are not allowed to work for another employer during an appeal”.


Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), a Bangladeshi Migrant Rights Group released results of a study with 110 returnees, where the number shows that majority had not been able to effectively or safely make money in Saudi; 86 percent among the women interviewed said their Saudi employers didn’t pay their salaries, 61 percent said they had been physically abused, and 14 percent said their owners sexually abused them.


And returning home to Bangladesh doesn’t necessarily guarantee they will still be safe from their ‘Dalals’. Some who returned were beaten up by them for demanding the salaries as promised.


This year BRAC (Building Resources Across Communities), one of the largest Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) in the world, released new figures showing that 1,300 Bangladeshi women had returned from Saudi Arabia in 2018 because of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their Saudi employers. They also said that this year alone, the bodies of 48 female workers were brought back from Saudi Arabia.


Nuri, another Bangladeshi woman who was tortured and worked without pay in the home of a Saudi family for two months told Thomson Reuters Foundation, “My ‘Dalal’ beat me up and broke my leg when I filed a case against him. I was in the hospital for 15 days. I stay with a friend right now, far away from my house because [the broker] lives nearby my place”.


Nuri held her ground strongly to find justice and is determined about fighting the case in the court – “After he beat me up, I am not turning back”.


Shamim Ara Nipa, a freelance social worker in Bangladesh told IPS, “most of the time these migrant workers do not have proper contact information to reach out to the country of origin agency or the embassy directly for help”.


Nipa also noted that the Saudi Government had been helpful in repatriation of these migrant workers as long as Bangladeshi Government is cooperating. The Bangladesh Government typically steps in when the story of a worker gets highlighted via social media or group protest, such as the case of Sumi who is now in a safe place thanks to BRAC, Bangladeshi Government and it’s Embassy in Saudi Arabia; but there are numbers of other similar violence cases in Gulf countries which never surfaced in mass media, therefore remained silent and unresolved due to lack of government intervention.


Although the Government admits that Bangladeshi workers face violence while working in Saudi Arabia, it rules out the idea of banning female workers going to Saudi Arabia.


Violence against Bangladeshi women workers is still ongoing at an alarming rate; Bangladesh should ensure that it provides the highest protection for its workers abroad, including by increasing oversight over its own recruiting agents, offering protection for its workers in host countries, and aiding workers in distress.


It’s understandable that there are actions and policies that are pursued by the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations; however, better outcomes are expected while the policies and actions are being implemented and monitored closely.

FRANCE: Paris protesters march against deadly domestic violence towards women

By Angela Charlton and Thibault Camus


TIME (23.11.2019) – https://bit.ly/2DhnRW8 – Several thousand protesters marched through Paris on Saturday to demand a national wake-up call and more government investment to prevent deadly domestic violence against women, a problem that President Emmanuel Macron calls “France’s shame.”


A wave of purple flags and signs snaked from the Place de la Republique through eastern Paris amid an unprecedented public campaign to decry violence against women — and honor the 130 women that activists say have been killed in France this year by a current or former partner. That’s about one every two or three days.


While France has a progressive reputation and pushes for women’s rights around the world, it has among the highest rates in Europe of domestic violence, in part because of poor police response to reports of abuse. Many of the women killed this year had previously sought help from police.


At Saturday’s march, French film and TV stars joined abuse victims and activists calling for an end to “femicide.” Many held banners reading “Sick of Rape.”


The protest came on the U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and is aimed at pressuring the French government before it unveils new measures Monday to tackle the problem.


The measures are expected to include seizing firearms from people suspected of domestic violence and prioritizing police training so they won’t brush off women’s complaints as a private affair.


Some of Saturday’s marchers want 1 billion euros in government investment, though the funding is expected to fall far short of that.


French activists have stepped up efforts this year to call attention to the problem, with an unusual campaign of gluing posters around Paris and other cities every time another woman is killed. The posters honor the women, and call for action. They also hold protests, lying down on the pavement to represent the slain women.


A 2014 EU survey of 42,000 women across all 28 member states found that 26% of French respondents said they been abused by a partner since age 15, either physically or sexually.


That’s below the global average of 30%, according to UN Women. But it’s above the EU average and the sixth highest among EU countries.


Half that number reported experiencing such abuse in Spain, which implemented a series of legal and educational measures in 2004 that slashed its domestic violence rates.


Conversations about domestic violence have also ratcheted up in neighboring Germany, where activists are demanding that the term “femicide” be used to describe such killings.


In France, lawyers and victims’ advocates say they’re encouraged by the new national conversation, which they say marks a departure from decades of denial. Women aren’t the only victims of domestic violence, but French officials say they make up the vast majority.

New push to pass domestic-violence law angers Russia’s ‘traditional values’ conservatives

By Maria Karnaukh & Robert Coalson


RFE/RL (20.11.2019) – https://bit.ly/2QVG43D – At a time when alarming cases are drawing attention to domestic violence in Russia, activists are pushing — again — for a law that would criminalize it. Conservative groups are pushing back.


Russia is the only country in the Council of Europe that has no criminal statute on domestic violence. Of the 47 member states, only Russia and Azerbaijan have failed to sign the 2011 Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence.


More than 40 times over the last decade, bills on domestic violence have been introduced in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, but none of them has passed even the first reading.


In each instance, the efforts have met staunch resistance from socially conservative organizations and self-professed advocates of so-called traditional values. That history is now repeating itself as activists and their allies in the Duma prepare yet another bill seeking to address the persistent problem.


“They have tried to foist this law on us several times already,” said Olga Letkova, an activist with the Association of Parents’ Committees and Societies (ARKS), which has organized demonstrations against the draft bill. “The last time we fought them was in 2016 – back then, experts and the public and the Russian Orthodox Church came out against it. We hope that this time we will again be able to beat back this assault.”


In 2016, a section on “domestic battery” was added to a broader article of the Russian Criminal Code – but it was removed six months later. Under amendments to the Administrative Code in 2017, a first instance of domestic battery that does not result in lasting harm is punishable by a fine of 5,000 to 30,000 rubles ($80 to $480), and a second offense within one year by a fine up to 40,000 rubles or up to three months in jail.


At the time, Amnesty International called the decriminalization “a sickening attempt to further trivialize domestic violence” in Russia.


Now, Oksana Pushkina, a Duma member from the ruling United Russia party and deputy chairwoman of the legislature’s Committee on Families, Women, and Children who is a co-author of the latest bill, has complained to law enforcement authorities that she and her co-authors have been targeted by threats on social media.


Pushkina also alleged that a “well organized and financed campaign” had been launched against the nascent proposal, which she compared to a sometimes-violent campaign conducted in 2017 against the film Matilda, which social conservatives said demeaned Crown Prince Nicholas – later, Tsar Nicholas II – by detailing his affair with a half-Polish ballerina.


‘Gender ideology’


In October, more than 180 “traditional values” organizations and their regional branches signed an open letter denouncing the proposed bill as a purported product of “gender ideology” and an “instrument for the fundamental and forcible alteration of the basic foundations of Russian society and the destruction of our traditional family and moral values.”


“In many countries where they have such a law, single-sex marriages and gay parades are allowed,” said Andrei Kormukhin, the leader of a Russian Orthodox public movement called Forty Forties (Sorok Sorokov), named after the legendary number of churches in Moscow before the 1917 revolution. “Why should our conservative-traditional country — which, according to our leader, has its own, unique civilization — adopt foreign values?”


Kormukhin, who has been advocating against the proposed bill, added that the very term “family violence” casts aspersions on the image of the family, “the safest and most peaceful space within our society.”


But the government’s own, incomplete information offers a counterpoint to Kormukhin’s characterization of the Russian family. In 2012, the state statistics agency Roskomstat and the Health Ministry issued a study that found at least 20 percent of Russian women had experienced physical violence on the part of a husband or partner during their lives. In 2008, the Interior Ministry estimated that up to 40 percent of all serious violent crimes in Russia are committed within the family.


In 2016, the Interior Ministry reported that 64,421 violent offenses were committed within the family, with 29,465 of them committed against a spouse or partner. In the vast majority of those cases, the victim was a woman.


Underreported crimes


Activists add that the actual figures on domestic violence are likely much higher because such crimes are significantly underreported — and when they are reported, police often refuse to file a complaint.


The problem of domestic violence has broken into Russian headlines in several stunning cases in recent months. In St. Petersburg, a prominent historian has confessed to killing his girlfriend – a former student of his – and dismembering her body.


In Moscow, three teenage sisters are currently facing premeditated murder charges for killing their father in July 2018 after what they say was years of domestic abuse, including sexual abuse and humiliation.

In July, a man in the Moscow suburb of Ramenskoye killed his partner, Natalya Basova, by stabbing her 20 times at a playground in front of a group of children, including her own 5-year-old daughter. The accused man reportedly committed suicide while being held in pretrial detention.


In Moscow, 27-year-old Dmitry Grachyov was sentenced to 14 years in prison in November 2018 after being convicted of abducting his wife, taking her into a forest outside the capital, and cutting off both her hands with an ax. He was also ordered to pay his now ex-wife 30,000 rubles ($480) in compensation for “moral damages.”


The Russian Orthodox opposition to the proposed law is organized around a website called CitizenGo, where more than 18,000 people have signed an online petition against the law, saying it is “based on the radical ideology of feminism.”


The website – which also features material opposing abortion, vaccinations, and rights for sexual minorities – is part of a network of similar websites across the European Union and the United States that originated in Spain. The Russian platform is financially supported by Konstantin Malofeyev, the so-called Orthodox oligarch who is also the founder of the nationalist-monarchist Internet television channel Tsargrad.


Malofeyev has also worked actively throughout the former Soviet Union with the World Congress of Families (WCF), a U.S.-based organization that campaigns internationally against same-sex marriage, pornography, and abortion. In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center added the WCF and several affiliated groups in the United States to its list of “anti-gay hate groups.”


Conservatives object to the draft bill’s inclusion of several forms of domestic violence — including physical, psychological, economic, and sexual.


“Under ‘economic’ violence, they include failure to give money or things,” Letkova said. “For example, taking away a device from a child or not allowing him to go online. Not to mention making children do household chores, which is considered ‘exploitation.'”


False claims


Supporters of the bill categorically reject such arguments, which they say are intended to frighten and mislead the public.


“[The law is written to prevent] someone from tormenting a child with hunger or taking away a pensioner’s pension,” said Alyona Popova, a lawyer and activist who is helping draft the bill. “If your child is fed and healthy and properly clothed but you refuse to buy him a toy, that is not violence.”


Lawyer Mari Davtyan added that opponents of the bill are spreading false claims that the measure includes provisions allowing the state to take children away from their families for spurious reasons. She emphasized the law does not include any changes to the current Family Code of Russia.


Letkova also claims the bill institutionalizes “free sex.”


“According to the authors of the law, married people preserve the right to have sex with anyone they want and no one has the right to interfere or criticize them,” she told Current Time. “And this includes children. If they want to start an early and reckless sex life, the parents have no right to interfere.”


Davtyan says that Letkova was misinterpreting the law, quipping that “everyone understands sexual freedom within the context of their own depravity.”


“Sexual freedom is the right of every person who has reached adulthood to independently decide whether to have sex,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if we are talking about within marriage or outside it, sexual relations must be consensual.”


Letkova also alleges that activists are pushing the law in order to make money for themselves. She said if the law is passed, NGO representatives will go “door-to-door” looking for cases of domestic violence and offering their services.


“These organizations will force rehabilitation, consulting, and other services on these families to resolve the problems that they uncover,” Letkova said. “It is obviously a type of business, a new niche that they want to create and exploit.”


On November 17 hard-line conservative and staunchly anti-Western television commentator Dmitry Kiselyov ended his weekly news round-up with an unsparing attack on those who argue that domestic violence is somehow essential to Russian culture.


“Can it be that we are so spiritually helpless that we justify violence toward those who are clearly weaker?” he said. “We ourselves choose the emotional world in which we want to live, so what is our choice?”


However, Kiselyov stopped short of endorsing the proposed law, saying the state of “the morals inside us” was “much more important” than any law. He cited the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, as saying that “external laws do not work if there are no internal laws.”


ECHR ruling


The authors of the bill say they have submitted the draft to various legal bodies within the Federation Council and the Duma and are now in the process of adopting their suggested changes. They plan to submit the measure formally by the end of the year.


“All of us – those who support the bill and those who have come out against it – want the same thing,” lawyer Valeria Dergunova, a co-author of the bill, told Current Time, a Russian-language television network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. “We want there to be no violence in the home. We want for women, children, and the elderly not to be beaten. Let’s work out a mechanism together to really make this impossible.”


Pressure on Russia to adopt a law was increased in July when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian authorities do not react adequately to allegations of domestic violence and instructed Moscow to adopt legal changes to prevent rights violations.


However, on November 19, Kommersant and other Russian media outlets reported that the Justice Ministry had responded to the ECHR by saying the scope of the domestic violence problem in Russia had been “rather exaggerated” and arguing that Russia’s Criminal and Administrative codes already “contain more than 40 criminal and at least five administrative articles dealing with acts of violence against individuals.”