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KYRGYZSTAN: Revolt over violence against women and police inertia

Demonstrations in several cities after the kidnapping and killing of Aizada Kanatbekova, 26. The kidnapper, Zamirbek Tenizbaev, 36, wanted to marry her. He had already been convicted several times for violence. Some policemen are suspected of being involved in the kidnapping. The fight against “marital abductions”

by Vladimir Rozanskij

 

AsiaNews (04.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3wNXCRr – Demonstrations against violence against women took place in Bishkek and Oša on 8 April, following the kidnapping and killing of a young woman, with calls for the resignation of the interior minister.

 

The announcement of the Bishkek procession states: “The whole city is shocked by the story of the kidnapping and murder of the young woman Aizada Kanatbekova. The kidnapping took place early in the morning in the city center. The police had the surveillance video recorded, the license plate number and the car brand of the kidnappers, but they did nothing to save the girl. If you agree that all of this is unacceptable we invite you to come with us to demonstrate against violence “.

 

Aizada, 26 (right in the photo), was kidnapped on April 5. She had just lost her father and lived alone with her mother, Nazgul Shakenova. She graduated from the Turkish-Kyrgyz University of Manas was a national volleyball player a human rights activist and she volunteered during the pandemic. She was much loved by those who knew her, she dreamed of buying a house for her mother, and had no desire to get married; her friends say that she “loved her life, and she hurried to live it”.

 

Her attacker, the 36-year-old Zamirbek Tenizbaev (left in the photo), had already been convicted several times for violence. He had returned from Russia to Kyrgyzstan in 2017, and was a transporter, living on the street and sleeping in a car rented from a relative. At 7 am on April 5, Zamirbek attacked Aizada with the help of four people on her way to work. The kidnapper communicated with the relatives, saying that he could not live without Aizada, whom he had been bothering for weeks now. On 7 April a shepherd found a car with Aizada’s body, she had been suffocated with a T-shirt, and that of Zamirbek, who committed suicide after suffering numerous knife wounds.

 

The tragic affair had a particular resonance due to the inertia of the police, which further aggravated the scandal of the crime. It would seem that some policemen were involved in the kidnapping “for the purpose of marriage”: some policemen would have warned Aizada’s relatives to “prepare to meet her boyfriend, because Aizada must get married”. At the police station, only the “theft of a car” was initially recorded, which was later backdated to kidnapping after the outbreak of the scandal.

 

The demonstrations revealed popular the indignation at the medieval oppression of women with the people demanding the resignation of Minister Ulan Nijazbekov, accused of covering up the policemen involved in the affair. The crowd are calling for judicial sanctions against the practice of “matrimonial abduction” to be tightened, in Kyrgyz ala kachuu, and Prime Minister Ulubek Maripov, in office since the elections in February, has promised to review the laws in this regard. The population is also demanding the arrest of all the other participants in the kidnapping, condemning them for complicity in murder. Police arrested four suspects.

 

Aizada Kanatbekova was buried in the hometown of Balykcy. She had a ticket in her pocket to Istanbul, where she was to start working to buy a house for her mother. Now her name has become the beginning of the redemption of Kyrgyz women from the arrogance of males.

Photo credits: AsiaNews





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IRAN Gov’t approves bill against domestic violence

Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and family affairs, dedicated the move to ‘worthy and patient Iranian women’ in a tweet.

 

By Maziar Motamedi

 

Al Jazeera (04.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/35dPcqk – The government of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has approved a longstanding bill that aims to better protect women against domestic and other forms of violence.

 

In a meeting on Sunday evening, cabinet ministers greenlit the draft bill, called Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence, which has been in the works since the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 

The bill must now be reviewed and approved by the parliament, after which it will be sent to the powerful constitutional vetting body called the Guardian Council, consisting of jurists and religious experts.

 

The most senior woman in Rouhani’s outgoing government hailed the move, which she said was the result of hundreds of hours of work by tens of legal experts, judges, executives and officials.

 

Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and family affairs, dedicated the 58-article bill to “worthy and patient Iranian women” in a tweet.

 

The legislation completed its lengthy process of review by the judiciary in September 2019.

 

It defines violence as “any behavior inflicted on women due to sexuality, vulnerable position or type of relationship, and inflicts harm to their body, psyche, personality and dignity, or restricts or deprives them of legal rights and freedoms”.

 

It obligates the judiciary to create offices to support victims of violence and hold educational courses for judges and other judiciary staff.

 

The bill also envisages the formation of a fund by the judiciary to support victims of violence and help imprisoned women, among other things.

 

The state broadcaster is also directed by the legislation to produce more programmes that promote the support of women and the prevention of violence against them as family values.

 

Moreover, the bill sees a role for the ministry of education in holding educational courses for students, teachers and parents, and in better identifying vulnerable students.

 

The ministry of health, on the other hand, is tasked by the draft bill to boost its medical and psychological services to women and train experts in handling women who have fallen victim to violence.

 

Law enforcement and prison organisations are among other entities that will have to increase their efforts as part of the vision laid out in the legislation.

 

In a report published last month, rights group Human Rights Watch said the bill had several positive provisions, including those that engaged different parts of the government and other entities in women’s issues.

 

But the New York-based organisation said the bill “falls short of international standards” as it does not criminalise some forms of gender-based violence, including marital rape and child marriage.

 

The bill was finalised by the government after several high-profile incidents concerning women that took centre stage nationally during the past year.

 

In late May 2020, a 14-year-old girl called Romina Ashrafi was gruesomely beheaded by her father in an apparent case of “honour-killing”. The father was given a nine-year jail sentence.

 

In September, decades-old sexual traumas were unearthed as Iranian women launched their own version of the global #MeToo movement on social media.

 

The movement implicated several high-profile artists and one major company, and led to at least one arrest.





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HAITI: Lifetime ban for football chief

Players demand end to sexual abuse in sport.

 

HRW (24.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/37kfGqH – Football’s lifetime ban for Haitian soccer federation president Yves Jean-Bart is an important step forward to protect children and young women athletes in sport from sexual abuse, Human Rights Watch said today. The International Federation of Association Football (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA) decision should be followed by swift action to sanction other abusers and their accomplices, criminal prosecutions in Haiti and other jurisdictions, and ongoing therapeutic support for survivors.

 

After reports by The Guardian and Human Rights Watch and pressure from Haitian rights groups Kay Fanm, Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn (SOFA), the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), and others, over the past seven months, FIFA investigated serious allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against Jean Bart, also known as “Dadou.” FIFA’s Ethics Committee handed him the maximum punishment in football on Friday, November 20, 2020.

 

“FIFA’s decision is a vindication for all the courageous survivors of abuse and witnesses who came forward to report sexual abuse,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “As Human Rights Watch has documented, they faced personal threats and stigma in society. FIFA’s punishment is an important signal that if you are an abuser in football, your days are numbered.”

 

Jean-Bart had been president of the Haitian Football Federation (Fédération Haïtienne De Football, FHF) since 2000. Following their investigation into evidence of systematic sexual abuse of female players, FIFA’s Ethics Committee found Jean-Bart guilty of “having abused his position and sexually harassed and abused various female players, including minors.” He is now banned from the sport for life in Haiti and internationally, and fined 1 million Swiss francs (approximately US$1.1 million). He can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and has said he will.

 

Survivors of sexual abuse in Haiti told Human Rights Watch that they want justice for abuses by the president but also football sanctions for all officials who aided and knew about abuses in the national football academy.

 

“Playing for Haiti, I gave my heart,” one women’s national team player told Human Rights Watch. “Without us players, you don’t have a game. I am so happy Dadou can’t abuse his power and stop us from achieving our dreams anymore.”

 

Since May, Human Rights Watch has worked together with the international football players’ union FIFPro, who provided lawyers and support for athletes, helped to interview witnesses, and collected evidence of systemic human rights abuses in Haitian football, including confiscation of players’ passports, labor rights abuses, grooming child athletes for sexual exploitation, and threats to kill witnesses and survivors.

 

Jean-Bart has been Haiti’s football federation president since 2000 and was re-elected to a sixth term in February. Jean-Bart has publicly denied all allegations and successfully sought to have a judge in Haiti purportedly “clear” him of all charges and exonerate him. That a judge made this pronouncement the day before Jean-Bart’s lifetime ban is testament to the power he wields in Haiti and the challenge survivors face in taking on Jean-Bart and his allies. In August, Human Rights Watch documented threats and attacks on witnesses and whistleblowers, which could prevent them from coming forward with evidence of abuses.

 

FIFA’s statement signals other sanctions against abusers and officials who knew about or facilitated abuses in the Haiti federation could come soon:

 

“The aforementioned ethics proceedings are part of an extensive investigation concerning Mr Jean-Bart, as well as other officials within the FHF, who were identified as having allegedly been involved (as principals, accomplices or instigators) in acts of systematic sexual abuse against female football players between 2014 and 2020. The proceedings are still pending with respect to other FHF officials.”

 

It is essential for FIFA to discipline others who took part in sexual abuse and to remove them from football, Human Rights Watch said. FIFA needs to ensure ongoing therapeutic and logistical support for players, and enforcement of any bans and fines.

 

“In addition to protecting survivors and witnesses, FIFA should exercise its authority to ban and sanction all officials implicated in sexual abuse or threatening or menacing witnesses during its investigation,” Worden said. “In its best form, football is fun, empowering, and healthy for young people and FIFA should do its part to ensure player safety.”

Photo: Am 14. Mai 2020 halten Frauen vor dem Gerichtshof im haitianischen Croix-des-Bouquets Schilder hoch und fordern Gerechtigkeit während der Anhörung von Yves Jean-Bart, dem Präsidenten des haitianischen Fußballverbands. Wie der Guardian berichtet, haben Betroffene und ihre Familien Jean-Bart des sexuellen Missbrauchs von jungen Spielerinnen im Centre Technique National beschuldigt. © 2020 Associated Press (Dieu Nalio Chery).





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LEBANON: Broken promises on women’s rights

UN review should focus on increased protection against violence, bias.

 

HRW (04.11.2020) – https://bit.ly/3nfm7BH – Lebanese authorities are falling short of their international legal obligations to protect women and girls from violence and end discrimination against them, Human Rights Watch said today.

 

Human Rights Watch has submitted a report to the United Nations Committee reviewing Lebanon’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is tentatively scheduled for June 2021. The country has not made progress to carry out a number of recommendations from its previous review in 2015, including not creating a unified personal status code that would guarantee equal treatment for all citizens and amending the discriminatory nationality law to ensure that Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men can pass on their citizenship to their children.

 

“Another five years have passed, and Lebanon has done little to end discrimination against women and girls under its international obligations,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Lebanon’s authorities should show that they are serious about women’s rights by coming through on long-overdue reforms before they have to answer to the United Nations again for their failures.”

 

Lebanon has not taken any steps to issue an optional civil code or to reform its 15 religion-based personal status laws and the religious courts that apply them. These courts discriminate against women across the religious spectrum and do not guarantee their basic rights, especially in matters such as divorce, property rights, and responsibility for children after divorce.

 

The authorities have also not reformed the nationality law, which prohibits Lebanese women married to foreigners from passing citizenship to their spouses and children, while men who marry foreign nationals can pass on their citizenship. This prohibition affects almost every aspect of the children’s and spouses’ lives, including legal residency and access to work, education, social services, and health care. It leaves some children at risk of statelessness.

 

Legal protections from domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment remain inadequate. In August 2017, Lebanon repealed article 522 of the penal code, which allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims, but left a loophole with regard to offenses relating to sex with children aged 15 to 17, and sex with virgin girls, with promises of marriage.

 

The current domestic violence law defines domestic violence narrowly and fails to specifically criminalize marital rape. Members of parliament have introduced multiple draft laws since 2017 on sexual harassment, but parliament has yet to take any action. A lack of coordination in the government’s response to sex trafficking continues to put women and girls – especially Syrians living in Lebanon – at risk.

 

Human Rights Watch has documented how women and girls, especially trans women, sex workers, refugees, and asylum seekers, have experienced systemic violence from Lebanese authorities, particularly in detention centers. Trans women have described being placed in men’s cells, being denied food and water, and being coerced to confess. Allegations of sexual violence, including rape, against women in custody are common. As an example, Layal al-Kayaje was arrested on September 21, 2015 for “harming the military’s reputation” after she alleged being raped and tortured by two soldiers in military custody in 2013.

 

Lebanon has consistently failed to properly investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for torture. In 2016, parliament passed legislation creating a national body, the National Preventive Mechanism Against Torture, to monitor and investigate the use of torture, and in 2017 it adopted a new anti-torture law. The body’s five members were named on March 7, 2019, but the government has still not allocated its funding.

 

Lebanon’s economic crisis, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the port explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, has made life worse for marginalized populations, not least for migrant domestic workers, the majority of them women from African and Asian countries. Many have reported increased incidents of abuse by their employers during the lockdown, and at least seven have taken their own lives since March. Migrant domestic workers remain excluded from Lebanon’s labor law protections provided to other workers, and their legal status remains tied to their employer under the kafala (visa sponsorship) system.

 

On October 14, 2020, Lebanon’s State Shura Council, the country’s top administrative court, delivered a sharp blow to migrant domestic workers’ rights when it struck down a new standard unified contract adopted by the Labor Ministry on September 4. The new contract introduced new protections for migrant domestic workers, including vital safeguards against forced labor, and would have been an important first step towards abolishing the abusive kafala system.

 

“For the past year, women from all walks of life have taken to the streets to demand equality and an end to all forms of discrimination,” Majzoub said. “While the authorities have taken some steps, they need to heed calls for systemic change for equality.”

Photo: Lebanese women have long been leaders in the country’s protest movements. Here, women shout slogans and wave the Lebanese flag during a demonstration in down town Beirut on October 19, 2019. © Marwan Naamani/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.





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Bangladesh approves death penalty for rape after protests

Move comes after nationwide demonstrations sparked by series of sexual assaults.

 

By Hannah Ellis-Petersen

 

The Guardian (12.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/2H0T84M – Bangladesh will introduce the death penalty for rape cases, after several high-profile sexual assaults prompted a wave of protests across the country in recent weeks.

 

Speaking to reporters on Monday, cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam confirmed that the cabinet had approved a bill ruling that anyone convicted of rape would be punished with death or “rigorous imprisonment” for life.

 

The death penalty amendment to the women and children repression prevention bill, which currently stipulates a maximum life sentence for rape cases, will come into effect on Tuesday, said the law and justice minister, Anisul Huq.

 

Last month, footage of a young woman being violently assaulted and gang-raped by a group of men in the south-eastern Noakhali district went viral on Facebook, after the video was released by the attackers to blackmail and shame the victim. Eight people have been arrested in connection with the case.

 

It led to an eruption of protests in the capital, Dhaka, and other cities at the failures to tackle the endemic problem of sexual assault and rape in Bangladesh.

 

“This truly disturbing footage demonstrates the shocking violence that Bangladeshi women are routinely being subjected to. In the vast majority of these cases, the justice system fails to hold the perpetrators responsible,” said Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, south Asia researcher at Amnesty International.

 

Outrage had already been mounting after several members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the governing party, were arrested and charged with gang-raping a woman in the northern town of Sylhet a few weeks earlier.

 

Many of the protesters on Dhaka’s streets had called for stricter punishment, including the death penalty, and the crowds carried placards bearing messages such as “Hang the rapists” and “No mercy to rapists”.

 

However, Amnesty pointed out that the issue in Bangladesh was not the severity of punishment for rape, but a failure of the courts to bring convictions in rape cases and the victims’ fear of coming forward.

 

Naripokkho, a women’s rights organisation, found that in six districts between 2011 and 2018, only five out 4,372 cases resulted in a conviction. Overall, only 3.56% of cases filed under the Prevention of Oppression Against Women and Children Act have ended up in court, and only 0.37% have resulted in convictions.

 

The problem appears to be worsening. Between January and September 2020, at least 975 rape cases were reported in Bangladesh, including 208 gang rapes, according to statistics gathered by human rights organisation Ain-o-Salish Kendra. In over 40 of the cases, the women died.

 

The UN also released a statement last week expressing its concern at the escalating cases of sexual violence against women: “The recent case of the woman from Noakhali that was circulated through social media has yet again underlined the state of social, behavioral and structural misogyny that exist.”

 

The statement said urgent reform was needed to “to the criminal justice system to support and protect victims and witness, and to speed up the slow trial process”.

 

In January, after a student at Dhaka University was raped, the government was ordered by the courts to form a commission to address the rise in sexual assaults and put together a report by June. The commission has yet to be formed.

Photo: Bangladeshi students and activists protest in Dhaka demanding justice for a recent gang assault on a woman. Photographer: Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/Rex/Shutterstock.


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