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WORLD: Tai Ji Men & UN Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women

Tai Ji Men & UN Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women

CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions, and  Human Rights Without Frontiers  organized on November 25, 2022, one of their bi-monthly webinars discussing the Tai Ji Men case, with a special focus. The proposal by Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, the Shifu (Grand Master) of Tai Ji Men,  to institute October 16 as a World Prayer Day , was presented as an antidote to all kinds of violence.

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Fronties

HRWF (08.12.2022) – In October, I was invited to a hearing by the European Parliament to share our expertise on the issue of violence against women as an abuse of power by men in a dominating position. 

It is a worldwide phenomenon against which no country is immune whatever its political system and the dominant religion or belief system.

Violence against women is a violation of human rights and a form of gender-based discrimination. Rooted in inequalities between men and women, it takes many forms. Estimates of the scale of the problem are alarming. 

The instruments put in place by the United Nations and Council of Europe, including the latter’s ‘Istanbul Convention’, to which the EU plans to accede, are benchmarks in efforts to combat violence against women. 

The EU is tackling the problem in various ways, but has no binding instrument designed specifically to protect women from violence. 

Although there are similarities between national policies to combat violence against women, the EU Member States have adopted different approaches to the problem. 

Abuse of physical, psychological or social power leading to violence, including to sexual violence and rape, has many facets and can take place in many contexts. Within a couple, in the professional context, in a religious context, in the world of sports, in the economic and political world. 


I will now explore some of these specific areas such as: 

  • domestic violence in the EU, 
  • sexual abuse of power, violence and rape by politicians,
  • sexual violence and rape in war time.

and I will hereby highlight several aspects of the issue.


Domestic violence

It is in 2014 that the EU Fundamental Rights Agency published the most comprehensive survey on violence against women at EU level but a new report is in preparation. It was then based on interviews with 42 000 women in all 28 then EU Member States on their experiences of physical and sexual violence, sexual harassment. The survey data show that one woman in three had experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. One in 10 women had experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, and one in 20 had been raped. Over one in five women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence from either a current or previous partner. 

At the most extreme end of the spectrum, Eurostat data on the number of reported incidents of intentional homicide, rape and sexual assault show that in many Member States over half of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner, relative or family member. According to a scientific study, there are approximately 3 500 domestic violence-related deaths in the EU every year. 


Sexual abuse of power, violence and rape by politicians

The first case concerns the former president, Yahya Jammeh, of Gambia, a country of Western Africa.


Ms Toufah Jallow, crowned in a beauty pageant in Gambia, was invited several times by former President of Gambia to the presidential palace under various false pretexts and raped. It was not an isolated case as Human Rights Watch published an excellent report about the multiple rapes perpetrated by Yahya Jammeh during his presidency. After a new president was elected, he fled to a dictatorial country to avoid prosecution on a huge amount of counts.


It took several years to Ms Toufah Jallow to come out of her silence as she and her family did not want her honor to be publicly tarnished. She now lives in Canada and fights for justice, unfortunately without any success up to now.


The second case concerns a prominent politician in Thailand. Prinn Panitchpakdi, 44, a former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, the oldest party in the country, is the son of a former deputy prime minister, who was already accused of similar charges by two women in 2003 when he was living in London.

The charges were later dropped but there has been speculation that the alleged victims in London withdrew their complaints after they received financial compensation.

He was again accused a few months ago of having raped three women in total impunity. Others are said to be about to lodge complaints.

Third case. A minister in France was accused of rape by two women several months ago. Damien Abad, now Minister for Solidarities and persons with a handicap, was first accused by one woman of sexual violence. A few months later, another woman accused him of rape attempt in 2010 when he was a member of the European Parliament. Mr Abad is himself physically handicapped.

This example also shows that when a victim comes out of her silence, other victims also have the courage to raise their voices and to file a complaint.

Sexual violence and rape in Russia’s war on Ukraine

Another area of sexual abuse of extremely brutality is in wartime. We currently have a concrete example of it with Russia’s war on Ukraine. A foreign occupation army uses its power to commit massive exactions, including sexual violence and rape.


For 280 days, allegations of sexual violence by Russian troops in Ukraine have been dramatically mounting. At this stage, it is difficult to have even a rough estimate of the number of cases due to several factors, despite the intense work of the ICC and UN bodies. 


It is already difficult for a victim in times of peace to reveal such a traumatizing experience. So, you can imagine the mindset of such victims in wartime. It means that testimonies collected by the UN, the ICC or the Red Cross will only represent a tiny portion of the magnitude of the tragedy. A huge number of cases will fall through the cracks as many women fled to EU countries, were displaced internally or were deported to Russia in unknown conditions. Moreover, the war is still raging in the occupied territories on Ukraine.


The fraught nature of sexual atrocities, which are historically underreported, means that in Ukraine it will be a long time before the full scale of the problem is clear. The small towns in the suburbs of Kyiv that are already known to the world for the widespread killing of civilians — Bucha, Borodyanka and Irpin — are haunted by tales of rape, too. Ukrainian officials and activists have also heard many accounts of sexual atrocities from regions that remain under occupation today.


In such conditions, collecting reliable data is extremely hard. In Ukrainian society, and especially in rural areas, sexual crimes are so stigmatized that victims fear being judged by their social environment. It is usually the victim’s relatives and friends who seek help on the victim’s behalf.

Position of the UN and other institutions on sexual violence and rape in Ukraine


Despite all the difficulties that have been mentioned, it is obvious that Russian soldiers are using rape as a tactic of war. This was clearly confirmed by Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, when she briefed the UN Security Council on 6 June after her visit to Ukraine in early May.  


Since 24 February, Pramila Patten has issued three public statements “to ensure that this issue is not shrouded in silence or normalized by impunity”. She has also urged all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians from sexual violence.


“Too often have the needs of women and girls in conflict settings been side-lined and treated as an afterthought,” she said.


She also warned against waiting too long to act, saying

“An active battle-ground is never conducive to accurate ‘book-keeping’ […] if we wait for hard data and statistics, it will always be too late,” 

How to prevent and respond to sexual violence


The UN has elaborated an instrument meant to prevent sexual violence and respond to it in wartime. It is named “Framework of Cooperation with the United Nations on the Prevention and Response to Conflict Related Sexual Violence” Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna signed it on 3 May last. What does it say?

Five critical areas are highlighted in the Framework and the first four are also valid for any situation of sexual violence in peace times.

  • First, strengthening rule of law and accountability as a central aspect of deterrence and prevention of crimes of sexual violence.  
  • Second, strengthening the capacity of the security and defence sector to prevent sexual violence.  
  • Third, ensuring that survivors of sexual violence, as well as their children, have access to adequate services, including sexual and reproductive health, psychological, legal, socioeconomic services and reintegration support.  
  • Fourth, ensuring that sexual violence is addressed in the framework of any ceasefire agreement, and ensuring that amnesties for sexual violence crimes are explicitly prohibited.  It means no impunity, which is also be a guideline for crimes committed in peace times.
  • And fifth, addressing conflict-related trafficking in persons for the purposes of sexual exploitation or prostitution.

In conclusion, impunity cannot and should not prevail even if it takes years or decades to identify, hunt and arrest the perpetrators of sexual violence and rape.

Tai Ji Men and the UN principles for the elimination of violence against women

Dr Hong’s teachings about the relations between men and women are based on equality, mutual respect, mutual trust and fidelity, transparency, responsibility and non-violent settlements of domestic conflicts.

Tai Ji Men is not a patriarchal society in which men and boys would have a dominant position. Girls and boys, men and women are treated in the same way and share responsibility in the movement based on one’s will.


Tai Ji Men is a microcosm and a laboratory where the UN principles for the elimination of violence against women are constantly being put in action. Their good practices are beneficial to Taiwanese society and to the image of the country. Their achievements deserve to be highlighted and lauded.


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INDONESIA: Hijab rules in state schools are raising rights concerns

Hijab rules are raising rights concerns

UCA News (05.08.2022) – https://bit.ly/3bEyNSB A recent case of forcing a student to wear a hijab at a state school has renewed concerns about a “rights violation” in Indonesia, which also targets religious minorities, according to rights activists.

The Muslim-majority country was shocked last week by the case of a Muslim student at a senior high school in Banguntapan, Bantul district, Yogyakarta special region who claimed to be intimidated by teachers into wearing a headscarf.

As a result, the 16-year-old student was reported to have confined herself for an hour in a school toilet.

The school later denied any coercion, but the “traumatized” girl reportedly moved to another school.

The case sparked criticism from rights groups against the practice of coercion, which has also been experienced by religious minorities across the country.

Andreas Harsono, the Indonesia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), said cases of forced wearing of the hijab will continue because there are still regulations that require the hijab, although efforts have already begun to change it.

“There are still at least 60 regulations in the regions, from the districts, cities and provincial levels to national ones, complete with sanctions,” he told UCA News on Aug. 2.

He said the regulations were generally coercive.

“Because there is a system of coercion mixed with reasons for religious beliefs, there is a practice of supervising each other, becoming a kind of police force for others who don’t obey it,” he said.

He said recent HRW research found that such regulations, which were introduced in 2001 in a number of Muslim-majority provinces such as West Java, Aceh and West Sumatra, had an impact such as widespread bullying of girls and women to force them to wear the hijab, as well as the deep psychological distress the bullying can cause.

The victims, he said, included non-Muslims.

“We found coercion against non-Muslims in 24 provinces to varying degrees, from Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, as well as from other religions,” he said.

He said victims who did not comply were forced to leave school or withdrew under pressure, while some female civil servants, including teachers, doctors, school principals and university lecturers, lost their jobs or felt compelled to resign.

He said the government had taken steps to end this practice, citing a move by Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim and two other ministers in February 2021 who amended the 2014 regulation to specify that schoolgirls are free to choose whether to wear the hijab.

However, he said, in May 2021, the Supreme Court struck down that amendment to the regulation, effectively ruling that girls under 18 have no right to choose their own clothes.

The court said the amendment contravened existing laws on the jurisdiction of local governments, child protection and the national education system.

“The ruling ended government efforts to give Muslim girls and teachers the freedom to choose what they wear,” he said.

“As long as there is no attempt to correct the existing regulations, we can be sure that in the future, coercive efforts will reappear,” he said.

Meanwhile, Halili Hasan, a researcher from the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said forcing the wearing of the hijab, including in schools “is contrary to the diversity of Indonesia, which we must uphold, maintain and strengthen.”

He said stakeholders in schools “should be key actors for educational and civilizing processes in schools that are principally oriented to the interests of students, non-violence (from symbolic, verbal to open acts of violence), and a culture of peace.”

“The act of forcing the wearing of the headscarf that traumatized students is clearly against these principles,” he said.

Photo: A woman wearing a hijab – UCA News

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website

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INDONESIA: Indonesian police arrest Christian in forced marriage case

Activists say police action is rare in an area where the practice has almost become a tradition


By Konradus Epa


UCAnews (12.02.2021) – https://bit.ly/3rSrSHI – Police in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province have charged a Christian man with kidnapping, raping and trying to force a 21-year-old woman into marriage.


The arrest has been welcomed by activists, who say the crime in the Christian-majority province has almost become a recognized custom.


The man, who has not yet been named, was arrested this week in West Sumba district, police announced on Feb. 10.


“We have him in custody and he will be charged accordingly,” West Sumba police chief Francis Xavier Irwan Arianto told reporters, adding the suspect could expect to face at least 12 years in prison.


Arianto said the suspect and 10 friends went to where the woman was staying in Central Sumba district on Dec. 6, 2019, and abducted her.


She was forced into the back of a car and taken to the suspect’s home where she was sexually assaulted, according to investigators. Her ordeal ended several hours later when she managed to get access to a mobile phone and called the police, Arianto said.  

He did not say why it had taken so long for police to arrest the suspect.


However, Martha Hebi, an activist with the Solidarity of Women and Children group based in Central Sumba, said police inaction allowed the suspect to remain free and the wheels of justice only began turning when Arianto was appointed the police chief last year.


“This is not an isolated case. Abducting girls and forcing them into marriage has almost become a custom in these parts,” she said.

She said there have been at least seven such cases in the last two years.


“If law enforcers don’t handle it, more and more women and underage girls will be put at risk,” she added.


Redemptorist Father Paulus Dwiyaminarta from the Sarnelli Legal Aid Office in Sumba said the case was another example of how forced marriage had become customary in the area.


“Authorities have not seriously addressed the problem, so it still continues,” Father Dwiyaminarta told UCA News.


He said many cases have probably gone unreported because the man gives the woman’s family a dowry as is the tradition in local marriage.


The woman’s family often keep quiet because they want to keep the dowry, he said, adding the practice takes place among rich and poor families.


He said his team has only handled four cases, of which just one, involving an 18-year-old girl, resulted in a conviction.


The girl managed to escape after being held for three days. The five men who kidnapped her were jailed for three years.



Photo credits: ucanews

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FRANCE seeks to establish age of consent at 15 for sexual relations

France’s government wants to set the age of sexual consent at 15 and make it easier to punish long-ago child sexual abuse, amid growing public pressure and a wave of online testimonies about rape and other sexual violence by parents and authority figures.


By News Wire


France24 (12.02.2021) – https://bit.ly/3rMIgJQ – “Finally!” was the refrain Wednesday from victims and child protection activists who have long pushed for tougher laws and greater societal recognition of the problem.


France’s lack of an age of consent — along with statutes of limitations — have complicated efforts to prosecute alleged perpetrators, including a prominent modeling agent, a predatory priest, a surgeon and a group of firefighters accused of systematic sexual abuse.


Calling such treatment of children “intolerable,” the Justice Ministry said “the government is determined to act quickly to implement the changes that our society expects.”


“An act of sexual penetration by an adult on a minor under 15 will be considered a rape,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said Tuesday on France-2 television. Perpetrators could no longer cite consent to diminish the charges, he said, though exceptions would be made for teenagers having consensual sex.


The change still needs to be enshrined in law, but the announcement is a major step.

“It’s very good that there is this revived debate, that there is an idea of a minimum age (of consent), said Fatima Benomar, whose group Les Effrontees has pushed for stronger laws against sexual abusers. “This will make adults more responsible.”


An effort to set France’s first age of consent three years ago in the wake of the global #MeToo movement failed amid legal complications. But it has gained new momentum since accusations emerged last month of incestuous sexual abuse involving a prominent French political expert, Olivier Duhamel. That unleashed an online #MeTooInceste movement in France that led to tens of thousands of similar testimonies.


The Justice Ministry is in discussions with victims’ groups about toughening punishment of incestuous abuse and extending or abolishing the statute of limitations on sexual violence against children, because it creates such deep trauma that it can take decades for victims to speak out. The law currently allows child victims to file complaints until they are 48.


The ministry also says it wants “to ensure that victims of the same perpetrator do not receive different legal treatment,” which could broaden the scope to prosecute those accused of abusing multiple people over decades.


Legal time limits have hampered French authorities’ ability to investigate an influential cardinal, Philippe Barbarin, convicted then acquitted of covering up for a predatory priest; modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, an associate of disgraced late U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, accused of an array of sex crimes; and surgeon Joel le Scouarnec, convicted after accusations he sexually abused more than 300 children over decades, as well as other less-prominent cases.


One of Brunel’s alleged victims, former model Thysia Huisman, welcomed the proposed reform, even though it’s too late for her to seek justice for the rape she says she suffered as a teenager.


“It feels empowering, and that’s really important,” she said. “I thought nothing was ever going to change.”


Huisman came forward and testified to police in hopes of eliciting change and encouraging other alleged victims to speak out. “It’s really important to me, as a victim, a survivor, that we came forward as a group,” she said.


France’s highest court considered a case Wednesday involving a woman who said multiple firefighters raped her when she was between the ages of 13 and 15. A lower court downgraded the charges to sexual assault, but her lawyers want them reclassified as rape.


Under current French law, sexual relations between an adult and a minor under 15 are banned. Yet the law accepts the possibility that someone under 15 is capable of consenting to sex, leading to cases where an adult is prosecuted for sexual assault instead of rape, and therefore faces a lighter prison sentence.


In the Duhamel case, the Paris prosecutor opened an investigation into alleged “rapes and sexual abuses by a person exercising authority” over a child following accusations in a book by his stepdaughter that he abused her twin brother in the 1980s, when the siblings were in their early teens.


Duhamel, saying he was “the target of personal attacks,” stepped down from his many professional positions, including as a TV commentator and head of National Foundation of Political Sciences. The foundation manages the prestigious Sciences Po university in Paris, whose director Frederic Mion resigned this week amid the fallout from the affair, which entangled multiple people among France’s elite.


Since the Duhamel accusations surfaced, searing accounts of alleged incestuous abuse filled social networks. Other prominent figures in French cinema and politics have also been accused. The movement spawned an offshoot #MeTooGay wave in France of long-suppressed testimonies of sexual abuse by older men.


The World Health Organization says international studies show that one in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child.


Photo Credits : Thomas Samson, AFP




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PAKISTAN: Virginity tests for female rape survivors outlawed by Pakistani court

By Haroon Janjua


WUNRN (04.02.2021) – https://bit.ly/3jwOSZQ – 6 January 2021, a Pakistani court has outlawed the practice of subjecting female rape survivors to a virginity test in an unprecedented ruling.


Lahore’s high court ruled on Monday that the virginity test has no legal basis and “offends the personal dignity of the female victim”.


Making the judgment, Justice Ayesha Malik said: “Virginity testing is highly invasive, having no scientific or medical requirement, yet carried out in the name of medical protocols in sexual violence cases.


“It is a humiliating practice, which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, as opposed to focusing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence.”


In a 2018 report, the UN said that virginity tests, a medically dubious internal examination of a woman’s hymen, still take place in 20 countries, and can be conducted with or without consent in rape cases or when a woman is accused of a “moral” crime such as premarital sex or running away.


Premarital sex remains a crime in Pakistan for men and women and carries a five-year prison sentence.


“The verdict is the culmination of a history of activism and built on the hard work that the feminist movement has been engaging in for decades. The test is part of a larger structure of patriarchy that hinges victimhood on women’s characters and perpetuates the myth of the ‘perfect victim’,” Nighat Dad, a lawyer and rights activist told the Guardian.


“The barriers in place for women to report cases of rape are insurmountable, but this historic verdict will go a long way in dismantling those barriers,” she said.


In October Human Rights Watch said virginity examinations had long been a routine part of criminal proceedings in Pakistan, based on a misogynistic assumption that a woman “habituated to sexual intercourse” is less likely to have been raped. Police and prosecutors have used the results to accuse rape victims of illegal sexual intercourse and to treat them as criminals.


Pakistan’s minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari, lauded the judgment, which will apply only in the state of Punjab, on Twitter.


Photo credits: Anjum Naveed/AP



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