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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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INDONESIA bans mandatory Islamic ‘hijab’ scarves for schoolgirls 

AFP/ Dawn (06.02.2021) – https://bit.ly/3rAuWrY – Indonesia has banned schools from forcing girls to wear Islamic “hijab” headscarves after the case of a Christian pupil pressured to cover up sparked outrage in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.


The move was applauded Friday by rights activists, who say non-Muslim girls have been forced for years to wear a hijab in conservative parts of the country.


State schools across the Southeast Asian archipelago of nearly 270 million will face sanctions if they fail to comply with the edict from education minister Nadiem Makarim.


On Wednesday he said religious attire was an individual choice, and said schools “cannot make it compulsory”.


Schools that violate the rules could see their government funding cut, he added.


“The decree is a positive step to protect women’s rights in Indonesia,” said Andreas Harsono, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Jakarta.


He said public schools had forced millions of girls and women teachers to wear a hijab, prompting “bullying, intimidation, social pressures — and in some cases, expulsion and forced resignation” if they didn’t.


There have been concerns about growing religious intolerance in a nation where nearly 90 percent of the population follows Islam.


The headscarf issue grabbed headlines after a Christian student in West Sumatra’s Padang City was pressured to wear a hijab.


She refused, and her parents later secretly recorded a meeting with an official who insisted that school rules required all girls to wear a hijab, regardless of their religion.


The school later issued an apology after the video went viral.


Religious affairs minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas described the Sumatra case as the “tip of the iceberg”.


“Religion is not supposed to be a reason for conflict or a justification to act unfairly towards those with different beliefs,” he said.


The new regulations will not apply to conservative Aceh province, which follows religious law under a longstanding autonomy deal.


Photo credits : AFP

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POLAND strict anti-abortion law: Near total ban – Thousands of people take to streets

Euronews with AFP, AP (28.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/39tFrqU – New anti-government protests broke out in Polish cities on Wednesday, shortly after the country’s top court confirmed its highly divisive ruling that will further tighten the predominantly Catholic nation’s strict anti-abortion law.


The ban on abortions in nearly all circumstances is to come into effect after the law was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday.


Thousands of people gathered outside the court building in Warsaw in the evening, responding to calls for new protests by women’s groups who masterminded weeks of massive demonstrations last year against the initial ruling in October.


Protesters later marched through the city centre to the ruling party’s headquarters with signs of the leading “Women’s Strike” group and pro-LGBT rights rainbow flags.


Protests were also held in many other cities, under a heavy police presence. More demonstrations are planned for Thursday.


Delayed law takes effect

The law, originally passed in October, was subsequently delayed due to widespread protests throughout the country against the measure, which took place amid the coronavirus pandemic and saw clashes between demonstrators and police. No violence was reported at Wednesday’s protests.


Poland’s ruling conservative government said on Twitter: “The Constitutional Court presented a written justification of the ruling on the protection of life. In accordance with constitutional requirements, the ruling will be published today in the Official Gazette.”


The Constitutional Court, which was reformed by the religious, conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), has banned abortions of fetuses with congenital defects. Termination of pregnancy will now be allowed only if the woman’s health is threatened or if the pregnancy is the result of a criminal act, such as rape or incest.


Critics argue that it narrows the already tight law to a near total ban of abortions.


Poland already had some of the strictest abortion laws in the European Union. Even before the ruling, many Polish women sought abortions in neighbouring Germany or the Czech Republic.


An estimated 200,000 abortions are performed illegally or abroad every year, according to feminist organisations.


The main opposition Civic Platform party condemned the court’s move Wednesday as “a provocation” by the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS). It is widely seen as having undue influence on the judiciary following reforms it passed affecting the way judges are appointed.


Leader Borys Budka attacked the decision on Twitter, accusing Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of PiS and deputy prime minister, of using the ban to “cover up the traces of the government’s defeat in the fight against COVID” and “the failure of the vaccination programme”.


Another opposition leader, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, tweeted urging the government to “save the economy, don’t set Poland ablaze.”


New law fails to deter activists

The government announcement led to immediate calls for activists to take to the streets in Warsaw and across the country.


“We urge everyone to take to the streets…Express your anger as you see fit,” Marta Lempart of the Women’s Strike, the main movement behind the protests, told reporters on Wednesday.


“The whole of Poland is mobilising, not just Warsaw, we are ready! When we talk about women’s hell, we can now talk about government hell,” added Klementyna Suchanow, also from the movement.


The new law was made in response to a motion from over 100 ruling party lawmakers, whose names have not been made public.


The unrest shows growing discontent among many Poles with the right-wing government, which has been criticised by European officials and politicians for eroding democracy.


Photo credits : AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

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