The Academic Council on the United Nations System, Vienna Liaison is particularly proud to launch its second edition of “Femicide: A Global Issue that Demands Action.” Not only has the ACUNS Vienna femicide team assisted in drafting and pushing through the General Assembly Resolution 68/191 Taking action against gender-related killing of women and girls, but they have also organized and actively participated in numerous important events throughout the year.
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, ACUNS Vienna organized its second annual symposium, focusing on Forced Marriage, Violence against Women and the Istanbul Convention. It brought together high ranking diplomats, representatives from UNFPA, UN Women, UNICEF, OHCHR, and UNODC, with the President of the Austrian Parliament, Ms. Barbara Prammer, who addressed the meeting. The leading proponents of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, Ms. Feride Acar, Ambassador Dubravka Simonovic, Ms. Gisela Wurm, Ms. Liri Kopaci-Di Michele and Mr. José Mendes Bota made convincing arguments as to why such a detailed convention was relevant and open to all countries.
This publication not only contains the proceedings of the symposium, but also includes recent resolutions, debates and legal instruments from the General Assembly, Security Council, Human Rights Council, the Crime Commission, statements of high-ranking officials as well as country and regional reports by Heinrich Böll Stiftung, experts and academia.
The publication highlights the most heinous crimes against women and girls, such as early, child and forced marriage, the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, women’s exacerbated vulnerability in armed conflict, pregnancies resulting from rape, as well as structural and domestic violence against migrant women. The importance of civil society including women’s organizations to end impunity and to thoroughly investigate and prosecute persons responsible for these serious crimes was explicitly referred to.
With the support of the Thailand Institute of Justice, the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, the City of Vienna, the Organization of the Families of Asia and the Pacific (OFAP), and the Vienna Renner Institute, this publication was made possible.
It is hoped that this “resource book” will contribute to the worldwide campaign to stop Femicide and all forms of violence against women and girls.
ACUNS Vienna participates in the 7th Conference on Femicide/Feminicide in Brussels, European Parliament
BRUSSELS, March 6, 2014 – On behalf of the International Women’s Day, the Academic Council on the United Nations System, Vienna Liaison (ACUNS Vienna) was invited to participate in the 7th Conference on Feminicide, “Stop Feminicide in Europe and Latin America”.
The conference was organized by the Greens / European Free Alliance (EFA) Group in the European Parliament in collaboration with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Latin American Association of Organizations for Development Promotion (ALOP), the Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico (CIFCA), the International Office of Human Rights Action on Colombia (Oidhaco) and Grupo Sur, bringing together high-level officials, civil society actors, women’s human rights defenders and activists from around the world to discuss their efforts in the fight against femicide/feminicide at local, regional and international levels.
Honorary speaker, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women its causes and consequences stressed that the enactment of adequate legislation on violence against women is a first preventative step. Ms.Manjoo pointed towards studies that show a correlation between prevalence rates of violence against women and responsive and accountability measures of States. Manjoo stressed that the exercise of due diligence is vital, which necessitates the State’s responsibility to conduct effective investigations of the crime, and prosecute and sanction acts of violence perpetrated by State or private actors. Providing reparations to victims and including the obligation of access to justice were also highlighted as important measures.
Ms. Manjoo also highlighted the adoption of the General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/68/191) on “Taking action against the gender-related killings of women and girls” as an important step forward in the efforts to raise awareness on the gender-related killings of women and girls, the high levels of impunity and the need to put pressure on States to exercise due diligence. An open-ended intergovernmental expert group meeting is expected to take place in Bangkok in November 2014, calling upon civil society organizations to provide recommendations and best practices to more effectively prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the gender-related killings of women and girls.
During the conference, attention was drawn to the recent survey on violence against women conducted by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), who interviewed over 42,000 women across EU to share their experiences on physical, sexual and psychological violence, including intimate partner violence. The study has not only helped to reinvigorate and provide ascendancy to the issue violence against women, but will also contribute to holding governments more accountable in providing more effective measures to protect women.
Representatives from the Council of Europe also notified that the Council of Europe Convention on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) is expected to come into force this year with France, Andorra and Denmark sending bills for ratification.
Among other issues raised was the need incorporate community-level, participatory approaches by engaging with local governments, NGOs as well as police staff. CARE International highlighted a current advocacy programme being implemented in Bangladesh that works to put more pressure on the government to allocate a budget in the education of women by stressing its importance to the country’s economic development.
Ms. Imelda Marrufo Nava, Lawyer, activist and coordinator of the Network “Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juarez” received the Anne-Klein women’s Award for her incredible efforts in the fight against femicide in Mexico. Ms. Marrufo Nava drew attention to a Protocol that is currently being developed for the investigation of the “missing women” in Mexico. She also pointed towards a recent law passed in Mexico on the protection of human rights defenders.
A side-event on Reporting Femicide in the Media was held in conjunction with the conference which drew attention to worrying media coverage of violence against women, described it as either “intrusive, inaccurate, misrepresented, misogynistic, victim-blaming or condoning violence against women and girls.” Recent studies have illuminated that the media can in fact affect individual’s behavior. The connection between violent narratives in the media and fear of crime was also addressed.
All in all, the civil society organizations present throughout the conference demonstrated a political will to ensure the full exercise of the rights of women and the eradication of violence against women, including femicide.
Italian police say dozens of Lampedusa boat tragedy victims were raped and tortured in Libya.
Dozens of the people who were on the boat that sank near the Italian coast last month were raped and tortured in Libya before starting their journey, Italian police said.
The police revelation on Friday came after they announced the detention of Mouhamud Elmi Muhidin, a Somali citizen, who is believed to be the alleged organiser behind the smugglers’ ship packed with migrants that sank off the coast of a southern Italian island, killing more than 365 migrants.
According to migrants’ testimony, the 20 women in the group were repeatedly raped and offered to Libyan visitors “as if they were a cup of tea”.
Muhidin, Libyan militiamen and Sudanese traffickers all took part in the alleged assaults in a detention centre in Sabha in southwest Libya, that Italian prosecutor Maurizio Scalia likened to “a concentration camp”.
“They forced us to watch our men being tortured with various methods including batons, electric shocks to the feet. Whoever rebelled was tied up,” read the testimony of a 17-year-old Eritrean girl in the investigation, Italian newspaper La Repubblica daily reported.
The migrants were forced to pay up to $3500 for their freedom and their onward journey to the Libyan coast and a boat to Italy.
“The women who could not pay were assaulted,” the girl was quoted as saying in her criminal charge.
She also described in horrific detail her own sexual assault, saying that Muhidin was one of the three men who raped her.
“They threw me on the ground, held down my arms and covered my mouth, and poured gasoline on my head, which burned my scalp, skin and eyes,” she said through a translator. “And then, not yet happy, the three took turns raping me.”
Lynched by his victims
Muhidin, who was identified by survivors, was attacked and nearly lynched by his victims in the immigrant centre on Lampedusa when he arrived there on October 25 after making the boat crossing from Libya himself, setting into motion the police investigation, the warrant said.
The police said they had not yet worked out why Muhidin had come to Italy but added that he “may have been looking for criminal contacts”.
“He was one of the leaders of the trafficking organisation,” a police spokeswoman told AFP news agency.
Muhidin faces charges of kidnapping, sexual assault, people trafficking and criminal association with the goal of aiding illegal immigration.
If convicted, Muhidin faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
He was flown to the Sicilian capital Palermo on Thursday from the southern island of Lampedusa. The Palermo court announced his arrest on Friday. He has not yet spoken to a lawyer, been questioned by prosecutors, or entered a plea, investigators said.
Migrants from Eritrea and Somalia frequently speak of abuses along their journeys to Europe, particularly in an increasingly lawless Libya following the fall of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Their allegations are rarely investigated, however, and migrant rights groups complain that more international action should be taken to ease their plight in the countries they transit through.
Libya is the departure point for two thirds of the boats that set out for Italy from north Africa. Since the shipwreck, Italy has stepped up navy patrols and is using drones to search for boats making the dangerous crossing.
Italian authorities have vowed to crack down on the people trafficking rings that have been behind the influx of more than 35,000 asylum-seekers so far this year to the country’s coasts.
Most of them come from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria and Italy has asked for the European Union to step up assistance in dealing with the arrivals and countering the criminal networks behind them.
The women go undercover in diagnostic centers to catch clinicians who break India’s 1994 federal law against sex-selective abortions. In the process, they are addressing a heavily skewed sex ratio and helping to make their district a model for enforcement.
A village health clinic in Jaipur district
NEW DELHI, India (WOMENSENEWS)–In the state of Rajasthan, pregnant women have begun helping the state government conduct surprise inspections of health diagnostic centers to prevent and discourage sex-selective abortions.
The volunteers undergo a sonogram and pretend to want an abortion if the ultrasound indicates a female fetus. After a clinician agrees, they serve as witnesses against the practitioner in court hearings.
Before 2010, 54 cases had been filed under the sex-selection law for the entire state. By July, that number had reached 562. The Rajasthan Medical Council has suspended 23 doctors’ licenses and brought charges against 153 medical practitioners, the highest of any state in the country.
The time between the inspection and the court date can be hazardous. That’s when many influential offenders of the federal law against sex-selective abortions are free on bail and often prevail on witnesses with bribes and physical threats to retract their statement.
One volunteer–Rani Singh, who works in the state Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan–knew the risks she faced.
So did her family, who did not want Singh, pregnant with her first child, to join the inspections.
But when Singh found that a well-known health facility in Jaipur was involved in fetal tests tied to sex-selective abortions, she felt she had to help.
“Time being of essence, I volunteered,” said Singh in an interview with Women’s eNews in Jaipur. “There was some opposition from my family because such operations have a high element of risk. After I explained how this would impact positively on the lives of unborn girls, they supported me.”
A Close Call
Singh’s courage almost failed her when she found herself inside the clinic last year waiting for her inspection team to arrive.
“The team usually follows discreetly behind and waits outside the center,” she recalled. “They were to come in after I informed them on the conclusion of the sex determination test. But when I telephoned them at the end of the test, I was told they were caught in a traffic jam. For a moment, even I panicked because if they didn’t come in time to arrest the medical worker, I would have had to actualize my pretense of wanting a sex selective abortion.”
Quick thinking saved Singh from being wheeled in for an abortion. She locked herself in the bathroom until the team arrived.
Singh’s act of bravery helped close the facility. “I am really happy that I was able to help close the center,” she said.
Thanks to women such as Singh, the government has run 20 surprise inspections; seven in the last six months in the state capital, Jaipur.
“We would not have been able to carry out these operations without the help of such women,” saidKishanaram Easharwal, who heads the state unit charged with enforcing the Pre-Conception Pre- Natal Diagnostic Technique Act, the 1994 federal law banning sex-selective abortions. “They play a pivotal role and are our strength. So we do not reveal the identity of the pregnant woman who helps us although we release the news of the inspection and the names of those apprehended by our team,” he told Women’s eNews in an interview in Jaipur.
Rewards Being Mulled
The state ministry is considering financial rewards for the women who help the inspection operations, Easharwal said. Currently, informants who identify a medical practitioner or sonogram center that is found guilty of carrying out sex determination tests or sex- selective abortions can earn a $1550 reward.
“It is their courage that helped our team to apprehend medical practitioners,” said Easharwal.
The state has also designated one police station in the state to pursue cases filed under the law against sex selection. “Having a police station just for violations under the act makes it easier to file a case against the persons found guilty during inspection operations,” said Easharwal. “In most cases, we are able to secure a five-day remand to judicial custody. This motivates the women who participate in the inspection operation and also sends a strong message that the guilty will be punished.”
In Rajasthan, the strong preference for sons has helped to shift the child sex ratio to 888 girls for every 1000 boys in 2011 from a figure of 946 girls in 2001, according to the latest census.
In the past, lack of evidence or hostile witnesses spared guilty practitioners from punishment.
Often the biggest obstacle to prosecution was finding pregnant women willing to be a part of inspection operations.
The inspection operations spearheaded by the state unit have become an important part of the strategy to stop sex-selective elimination of girls under Plan India‘s Let Girls Be Born project in Jaipur implemented by the Shikshit Rozgar Kendra Prabandhak Samiti, a Rajasthan-based nongovernmental organization.
As partners of Plan India, the group in January promoted the importance of girls and their right to survive through a week-long series of plays, rallies and community meetings that reached more than 25, 000 people in the project’s target villages in Jaipur district.
“Since the child sex ratio has also declined in the rural areas, we are trying to encourage ordinary people to become involved in the campaign to give girls their right to be born,” said Rajan Choudhury, head of Shikshit Rozgar Kendra Prabandhak Samiti, the organization that has collaborated with the state unit to conduct 15 state inspections. “When such operations are carried out in Jaipur district, it stings the medical fraternity and acts as a deterrent to the misuse of technology for sex determination for at least one month.”
Added Choudhury: “More the people involved, greater is the ownership of a campaign like this. Only then, can our fight to change mindsets be effective.”
Amid this vigorous activism, Jaipur district is fast emerging as a model for enforcing the federal law against sex-selective abortion.
By filing a complaint in the court of Jaipur’s chief judicial magistrate, it has not only become the first state government to take action against companies selling ultrasound machines but has made risks taken by pregnant women volunteers to prevent the misuse of technology to eliminate girls worthwhile.
Swapna Majumdar is a journalist based in New Delhi and writes on development, gender and politics.
Imagine living in a community your whole life. Then suddenly, you are accused of witchcraft and told to leave. Or you are sent threatening letters saying you have bewitched a neighbour’s child. Or you are attacked and slashed with a machete during the night.
The reality is, in many parts of the world, including Tanzania, older women are still persecuted and accused of witchcraft. Belief in witchcraft is still strong in many places and throughout society, but often these accusations have an underlying malicious element.
We believe that these accusations are a critical factor in the violation of women’s rights.
Reliable data on the number of witchcraft accusations and attacks on older women in Tanzania is hard to come by. However, it is commonly accepted that these crimes are underreported and it is estimated as many as a thousand, mainly older, Tanzanian women are targeted and killed annually.
Elias is a traditional healer involved in a HelpAge project. He doesn’t name witches anymore.(c) Jeff Williams/HelpAge International
Accusations can be due to crop failure, poor milk production by cows, school drop outs, polygamy, loss of wealth and alcoholism in families.Poverty, disease, ageism, misunderstanding of the causes of HIV and gender inequality are other underlying causes.
Sometimes, it is a just a case of finding someone to blame. This is why it is generally the most vulnerable and marginalised who are targeted. Some traditional healers are pressurised into “pointing” out a witch.
Elias, a traditional healer who is part of a joint HelpAge project said:
“People would come to me and would ask me to point out who was causing harm to them. They put pressure on us to name someone. It caused a lot of conflict and quarrelling. Sometimes, older women would be attacked.
“Since I became involved in this project with (local NGO) AACP and HelpAge, I don’t name a person. I give some relief medicine or if they have an illness I refer them to the hospital.”
Working with communities to change attitudes
We have worked with our partners in Sukumaland, Tanzania since 1999. We work directly with communities to prevent witchcraft accusations and attacks against older women. With our local NGO partners, we have worked on projects in 90 villages. These include training village committee members in women’s rights, including those of widows, and raising awareness of the harmful consequences of witchcraft allegations, misconceptions about HIV and other illnesses.
Using traditional drama, dance and song, we reach every community member. We have worked closely to influence the behaviour and practices of groups such as traditional healers and local militia, as well as with local government officials, religious leaders, civil society organisations and the Tanzanian media.
In each village, community members have been trained as paralegal advisers to provide support, and advice on land, inheritance and marriage rights. Between 2004 and 2008, paralegal advisers dealt with almost 20,000 cases. Nearly half of these were disputes over inheritance and land rights, mostly brought by older women.
Improving conditions for those affected
Nziku left her village after she received threatening letters. Her community brought her back and built her a new house.(c) Jeff Williams/HelpAge InternationalOn a practical level, our partners have mobilised local communities to build houses and improve sanitation facilities for women who have been threatened, attacked or who have simply become isolated by the rest of the community.
They have made fuel-efficient stoves to demonstrate that red eyes, often associated with witchcraft, are caused by a lifetime or working over smoky cooking fires.
Nziku started receiving threatening letters after her husband died. She was scared and moved to another village.
She said: “While I was away the village committee discussed my problem and came to bring me back. I’ve been back a year now and have had no trouble. This house was built by them and shows that they care for me. I now feel I’m respected.”
The results of community interventions are clear. There has been a 99% reduction in the killing of older women in the areas where HelpAge and its partners are running projects.
There has been a significant reduction in disputes over land rights, inheritance and matrimonial issues, and over 30% improvements in living conditions of older women. But outside of the project areas, killings of older women continue to rise.
We still think more needs to be done to strengthen justice systems and make them more accountable to those who seek recourse – police, magistrates, lawyers need to be trained.
At a national level, we want the government of Tanzania to make changes. For example, we want all killings related to witchcraft to be investigated, prosecuted and punished. We also want inheritance laws to be reviewed to prevent property-grabbing from widows.
Magu Poverty Focus on Older People Rehabilitation Centre (MAPERECE), Nasa Brotherhood Society for the Aged (NABROHO), Mwanza Rural Housing Programme (MRHP), Tanzania Association of Women Leaders in Agriculture and Environment (TAWLAE), Service, Health and Development for People living with HIV/AIDS (SHDEPHA), Nyanza Old Age Village (NOAV), Those in the fight against HIV/AIDS (WAMATA Sengerema)
Source: 2013. Help Age International.
Meet the Wedding Busters – a group of Bangladeshi children who have successfully stopped 7 child marriages in their community.
In Bangladesh, 66% of girls get married before they are 18. All too often they are pulled out of school and lose out on their dreams.
Supported by Plan, the Wedding Busters swing into action as soon as they hear news of a child wedding – spreading their message on girls’ rights through education, theatre, and door-to-door visits with members of the community.
Manufa is one of many girls who have benefited. She was about to get married at 16 until the Wedding Busters spoke to her father.
“I wasn’t aware that marriage under 18 is illegal and I didn’t think her education was important,” says Manufa’s father. “I learned all this from the children.”
Now with the wedding cancelled, Manufa is thriving at school and excited about her future. “When I finish school I want to be a nurse,” she says.
Source: 2013. Because I am a girl.
Violence against women and girls in Kenya, as it is in other parts of the world, is a result of profound social systems that maintain, advance and proliferate it. Patriarchy, and the entire negative socialization process of men that leads to negative masculinity remain ever present due to traditions and culture. These cultural expressions in Kenya have made the bodies of women and girls the battlefields of the nation’s men.
We are a nation that condones violence against women demonstrating our link between male supremacy and culture. We are a nation that is swiftly turning to organized criminal gangs like the Mungiki, Zungu Zungu and the Baghdad boys to enforce economic and political interests despite the fact that they raped and maimed thousands of women during the 2007 post election violence. And now when an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into crimes against humanity committed by various Kenyan leaders through their orchestration of criminal gangs and state security agents is underway, the political elite, obviously to protect their interests as they were behind the violence, is demonizing it.
Brutal expressions of masculinity are widespread. In 2010, a Future Concern report revealed that violence against women affects one in three women in Kenya. This is a staggering statistic. A currentWorld Bank report affirms that women between the ages of 15 and 44 in Kenya are at a greater risk of experiencing rape or violence than having cancer, and malaria, and dieing in a war or car accidents. Experts continue to caution that the militarism present in Kenyan society has a direct correlation with violence against women and men who do not conform to its negative masculinity connotations.
While many argue that there is need to bring together women, peace, and human rights movements to challenge militarism in Kenya, I believe that the movement will not succeed without including men and boys. Men and boys are the custodians of the social and cultural structures that allow violence and discrimination to continue. While key instruments that guarantee the safety and security of women including the new constitution exist in Kenya, levels of violence against women continue to rise as does the influence and prevalence of the military, hence confirming the need to target men and boys as key stakeholders in eliminating violence against women and girls.
Sexual violence is widespread in conflict zones in Kenya, for example the cattle rustling prone areas of Turkana, Kuria, Baringo, Mandera and Wajir. Gang brawls in informal settlements in urban centers are becoming bloodier each day and the targeting of women and children is a worrying trend. Abduction, carjacking and kidnappings are on the increase with the recent police report confirming that more than ten kidnappings take place each week and that women and children are the most targeted. Violence against women in Kenya is also as a result of the availability of small arms thanks to its proximity to war ravaged Somalia, Northern Uganda, and Southern Sudan (now independent).
In a nutshell this is happening because the masculine construction as it is in Kenya equates manhood with the ability to exert power over others, especially through the use of force. Masculinity, as it is espoused, gives manpower to control the lives of those around him, especially women and girls, and the most manly way to exert control and demonstrate superiority and male prowess is through sexual violence. As a result sexual violence remains the main hurdle to women’s security as its effects are physically, psychologically, and socially detrimental.
The need to work with men and boys as key partners in the fight against gender based violence and other human rights issues at the local and national levels is greater now than ever before. New mechanisms aimed at enhancing collaboration and the exchange of analyses, tools, techniques and strategies to combat violence against women and the ever-present militaristic inclinations must be developed and employed.
To the men of Kenya it’s time to demonstrate solidarity with women and girls around the country and in deed the world as a whole. As men, its time we redefine gender-based violence as a women’s issue, it is not, it is a human rights issue, and human rights violations concern all of us!
Wanjala Wafula Programs Director of The Coexist Initiative, a not for profit synergy of men and boys community-based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of Gender based violence, foster HIV prevention and AIDS management in Kenya. He is also a writer who thoroughly enjoys writing on gender issues.