Afghan Girl Tortured by In-laws for Resisting Prostitution

Sahar-Gul-was-rescued-by--007

Photo courtesy Guardian UK

Sahar Gul is a 15-year-old girl who was brutally beaten, burned, cut, starved, enslaved, and tortured by her in-laws for months in the basement of their home. The perpetrators of these heinous acts needs to be brought to justice not only for Sahar Gul, but also for other Afghans who are subjected to brutal violence.

A UN report issued in November found that a 2009 law meant to protect Afghan women from a host of abusive practices, including rape, forced marriage and the trading of women to settle disputes, was being undermined by sporadic enforcement.

The Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was passed in August 2009 and had raised hopes among women’s rights activists that Afghan women would get to fight back against abuses that had been ignored under Taliban rule. The law criminalised many abuses for the first time, including domestic violence, child marriage, driving a woman to resort to suicide, as well as the buying and selling of women.

Yet the report found only a small percentage of reported crimes against women were pursued by the Afghan government.

Between March 2010 and March 2011, prosecutors opened 594 investigations into crimes under the law – only 26% of the 2,299 incidents registered by the Afghan human rights commission, the UN report said. Prosecutors filed indictments in only 155 cases, or 7% of the total number of crimes reported.

Here’s what you can do.

Please join me in signing this petition to President Karzai and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for immediate action. This petition is a resounding plea from concerned persons around the world seeking justice on behalf of fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul who was brutally tortured and mutilated by her Afghan in-laws.

Let’s get some signatures on this petition. Sign the petition here 

To read more about this story please visit The Guardian UK.

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Afghan Women’s Political Power Revoked

Women’s rights in Afghanistan take yet another hit, as conservative male parliamentarians secretly remove a legal requirement that states women make up at least a quarter of all provincial elections.

According to Reuters, the change took place in mid-May but was only discovered by women parliamentarians a few days ago.

Hundreds of Afghan women

Photo by 24piecescholars.net

Activists said it could also reduce the number of women serving in parliament’s upper house, as most women are elected there via their role as elected provincial officials.

“In negotiations you don’t gain anything unless you also give something up,” said prominent women’s rights activist and MP Farkhunda Naderi.

The action has sparked fears among women’s rights activists that President Hamid Karzai’s government is increasingly willing to trade away their hard fought gains to placate the Taliban as part of attempts to coax them to the peace table.

Women entered Afghanistan’s male-only political arena in 2001 soon after the overthrow of the Taliban regime by a U.S. led invasion.

At least a quarter of the seats in some 400 districts and 34 provincial councils had been set aside for women.

Karzai appointed 17 out of 28 women in the upper house, the remaining 11 must be chosen from among women sitting on district and provincial councils, but those positions are now under a cloud.

On May 22, the change was approved by parliament’s lower house, the Wolesi Jirga.

“(They) removed it without informing us. We trusted that the law we signed off on was the same as previous drafts,” said parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi.

The law still needs approval from the upper house and Karzai before being passed into law.

Critics of the change told Reuters its removal will not only affect women’s ability to serve in the upper house, but also do away with more than 100 seats in local government bodies nationwide that were previously guaranteed to women.

“Women are not in the position to win votes in this country based on popular vote alone, this amendment is worrisome  they’ll lose their voice,” said Noor Mohammad, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission.

Conservative male parliamentarians backing the change said the concept of granting rights based on their gender was unconstitutional.

“It’s undemocratic to grant a seat to a woman even though a man had more votes, simply because the law favors her,” said Qazi Nasir Ahmad Hanafi, head of the legislative commission.

This story was originally published by Reuters.

(Edited by Gillian Felix)

Militants Massacre 14 Female Students On School Bus

Last October, people across the globe united to send thoughts of hope and love to a brave young girl fighting for her life in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban tried to assassinate Malala Yousafzai because of her strong voice in the fight for women’s rights and youth education. Their gunmen boarded her school bus and shot in front of her peers — but Malala survived and she hasn’t stopped fighting.

Over the weekend, 14 young female students were massacred as a bus taking them home from university in Quetta, in western Pakistan, was blown up by extremist militants — and we were once again reminded of the continued need to stand behind Malala and her cause.

I stand with Malala

Photo by A World at School

On July 12 — less than a year after she was attacked — Malala will mark her 16th birthday by speaking at the UN. She’ll be delivering, to the highest leadership of the UN, a set of education demands written for youth, by youth.

Join me in supporting Malala and for girls’ education. Please sign this letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledging your support to her cause — it takes just one click.

https://secure.aworldatschool.org/malala-friend-share

Dear Mr Secretary-General,

I stand with Malala in demanding that the leaders of the world end our global Education Emergency. After the recent violent murder of 14 girls in Pakistan who simply wanted an education, I support the civil rights struggle of 57 million girls and boys who will not go to school today — or any day. Side by side with Malala, we demand that at the United Nations General Assembly world leaders agree to fund the new teachers, schools and books we need — and to end child labor, child marriage and child trafficking — so that by December 2015 we meet the Millennium Development promise that every boy and girl be at school.

We must be united in this fight, and we must act now. Thank you for standing with us.

We want Malala to take the UN floor with the support of as many of us as possible. Please sign this letter now — for Malala, and for all the children she fights for:

https://secure.aworldatschool.org/malala-friend-share

Thank you for supporting this cause with me. Every signature really does make a difference!

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

On  May 23, 2013, the world will be marking the first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, as recently designated by the United Nations General Assembly. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Campaign to End Fistula, which was launched by UNFPA, in collaboration with a wide range of partners.

Logo by Voanews.com

The Campaign is currently active in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, the Arab states and Latin America. Over that decade, UNFPA has directly supported over 34,000 women and girls to receive surgical fistula treatment, while partner agencies have supported thousands more.

Countries around the world mark fistula day with a variety of events intended to raise awareness of this severely neglected health and human rights tragedy, highlight progress made over the last decade, and generate new political and financial support for the global movement to end the condition. These events will include a special observance at the United Nations in New York, with the participation of fistula survivors, in addition to advocates and practitioners who have dedicated their careers to put an end to this devastating condition.

So what exactly is Fistula?

Fistulae are holes that are created between the vaginal wall and the bladder, and holes created between the vaginal wall and the rectum. Fistula is a childbirth injury caused by prolonged obstructed labor.

How are these holes formed?

These holes are formed as a result of pregnancy and child birth. Labor becomes  obstructed due to female genital mutilation (FGM), or by child marriage and early pregnancy.

What are the effects of Fistula?

Vesicovaginal fistula causes urinary incontinence and / or fecal incontinence due to rectovaginal fistula and related conditions, such as dermatitis. If nerves to the lower limbs are damaged, women may suffer from paralysis of the lower half of the body. Many victims of obstructed labor  in which the fistulae subsequently occur, will also have given birth to a stillborn baby.

What are the social effects of Fistula?

In spite of one’s best efforts to stay clean, the smell of leaking urine or feces is hard to eliminate and difficult to ignore. The dampness causes rashes and infections. The cleaning up is constant, and pain or discomfort may be continuous as well. The grief of losing a child and becoming disabled exacerbates the pain.

The injury leaves women with few opportunities to earn a living, and many have to rely on others to survive, or turn to begging or commercial sex. In some communities they are not allowed to have anything to do with food preparation and may be excluded from prayer or other religious observances. Some are abandoned by their husbands.

Facts and Stats about Fistula.

  • At least two million women live with fistula in developing countries, with about 100,000 new cases occurring each year. These figures are based only on the number of women who seek treatment.
  • The average cost of fistula treatment—including surgery, post-operative care and rehabilitation support—is $400, which is well beyond the reach of most women with the condition.
  • Fistula can be treated and women can have a normal life after treatment.
  • Fistula has virtually been eliminated in Europe and North America through improved obstetric care.

Read more and become involved by visiting my source sites Forward UK and Campaign to End Obstetric Fistula.

Women’s Right To Property in Mongolia

Women’s right to property in Mongolia is a crucial part of growing an economy and a country. In Mongolia women now hold approximately 40 percent of land titles, an increase of 5 per cent since 2011.

Women's Right to Property in Mongolia

Photo by MCC.gov

Baigalmaa Enebish of Erdenet, Mongolia is a single mother, and recently lived in a rented room in someone else’s home. She had no stable income and few employment opportunities.

Baigalmaa noticed that there were many women around her who were in the same situation, and invited them to join a group she formed called the Neighbors’ Friendship Cooperative to help solve its members’ housing problem.

“My desire to improve the living conditions of those who are in a similar condition as me motivated me to organize this cooperative,” said Baigalmaa, who has been the cooperative head since 2008.

With Baigalmaa’s help, the cooperative received several grants from international donors to build a fence, extend the electricity grid and dig wells. They wanted to apply for a loan from the Asian Coalition for Housing Project, but a lack of collateral prevented them from doing so. However a Property Rights Project contractor from MCA-Mongolia Rights informed them that they could own land via the MCA Mongolia Property Rights Project.

The project works to increase women’s awareness of the importance and benefits of owning land. TheMillennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) invested $15.7 million to improve the efficiency, accuracy and accessibility of the land privatization and property registration process to make it easier, faster and more cost-effective for Mongolian citizens to register and transfer land.

Through coordinated public outreach, project contractors, educate women on the value of land and how to use it as a valuable asset, including as collateral for bank loans.

In less than one month Baigalmaa acquired land.

“Previously, privatizing land seemed like a difficult goal to achieve, since we heard it’s a long and tedious process with heavy bureaucracy,” said Baigalmaa.

Normally the process would take 4-5 months, thanks to the assistance provided by the project the process was quicker.

“We knew very little about the whole complicated procedure. We were very happy when the contractor came and offered us assistance.” said Baigalmaa.

Under Baigalmaa’s leadership, other members of the cooperative received land titles through the project. With land as collateral, they finally received a housing loan that they are investing in building six houses and providing four gers (traditional dwellings) to other cooperative members.

“The contractor familiarized us with the process, collected our relevant materials, and soon we all received our land ownership certificates, which didn’t take any time and expense from our side. This was the helping hand that people like us needed.”  Baigalmaa added.

Looking toward the future the cooperative also plans to grow vegetables for household use. If they produce more than they need, they will sell the surplus.

10,000 people have registered their land, benefiting from a one-stop shop that saves them time and money. Land ownership is helping both men and women invest in their land and have greater access to economic opportunities.

Original article on: http://www.mcc.gov/

Profile of FORWARD UK with Naomi Reid

FORWARD – Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development.

Through FORWARD’s programs, young women and girls are educated in exercising their rights, and encouraged to take leadership roles in their society. FORWARD also educates the public on the physical and physiological effects of FGM and child marriage.

In part I of my profile on Forward UK, I had the pleasure of interviewing author and ambassador Gavin Weston.

Profile on ForwardUK part IIIn part II I chat with the dynamic Naomi Reid, Events and Special Projects Coordinator at FORWARD UK.

1000-Day Countdown to Global Education

The urgency of the 1,000-day countdown is doing exactly what we hoped: pressuring world leaders and businesses to sit up, take notice, and — most importantly — take action.

Global education

Photo by A World At School

Global leaders came together to hold ministerial-level meetings on education and to commit to concrete actions needed to achieve universal education by 2015.

Some of the most important voices — including youth leaders, more than 250 members of civil society organizations, the United Nations Global Education First InitiativeGlobal Partnership for EducationWorld Bankand USAID, just to name a few, were at the table for a series of events in Washington, D.C. — including one at the White House — where global education was at the top of the agenda. Now that we have the ear of these influential leaders, it’s time to keep pushing and build upon the work we have started. Read more here.

Profile on FORWARD UK with Ambassador Gavin Weston

FORWARD – Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development.

FORWARD was established in the United Kingdom in 1983 as a result of the raising number of problems caused by female genital mutilation (FGM).

ForwardUK logoFORWARD works with individuals, communities and organizations to eliminate FGM practices and provide support to affected women. Since it’s inception, FORWARD has since expanded its campaign to include other issues like fistula, child and forced marriages.

In part one of my profile on FORWARD, I had the pleasure of interviewing author Gavin Weston, writer of the remarkable novel Harmattan and Ambassador to FORWARD UK. Thank you Gavin it is a pleasure to interview you again. (Continue reading here.)

Court Orders Public Flogging For 15-Year-Old Rape Victim

Last year a 15-year-old girl from one of the islands in the Maldives was arrested and sentenced to 8 months house arrest and 100 lashes by the Maldives justice system.

Map edited by Gillian Felix. Photo by Tsunami.com

Map edited by Gillian Felix. Photo by Tsunami.com

Turns out the girl’s step-father had been raping her for years, while her mother turned a blind eye. When the girl got pregnant the two adults killed and buried the new born. Police discovered the body and arrested and charged the parents with murder and abuse of a minor. They also arrested the girl and charged her with fornication. They claimed that she confessed to having sex with another man who was not her step-father. The population on this particular island is less than one thousand, yet the identity of this man remains a mystery, and he has not been found.

The girl was sentenced, her mother and step-father’s case is still pending.

Under Sharia Law, both men and women whether adult or child, can be punished with 100 lashes and house arrest if they are found guilty of having pre-marital sex or adultery.  Part of the common law practiced alongside Sharia, is that no child below 13 can consent to sex and that any sexual relations will be deemed as child abuse. The same law also adds in Article 25, “Unless proven otherwise, it cannot be considered that a child between ages 13-18 had given consent to committing a sexual act. And unless proven otherwise, it will be considered that the sexual act was committed without the child’s consent.”

“I agree that there is a strong contradiction here. Also, the man has been sentenced under common law. The act he committed is criminalized under the existing laws, those drafted and passed through the parliament. The girl, on the other hand, has been sentenced under Sharia law, which is not specifically written down. There is a discrepancy in how men and women are sentenced. At times females face more difficulty denying charges of fornication. This, I believe is a structural issue which needs to be addressed.” Said lawyer Mohamed Shafaz Wajeeh.

There are only 2 kinds of admissible evidence for proving rape in that country, they are; a confession by the rapist or four male witnesses. As a result proving rape is impossible. According to the judicial statistics report of 2011, ninety percent of female rape victims are flogged. The report also showed that in the last 3 years, no cases of rape have reached a positive verdict.  This year only 3 rape cases have been reported meanwhile 1 in 3 women ages 15-49 have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse.

It is not uncommon for rape victims to take drastic measures such as self-induced abortions, infanticide or abandoning babies.

The girl charged will endure public flogging when she turns 18. Imagine the anguish of anticipating that on top of all that she has been through.

Here’s a petition you can sign urging the Maldives government to stop this atrocious act.

Sources: BBC, Minivan NewsAvaaz.org

88 Villages In India Bans Child Marriage

On September 2010, UNICEF and local not-for-profit agencies in Yavatmal India launched the Child Rights and Child Protection movement. Their campaign prompted 88 villages to abandon child marriage, with another 150 following on March 8, Women’s Day.

Photo courtesy Yavatmalonline.com

Photo courtesy Yavatmalonline.com

“The number of girls married off between age 15 or 16 is too high. In some communities, it is a common practice even when the girl is 13 or 14,” said a government officer attached to the child and welfare department. “Early marriage is detrimental to the child’s welfare, in addition to it a criminal offence under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.”

Tarnoli district head of council Milind Joshi is prepared to take action if the resolution is not followed, adding, “Violators will be booked under the provisions of the Act.”

Ravi Aade, a social worker in Darva taluka (a subdivision of the district) said “We have been working in the villages for more than two years to create a conducive environment. The 88 villages were chosen in the first phase as we got a positive response from them.”

In the last month-and-a-half, 18 families have canceled the weddings of their under-aged daughters.

In India the legal age of marriage for girls is 18 and 21 for boys, however in some villages girls are married as soon as they turn 13.

Source: Hindustantimes.com

Note from @Gillianfx: Before publishing this article I checked to see if the 150 villages mentioned have kept their promise to abandon child marriage. Nothing was reported. I will keep you posted as this story develops.