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Iraq: The Womens Story

Dispatches - Iraq: The Women's Story

Producer/Director Fiona Campbell

The invasion of Iraq heralded promises of freedom from tyranny and equal rights for the women of Iraq. But three years on, the reality of everyday life for women inside Iraq is a different story.

To make this film, two Iraqi women risk their lives to spend three months travelling all over the country with a camera to record the lives and experiences of women they meet.

Dispatches: Iraq: The Women's Story provides a compelling account of a life inside Iraq that is rarely seen on news bulletins: stories of ordinary women whose struggle to survive has only worsened since the war.

Producer/Director Fiona Campbell

A co-production with ITN Factual
TX Channel 4 May 2006

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Twilight life of Malaysia's Muslim transsexuals

With her tight jeans, elaborate make-up and flowing hair, Tasha looks for all the world like a striking young woman. But her all-important Malaysian ID card declares she is a Muslim man.

"In Islam, there are only men and women, there are no transsexuals, and this is an Islamic country so that makes life very difficult for us," says the 28-year-old who has been cross-dressing since she was a child.

Like many transsexuals in Malaysia, a conservative and mostly Muslim country, the clash between ID card and appearance means Tasha is shunned by employers, and forced to make her living as a sex worker.

"It's a hard life, people don't like us, they're always making fun of us," she says as she prepares for another night in the grimy alleyways of Chow Kit, the red light district of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

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Uganda women seek gender recovery plan

By Wambi Michael

KAMPALA, Sep 26 (IPS) - After two decades of war during which thousands of children were used as child soldiers and many women raped, Northern Uganda’s recovery plan is to be spent on building roads rather than helping the country’s most vulnerable.

Civil society and women parliamentarians are not happy with the government and donors, as there are no concrete measures to meet gender-related concerns over the recovery plan for Northern Uganda.

The over 600 million dollar Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) – of which was 70 percent sponsored by donors and the remained by the Ugandan government – was designed to stabilise and bridge the economic disparities between Northern Uganda and the rest of the country.

Most of the money, to be spent over three years, is to be used to construct feeder roads and infrastructure destroyed during the war.

And while roads were needed, the needs of the women also needed to be met, said Oyam District Member of Parliament, Amongi Beatrice Lagada. "The women took on so many burdens during the war. So unless we recognise those gender roles we shall not restore the gender perspectives which were there before," she said.

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UN and partners open new front in war on sexual violence against girls

25 September 2009The United Nations joined with other partners today to launch a new initiative in the fight against sexual violence against girls, a scourge which affects 150 million victims in a given year and contributes to the spread of HIV and AIDS.

The programme seeks to provide funding to expand surveillance of sexual violence against girls in developing and emerging countries, develop a technical package of interventions for implementation at a country level to reduce the incidence of such abuse, and launch a major media campaign to motivate social and behavioural change.

“These three intervention strategies are pillars of what is expected to emerge as a global movement to address this devastating human injustice and public health problem,” the partners said in a joint news release.

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Move to take domestic violence cases out of religious courts in Lebanon

BEIRUT, 23 September 2009 (IRIN) - As lawmakers struggle to form a government three months after Lebanon's parliamentary elections, women's rights activists await the opening of parliament to debate a new bill on domestic violence.

Ghida Anani, programme coordinator of KAFA, a Lebanese organization campaigning against violence and the exploitation of women, estimates that as many as three-quarters of all Lebanese women have suffered physical abuse at the hands of husbands or male relatives at some point in their lives.

In Lebanon's multi-confessional democratic system, cases of domestic violence are ruled on in one the country's 15 religious courts, or family courts, whose laws date back to the Ottoman era and which campaigners say almost always favour men over women.

The new bill proposes to take domestic violence out of the religious courts and into the civil system and will cut across confessional lines, giving both Muslim and Christian women equal rights under the law, and, say campaigners, will be a key step towards equality between men and women.

"The family courts don't treat men and women equally," said Nadya Khalife, a researcher on women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa at NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW). "The law is a step in the right direction, but we still have far to go before we have equality in Lebanon."

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Being Gay, Muslim and Indonesian

By Hera Diani (Jakarta Globe)

Despite living under the same roof for years, Fachri (not his real name) thought his father had no clue that he was gay. But around five years ago, when he borrowed his father’s Koran to research a project, he was surprised to find certain verses underlined in pencil.

They were about God’s wrath toward people who committed acts of sexual deviance during the time of Prophet Luth (or Lot), the Islamic equivalent of the Sodom and Gomorrah text in the Bible.

Growing up in a religious family that adheres to Islamic teachings, it was not the first time Fachri had come across the verses. It was sort of touching, he said, how his father seemed to want to know him better, although he wished it was not through the religious text he despised.

“The text was one of the reasons why I decided to renounce my religion. I have lost faith in any kind of religion because it excludes us, condemns us,” said the 31-year-old advertising executive. “It creates an absolute border, whereas a human being is a complex thing.

“Why should I embrace religion when it doesn’t accept us? Why should I adhere to Islam, or any religion for that matter, when there is no space for me?”

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Who Stole The Tarts? Sex Work and Human Rights

Who Stole the Tarts?
Sex work and Human Rights
By Sandhya Rao & Cath Sluggett

From CASAM: The Centre for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalisation (SANGRAM)

Question:  What happens when advocacy and legislation in defense of human rights assimilates and perpetuates human rights abuses in the form of societal negative judgments of sex workers? 

The answer:  Sex workers often end up no better off than they were before and now they can add human rights advocates and human rights laws to the list of people and institutions working against them.


The title of this monograph and all the chapter headings are drawn from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Besides the allusion to tarts, the pejorative term for sex workers, the farcical fantasy of Alice’s adventures in the mythical Wonderland seems an apt reference to the unfamiliarity of the terrain, and Alice’s experiences echo much of our experiences in writing this paper.  Coming as we do from decades of work using the human rights framework, it is indeed difficult for us to critique it.  But we see the need to revisit this framework and do a reality check as to where it has succeeded and where it has failed.  The successes are well documented and therefore we choose to dwell on areas where it has not delivered as promised.  We claim that the human rights framework is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to address the problems faced by some populations, in particular the sex workers. We do not claim that it has failed entirely here either. However, there is a need to take into account the issues highlighted in this monograph.

In addition the title reflects some of the absurd ways human rights are constructed and applied to sex workers.  The attitudes of morality that surround sex work are mirrored in much of the tale.  From ground experience, the human rights framework, in the context of sex work seems to be as farcical as the trial in Alice in Wonderland. Human rights, their violations, and lack of access to the universal justice that it purports to offer, and indeed the framework itself, is the focus of this paper.  How does it work with sex workers?  Through a literature survey and by talking to sex workers in unstructured interviews, this paper critically engages with the dilemma that human rights presents to those in sex work.  The paper attempts to inspire a lively discussion on this topic rather than provide answers.

(Introduction from "Who Stole The Tarts?")

Please download and read the full document here: Who Stole The Tarts (.pdf)

If you want more information or have some resources to offer in assistance, you can contact SANGRAM by email at sangram.vamp@gmail.com

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Maternal Health Task Force and Ashoka Present: Young Champions Fellowship

Building the Next Generation of Global Leaders—Maternal Health Task Force and Ashoka Partner

September 24, 2009, NEW YORK—The Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth and Ashoka will partner to create the first international fellowship program that links committed young professionals with seasoned social entrepreneurs to improve maternal health in developing countries. The Maternal Health Task Force and Ashoka will be featuring the Young Champions for Maternal Health Program as a commitment to action at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City, where it will be announced by President Clinton on September 25.

“This is the first fellowship program to focus exclusively on global maternal health and comes at a moment when the need is more urgent than ever. By supporting a new generation of passionate and committed innovators, we grow one step closer to saving women’s lives and eliminating the gross disparity between developed and developing countries when it comes to maternal health,” said Ana Langer, M.D., president of EngenderHealth.

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Action Alert – Demand Investigation Into Attacks on Transgender Man in La Matanza

The rights violated in this case include: The right to life and security, the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to equality before the law, and the right to freedom of expression.
The Issue

On July 19, 2008, Ian Breppe was verbally assaulted with reference to his transgender identity by the owner of a butcher shop near his bicycle repair shop. The butcher shop owner then beat Ian up. When Ian reported this assault at the police station in La Matanza, the officers rejected the complaint and verbally humiliated him.

The next year, on April 10, 2009, Ian was verbally abused by David Martin Albarran, who grabbed him by his hair, dragged him around, beat him, and then finally threw him against the window, causing Ian serious injuries. Ian had three tendons cut in his right foot, his ribs cracked, and was bruised on various parts of his body He brought complaints to the Attorney General of La Matanza and to the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, Security and Human Rights of Argentina. Neither of these institutions responded to the complaints.

These threats and violence against Ian are indicators of systemic violence against trans people in La Matanza. The perpetrators of these acts remain unpunished because they have the implicit support of the police and municipal authorities. Perpetrators have even boasted of having the direct support of the police in other cases. This intolerance, discrimination, and abuse, based on gender identity manifests itself daily in various towns in the Province of Buenos Aires.

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CFP: “International Efforts to Address Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones”

The Body of the Nation:

International Efforts to Address Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones

Edited by Tonia St.Germain, J.D. and Susan Dewey, Ph.D.

President Obama has vowed to put women’s issues at the core of American foreign policy. His decision to institute an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues is unprecedented and reflects the elevated importance of global women’s issues to the State Department. Secretary of State Clinton has drawn attention to women at nearly every stop in her travels, most recently on a visit to eastern Congo to speak out against mass rape. Clearly Obama’s Administration recognizes the urgency of this crisis surrounding the use of rape as a tool in armed conflict in Africa and worldwide.

Feminists in the academy have an opportunity to help shape the questions leaders will answer as they formulate policy to address:

(1) sexual violence as a weapon of war;

(2) sex trafficking as a by- product of war;

(3) services to help victims of these atrocities.

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