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Curbing sexual violence in conflict is ‘mission irresistible’ for new UN envoy

9 February 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s newly appointed Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict promised today a more coherent and effective battle against the scourge, citing recent mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and calling her new task “mission irresistible.”

“Sexual violence against women is not cultural, it’s criminal. It’s not a women’s issue, it’s a human rights issue. It’s for both men and women to make sure that women have the right to their body,” Margot Wallström, a Swedish politician with a long history in defending women’s rights, told a news briefing in New York, citing the need to end impunity as a priority area. “Women carry half the sky, so they have to be valued that way.”

Ms. Wallström was introduced by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro who said the new appointment was “a major step” towards protecting civilians subjected to sexual violence not only in conflict but also in post-conflict situations.

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Two Great Ads Focus on Ending Domestic Violence

If you are not checking out Bell Bajao (Ring the bell), you really should be.  They are an amazing project designed to interrupt the cycle of domestic violence.  They ask people who witness or overhear domestic violence to speak up, intercede and "ring the bell" in order to stop abuse.

They have produced some ads to raise awareness and here are two:


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Call for Solidarity: Freedom and Gender Equality in Iran

Over a month ago a group of Iranian women’s activists called for all defenders of women’s rights, women’s organizations and networks to take action in support of the women’s and civil rights movements in Iran, and to prepare measures of support and protest under the banner of “freedom and gender equality in Iran”.  They requested, in case of repression in Iran, that these organizations act as the voices across the world of their sisters in Iran, and in that way demonstrate solidarity with them.  Thus far many women’s and human rights organizations have responded to this appeal and some of them are planning events for March. Now the women of the world are calling to everyone to show solidarity with the people of Iran.  Please join us.  The names of individuals and organizations supporting the appeal and holding events will be announced as confirmed.

Show Your Support by Siging Our Statement Below

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Call for Papers - Engendering Empowerment : Education and Equality

The organising committee for the UNGEI E4 conference is made up of education activists, academics, practitioners and policy makers from many countries of the world. We are seeking papers and presentations that deal with gender, education, empowerment, and equality for our innovative E4 conference in May 2010 . Although, over the last ten years, children around the world have had increased opportunities to attend school and benefit from education, nearly a billion people still receive little or no education. The majority are women and girls who face gender inequalities in many areas of their lives. The harsh effects of climate change, war and economic recession impact particularly heavily on women and girls, and if not addressed, will place enormous obstacles in the way of their education.  This conference is part of a world-wide mobilisation of partnerships to realise the rights of girls and women to education and training  and address the gender inequalities that prevent initiatives from reaching their full potential to transform societies.  The key theme of the conference is:

Partnership, participation and power for gender equality in education

Parallel streams will look at:

  • Addressing violence
  • Challenging poverty and inequalities
  • Beyond access: Policy and practice for gender equality in schools

Cross cutting themes will consider:

  • Health, water, nutrition and HIV
  • Participation
  • Climate change
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Urgency Required: Gay and Lesbian Rights are Human Rights

This book was conceived in response to the 2008 celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite this Declaration, which was adopted in 1948, sexual minorities around the world are routinely subjected to flagrant human rights violations (particularly by governments) that range from subtle discrimination to imprisonment, torture, the death penalty and murder.  There are still countries where gays and lesbians are not considered human and human rights are not, therefore, considered applicable. Read the full introduction.

The book Urgency Required focuses on urgent issues of gay and lesbian liberation, taking a historical perspective and reflecting worldwide geographic diversity.  Employing the term ‘LGBT-persons’, the acronym used for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, it explores concepts and strategies for taking steps towards decriminalization and equal rights and treatment regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

In 2009 homophobia appears to be the last accepted prejudice, where racism is rejected, anti-Semitism is condemned, and the oppression of women has lost its legitimacy.

From subtle discrimination to imprisonment, torture, the death penalty and murder: human rights violations against sexual minorities are carried out on a daily basis around the world, not least by governments, in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated since 1948.  In some eighty countries, gays and lesbians are still regarded as criminals, sometimes awaiting life imprisonment or the death penalty. Not even recognized as human beings, they can be denied rights covered by the whole range of human rights legislation.

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A Message from Iran

(via Stop FGM Kurdistan)

Dear Reader, 

I have a message from Iran for you, written in a simple language, away from the many big words and grand expressions. I know that hearing the name Iran brings to mind images and memories of a different place – where different laws and government exist and people live in a different style.  But different how? 

Well, you may agree with me that there are some restrictions that you feel as soon as you become a part of the everyday life within the Iranian society. You become especially unlucky when an Iranian law applies to you and even more unlucky if you are woman. There is beauty to everyday life in Iran, great food, warm hospitality, and the rich culture and history that multicultural Iran holds. But if you are a professional, activist, writer etc. and you are there to make a difference and have something to say which doesn’t go according to the government’s line or the ruling clergymen – then you would feel those restrictions even more. 

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Canada Ignores Women’s Human Rights

February 2, 2010 (Ottawa) Canada is ignoring the basic human rights of the poorest and most vulnerable Canadian women, says the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) in a new report issued today.  No Action: No Progress assesses Canada’s response to priority recommendations that were made by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women after its review of Canada in 2008.  At that time, the Committee identified two areas in which human rights violations were so pressing that they required immediate action:

• persistent failure to provide adequate social assistance to women and girls living in poverty;
• endemic violence against Aboriginal women and girls.

“Canada is the home of serious violations of the human rights of Aboriginal women and girls,” said Sharon McIvor. “The disappearances and murders of 520 Aboriginal women and girls have now been documented by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.  About half of these disappearances and murders have occurred since 2000.  But the Government of Canada has not taken effective steps to address the failures of both police and governments to protect Aboriginal women and girls from violence and to investigate that violence promptly and effectively when it occurs.  The many calls from the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, and many other non-governmental organizations, for a national investigation or inquiry to correct the systemic failures in law enforcement, and a national action plan to deal with the shockingly poor social and economic conditions of Aboriginal women and girls have fallen on deaf ears.  The Government of Canada says that it is talking – there are two intergovernmental working groups.  But, so far, there is no action.”

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UPDATE: Aceh: Civil society groups advocate for repeal of Qanun Jinayah (Islamic Criminal Legal Code)

The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network and the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women! (SKSW Campaign) join their allies in Indonesia in continuing to call for the repeal of a law (or 'qanun') passed by the Aceh Legislative Council (DPRD) on Monday 14 September 2009, that expands the range of violent punishments for alleged moral and sexual transgressions, including stoning to death for “adultery” and 100 lashes for homosexuality.

Such cruel punishments can never be justified in the name of ‘religion’, ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’. For the first time, stoning to death would be codified in the Indonesian legal system and Islamic jurisdiction would be expanded into criminal law. We welcome the news that the Governor of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam has expressly stated that he would not sign the Qanun Jinayah, and that he has returned it to the Aceh legislature. The governor is also reported to be providing an opportunity for Aceh’s civil society groups to propose an improved set of laws in the place of Qanun Jinayah.

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Study shows: Majority of Kurdish Women in Iraq Victims of Genital Mutilation

Arbil (Iraq) | Berlin: On the occasion of the International Action Day against Female Genital Mutilation, a representative empirical study on Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi-Kurdistan is going to be presented on February 6.

A 40 page report summarizes the results of a one-and-a-half year empirical study conducted by the German relief organization WADI.  The numbers presented in the report are alarming: A vast majority of women in Iraqi-Kurdistan have undergone FGM with some regions reaching a top ratio of more than 80 percent.

The study provides comprehensive evidence on the underlying dynamics of FGM and helps understand, why mothers who themselves experienced the horror of mutilation allow FGM to be practiced on their daughters. A vast majority of women who adhere to the practice believe it to be a religious obligation in Islam. Others refer to tradition and state that  "it has always been like that ".

The study also shows a clear correlation between the level of education and the attitude towards FGM. Still, the FGM rate amongst university graduates is around 30 percent. But it becomes clear that with an increasing social status, women are more likely to question harmful traditions and alleged religious obligations.

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Indian Gov't to make honour killing heinous crime

By Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times

The government is set to amend the 150-year-old Indian Penal Code to define honour killing as a heinous crime by adding a new section to the criminal law, with punishment ranging from life imprisonment to even a death sentence.

The move follows the growing demands to curb the social menace of killing young girls defying their families in marriage related issues, in some north Indian states particularly Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

So far, honour killing is not a classified crime in India, and no separate data is available of such cases with the National Crime Records Bureau.

The proposal moved by Home Ministry, has been cleared by the Law Ministry and the government is likely to move a Bill in Parliament in the coming Budget session, after getting the cabinet nod.

“We have completed our preparations to put in place a strong deterrent against the pervert practice of honour killings not only against those who carry it out, but against those who abet it also,” Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily told Hindustan Times.

The government has shelved its plan to bring a fresh law to curb such killings, and has decided to amend the IPC, the law that prescribes punishment for criminal offences.

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