Monday, November 26, 2007

Human Rights Update: Ending Violence Against Women is a Global Imperative; UNIFEM Launches Campaign

Nicole Kidman, UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador

UNIFEM, its Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman, and a large number of partners launched an Internet campaign on ending violence against women today. Titled, "Say NO to Violence against Women," the campaign invites people to add their names to a "virtual" book on a web site that has been developed specifically for this purpose: Urging hundreds of thousands -- even millions -- of people around the world to participate, the campaign aims to send a strong message to decision-makers to place ending violence against women high on the global agenda. ... "Violence against women is an appalling human rights violation," said [Kidman]. "But it is not inevitable. We can put a stop to this. The more names we collect, the stronger our case to make ending violence against women a top priority for governments everywhere. This is why I was the first to sign my name." UNIFEM, 11-26-07

Human Rights Update: Ending Violence Against Women is a Global Imperative; UNIFEM Launches Campaign

By Richard Power

In follow-up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UNIFEM has launched a Say No to Violence Against Women campaign.

UNIFEM goodwill ambassador Nicole Kidman is the campaign's spokesperson.

Click here to participate.

Violence against women goes on every day, in every country.

There is random, personal violence, there is also violence that is systematized and sanctioned by government and/or religion. (The tolerance of violence against women is no less an abomination than the act itself, but the fabricating of a religious rationale for it is, arguably, an even more heinous act.)

Here are important stories from the Congo, Iraq, Saudia Arabia and France.

According to humanitarian workers such as Christine Schuler Deschryver, the plight of women in the Congo is worse than that of women in Darfur, i.e., the numbers are greater, it is more widespread and it has been going on a longer time.

Along the eastern border region, a daily horror show is playing itself out, bolstered by the ambivalence of the world and the political vacuum created by decades of regional conflict.
The perpetrators include the Interahamwe, the Hutu fighters who fled neighbouring Rwanda in 1994 after committing genocide there; the Congolese army; a random assortment of armed civilians; even United Nations peacekeepers, and increasingly, local civilians
Christine Schuler Deschryver, who works for a German aid organisation and has been a staunch and stubborn advocate for victims, says the perpetrators are difficult to identify. “All of them are raping women,” she says, “It is a country sport. Any person in uniform is an enemy to women.”
The problems have their roots in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when thousands of victims and perpetrators fled across the border. Upwards of 10,000 Rwandan rebel forces remained, living in forested areas and terrorising local populations at their will. ... The attacks grow more numerous and sadistic by the day and the normalisation of sexual violence continues largely unabated.
Sydney Morning Herald, 111-24-07

(But, of course, since the problem developed as a result of an influx of armed men in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, the situation in the Congo actually underscores the need for preventing the worst in Darfur).

Despite the US political establishment's self-serving and delusional talk about "progress" and "victory" in Iraq, the reality is a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions, second only to Darfur; and women and young girls, as usual, are singled out to suffer special misery.

Erika Feller, an assistant high commissioner for protection at the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said attention must be paid to the plight of women refugees in countries neighboring Iraq, particularly Syria.
Feller, who recently visited Syria, singled out the resurgence of problems such as "weekend marriages," a euphemism for prostitution.
Families make available young girls for "a traditional marriage ceremony" for the weekend to men who are prepared to pay and "the divorce takes place on Sunday in accordance to traditional practices," she explained.
"So it's not formally speaking labelled as prostitution but it is basically survival sex," she told reporters, noting that those women, particularly single women heading households, had often no other choice to feed their children.
Iraqi refugees have also taken refuge in Lebanon, Egypt and Iran. Agence France Press, 11-13-07

Police found the body of Suad Kokaz, head of the Amil High School for Girls, outside her home in the relatively safe Shiite area of Kadhimiyah. She was ambushed by gunmen after leaving her home for work, according to police.
Amil High School has become a haven for Shiite Muslim students fleeing with their families from the religious segregation that has pulled apart many of Baghdad's neighborhoods since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. ...
The murder is the second in as many weeks of a Baghdad schoolteacher. Last week authorities found the body of a woman teacher not far from her school in the Al-Saydiyah area in southeast Baghdad. ...
Police in the southern city of Basra report a sharp increase in attacks on women, with more than 40 killed between July and September ... dozens of women are threatened and intimidated each month, mostly by self-styled enforcers of religious law who target females who wear Western clothes or appear in public without head scarves.
ABC News, 11-15-07

No discussion of violence against women would be credible without including the Saudi kingdom, the spiritual center of both Islam as a whole, and the extremist Wahhabi sect, which spawned Osama bin Laden, in particular.

A Saudi court on Tuesday more than doubled the number of lashes that a female rape victim was sentenced to last year after her lawyer appealed the original sentence. The decision, which many lawyers found shocking even by Saudi standards of justice, has provoked a rare public debate about the treatment of women here. ... The victim’s name has not been released. She was raped about 18 months ago in Qatif, a city in the Eastern Province, and has become known in the Saudi media as “the Qatif girl.” She was 19 years old at the time of the assault.
Her case has been widely debated since the court sentenced her to 90 lashes a year ago for being in the same car as an unrelated man, even after it ruled that she had subsequently been raped. For a woman to be in seclusion with a man who is not her husband or a relative is a crime in Saudi Arabia, whose legal code is based on a strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law.
New York Times, 11-16-07

But there is no need to focus on Africa or the Middle East, or on the violence that flourishes in the midst of humanitarian crisis, or is systemized as a tool of war, or santioned by religion.

There is ample evidence of this sickness, and an unacceptable level of tolerance for it, in the culture of the West.

Image: Marie Trintignant, Actress, Murdered By Her Husband, Bertrand Cantat, A Rock Star, Who Served Only Four Years in Prison (Half of an Eight Year Sentence) for the Crime

FRANCE'S most popular rock star, Bertrand Cantat, will walk free from jail today after serving half of an eight-year sentence for battering to death his actress girlfriend, Marie Trintignant, in a jealous rage four years ago. ... He was convicted of killing Trintignant after battering her in a hotel room in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, where the actress had been starring in a film.
At his trial in Vilnius, the court heard that Cantat had punched his lover 19 times in the face, causing irreparable brain damage, after he flew into a jealous rage over an affectionate text message from her ex-husband.
When the 41-year-old mother of four fell into a coma from which she never emerged, he did not call an ambulance, but telephoned friends instead. ... Far from dimming the group's popularity, Cantat's conviction sent record sales soaring. A live album released in 2005 sold over 300,000 copies in France.
The Scotsman, 10-15-07

If you haven't already done so, please Click here to participate in UNIFEM's campaign to end violence against women.

Some Related Posts

In This Century of Crisis, Empowering Women is Vital if the Human Race is to Prevail, i.e., Evolve

Global Campaign Against Poverty 10-17-07: Stand Up & Speak Out -- Raise Women Up, Defend Them Against Violence & Oppression, Put Them in Power

Human Rights Update 9-6-07: In the 21st Century, Sane Men are Feminists -- UNIFEM Works to Dismantle the Edifice of Dysfunction

Hard Rain Journal 2-17-07: UN Millennium Goals and Human Rights Update -- Healing Balm for the World? Feed Children, Empower Women

To download the full text of UNIFEM Annual Report (2006-2007) in English, Spanish or French, click here.

For a directory of Words of Power Human Rights Updates, click here.

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