Lazy Sunday afternoon ahead? Spare two minutes to write for KOFAVIV, a women’s rights organisation in Haiti. Several KOFAVIV members have received threatening calls and text messages including death threats since March.
Letter-writers all over the world are writing for KOFAVIV — join them here.
Speaking up about sexual violence is just the first step in stopping these acts. But we also need to act - Let us waste no time in taking action, the time is now. We’ve got to stop waiting for solutions.
In late June of 2013 in the town of Busia in Kenya, a girl was gang-raped on her way home from a funeral and left to die. The international cry for justice on her behalf unleashed a torrent of information concerning mishandled cases of sexual violence in Busia.
This case drew national and international attention, bringing to light the horrendous obstacles that survivors of sexual violence in Busia must overcome in order to seek justice through the criminal justice system.
But, not all hope is lost. Organizations including Equality Now and The Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) are working to garner even more widespread support to force officials to arrest and prosecute rape suspects. In Addition, “the attorney general, director of public prosecution and the chief of justice have launched procedures to facilitate implementation of the Sexual Offences Act, geared towards combating the high incidence of sexual violence in the country.”
Read more via Thomas Reuters Foundation.
Investing in Young People: the Invincible Force
Image Source: UNFPA 2014
11 July marks the World Population Day established in 1989. It followed the hallmark day that occurred on 11 July 1987 when the world’s population reached five billion people.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) leads on programmes aiming to raise awareness about global population issues, challenges and achievements. According to UNFPA, the world population was 7, 162, 119, 000 in 2013 of whom 3, 610, 470, 000 were male and 3, 551 649, 000 were female.Such figures show no stark differences between the male and female population. They do actually indicate a 50:50 ratio of men and women populating the earth. 1.8 billion are under the age of 25 making one quarter of the world’s population.
Investing in Young People is the 2014 World Population Day theme. Endowing young people means promoting their healthy habits, ensuring their education, employment opportunities, access to health services and their social protection. It appears that such theme should be a given in international and national policy-making. In fact, as UNFPA shed light with its work, poverty, inequality and discrimination thwart the lives of the current and future young generations, especially female.
Worldwide more than 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth every year. 9 out 10 adolescent pregnancies take place in the context of child or early marriage. Despite legislative commitments to end child marriage, 1 in 3 girls will likely be married before they are 18 in developing countries. 1 out of 9 girls will be married before their 15th birthday.
Gender discrimination highly affects female access to education thus hindering prospects for reducing poverty. While the largest gains in primary school completion over the past decade were observed among girls, secondary education remains a challenge especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-West Asia.This is because school may be an unsafe place due to gender-based violence. Worldwide, up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. Girls may be pulled from school to be married. After marriage, young girls’ access to formal, or even informal, education is severely limited because of domestic chores, childbearing and enforcing social norms whereby marriage and schooling are irreconcilable.
Despite such challenges, it is uplifting to know that there are girls like Malala Yousafzai who can stand up discriminating socio-political systems and the right to education by lobbying for their voices to be heard with courage and self-abnegation. 12th July 2013 was Malala’s 16th birthday, which has been dubbed as Malala Day. The UN Global Initiative on Education is precisely an emblematic instance on investing in young world leaders who convened to formulate a Youth Resolution to assert the education they want.
Regarding war-torn areas, among 42 million people who fled their homes because of war, 80 per cent are women, children and young people. At least 10 million are estimated to be girls and young women. More than 140 million girls live in fragile States affected by armed conflict facing violence, abuse and exploitation. They are the age group most often recruited by armed forces or armed groups as child soldiers or sex slaves. They are most likely to be trafficked for exploitative labour or commercial sex. They are the primary targets for sexual violence and at highest risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Nevertheless, the adolescent age group is the least likely to receive assistance or protection during conflict. This is because humanitarian assistance has typically focused on the urgent health and nutrition needs of under-five and primary school-age children.
On the other side, it is promising to observe that the current generation of young people is the most inter-connected in history. In 2011, young people under the age of 25 accounted for 45 per cent of total internet users. Globally, 36 per cent of young people aged less than 25 have used the internet, despite wide disparities between developed and developing economies. In the developed world, 77 per cent of young people under the age of 25 used the internet. In the developing world, 30 per cent of the under 25-year-olds used the Internet. Despite these inequalities, the total number of internet users below the age of 25 in developing countries is already three times as high as that in the developed world. Thus, investing in young people means to capture and channel ground-breaking abilities especially related to the means of communication.
For instance, internet access drove innovative initiatives like the one undertaken in Madagascar. The project aimed at tackling health taboos among young people. It shed light as to how social media can assist in addressing emotional, interpersonal and sexual matters ‘by, for and with’ young people.
Little Lost Girl by Ray Dillon
Finally, one minute should be spent in remembering that an estimated figure of 200 million girls is missing from the count of the world population. 200 million girls were denied to live and fulfil their potentials because they were the wrong and unwanted sex. Investing in young people is the key to counteract such instances of gender discrimination. Their education, their ideas are able to cross boundaries of time and space, their energy and innovative and critical thinking could overtake and rule out similar practices because empowering young people makes an invincible force.
The Truth About Family Planning
Deciding whether, and when, to have children can often be daunting to many would-be parents, but for women in developing countries such choices are often decided for them due to the lack of family planning support which they can receive. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 222 million women worldwide are not able to access modern family planning, and family, religious and social pressures are often quoted as factors which hinder women’s access to such services. All too often this lack of planning has detrimental and sometimes fatal effects.
In 2012, during the Family Planning Summit, eight countries recognised the need for change, and collectively they pledged to donate £2.6 billion to create additional family planning services in developing countries. The FP2020 organisation was created with the aim of providing women in the global south with full access to family planning services within 8 years. However, upon analysis it is difficult to see the organisation’s aim as anything more than a starry-eyed, misconceived, pipe-dream. If the Summit believed that the solution is simply to provide additional services then, sadly, they were ill-advised. Yes global attention of the plight is necessary, and yes a significant amount of money is required, but a few additional clinics spread across the globe will not have the far-reaching socio-economic effect that is so desperately needed for change.
Firstly one must understand the true scale of the crisis. The facts below relate to one country which the Summit identified as struggling to provide the family planning services so desperately required, Uganda:
- Uganda has the second highest rate of unmet family planning worldwide, i.e. women of a reproductive age who want to stop or delay childbirth but are not taking contraceptive measures.
- The amount of contraceptive measures provided to Ugandan women has not increased in recent years. This is despite a recent change to a more liberal approach towards sexual intercourse outside of wedlock.
- 1 in 5 pregnancies are terminated illegally due to unwanted pregnancy.
- Approximately 300,000 women each year have life-threatening “backstreet abortions”.
- Each year around 85,000 Ugandan women receive medical treatment for complications associated with illegal abortions.
- 1 in 4 maternal deaths in Uganda are as a direct result of illegal abortions.
- The law relating to abortion is often misinterpreted, as the Penal Code prescribes a prison sentence from 3 to 14 years for procuring, assisting or supplying drugs to aid abortion.
- Despite the confusion, abortions are legal in Uganda. A pregnancy can be terminated if it causes threat to the mother’s life, if it will effect the physical or mental health of the mother, or if the pregnancy is as a result of sexual violence.
The above facts are disconcerting, but sadly Uganda is not the only country in which women face such difficulties. According to the United Nations approximately 25% of women in sub-Saharan Africa have an unmet need for family planning, and for almost all sub-Saharan countries there has been little, if any, reduction in this figure since 1990.
For real change to happen there must be redress against laws and practices which facilitate coercion and discrimination against women who seek family planning advice. In addition there has to be a strong educational campaign to raise awareness of contraceptive measures and the risks associated with illegal terminations. So whilst additional services are so desperately needed, it is clear that simply plowing money into a problem does not create a solution.
The Summit had the right intentions, but there is much more that they can do. Their focus must shift towards a comprehensive campaign of robust education, obtaining legal reform and providing additional family planning services. More can be done to stop the needless maternal deaths of so many women.
Emma Watson is best known for her role in the highly successful “Harry Potter” film series. Now the 24-year-old actress has taken on a new role as a UN Women ambassador. Watson is no stranger to women’s rights work having visited Bangladesh and Zambia where she promoted girls’ education for several years.
"So excited to start work with the AMAZING people at UN Women!" She announced on Twitter Monday, causing a surge in traffic that crashed the UN Women’s website. Watson will advocate for the HeForShe campaign, which encourages men and boys to speak out in support of gender equality.
“I am convinced that Emma’s intellect and passion will enable U.N. Women’s messages to reach the hearts and minds of young people globally,” says UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Read more via The Telegraph
11 July is World Population Day!
This year’s focus is on investing in young people. Today’s 1.8 billion young people are shaping social and economic realities, challenging norms and values, and building the foundation of the world’s future. Yet too many young people continue to grapple with poverty, inequality and human rights violations that prevent them from reaching their personal and collective potential.
“The solution lies in investments in health, education, training and employment for young people. This will improve prospects for their lives and our common future,” said Ban Ki-moon about the Day.
On Tuesday, HollabackPHILLY launched their Anti-Street Harassment Transit Ad Campaign in conjunction with Feminist Public Works, an organization that promotes public awareness about the safety and well-being of women, as a part of International Anti-Street Harassment Week.
If feminism can be re-packaged to sell Sheryl Sandberg’s neoliberalism, feminism can remain one of Wonder Woman’s heroic traits – and a fight for what is just and fair and right.
Photo: Everett Collection / Rex
Marital Rape in Kenya
In 1999 Kenya Attorney General, Amos Wako, during the 16 Days of Activism against Women explained that “Violence against women pervades all social and ethnic groups. It is a societal crisis that requires concerted action to stem its scourge…culture does influence the relationship between the various groups in society and some cultural practices, beliefs and traditions have had the tendency to relegate women to second class status in society thereby not only violating their rights as human beings [but] leading to discrimination against women. Some…customs and cultural practices have found their way not only into law but [are used] as justification for violence against women.”
Marital rape, also known as spousal rape and rape in marriage, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. It is a form of partner rape, of domestic violence, and of sexual abuse. It can be equally, or even more, emotionally and physically damaging than rape by a stranger. In many African cultures spousal rape still remains a rather elusive concept. In Kenya marital rape is not a criminal offence. Forced sex within marriage is a reality for many women in Kenya as more than one in 10 married women admit to an experience of rape by husbands within the past year.
This is mainly due to the fact that it is generally perceived that once two individuals of “marriageable age” come together into the union which then forms the institution of marriage, the consent to sexual intercourse is deemed to have been granted at all times. Sexual abuse, although it is a common form of systemic intimate violence, is still rarely reported. The stereotypical image of rape, is non-consensual sex with a stranger, occurring in a strange and unsafe location. Because of this perception, a victim or her society may find it difficult to recognize the crime of rape when her sexual partner of many years demands sex without her consent. Intimate partner violence is often systemic and it may be difficult for the victim to keep track of the violation. As a result to this it is apparent that the term and/or concept of spousal rape remains rather alien for those within the African cultural context.
Sadly many sub-Saharan countries still permit husbands to rape their wives with little or no consequences and there is a growing trend that marital exemption is unjust and has no place in a civilized society. Therefore, the recognition of the inappropriateness of marital exemption is, however, only the first step towards its elimination. To effectively equalize the treatment of marital and non-marital rape, legislatures and judiciaries must take action. For example under the Kenyan Jurisprudence, Marital rape is not recognized by the Penal Code - which is the principal statute for the creation of offences - as a criminal offence because of the presumption that consent to sexual intercourse is given by the act of marriage. Therefore, the perpetrators often go unpunished or, if at all convicted, are punished for assault.
Furthermore, studies conducted worldwide indicate that health problems caused by marital rape include HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, vaginal bleeding or infection, genital irritation, pain during sex, chronic pelvic and urinary tract infections. Therefore the Kenyan government should endeavour for marital rape to be explicitly prohibited in national law and for Section 43.5 of the Sexual Offences Act to be repealed. Also, the government should aim to raise awareness among the public that marital rape is a crime.