The Global Persecution of Women
Nora Boustany, “U.N. Cites Arab World's 'Empty Gestures' on Women,” Washington Post, 8 Dec. 2006.
Arab countries have made some advances in their treatment of women in recent years but have failed to significantly improve conditions for them, according to a report carried out under the aegis of the U.N. Development Program.
The report, released yesterday in Yemen, urges Arab leaders to make genuine changes and to reinterpret Islamic laws as a means to empower women.
Arab governments have "announced a host of reforms targeting freedom and good governance," the report says. But "reforms often seemed empty gestures to cover up the continuation of an oppressive status quo."
"Women are making gains, but they are not realizing their full potential yet in contributing to the prosperity and strength of their societies," Amat al-Alim Alsoswa, director of the U.N. Development Program's Arab bureau, said in a telephone interview from Sanaa, Yemen's capital. "There is only partial progress. Women in the Arab world are moving closer to legal equality, but this is not enough."
The report notes that political and military crises such as the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are part of the broader context of development in the region. Arab leaders often blame such conflicts for delays in implementing reforms. But such crises do not absolve governments of their failures, according to Alsoswa.
"We do not accept these issues as an excuse for not taking care of other problems," she said.
Alsoswa also said that although women's participation in politics has grown in such countries as Morocco, Bahrain and Iraq, it is "still below what it is outside the Arab world."
After 40 years, women in Kuwait won the right last year to vote and run for office, yet no woman has been elected to parliament. In Yemen, women have voted and run for elective office since 1993, but there is one female lawmaker in an assembly of 301. Female cabinet ministers remain rare in the Arab world.
The report recommends using affirmative action or quotas, at least temporarily, to put women in decision-making positions, as was done in Iraq and Jordan. Quotas are especially important in countries where "discriminatory clauses are embedded in their legal structure," it says.
The U.N.-sponsored report was crafted mostly by Arab experts in various fields, including authors, researchers, academics and Islamic jurists. They were selected in an effort to give Arab societies a sense of ownership of the report.
"This particular report will be very controversial," said Alsoswa, who became Yemen's first minister for human rights in 2003. "As an ordinary reader, I am going to be vocal in my criticism. This report is the property of the people."
The report is the latest installment of a project launched in 2002 to identify the social, educational, political and cultural reasons why the Arab world has fallen behind other regions. Although certain legal advances had been made against gender discrimination, the report says, they were insufficient in a context of conservative social norms. The report also chided governments for not living up to declared reforms.
In Jordan, significant strides were made in passing labor laws affecting women, the report notes, though it also says women remain subjugated and underemployed because of entrenched traditions. Meanwhile, Tunisia and Morocco are described as reinterpreting Islamic law to enhance women's rights relating to inheritance, divorce, custody and other issues.
At an event to launch the report yesterday, according to Alsoswa, some participants said Arab countries have undertaken reforms that are secular in nature, rather than anchored in Islam. But the authors of the study cite modern interpretations of Islamic law that guarantee equality for women.
Even when Arab countries create legislation that protects women's rights, Alsoswa said, women can still face oppression.
"Judges really read those laws in a personal way, based on their own experience and not the law, and this is one of the obstacles," she argued.
The report also notes that health conditions for women in the Arab world are poor and that men receive better care. "Women in Arab countries, especially the least developed countries, suffer . . . high rates of risk of morbidity and mortality connected with pregnancy and reproductive functions," the report says.
Education proved a bright spot, in some ways. Female enrollment in colleges has risen, and girls outranked boys in humanities and sciences in a dozen countries.
Despite such achievements, Alsoswa said, a sense remains that improvements are not being made quickly enough.
"We are still talking about issues we started talking about in the last century," she said.
”Women’s Rights,” Human Rights Watch 2005.
Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women.
Combatants and their sympathizers in conflicts, such as those in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, and Rwanda, have raped women as a weapon of war with near complete impunity. Men in Pakistan, South Africa, Peru, Russia, and Uzbekistan beat women in the home at astounding rates, while these governments alternatively refuse to intervene to protect women and punish their batterers or do so haphazardly and in ways that make women feel culpable for the violence. As a direct result of inequalities found in their countries of origin, women from Ukraine, Moldova, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Burma, and Thailand are bought and sold, trafficked to work in forced prostitution, with insufficient government attention to protect their rights and punish the traffickers. In Guatemala, South Africa, and Mexico, women's ability to enter and remain in the work force is obstructed by private employers who use women's reproductive status to exclude them from work and by discriminatory employment laws or discriminatory enforcement of the law. In the U.S., students discriminate against and attack girls in school who are lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered, or do not conform to male standards of female behavior. Women in Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia face government-sponsored discrimination that renders them unequal before the law - including discriminatory family codes that take away women's legal authority and place it in the hands of male family members - and restricts women's participation in public life.
Abuses against women are relentless, systematic, and widely tolerated, if not explicitly condoned. Violence and discrimination against women are global social epidemics, notwithstanding the very real progress of the international women's human rights movement in identifying, raising awareness about, and challenging impunity for women's human rights violations.
We live in a world in which women do not have basic control over what happens to their bodies. Millions of women and girls are forced to marry and have sex with men they do not desire. Women are unable to depend on the government to protect them from physical violence in the home, with sometimes fatal consequences, including increased risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Women in state custody face sexual assault by their jailers. Women are punished for having sex outside of marriage or with a person of their choosing (rather than of their family's choosing). Husbands and other male family members obstruct or dictate women's access to reproductive health care. Doctors and government officials disproportionately target women from disadvantaged or marginalized communities for coercive family planning policies.
Our duty as activists is to expose and denounce as human rights violations those practices and policies that silence and subordinate women. We reject specific legal, cultural, or religious practices by which women are systematically discriminated against, excluded from political participation and public life, segregated in their daily lives, raped in armed conflict, beaten in their homes, denied equal divorce or inheritance rights, killed for having sex, forced to marry, assaulted for not conforming to gender norms, and sold into forced labor. Arguments that sustain and excuse these human rights abuses - those of cultural norms, "appropriate" rights for women, or western imperialism - barely disguise their true meaning: that women's lives matter less than men's. Cultural relativism, which argues that there are no universal human rights and that rights are culture-specific and culturally determined, is still a formidable and corrosive challenge to women's rights to equality and dignity in all facets of their lives.
Gilles Tremlett, “Muslim Women Launch International 'Gender Jihad,'” Guardian UK, 31 October 2005.
Barcelona - Marching under the banner of a new "gender jihad", Islamic feminists from around the world this weekend launched what they hope will become a global movement to liberate Muslim women.
The meeting, which drew women from as far apart as Malaysia, Mali, Egypt and Iran, set itself the task of squaring Islam with feminism. That meant not just combating 14 centuries of sexism in the Muslim world, participants said, but also dealing with the animosity to Islam of many western or secular feminists. They insisted that many of the fundamental concepts of equality embraced by feminism could also be found in the Qur'an.
"Gender jihad is the struggle against male chauvinistic, homophobic or sexist readings of the Islamic sacred texts," said Abdennur Prado, one of the meeting's Spanish organisers.
Those readings had been provided by Muslim scholars who, over the centuries, have been almost exclusively male. "Male chauvinism is the destruction of Islam as a well-balanced way of life," Mr Prado said.
One of the leading voices was that of Amina Wadud, an African-American theology professor who provoked outrage in parts of the Muslim world when she led a mixed-sex congregation for Friday prayers in New York earlier this year. She said her commitment to change was born from her faith, two decades studying the Qur'an and the realisation that "horrific things were being done in the name of religion."
With issues to address such as the stoning to death of women, polygamy and the legal inferiority of women in some countries, progressives at the meeting admitted there was a long climb ahead.
The greatest danger was the spread of the radically conservative, Saudi-backed schools of Islam. "They don't want to go forward, they want to go back," said Prof Wadud, who also led mixed prayers at the Barcelona meeting.
Raheel Raza, a Canadian of Pakistani origin who has followed Prof Wadud's example and led mixed-sex prayers in Canada, said it was not easy to break the mould. "I already have a fatwa against me. I don't want to be murdered on the street," she said.
British Muslims were strikingly absent from the conference, which was led by western converts and emigrant families. Ghettoisation and the influence of Saudi-trained preachers were blamed for driving some second-generation immigrants in western countries into the hands of fundamentalists.
”Women `worse off than 10 years ago,'” Associated Press, in Taipei Times, 5 March 2005.
BACKTRACKING: The rise in forced prostitution, forced labor and human trafficking has made life for many women worse now than a decade ago, a UN report says
A new report by women in 150 countries concludes that many women all over the world are worse off today than they were 10 years ago and accuses governments of failing to keep their pledge to achieve equality of the sexes.
Governments worldwide have adopted a "piecemeal and incremental" approach to furthering women's rights that cannot achieve the goals in the landmark platform of action adopted by 189 nations at the 1995 UN women's conference in Beijing, it says.
The 207-page report, the fifth compiled by the Women's Environment and Development Organization since Beijing, delivers a strong message: "The women of the world don't need any more words from their governments -- they want action, they want resources and they want governments to protect and advance women's human rights."
The report entitled Beijing Betrayed was released Thursday, the fourth day of a two-week high-level UN meeting focusing on implementation of the 150-page Beijing platform. Delegates from 130 countries have been touting the actions their governments have taken and are planning to achieve equality for women.
But at a news conference launching the report, the organization's executive director June Zeitlin said "the realities women document often contrast sharply with the officials reports of their governments."
"What we see are powerful trends -- growing poverty, inequality, growing militarization, and fundamentalist opposition to women's rights," she said. "These trends are harming millions of women worldwide."
"Governments need to respond very strongly to counterbalance these trends and push the Beijing platform to further women's rights. Unfortunately, this is not the case," Zeitlin said.
Nonetheless, she said, "there is still some cause for celebration."
Advocates for women's rights have stepped up their activities around the globe and have pressed governments to change some discriminatory laws. The number of countries that ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women rose from 146 a decade ago to 179, though the US has still not done so. The goal of giving every girl and boy a primary school education by 2005 is likely to be met everywhere but sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, the report said.
But despite these and other gains in the Beijing platform, "and despite a decade-worth of efforts ... to achieve legal and policy changes to protect and advance women's rights at the national level, many women in all regions are actually worse off than they were 10 years ago," the report said.
The issue of violence against women "remains an acute problem affecting some two-thirds of women in relationships worldwide," it said.
For example, in Kazakhstan, over 60 percent of women suffered from physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. In the US, 31 percent of women report being sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend. And in 2000, 44 percent of married women in Colombia suffered from violence inflicted by a male partner, the report said.
While trafficking of women and children into bonded sweatshop labor, forced marriage, forced prostitution, and domestic servitude has become a global issue, it said, governments don't appear to be making significant efforts to combat these crimes.
According to the report, up to 175,000 women from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are being drawn into the sex industry in Western Europe every year, and there has been "a dramatic increase" in the number of Soviet bloc women trafficked to North America.
In the case of reproductive health services which were promised at Beijing, obstacles such as access and affordability "are compounded by cultural and religious fundamentalism," the report said. Women and girls also face the highest risk of getting HIV/AIDS, "primarily because of continued patterns of sexual subordination."
Deborah Zabarenko, “World's Women Worse Off in Past Decade,” Disabled Network of Women (DAWN) Ontario, 7 March 2005.
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Life for many of the world's women has become tougher in the decade since a global U.N. conference in Beijing agreed to push for equality and economic development, a grass-roots group said on Thursday.
The report, released as some 6,000 women's activists converged at the United Nations, blamed governments for failing to act on pledges to improve conditions for women in the final document from the 1995 Beijing conference, known as the Platform for Action.
The current U.N. meeting is meant to assess how far women have come in areas such as economic development and the ending of gender discrimination since the Beijing meeting and a follow-up conference five years later.
"Governments are...failing to mobilize the political will and leadership needed to carry out the commitments made to women at Beijing," said June Zeitlin of the Women's Environment and Development Organization, which wrote the report. "As a result, many women in all regions are actually worse off now than they were 10 years ago."
Beyond government inaction, women's progress was hindered by growing poverty, increased militarization and fundamentalist opposition to women's rights, Zeitlin told a U.N. briefing.
But closed-door negotiations have turned on a US demand that a key U.N. document be amended to say the Beijing action plan does not recognize abortion as a fundamental right.
Those who oppose the US anti-abortion stand say Washington's attempt to insert the issue into the debate is beside the point of this conference.
Most governments, especially the Europeans, oppose the US amendment, making it difficult for the Bush administration to get it adopted.
Abortion is legal in most European nations as it is in the United States. "It is truly outrageous for the US government to introduce the word abortion into our work this week," said Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition and a delegate to the Beijing meeting.
"It's a very destructive distraction," said Gladys Mutukwa, who heads Women, Law and Development Africa, when asked about the impact of the proposed US amendment. "The right to abortion is just one aspect of reproductive rights of women, so to just keep on one aspect is not productive and it does not have support."
On Wednesday, US officials signaled they may drop their demand for the anti-abortion language, but insisted it had widespread support. The grass-roots report, which sought information from women's networks but not from governments, said the US government's commitment to the goals of the Beijing conference was wavering, with debate stalled on a global agreement that bars discrimination against women.
Problems for women differ regionally, said Patricia Licuanan, who heads Asia-Pacific Women's Watch. In tsunami-ravaged parts of Asia, women were often victims of rape and violence, and reconstruction efforts were male-oriented, she said.
"When they build new housing and they build kitchens, it's obvious that the males who design this kitchen have never been in the kitchen and so they build this small, low structure of corrugated steel where the woman who is cooking is fried herself," Licuanan said.
In Africa, women's rights are entwined with the spread of HIV/AIDS, Mutukwa said.
African women are disproportionately affected by the AIDS epidemic because their culture makes it difficult to negotiate for safer sex practices, and governments have not supported women's rights to guard against infection, Mutukwa said.(additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold)
Edith Lederer, “Still ‘Second-Class Citizens,’" Associated Press, 3 March 2005.
Meryl Streep releases U.N. report on discrimination against women.
UNITED NATIONS - A new U.N. report strongly criticizes countries around the world from Japan, Kuwait and Nigeria to Britain and Chile, for failing to meet their pledge to revoke laws that discriminate against women by 2005.
The extent of violence and discrimination against women condoned by governments “is staggering” despite commitments made at the 1995 U.N. women’s conference in Beijing to amend or revoke laws that discriminate on the basis of gender, said actress Meryl Streep, who launched the report on Wednesday.
Speaking as a board member of the international human rights group Equality Now, the two-time Oscar winner said the message being conveyed by these countries “is that women are officially considered second-class citizens.”
Equality Now marked the 10th anniversary of Beijing’s landmark platform of action to achieve equality for women by examining discriminatory laws in 45 countries that it highlighted five years ago. It found that only 13 countries had repealed or amended these laws.
Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now, said the great majority of discriminatory laws highlighted in the report, and many more around the world remain in force, and she demanded an immediate end to this discrimination against women.
“The amendment and repeal of laws that discriminate against women has no financial cost to governments,” Bien-Aime said. “It is only a question of political will.”
Streep stressed the impact of such laws on women’s lives.
“A woman cannot vote in Kuwait. She cannot drive in Saudi Arabia. She is barred from working on military submarines in Britain, and she is not allowed to work at night in Bolivia except as a nurse or public servant. In Pakistan, if a woman is raped she must have four Muslim adult male witnesses to secure justice, failing which she may herself be considered guilty of fornication,” Streep said.
In Haiti and Syria, men can still kill their wives with legal impunity to avenge so-called family “honor,” and in Japan women are barred from remarrying for six months after divorce, unlike their husbands, she said.
Maha Abu-Dayyeh Shamas, founder and director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in East Jerusalem, said in many countries “women are still regarded as legal minors irrespective of age, social status or level of education.
”Amnesty International launches a campaign to stop violence against women,” Knowledge Society, 22 March 2004.
(Amman- Jordan) Amnesty International today called on people in the Middle East and North Africa to support its worldwide campaign to Stop Violence Against Women.
The launch in Amman, attended by Her Majesty Queen Rania al-Abdullah, comes at the end of a major seminar that gathered activists to discuss ways to eradicate laws and practices that foster violence against women in the region.
"Violence against woman is a global scandal which also affects women in the Middle East and North Africa," declared Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, at the regional launch of the campaign in Jordan.
Throughout the world, one in every three women suffers rape, attack or assault at one point in her life.
"In Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories and Algeria, women have been the undeclared casualty of violence in armed conflicts. Throughout the region, countless women have also suffered violence in their homes."
"Women are not victims -- although they are victimized. They are agents of change," said Ms Khan.
"Women's organizations from Morocco to Lebanon have been relentlessly working to combat violence perpetrated against women inside or outside the home. Amnesty International's campaign joins this valiant work. Together, we hope to bring an end to this scandal."
Amnesty International's campaign will demand the abolition of laws which discriminate against women and perpetuate violence. It will insist that governments adopt and apply laws effectively to protect women and criminalize rape and other forms of sexual violence. It will campaign to end impunity for violence against women.
According to Amnesty International, as of last year, 54 countries still have laws that actively discriminate against women, 79 countries have no law against domestic violence and 127 countries have no laws against sexual harassment.
"We are calling on national and local authorities worldwide to assume their responsibilities to eradicate violence against women, no matter where it happens, in the bedroom, backstreet or battlefield. We call on men, as well as women, to join us in this campaign," concluded Ms Khan.
"Violence against women may be universal but it is not inevitable. We can end it," said Ms Khan.
"We must be ready to listen to the voices of women and support them to organize themselves. We must reaffirm the universal right of women to be free of violence, irrespective of culture, custom or tradition. We must have the courage to confront those in authority and demand change."
For more information and to view video of campaign launch, click on the link: http://news.amnesty.org/mav/index/ENGACT770212004
“Amnesty International launches global campaign to stop violence against women,” Amnesty International, 5 March 2004.
Violence against women is a cancer eating away the core of every society, in every country of the world, Irene Khan Secretary General of Amnesty International said today at the launch of the organisation's global campaign to stop violence against women.
Whether in times of peace or war, women are subjected to atrocities simply because they are women. Millions of women are beaten, raped, murdered, assaulted, mutilated and even denied the right to ever exist. At least one in three women in the world will suffer serious violence in their lifetime.
Unveiling its worldwide Stop Violence Against Women Campaign, Amnesty International called for urgent action by every man and woman to end this outrageous scandal.
"This is not something that just happens over there, it happens here. It is not something that only happens to other people, it happens to you, your friends and your family. Until all of us, men as well as women, say 'no, I will not let this happen', it will not stop, " said Irene Khan.
"Violence against women is a human rights atrocity. Human rights are more than sets of laws and obligations, they embody a promise that, in equality, we are all entitled to the same rights. Violence against women is the cavernous rift between that promise and the will of governments, local authorities, religious, business and community leaders to fulfil it."
Amnesty International's report It's in our hands - Stop Violence against Women reveals the multiple causes of violence from armed conflict to family violence and harmful traditional practices that seek to control women’s sexuality.
"Violence threatens women in multiple forms during conflict. From the female child soldiers who are routinely raped by their own troops and the civilian women and girls who are mutilated, raped and murdered as a weapon of war, to the escalation in violence in the family as troops return home - armed conflict is having a devastating and desperate impact on women that goes far beyond the inherent violence of war."
Also highlighting the global problem of violence in the home and community, Amnesty International points to every country in the world for failing to protect women in their own homes.
"Behind closed doors and in secret, women are subjected to violence by their partners and close relatives, too ashamed and afraid to report it and so seldom taken seriously when they do."
Even where legislation exists to prevent and punish such violence, the authorities routinely fail to implement it and in some areas, parallel systems of authority such as community and religious leaders actually allow it to persist, Amnesty International added.
"From the battlefield to the bedroom, women are at risk," Irene Khan said. "They are the first to feel the lack of poor social services, the first to be denied education and health care. The effects of economic globalization are leaving more and more women trapped in poverty on the margins of society. Poverty leaves women more exposed to violence, less able to escape it. It severely restricts women's ability to organize and fight for change. In this, as in so many other ways, governments are failing to address the real 'terror' of our world that millions of women face every day."
Amnesty International paid tribute to women’s organisations around the world for the enormous strides that have been made to counter violence and achieve justice and equality over the last few decades.
"There is much to be optimistic about the future as real solutions to the problem do exist and have been demonstrated to work. We will join with women's organizations to lobby for change," said Irene Khan.
"As a human rights organisation we will mobilise our members and supporters around the world. We will engage men as well as women. Men must play a crucial part if we are to end violence against women."
During the campaign, Amnesty International will:
• Call on all people, men and women, to raise their hands to end violence against women.
• Work for a world in which all cultures, traditions, political and judicial systems regard violence against women as abhorrent.
• Demand accountability and fight impunity for violence against women whether in peace time or during conflict.
• Seek the abolition of laws that discriminate against women, and the enactment and effective implementation of laws and other measures to protect women from violence.
• Hold states individually and collectively accountable under international and domestic laws to prevent, investigate, punish and redress all acts of violence against women whether in peacetime or during conflict.
• Secure effective action to stop violence against women at the community level from local government or religious, traditional and informal authorities.
• Campaign to end impunity for combatants who commit violence against women.
"Violence against women is not normal, legal nor acceptable and should never be tolerated or justified. It can and must be stopped," Irene Khan concluded.
"It is in our hands to make a difference and to bring human rights home."
”UNICEF Executive Director targets violence against women,” UNICEF Information Newsline, 7 March 2000.
Tuesday, 7 March 2000: In a statement marking International Women's Day, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy issued a strong attack against culturally-sanctioned homicidal violence directed at women and girls around the world. She said 'honour' killings, acid violence, female infanticide and bride burning are examples of men and boys killing or seriously injuring female family and community members with impunity.
Ms. Bellamy said it is an outrage when those who commit such crimes are openly admired in their communities and are subjected to only token prosecution.
"For too long, some men have been getting away with murder," said the UNICEF Executive Director. "It is time for governments and local communities to acknowledge these actions as crimes and to act decisively to prevent the continuing murder and disfiguring of thousands of girls and women. Such crimes should be swiftly prosecuted."
Although these crimes are unacceptable to the public in virtually all countries, the practices persist, even where there are legal prohibitions, Ms. Bellamy said. She praised UNICEF-supported efforts by women's organisations campaigning against 'honour' killing, especially in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Pakistan.
UNICEF has also helped launch awareness programmes and organised sensitisation workshops on violence against women in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The agency's Bangladesh effort includes support for a foundation for survivors of acid attacks. In India UNICEF has supported NGO and government projects on bride burning and against the practice of dowry.
Ms. Bellamy said that 'honour' crimes are hardly confined to developing nations. "Under whatever name, such crimes are committed worldwide." she observed. "They occur whenever a man regards a woman as his property and seeks to uphold this false assumption by cruel and abusive force."
'Honour killing' is an ancient practice in which men kill female relatives in the name of family 'honour' for forced or suspected sexual activity outside marriage, even when they have been victims of rape.
Any number of reasons can lead to acid attacks. A delayed meal or rejection of a marriage proposal are offered as justification for a man to disfigure a woman with acid.
Female infanticide is the killing of a girl child within weeks of her birth. Bride burning is when husbands engineer an 'accident' (frequently the bursting of a kitchen stove) when they feel the obligatory marriage dower (gifts from in-laws) is not enough. Currently available figures suggests the extent of these crimes against women and girls: 'Honour' Crimes: In 1997, some 300 women were estimated to have been killed in the name of 'honour' in one province of Pakistan alone. According to 1999 estimates, more than two-thirds of all murders in Gaza strip and West bank were most likely 'honour' killings. In Jordan there are an average of 23 such murders per year. Thirty-six 'honour' crimes were reported in Lebanon between 1996 and 1998, mainly in small cities and villages. Reports indicate that offenders are often under 18 and that in their communities they are sometimes treated as heroes. In Yemen as many as 400 'honour' killings took place in 1997. In Egypt there were 52 reported 'honour' crimes in 1997. Acid Attacks: In Bangladesh between 1996 and 1998 there was a four-fold increase in reported acid attacks from 47 to more than 200. Dowry Deaths: In India, it is estimated that more than 5,000 women are killed each year because their in-laws consider their dowries inadequate. A tiny percentage of their murderers are brought to justice.
Female Infanticide: Infanticide has been practiced as a brutal method of family planning in societies where boy children are still valued, economically and socially, above girls. Anecdotal evidence suggests that outright infanticide, usually of newborn girls, takes place in some communities in Asia. Medical testing for sex selection, though officially outlawed, has become a booming business in China, India and the Republic of Korea.
Though no reliable infanticide statistics are available, there remain substantial disparities in gender population figures in these areas.
Ms. Bellamy said that these crimes, along with forced marriages, involuntary virginity tests, female genital mutilation, trafficking and forced prostitution, are egregious violations of girls' and women's rights, based on outmoded and unjust cultural norms.
She cited the call of United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on governments to recognize, and work to modify, inherited prejudices and customs which have made so-called 'honour' killings and acid attacks acceptable.
Today's International Women's Day appeal followed Ms. Bellamy's strong condemnation of child trafficking for sexual purposes a month ago in Japan.
Lyndsay Griffiths, “U.N. Report: Women Worldwide Get 'Raw Deal,'” Reuters, 20 September 2000.
LONDON (Reuters) - Women the world over get a raw deal in comparison to men, whether through physical abuse, double standards or discrimination, the United Nations said Wednesday.
In its annual report, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said that rape, abuse and bad laws are just some of the barriers oppressing women, with no country free of prejudice.
According to the report at least one in three women has been beaten, raped, coerced into sex or abused in some way -- usually by someone she knows.
When it comes to contraception in Japan or education in Pakistan, women remain the world's second-class citizens.
"Discrimination and violence against women and girls remain firmly rooted in cultures around the world and I feel sick that I have to justify why girls should be educated. They are half the population of the world. It's their right," Nafis Sadik, UNFPA's executive director, told Reuters in an interview." …
According to the annual report on the state of the population, “Lives Together, Worlds Apart,” everything from health care to human rights lags when it comes to women. It said:
- In the United States, a woman is battered every 15 seconds.
-Sexually transmitted diseases afflict five times more women than men, with an estimated 333 million new cases a year.
- At least 60 million girls who would otherwise be alive are “missing” from the global population due to sex-selective abortions, neglect and infanticide.
- At least 130 million women have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation, or cutting, while thousands of young women die in “honor” killings every year.
- Each year, 2 million girls aged from 5 to 15 enter the commercial sex market.
Jonathan D. Austin, CNN.com writer, “U.N. report: Women's unequal treatment hurts economies. Worldwide abuse 'a massive violation of human rights', “ 20 Sept. 2000.
UNITED NATIONS -- Women throughout the world continue to be the victims of violence, sexual exploitation and discrimination -- at a considerable cost to their countries' economies, according to a United Nations report.
The report, issued by the U.N. Population Fund, notes that conditions for women have improved since 1994, when 179 countries met and pledged to do more for their female citizens.
But Stan Bernstein, a senior research adviser with the fund, said the continuing discrimination against women constitutes "a massive violation of human rights that takes various forms around the globe."
The annual report, which was released Wednesday, is an attempt to underscore "what the costs of inequality are, what has kept it in place in the past, and what's being done to address it now," Bernstein said.
Bernstein said the report includes economic data because "sometimes people don't pay attention to misery until it hits them in the pocketbook. So we felt we had to report on both sides."
According the report, titled "State of the World Population 2000," a 1 percent increase in female secondary schooling results in a 0.3 percent increase in economic growth.
If you use Pakistan as an example, that estimate means the increased investment in education would have upped the country's economic growth by $262 million in 1999, excluding inflation, which was estimated at 6 percent.
The report also tries to show the link between abuse, illness, early deaths, abortions and degradation. According to its data:
One in three women will experience violence during her lifetime -- most often at the hands of people she knows.
Two million girls under age 15 are forced into the sex trade each year.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth kill 500,000 women each year.
Stillbirths or newborn deaths total an estimated 8 million yearly, with the lack of obstetric care cited as the primary cause.
About a third of all pregnancies each year -- 80 million -- are unintended or unwanted.
An estimated 50 million abortions occur each year, 20 million of which are unsafe, resulting in 78,000 maternal deaths. The report says a quarter of those unsafe births are to girls between the ages 15 and 19.
Abuse breeds additional miseries
"Abused women tend not to use family planning services ... for fear of reprisal from husbands," the report states, citing a Ghana study in which "close to half of all women and 43 percent of men said a man was justified in beating his wife if she used contraceptives without his expressed consent."
Likewise, abused women who participated in focus groups in Peru and Mexico said they did not discuss birth control with their husbands, fearing a violent reaction.
The resistance to contraception, the report said, "takes a tremendous toll, both physical and emotional, and causes immense damage to a woman's reproductive health." Unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, frequent high-risk pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases are among the results.
The miseries surveyed in the report have "direct consequences for the lives of women, for the lives of men, for the quality of their partnerships, for the development of their communities, and the development of their countries," Bernstein said.
The report refers to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. At that conference, 179 countries agreed to increase domestic allocations to health care, including reproductive health, and agreed to share technical data from successful programs.
In a 1999 review of the conference goals, representatives from those countries agreed that empowering women and meeting their education and health needs were necessary, according to the report.
"The countries included many of these goals for reproductive health, for women's empowerment, for reduction of women's mortality and HIV/AIDS deaths," Bernstein said.
The report cites changes in legal or administrative codes that have since improved conditions for women, including:
The ban of female genital mutilation in eight African nations.
The adding of sexual and reproductive rights and gender equity to the new Venezuelan constitution.
The approved sale of low-dosage oral contraceptives in Japan.
Legislation to increase access to reproductive health services in Mexico and Peru.
The report also cites advancements in Cambodia, which enacted comprehensive abortion legislation; in Ecuador, which is discussing the addition of sexual and reproductive rights to its constitution; and in Albania, Burkina Faso, Fiji, Madagascar, Poland and the Sudan, all of which adopted measures to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.
"The world has moved these topics to the center of the international development agenda," Bernstein said. "This is a time of extraordinary opportunity, and we have to rise to the occasion.
"We know what needs to be done, and we need to commit ourselves to do the action," he said. "There are not going to be too many second chances."
Radhika Coomaraswamy, “Some reflections on violence against women,” Daily News (Colombo), 16 August 2001.
Violence against women is a latecomer to the world of international human rights. In the 1970s, women's issues focused on discrimination in political and economic benefits and an equitable development process for women of the Third World.
The major international convention which dealt with women's rights. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which came into force in 1979, adopted the "non-discrimination" model, women's rights were violated only if women were denied the same benefits as men. …
The following statistics indicate the extent of the problem of violence against women. In the United States a rape occurs every six minutes and violence occurs once in two thirds of all marriages. In Papua New Guinea, 67 per cent of rural women and 56 per cent of urban women are victims of wife abuse. In Santiago, Chile, 80 per cent of women acknowledged being victims of violence in their homes. In Canada, one in every four women can expect to be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. In France, 95 per cent of its victims of violence are women, 51 per cent of the above at the hands of a husband.
In Bangladesh, assassination of wives by husbands accounts for 50 per cent of all murders. In India, there have been 11,259 dowry-related murders in the last three years. In Pakistan, 99 per cent of housewives and 77 per cent of working women are beaten by their husbands. Given the number of men in India and China, there should be about 30 million more women in India and 38 million more women in China. In Korea, two thirds of all women are beaten periodically by their husbands.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 80 million women have undergone sexual surgery (female circumcision) in Africa alone. Every minute and a half a woman is raped in South Africa, totalling approximately 380,000 women raped each year.
This neglect of the issue of violence against women generated a great deal of NGO activity in this regard, especially during the 80s, and 90s. This activity struck a responsive chord within the UN system and the process culminated in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on violence against women in 1994.
Rawwida Baksh-Soodeen, "Women on the Front Line," Daily Star, Dakha, 12 March 2001.
Of some 23 million refugees worldwide, 80 per cent are women and children. Rape and sexual slavery are used as weapons of war. Women are also expected to absorb the impacts of conflict, particularly within their families and communities. ...
In Sierra Leone, for example, the devastating human cost of years of civil war and political violence has left no one in the country untouched.
"Press Release: Gender and Corruption: are women less corrupt?" Transparency International, 8 March 200.
Higher levels of women`s participation in public life are associated with lower levels of corruption.
Corruption is less severe where women comprise a larger share of parliamentary seats, a study by the IRIS Centre, University of Maryland reveals. This statement has also been underlined by a World Bank study on "Corruption and women in government". The study concludes that higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption. It is suggested that women may have higher standards of ethical behaviour and appear to be more concerned with the common good.
In the light of this, a new all-female squad of uniformed patrols has been set up in Mexico last year in the hope of curbing corruption. In northern Mexico (Cuernavaca), the number of women police officers has been increased in the expectation that they would be more honest.
Women in business seem less likely to pay bribes.
A survey of enterprise owners and managers in the Republic of Georgia indicates that firms owned or managed by women pay bribes on approximately 5 % of occasions when coming into contact with a government agency. The percentage is twice as high for firms with a male owner or manager (11%).
While women are less involved in corruption themselves, they are even more disadvantaged from the consequences of a corrupt system.
Gender-Sensitive Budget Analysis proves that men profit much more from public expenditures than women. In many countries, the allocation for programmes focusing on women is only a fraction of the total national budget. In Argentina and in the Dominican Republic, the grant for women`s programmes budget amounts to 0.0046% and 0.002% of the total national budget, respectively.
Corruption decreases national budget resources. It also reduces, for example, the amount of public spending on health and social security, which affects women disproportionately. If there is a cut in public spending, maternal and child health services are more likely to be the worst-hit victims. One survey carried out by the TI chapter of Bangladesh shows that it is harder for female headed households to get their children into school or to get themselves hospital care.
"A corrupt legal system reinforces existing gender discrimination in many countries. Women`s civil rights are grossly unfair with regard to marriage/divorce, family law, child custody, financial independence and inheritance and property rights. Often they have no ability to make decisions without the consent of a male relative", stresses Roslyn Hees, Senior Advisor with Transparency International. In many countries, those who win cases tend to be involved with corrupt prosecutors and judges. Women simply do not have the means to compete in this way. Corrupt judicial procedures and the prevalence of "old boys networks" makes it in many cases impossible for women to win legal battles in a transparent and open way.
The Global Persecution of Women