Recent Resources for Feminists
Afghanistan: Failure to monitor mediation solutions to VAW restricts reg of complaints in the courts Print E-mail
 Wednesday May 11, 2016

Cases of violence against women: Is mediation the best option?

By Abdul Qadir Munsef & Zarghona Salehai

KABUL (Pajhwok): Thousands of cases of violence against women are resolved annually through mediation as there is no mechanism of monitoring the process. Analysts believe mediation is a useful way to prevent the break-up of families, but the absence of a monitoring mechanism restricts registration of such complaints with courts.

The findings of Pajhwok Afghan News show that more than 21,000 cases of violence against women, including hundreds of murder incidents, have been registered over the past six years with the Ministry of Women Affairs. Ninety percent of women have been subjected to violence at least once in their lives. In five victims, four were below 30 years of age.

There are different types of violence against women in Afghanistan, where more attention has been paid to the situation of women over the past 14 years. But the problem still exists in remote rural areas.

Most women subjected to violence:

On the basis of a survey by Global Rights conducted in 2008, nine of 10 Afghan women have been subjected to some type of violence in their lifetime.

The director of human rights department at the Ministry of Women Affairs, Aziza Adalatkhwa, told Pajhwok Afghan News on April 20, 2016 that violence against women had increased, supporting the findings of the Global Rights survey.

“As Afghan society is a traditional one where violence ranges from improper behaviour to beating of women; we can say can say the report is accurate and 99 percent of women in Afghanistan have experienced some type of violence in their life.”

21,000 cases registered in 6 years
According to the Ministry of Women Affairs, although some females are facing violence, they do not take their cases to the government due social restrictions and negative customs. From 2009 to March 2016, an average of 3500 incidents of violence took place annually against women.

Regarding the lowest rate of violence in 2009 and more incidents in 2015, Aziza Adalatkhwa said sometimes insecurity hampered the registration of cases. The numbers of registered cases increased in the past year due to rising awareness among women and growing trust in the ministry.

The worse of violence
Written information that Pajhwok received from the ministry shows women are beaten frequently. But the worst types of violence are murder, rape, giving off girls as a dispute settlement mechanism, and abductions. Forty-three types of violence have been documented by the ministry.

The Afghanistan Central Statistics Organisation estimates the population of the country at 28.6 million -- half of them females. While looking at the number of incidents of violence against women over the past six years, one can easily conclude one in 681 women registered their cases with the government.

Courage of young women
A report released by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN High Commission for Human Rights in April 2015 says the cases of violence against 110 women were referred to the judiciary. They followed the cases from their registration to final verdicts and mediation.

The report showed that nearly 70 percent of cases were registered with the departments of women affairs and police and less than five percent with courts. And most of the cases have been reported by young women.

According to Adalatkhwa, the Ministry of Women Affairs assisted UNAMA in preparing the report. Violence took place against women of different ages, but most of the cases were reported by women under 30, because they have less patience and more courage.

Resolution of cases
The UNAMA report said most of the cases were addressed through mediation under a women protection law and the rest by non-governmental entities in traditional ways. The findings of the report say fewer cases were resolved by courts.

The findings showed perpetrators of violence in cases have been brought to justice. Lack of access to judicial departments, lengthy litigation, widespread corruption in courts and inefficiency force women to go for mediation.

According to the report, people have limited access to their legal rights and facilities -- a key challenge that prevents for women from getting justice. In some parts of the country, governmental and nongovernmental entities provide legal facilities for women, but they are unaware due to illiteracy and inadequate civic education.

A Supreme Court official, who did not want to be named, said courts had been tracking cases of domestic violence. He rejected as false allegations that courts had their own limitations. Without presenting any figures, he said the victims did not move courts because the Ministry of Women Affairs, the Attorney General Office and related organs resettled such cases.

The best option
Some families approach the ministry for mediation in violence cases, calling it the best way of resolving the problem. A 45 years old man said on condition of anonymity they referred to the ministry the tiff between him and his spouse. “Mediation is like sweet water with a healing touch.”

He married a second time a year ago. His first wife with four children has gone to her father’s house. “It was destined to have second wife, but I still love my first spouse and don’t want my children to be deprived of father’s love. Mediation led to ending our spat.”

But a woman, who moved the ministry in a similar case, said she had been insulted and beaten for three years by her husband and mother-in-law over the past three years. She is now living in her father along with her child over the past three months.

“I don’t want to spoil my life and deprive my child of father’s love. But my husband should mend his ways and realise his mistakes. If he does so, our issue will become negotiable,” she observed.

Her husband, who also visited the ministry, agreed to mediation, but he did not want to talk to Pajhwok Afghan News on the issue.

Adalatkhwa said if issues were not serious, they met both sides of family disputes to mediate between them and prevent separation. Mediation had produced fruitful results, she claimed.

Women’s role in mediation
Women also play as an effective role as men in mediating addressing cases of violence.

An employee of the Planning Department of the ministry, LatifaAini who has more than 12 years of experiences in dealing with family issues, said: “I have taken responsibility for mediation on issues facing my relatives and friends. I worked for two years with an NGO to mediate on family issues. I twice addressed the cases of violence against women at the ministry. I am happy and feel lucky to have rescued dozens of youth from being harmed.”

Although she studied economics, Aini has learnt from her father, a judge of the Supreme Court, how to resolve an issue. “When I went to the ministry a year ago, a betrothed boy and girl came seeking separation. Via mediation by me, both of them changed their mind. It was a good memory for me.”

Mediation by women was more effective than by men in such issues, she said, adding many families preferred women as mediators with whom they could better interact, because women were kind-hearted.

Latifa insisted female victims of violence preferred women to handle their cases because they could easily share their stories with them without any hesitation. It was why mediation by women produced better results, she maintained.

Elders as mediators
Some cases of violence against women have been resolved by tribal elders and family members without being referred to government departments. Haji Mohammad Tahir, 80, a resident of the Karta-i-Naw area of Kabul, said he had been able to address many such cases in his neighborhood.

One of his good memories concerns intercession on behalf of a six years old girl, wanted separation from her husband. As a result of efforts by him and other elders, the dispute between the couple was successfully resolved.

A jihadi commander in the Chak district of central Maidan Wardak province, Ali Marjan, said he had also played a key role in resolving such cases. Mediation is important because local elders and victims’ relatives better appreciated the sensitivity of the issue, he reasoned.

However, he admitted: “At times, wrong decisions are taken… In order to prevent such decisions, it is better to involve religious scholars in addition to tribal elders in mediation of such cases. By doing so, all decisions will be in accordance with the Islamic Sharia.”

Need for monitoring
A lecturer in law and political science at Kabul University, Shahla Farid, told Pajhwok Afghan News she was in favour of resolving cases of violence through mediation because family members were not affected in the process.

However, she believed greater attention should be paid to referring the issues to professional and informed individuals, because there was a possibility of wrong decision taken in this way.

She agreed some decisions were made by people with no experience or expertise in mediation. Since implementation of the decisions was not properly monitored, the teacher explained, many women were affected.

The lack of monitoring resulted in women being subjected of violence for a second time, she admitted, saying the issues referred to the ministry were sorted out by professional individuals. But she was not sure whether the ministry followed the situation later on.

According to Adalatkhwa, most of registered cases have been addressed by the ministry through mediation. She said there is no specific mechanism of mediation, but at the primary stage, each side is counseled by professionals.

Some non-governmental entities processed the cases unprofessionally, she alleged, acknowledging the ministry could not properly monitor the cases resolved due to lack of staff and resources.
Egypt: Slightly edgy new peace marks high hopes of a golden era for women Print E-mail
 Sunday Magazine ~ May 15, 2016

After the Arab spring

By Vaishna Roy

 'Egyptian women were the secret behind the success of the last two revolutions'. Evenings come alive at the Khan el-Khalili souk in old Cairo (Vaishna Roy)

A hundred days into its new Parliament, and Egypt seems to be settling down into a slightly edgy peace tempered by pragmatism and lots of sheesha

Dalia Youssef is wearing a midnight blue sari and bangles that look like gunghrus. She has just been recognised as a “woman of substance” at a function held at the Indian Embassy in Cairo by Ambassador Sanjay Bhattacharyya. Youssef is one of a record 89 women in Egypt’s new Parliament, which has just completed 100 days. “This is a golden era for Egyptian women,” she says at an interview later that evening, sparkling with enthusiasm. Not many of her compatriots might go so far, but one still smells the sweet fragrance of hope in a country battered by dismal economics.  

There’s a foreign currency crunch and ballooning fiscal deficit, but the most obvious face of the crisis for visitors is, of course, the dramatic decline in tourism. Giza on a weekend is deserted; shop fronts are festooned with forlorn belly-dancer outfits and dusty galabiyas; and in Cairo Museum we can spend all the time we want with King Tut. Accounting in 2010 for almost 12 per cent of GDP at USD 13 billion, tourism is now a mere USD 6 billion. Political clashes, the murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni, and finally the crash of the Russian plane in Sinai; they’ve all played a role.

But Egypt is fighting back, looking at Bulgaria, Latin America, India and China for arrivals. Adel El Masry, director, International Tourism Department, says he wants to boost Indian arrivals by 30-35 per cent. Already, we see straggly Indian and Chinese tour groups, the latter incessantly striking profile-picture poses. Egypt loves Bollywood, so Indians are greeted with a familiarity bred in movie halls. Salmaniac fan clubs are legion, Indian soap stars I haven’t heard of are household names, and 3,000 Egyptians play Holi each year.

The Desert Road from Cairo to Alexandria is flanked by giant hoardings of stylish women in off-shoulder evening gowns sipping mango juice or buying insurance. The sands have been reclaimed for miles on end by warehouses, factories, Carrefours and housing estates. This massive infrastructure investment and urban expansion helped Egypt limp back to a 4.2 per cent growth in 2014-15; double that of the previous four years.

This is perhaps why everyone ­ from taxi drivers to journalists to shopkeepers ­ is still keeping faith with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, their sixth president, who might rule with the proverbial rod but who has brought much-needed peace after the two revolutions of 2011 and 2013.

‘Stability’ is the magic mantra. It has convinced many citizens to overlook the absence of some essentials of a liberal democracy that could otherwise have made them restive. In the week leading up to April 25, the date celebrating the liberation of Sinai from Israel, there was palpable unhappiness and some protests against the return by President Sisi of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. Dissidents and journalists were, however, arrested in a pre-emptive exercise, with only the weekly Al-Ahram gently criticising this silencing.

There were rumours of a demonstration on April 24, but when we, a band of visiting journalists, walked up to Tahrir Square, it was just another balmy evening with children buying balloons and families drinking kahwa on the grass. We sat down with our own glasses. But we had been seen filming and talking with locals, and suddenly a posse of policemen descended and whisked us off to a courtyard two streets away where a senior officer sat drinking tea. It took much talking and displaying of government invitations before we were let go, albeit with a shadow who tailed us through that evening. The government is clearly skittish, but the anxiety that the rag-tag opposition might yet fuel another millioniya (million-man march) is shared by most citizens, and they rationalise that the President is just being “careful”.

There’s a general sense of wanting to give Sisi a fair shot at getting Egypt back on the rails. Mohamed Elmasry, writing in The Egyptian Gazette, talks of how power cuts and queues for bread and fuel have practically disappeared, and the streets are safe again. Hassanein Mahmoud, a student of History and a guide, explains, “We wanted to give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to rebuild Egypt. But they kept talking about Paradise. We want a government that shows us material difference now; the hereafter will take care of itself.”

Religion, he continues, is between him and god. “Let the government worry about roads, industry and jobs.” It’s significant that this is being voiced in a country which has a considerable number of Salafists, and which gave birth to the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, which in turn spawned dozens of Islamic fundamental groups. But within Egypt, such groups have always been forced to live underground. When they did surface, as in 2013, it didn’t last long. Youssef says, “I think our culture is repulsive of fundamentalism.”

Women like her are pushing the envelope further. In 2014, Egypt got a new Constitution, which unequivocally states that men and women are equal. Previously, they were held to be equal if it did not conflict with the Shariat. The victory was followed by another this year, when Egypt enacted one of the most remarkable reforms in the Muslim world ­ granting women the same right of divorce as men. Only Tunisia in the region allows both men and women to end a marriage.

According to Youssef, Egyptian women were the secret behind the last two revolutions, and came from all walks of life ­ mothers, wives, students and businesswomen. “It was Ramadan. I remember we would go down to Tahrir Square and we would sit on the pavement and share our food. The cause drove us. Even women who would never participate, women from high society, even they came,” she says, eyes glittering with emotion.

Youssef ran for elections from a village 60 km north of Cairo in the Monufia governorate, becoming the first woman from her district to win. This year, Egypt initiated a one-time coalition arrangement under which men, women, youth and disabled people fought under one banner, thus creating an extremely diverse Parliament. But diversity brings its own problems: with 19 parties, 361 independents and no simple majority, there are in effect 380 different agendas, with much debate and little consensus. Clearly, they are still trying to find their feet. As Youssef says, “We have over 100 parties but none of them yet has the confidence of the street.”

Despite these teething troubles, one thing comes through clearly. Egyptians are fiercely proud that they threw out fundamentalism, seeing their country as a sort of last stand against extremist Islam. You see couples wearing tight jeans and cuddling along the Nile. You can wander the streets at midnight and eat feteer from a streetside kiosk. Men and women smoke sheesha endlessly in the crowded coffee houses, and the fashionable party till 4:00 am. al-Qahira, the victorious city, is alive and awake well into the night.

The writer was in Egypt by invitation of the Egyptian tourism department.

Anne Elizabeth Moore & Co-feminist Artists: Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking Print E-mail

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking

by Leela Corman, Delia Jean, The Ladydrawers, Melissa Mendes and Anne Elizabeth Moore

$13.95 paperback, 160 pages, 6x8, 2 color interior (8.10 oz)
Published May 3, 2016
ISBN 978-1-62106-739-9

About Threadbare:
Ever wondered who makes your clothes? Who sells them? How much they get paid? How the fashion and sex industries are intertwined?

Threadbare draws the connections between the international sex and garment trades and human trafficking in a beautifully illustrated comics series. Anne Elizabeth Moore, in reports illustrated by top-notch comics creators, pulls at the threads of gender, labor, and cultural production to paint a concerning picture of a human rights in a globalized world. Moore's reporting, illustrated by members of the Ladydrawers Comics Collective, takes the reader from the sweatshops of Cambodia to the traditional ateliers of Vienna, from the life of a globetrotting supermodel to the warehouses of large clothing retailers, from the secondhand clothing industry to the politics of the sex trade. With thoughtful illustrations of women's stories across the sex and garment supply chain, this book offers a practical guide to a growing problem few truly understand.

Featuring the work of Leela Corman, Julia Gfrörer, Simon Häussle, Delia Jean, Ellen Lindner, and Melissa Mendes.

About the Author:

Anne Elizabeth Moore
is a former co-editor of Punk Planet, the founding editor of the Best American Comics series, and the author of Hey Kidz! Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People and Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press). She has written for Bitch, the Chicago Reader, In These Times, The Onion, The Progressive, and Chicago Public Radio WBEZ’s radio program 848. She lives in Chicago.

Threadbare's Commendations

India: Rukmini Rao laments the raw deal of women farmers at Women Farmers’ Rights Forum Print E-mail
 Monday May 2, 2016

‘Women farmers need a fair deal’

Staff Reporter
V. Rukmini Rao, founder of Gramya Resource Centre for Women, addresses a meeting of women farmers at Yerpedu near Tirupati on Sunday.­ (SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT)

Though the population of women on the earth is roughly 50 per cent, the fact is that they still have little access to their own landholding. When farmers are finding it hard to eke out a living, the plight of the women among them is even more disturbing. It is unfortunate that women are still treated as aliens in the agricultural market yards.

The market committees are filled with men and market yard premises do not have even toilets. Such factors turn women away from farming,” says V. Rukmini Rao, Director of Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Secunderabad.

In an interview to The Hindu , Ms. Rao lamented at the fate of women farm labourers who continue to work up to the last days of pregnancy. These women attend to their domestic chores and also don their role as a farmer thus working for extended hours. In sharp contrast, women in the government sector get twelve-week maternity leave at the State level and six months at the national level, she noted.

Ms. Rao was here to participate in the two-day district-level consultation programme held under the aegis of Forum for Women Farmers’ Rights -- Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (Makaam)and Rythu Swaraj Vedika (RSY), in association with SV University’s Centre for Women’s Studies. The meet concluded on Sunday after taking stock of the situation of farmers, analysing the impact of government policies and the State’s response to the facts gathered at the ground level.

We strongly suggest the use of local inputs such as initiatives to support women to have their own seed production and storage facility to bring down the input cost,” she said.

Stressing the need for support to landless women, she also suggested formation of a gender desk as is in vogue in Gujarat, a single window system to address women’s issues.

SVU professor D. Usha Rani, Uma Shankari of RSV, Women’s Initiatives (WINS) director R. Meera suggested gender sensitisation in government departments, besides recruiting women at key levels in the agricultural and extension wings to address to the issues of the women.

Consultation programme under the aegis of Forum for Women Farmers’ Rights ends

Australia: For the first time in decades, women able to miss running gauntlet of pro-life protesters Print E-mail
 Monday May 2, 2016

Women avoid pro-life protesters for the first time in decades

By Beau Donelly
Police question a man outside the East Melbourne fertility clinic on Monday. (Penny Stephens)

Police have questioned an elderly man who flouted new laws aimed at stopping protesters from harassing women outside abortion clinics.

The man was spoken to by two police officers after reports he was praying outside the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne about 4pm.

Laws passed last year making it illegal to harass people within 150-metres of abortion providers came into effect on Monday.
Leader of the Austrlaian Sex Party Fiona Patten outside the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne. (Penny Stephens)

For the first time in 25 years, the group of anti-abortion protesters who have picketed the Wellington Parade abortion clinic six days a week were absent and women were able to enter the building without first being forced to run the gauntlet.

"Usually we have patients coming in who are crying, we may have partners who are angry, we might have children who are upset," clinical psychologist Susie Allanson said on Monday. "Today has been delightfully uneventful."

But shortly after speaking to The Age, police were called to the clinic after reports a man was praying outside. A Victoria Police spokesman said officers explained the new legislation to the man and that he left voluntarily.
Women seeking help from the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne have in the past had to walk past chanting anti-abortion protesters. (Rebecca Hallas)

The man, believed to be a founding member of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, spoke to police for about half an hour.

Dr Allanson has previously reported that protesters from the Helpers of God's Precious Infants have followed, threatened and intimidated women and their partners outside the clinic. She said the group, who carry pamphlets and graphic images of dismembered fetuses, had also in the past verbally abused, stalked and intimidated her staff.

In 2001, the centre's security guard Steven Rogers was shot dead by a pro-life protester.

A bill introduced by Sex Party MP Fiona Patten last year made it illegal for anti-abortion protesters to harass or film people coming or going from abortion clinics, with heavy penalties for those who break the law.

"I went to the clinic today and was very pleasantly surprised that people were adhering to the new regulations," Ms Patten said. "I saw patients accessing and exiting the clinic freely and without being morally judged by protesters. It's very pleasing to see the law working and that finally the rights of the patients will be respected."

Ms Patten said she and a handful of pro-choice supporters would stand alongside the ant-abortion group on Tuesday morning, where they recently started protesting on sitting days, to support their right to protest. "If you want to change the abortion laws in this state the place you campaign for that is at the Parliament House," she said.

In a statement, the Helpers of God's Precious Infants said its members were peaceful and that the new law imposed "draconian fines and possible jail term for merely being present or offering a pamphlet to those who wish to receive it".

"It must be the first law of its kind in Victoria to criminalise peaceful activities", the group's spokeswoman, Tanya O'Brien, said.

"It is arrogant for the Victorian Parliament to join with the abortion industry in passing an unconstitutional law to deny pregnant women any knowledge of the type of assistance that is available to them from the Helpers."

The group, which also maintains a presence at clinics in Carlton, Richmond and St Alban, said it aimed to expand its activities in the future.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said last year that women accessing legal abortions had had their privacy invaded and been subjected to verbal and psychological abuse for too long.

"This abuse has included yelling, holding up images of fetuses, physical intimidation and, on occasions, violence," Ms Hennessy said. "This abuse is designed to humiliate and shame women who are accessing a legal and legitimate medical procedure."

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