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Syria: Damascus Regime’s systematic mass rapes a fate worse than death for 50,000-plus women Print E-mail

 March 11 2014

Syria's Silent War Crime: Systematic Mass Rape

Evidence is piling up that the Damascus regime has used rape - of daughters in front of fathers, wives in front of husbands - as a targeted weapon. Le Monde has gathered unique testimony.

By Annick Cojean
A Syrian woman looks over Damascus (Le Monde)

AMMAN ­ It is the most dreadfully silent crime currently perpetrated in Syria. A mass crime, carried out by the regime in the most barbaric ways that relies on the most deep-rooted taboos of traditional Syrian society ­ and on the silence of the victims, convinced they will be rejected by their own family, or even sentenced to death.

United Nations investigators and numerous NGOs say because of the silence they have failed to adequately document the widespread accounts of systematic rape since the outbreak of the uprising in Syria.

Mentions of the crime were utterly absent from the Geneva talks, even though activists believe there have been tens of thousands of victims. Yes, rape has been Bashar al-Assad’s secret weapon of war for the past three years.

Alma (all the names of victims have been changed), is lying, scrawny, on a hospital bed in the heart of Amman. She will never walk again, her spine has been shattered by blows inflicted by a militiaman of the regime with the butt of his rifle. In the first months of the revolution, this 27-year-old mother of four, a graduate in management, started working with the rebellion. First, she brought over food and medicine. Then, she carried ammunition in a knotted package on her stomach, pretending to be pregnant.

“You wanted freedom?”
One day, she was arrested at a checkpoint in the suburbs of Damascus. She spent 38 days in a detention center of the air force intelligence services, with around 100 other women.

“Compared to this, Abu Ghraib must have been paradise,” she says with a faint smile, alluding to the American prison in Iraq. “I’ve been through everything! I’ve been battered, flogged with steel cables, had cigarette butts in the neck, razor blades all over my body, electricity in my vagina. I’ve been raped while blindfolded every day by several men who stank of alcohol and obeyed their superior’s orders, who was always there. They shouted: “You wanted freedom? Well here it is!”

Many of the women, she explains, in addition to their pain, thought their families might kill them if they found out what had happened to them. Her determination to enroll in the Free Syrian Army became only stronger. When she was released, she became one of the rare women to lead a battalion, at the head of 20 men, before being seriously injured and evacuated by her fellow rebels.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have flowed into Jordan, and this is where, thanks to doctors, lawyers, psychologists, we managed to gather and cross-reference a large number of testimonies, as well as meet several victims, face-to-face.

“Affect the fathers, brothers and husbands”
Burhan Ghalioun, the former president of the Syrian National Council and prominent member of the opposition, said international attention should be focused on the mass rape carried out by the regime. “This is this weapon that made our revolution, which aimed to be peaceful, turn so violent.”

As early as spring 2011, he says, campaigns of rape by militias were organized inside homes, while families were still there. Daughters were raped in front of their fathers, wives in front of their husbands. Men became crazy with anger and yelled that they would defend themselves and avenge their honor. “I used to think we had to do everything we could to avoid getting into a militarized phase, and that arming the revolution would multiply the number of dead by 100,” Ghalioun said. “But the use of rape decided otherwise. And I think Assad wanted it this way. Once the revolutionaries were armed, he could easily justify the massacres of those he already called ‘terrorists’.”

This theory is hard to prove. But what is established is that sexual violence has risen, thus contributing to the climate of terror. “Women are used as means to affect the fathers, brothers and husbands,” says the writer Samar Yazbek, who has taken refuge in France. “Their bodies have become battlefields and torture chambers. The silence of the international community on this tragedy seems deafening to me.”

Several international organizations have reported rapes committed by the regime ­ Amnesty International, the International Rescue Committee, the International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch. But all of them also mention the extreme difficulty of obtaining direct testimonies, the obstinate silence of the victims, the fear of honor crimes committed against raped women and the anxiety born from the generalized perception that a woman who has been arrested has necessarily been raped.

A particularly well-documented report, published in November by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, confirms the extent of the tragedy and points out the urgency of investigating these war crimes ­ which, if their premeditation is proven, could be qualified as crimes against humanity.

“The regime has made women their first target,” Sema Nassar, the main author of the report, says, speaking via Skype. “They are aimed at, as such, by snipers, especially pregnant women. They serve as human shields, like in the Ashria neighborhood, in Homs, in Feb. 2012, when the army forced women to walk in front of the troops, or even made them board tanks during patrols. They are also subject to kidnappings for ransoms or exchanges. Systematically raping them, whether they are 9 or 60 years old, is a way to destroy the entire social fabric over the long term.”

Gang raped in front of a camera
Yes, she does have stories to tell, says Sema Nassar. Specific cases, with dates. Dozens of them. Like this young girl from Hama, currently a refugee in the United States, who was at home with her three brothers when soldiers burst in and told the three men to rape their sister. The first refused; they decapitated him. The second refused; he suffered the same fate. The third accepted; they killed him on the girl, whom they then raped.

Or, there is the story that another Syrian woman has recounted, of being brought to a house in the suburbs of Homs in the summer of 2012, along with around 20 other women. They were tortured and gang raped in front of a camera. The videotape was then sent to her uncle, a prominent sheik, television preacher and member of the opposition.

“This practice is very frequent during raids on villages and systematic in secret service detention centers,” the head of the Syrian League for Human Rights Abdel Karim Rihaoui told Le Monde. Currently living in Cairo, he estimates that over 50,000 women have been raped in Bashar al-Assad’s prisons since the beginning of the revolution.

Electric prods
In the Syrian refugee camp of Zaatari, 80 kilometers away from Amman, we met Salma, who looked like she was physically exhausted, with no life in her eyes. She was born in Daraa some 50 years ago but lived in Damascus with her husband and eight children. In 2011, she was stunned to learn that, in retaliation for the uprising of her hometown, her children had been expelled from their school, in the capital. “In what name are you punishing my little ones? They have nothing to do with these events!,” she complained to the school principal.

Al Zaatari refugee camp

She had not even finished her sentence when the secret services burst in. They put a bag on her head and led her to the basement of a detention center, where she was thrown into a pitch black cell full of rats. She spent two days in solitary confinement, with no food or water, before joining two other women in a tiny cell where she spent six months. “We couldn’t lie down. We weren’t allowed to wash ourselves, even during our periods. We were raped every day, as they chanted: “We Alawites will destroy you.” A single sign of protest and we had electric prods in the vagina or anus. They beat me so much that they broke my leg. It turned black. My family didn’t hear about me for six months. As I can’t read or write, I signed any confession with my index finger.” When she was released, her husband had disappeared with their car.

“Incurable” traumas
Oum Mohamed, 45, was arrested in the street with her daughter on Sept. 21, 2012, and brought to the Mezzeh military airport. Because the student’s cellphone displayed the flag of the resistance and the photo of a “martyr,” the two women were imprisoned for 20 days during which they were beaten, raped, locked up in a cell measuring four square meters with 17 other women and several children. One woman, the wife of a member of the Free Syrian Army suspected of having been part of the kidnapping of 48 Iranians in a bus in August 2012, was there with her children aged 8 and 9. The husband of another, a prison director who was punished for opposing outrageous torture, was held one floor below, in such a way that he could hear the cries of his wife while she was raped. “Everything was seen as an opportunity for sexual abuse,” she said, as tears filled her eyes. She fears the future of her daughter, who lost almost 45 pounds, is jeopardized for good.

Doctors have described “ravaged” vaginas, martyred bodies, “incurable” traumas. And so the next question: Were these barbaric initiatives carried out by lone groups of mercenaries left to their own devices, or part of a thought-out strategy, deployed by a hierarchy under orders?

The head of the Syrian League for Human Rights Abdel Karim Rihaoui has no doubt: “It is a political choice made to crush the people. Technique, sadism, perversity: Everything is meticulously organized. It is not a coincidence. The testimonies are similar and some rapists have admitted themselves to have acted on orders.”

Lawyers we reached in Syria share this opinion, despite the difficulty of gathering evidence. “I have photos of [sexual] stimulant boxes that the militiamen pack before leaving for a raid in a village,” Sema Nassar says. Several testimonies also reported the use of paralyzing products injected in the thighs of the women before they were raped.

Worse than death
One of the victims, Amal, explains that, in a Damascus detention center, a doctor ­ nicknamed “Dr. Cetamol” ­ went around the cells to note the dates of every woman’s periods, and hand out birth control pills. “We lived in filth, in blood, in shit, with no water and barely any food. But we had such an obsessive fear of becoming pregnant that we took these pills scrupulously. Once, when my period was late, the doctor gave me pills that gave me stomach pains all night.” Experts says this is crucial testimony in order to establish the premeditation of rapes in detention.

But babies have been born from these gang rapes, leading to series of tragedies. In Latakia, a young woman committed suicide because she was not able to abort. Another was thrown off the first floor balcony by her father. Newborn babies have been found at dawn in back alleys in Daraa.

“How can we help these women?”, asks Alia Mansour, a member of the Syrian National Coalition. “They are so scared when they are released from detention that they shut themselves away in their despair, without being able to ask for help.”

In Homs, Syrian poet Lina Tibi tells us about a woman who has managed to organize, in one week and in great secrecy, 50 hymenoplasty procedures on girls aged from 13 to 16 who were raped. “It was the only way to save their lives.”

But families are disintegrating. Husbands are turning away and divorcing. In Homs, the family-in-law of a woman who had not even been released from prison yet gathered her belongings to throw her out of the house. Parents are rushing their daughters to marry the first man who agrees.

“The world is preoccupied with the chemical weapons, but, for us, Syrian women, rape is worse than death,” whispers a law student, in tears. She has not told anyone about her tragedy yet. Especially not her husband.

Spain: Madrid IWD fun run for equality tainted by local mayor’s apron and nail file handouts Print E-mail
 London ~ Monday 10 March 2014

Mayor in Madrid accused of chauvinism over aprons and nail files at fun run

Juan Soler condemned for spending public money on machista gifts for participants in International Women's Day race

By Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

As gifts, nail files and aprons 'perpetuate the stereotype that women belong in the home', says the Socialist party's Carmen Toledano. (Graham Turner for the Guardian)

A local mayor in Madrid has been lambasted after handing out aprons and nail files to participants in a race for equality on International Women's Day.

Juan Soler, a member of the ruling People's party (PP), gave out the items at an event in Getafe, a city in Madrid's metropolitan area.

The gifts were "intentionally machista [chauvinistic]", said the Socialist party's Carmen Toledano. She condemned the mayor of Getafe for spending public money on items that "perpetuate the stereotype that women belong in the home" rather than on programmes aimed at improving women's conditions and job opportunities.

Toledano also noted that a recent EU report found the pay gap between men and women in Spain was 17.8%, 1.4 percentage points above the EU average. Spain is one of a handful of eurozone countries in which the gender gap has widened in recent years.

Toledano pointed to PP legislative efforts to limit access to abortions and recent public sector cuts that have disproportionately affected women, such as reduced bursaries for daycare and the an end to subsided school lunch programmes. "The leaders of the People's party and the measures they're putting in place have one clear objective: that women return to the home and the kitchen," she said.

Madrid officials rushed to defend the mayor's actions, saying the aprons and nail files were promotional items given to them by the city-owned waste collection firm. Adorned with the company's logo and messaging, the items were meant to encourage equality, Madrid said, as "the aprons were for men and the nail files for women".

Officials also stressed that the company operated as its own entity with its own set of directors, and Soler and the city hall were not involved in any way with the planning of the promotional campaign.

Northern Ireland: Cara Park stars in a feminist parody on Stormont’s 2013 beauty misogyny Print E-mail
London ~ Tuesday 11 March 2014

A scream of solidarity to my fellow women everywhere

International Women's Day was the perfect occasion to deliver my speech to Stormont demanding society's archaic, patriarchal constructs be torn down

By Cara Park

Cara Park speaking at Stormont on International Women's Day. 'By dressing like this, does that immediately make me a “slut”, a “slag”, a “whore”.' (Justin Kernoghan/Photopress Belfast)

Is mise Cara Park.

I am used to speaking publicly but I am a little nervous about this speech as it is so important to me.

I have always wanted to do this and I am not sure if I will get the opportunity again so if you could humour me, I want to let out a scream.

A scream of frustration.

A scream of solidarity to my fellow woman who are not able to express themselves in such a fashion, who are suffering injustice and discrimination.

If you would join in a cry/a keen for other women who are suffering.

Thank you.

I stand before you today as a woman unfree, in spite of the location of my birth here in the European Union, a colony of the British empire, the island of Ireland, Eire.

This is because I do not have the same rights as my sisters in other parts of these conglomerate nations. I am officially a citizen of the United Kingdom but the same freedom of reproductive choice is not awarded to me.

An bhfuil sin cothrom? [Is this fair?]

I was going to wear a chastity belt today as a symbol of sexual slavery but I don't want to use a gimmicky prop to represent a serious act of oppression against the female population of this island.

I am wearing very little clothing.

By dressing like this, does that immediately make me a "slut", a "slag", a "dolly bird", a "whore", a "loose" woman?

Am I letting the side down by wearing lipstick, fake tan, dyeing my hair, showing my nipples?

I am expressing my femininity.

My sexuality.

My youth.

My body.

Does that make me superficial?

Should I be able to dress how I like and not face discrimination?

This may seem like a superficial, trivial matter, but it is not.

Men and women have fought and some have died in the suffragist struggle to award me such freedom of expression.

Other women in the world are not so fortunate.

Some men in this society are not so fortunate.

This is a symptom of a very serious problem.

Branding people.

Putting them in boxes.

Identifying with symbols.

Flags, groups, teams, sides.

What side are you on?

I am a product of both the Protestant and Catholic communities.

I relate to both and belong to neither.

I am not a republican. I am not a unionist. I am a humanist.

I believe we are so distracted by tribal rituals that we forget to address the real inequalities, oppression, racism, gender discrimination that some of our laws uphold.

For example, the gay blood ban.


The fact that I can't speak my native language in a court room.


An bhfuil sin cothrom?

The fact that I am objectified, vilified if I appear overtly sexual.

Sex is a dirty word, we don't talk about sex here. Hush, hush.

Well maybe we should.


I have sex.

I am a sexy woman.

I said it.

I am not ashamed.

We all are born of sex.

Hiding the truth helps no one.

Perhaps if we were more open about sex, if it was not deemed a mortal sin and children were given proper, informative sex education, then so many rapists wouldn't have gotten away with sexually abusing our women, men and children over the years.

It is the shame that has guarded rapists and sadists who have carried out hideous sexual acts against victims.

The shame of confessing, the dirty secrets, the lifetimes ruined by abuse.

We must educate our children and remove the associated guilt of the victims.

End the tyranny of sexual shaming.

The main point I wanted to raise is about a woman's right to choose.

The Offences Against the Person Act which criminalises women for taking their fertility in their own hands.

The patriarchal laws and the predominantly male enforcers of said archaic acts of parliaments condemn us criminals if we terminate our pregnancies.

We are forced to break the law, go to other parts of the UK on illicit journeys, adding secrecy and criminality to already traumatic situations.

We are forced to lie to doctors.

Conceal our shame.

An bhfuil sin cothrom?

We can argue that this is because we are in Ireland, an exceptional place historically, a Christian country. If we are to attribute the suppression of female autonomy as a upholding of fundamentalist Christian values, let me inform or remind you that abortion is not mentioned in the Bible.

It is a social construction, much like the compulsory hair covering in Muslim countries. Burqas, hijabs, gloves are not mentioned in the Qur'an either.

Another act of suppression on the female form.

Conceal sexuality.

But the oppression of women by refusal to apply the Abortion Act 1967 is possibly the one point that the opposing conservative parties can agree on.

An bhfuil sin cothrom?

I am calling for the patriarchal laws to be changed and affirmative action taken. We are in a fortunate position here in Ireland compared with other regimes, in spite of facing a lifetime in prison for having an abortion. We should use the relative freedom we possess, like the freedom of speech, to vocalise our struggle and support other people less fortunate.

We must not become complacent! The struggle is not over! Continue the fight for equality in the face of casual misogyny, physical misogyny and, most importantly, resist and revolt against misogyny by the state.

Equal rights for women means equal rights for all! Continue the suffrage, support other women, do not be complicit in the commodification of the female form, do not judge other women in how they dress, who they have sex with, their sense of humour, the books they have read etc. We must unite as collective force and fight the patriarchal powers instead of dividing ourselves into feminist sub-groups.

Do not let the superficial age we live in divide and conquer us, unify, organise, protest, demonstrate, love your neighbours, celebrate differences. We owe it to our suffragist brothers and sisters who have fought for the rights we have today.

Make abortion free, safe and legal.

Corp s'agam, Ré s'agam. My body, my choice.

Equal rights for all.

• This is the text of a speech given at an International Women's Day event at the Stormont assembly

 London ~ Monday 10 March 2014

Northern Ireland feminist defends decision to go bare-chested at Stormont

Cara Park, who wore feather necklace to cover breasts at International Women's Day event, is criticised by unionists

By Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent

Cara Park at the International Women's Day event – a parody of a beauty contest held at Stormont last autumn. (Justin Kernoghan/Photopress Belfast)

A Northern Ireland feminist has defended her decision to partially expose her breasts during an International Women's Day event at the Stormont assembly – an act that has prompted unionists to demand a parliamentary inquiry into the controversy.

The Derry women's rights activist Cara Park, whose breasts were hidden behind a feather necklace at the event, said she was highlighting the plight of women in other parts of the world who could be stoned to death for having their bodies exposed.

Park said: "I just thought: when am I ever going to get an opportunity to stand barefoot and bare-chested in Stormont, while other women elsewhere in the world would be stoned to death for that? I honestly can't understand how a nipple can be offensive."

She was attending an Alternative Ms Ulster beauty contest in the Great Hall of the Stormont parliament buildings at the weekend when the furore erupted over her outfit.

The 32-year-old refused to apologise to unionist assembly members who claimed her stunt was offensive. She said: "My nudity was a statement. It was a very considered thing. It was to do with my freedom to be a feminist and to express myself physically as a woman without being discriminated against."

"I think women should be allowed to be bare-chested. I don't think that other women have a problem with it. My breasts are my own, that's me in my natural state and I think I should be allowed to be in my natural state."

Jim Allister, the leader of the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice, called on the assembly's commission "to hold to account those who sponsored an event which permitted such unseemly behaviour".

Allister added: "I do not think Stormont should be the stage for such indecent exhibitionism."

The Democratic Unionist party junior minister in the devolved government, Jonathan Craig, described it as a "cheap publicity stunt".

His party colleague Tom Buchanan said: "This is just shameful and I think that these social events need to be more closely vetted by the organisers to ensure that this does not happen again."

Park is an Irish-language actor and performance artist and a contributor to a Gaelic-language programme on BBC Radio Ulster.

She was one of 25 women who made speeches on the rights and plight of women around the world at the event, which was organised by the Green party's sole assembly member in the devolved parliament, Steven Agnew.

Agnew said he defended Park's decision to go partially nude at the International Women's Day event.

He added: "I certainly don't find the female form offensive. There's exploitative pornography, that's one thing, but an empowered female choosing how she dresses is very much up to that woman."

The event was staged as a parody of a Miss Ulster traditional beauty contest held in the Stormont parliament last autumn.

Ireland: The glass ceiling made of concrete for women in business and politics Print E-mail

 Friday March 7 2014

'The glass ceiling is a concrete one' for women in business and politics - TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor

By Barry Egan

Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor – touted by some as Ireland’s first female Taoiseach one day – thinks it is not so much a glass ceiling for women in business and political life as “a concrete one.”

“We do need to get through it,” she told on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

"And I think that it is important that when we break through it – especially women who have reached the top echelons – that we put out a helping hand and drag others up. Sometimes women don’t do that. They can be quite unforgiving; once they get to the top themselves they don’t care about any one else. So it is really important that we bring other women up too.”

Asked how far women have still to come in Ireland, Mary replied: “A long way.”
“Women have got to kind of middle management,” she continued, “but it is about taking that next step. I talk about the invisible woman – the woman who is at home, has supported her husband at work, has reared her children, then reaches her mid forties, her fifties, and feels there is nothing else that she can offer. Of course we need young women and we need young women of child-bearing age in Dail Eireann, but we also need the older woman. She has loads of life experience that she can bring into the Dail. She should be heard as well.”

Mary also cited women in Irish business who she admires for the work they have done: “Louise Phelan of PayPal jumps to mind. She is really strong. Norah Casey [of Harmonia publishing] is another very strong woman who is well able to get out there and articulate her views.I have another very good friend, Nicola Byrne who owns 11890. They are all women who employ hundreds of people. “

Mary added that what these brilliant Irish business women bring to the table echoes what Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in her book ‘Lean In’...

“That’s what women do - they lean in and they take control; yet they have empathy towards their employees,” Mary said.

“If you have people working with you, I think you should be interested in their lives. You should know if their parents are ill or if their children are ill. That’s not to say that you expect them not to come to work but I think it is very important that you are emphatic and that you know about people’s lives. Society is not an economy. Society is not a factory. It is actually about people. That’s what I believe women bring to the table," Mary said.

She expressed doubt that Ireland is less of a sexist society towards women than it was. “I am not sure, really.”

Asked had she ever felt discrimination because of her gender,
Mary answered: “I probably did as a younger teacher."

She added that "women would tell me that sometimes if they are going for a job and if looks like that they might get pregnant during the phase of their job that they may not land the job. That is difficult for women at that stage of their lives. And the older woman thing – being the invisible woman – that is difficult for women.”

Does she feel women suffer more from ageism in Irish society than men?
“Yes, I do. Honestly, I think women at a certain age are kind of written off as too old to be employable,” she said, adding that “especially during the recession, I am aware of loads of women who have said to me that maybe they were let go from their jobs and are now trying to get back into employment again. Yet they feel deep inside themselves that they are too old.”

Mary is candid enough to admit that “if I was being really honest that I am really sorry that I didn’t start in politics ten years earlier. I would like to be ten years younger and be starting off in Dail Eireann. But I’m going to go out there and fly the flag for women. I think that it is important,. I am in my fifties. I have a life experience with me that probably I hadn’t in my thirties. So I am going to bring that and make sure that that is heard in our parliamentary party and in the committees that I sit on.”

What wisdoms would she bring to the table?

“I have obviously reared children. I ‘ve been a school principle. So, look, I have counselled people, I have been with people and cried with people. I am a people’s person and I think that’s what needs to be heard at a table in politics because, as I’ve said, sometimes men feel that they’ll make a policy and they mightn’t think on how it impacts on women and children and families. You know – on real people? It sounds good on paper but sometimes when it is on paper it is a different thing to when it has to be worked out on inside on a family. “

Global: Shocking statistics enhance IWD’s importance to motivate change Print E-mail

 London ~ Friday 07 March 2014

International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important

March 8 2006: Damning statistics mark International Women's Day

By Felicity Morse

International Women’s Day, like any event that promotes positive discrimination, is accompanied by its fair share of negative remarks.

The earliest Women’s Days were held in the first decade of 20th century. This was before women had the vote, before women could legally terminate a pregnancy. In the UK, it was only ten years since a married woman could legally own her own property, rather than be property herself. Marie Curie was yet to become the first woman to win the Nobel Prize.

More than a century later and it’s tempting to see International Women’s Day as redundant, a celebratory event at best. Why do we need the event at all? The causes that triggered those first campaigns have been fought and won. Women in today’s society have all the equality they could ever need, right? Wrong.

International Women’s Day is still needed to motivate change, at home and abroad. Some of these statistics put into sharp relief just how far we still have to go.

Globally, about one in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime. About 44 per cent of all UK women have experienced either physical or sexual violence since they were 15-years-old. Britain ranks among the worst countries in Europe when it comes to women being violently abused.

On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.

38 per cent of all murders of women worldwide are committed by a woman's intimate partner.

A UN report said 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt had been subjected to sexual harassment.

Female Genital Mutilation

This is where girls have either all or part of their clitoris and inner and outer labia sliced off without anaesthesia, and sometimes have part of their vaginas sewn up too.

Over 130 million women living in the world today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation.

There as as many as 24,000 girls are at risk of cutting in the UK.

In one Birmingham hospital as many as 40 to 50 women every month are treated after undergoing female genital mutilation.

Around 14 million girls, some as young as eight years old, will be married in 2014.

An estimated 1.2m children are trafficked into slavery each year; 80 per cent are girls.

In 10 countries around the world women are legally bound to obey their husbands

Only 76 countries have legislation that specifically addresses domestic violence – and just 57 of them include sexual abuse.

Working rights
In the UK, the gender pay gap stands at 15%, with women on average earning £5,000 less a year than their male colleagues. The disparity is even greater in part time jobs, going up to 35 per cent.

Globally only a 24 per cent of senior management roles are now filled by women.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission estimates it will take 70 years at the current rate of progress to see an equal number of female and male directors of FTSE 100 companies.

This hurts everyone. The gender gap in certain industries is even more apparent and damaging. Zemach Getahun estimates that closing the gender gap in agriculture could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 per cent.

If the skills and qualifications of women who are currently out of work in the UK were fully utilised, the UK could deliver economic benefits of £15 to £21 billion pounds per year – more than double the value of all our annual exports to China.

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