Sexual assault offender numbers in Australia jump by 19% in 2013-14
Australian Bureau of Statistics’ report, Recorded Crime – Offenders, shows 93% of offenders were male
The charge includes offences such as child sexual abuse and possessing child sexual abuse material. ( Dave Hunt/AAP)
By Melissa Davey and Nick Evershed
The number of people charged with sexual assault offences increased nationally by 19% in 2013-14, new data shows.
The figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed people aged 10 and over with a principal charge of “sexual assault and related offences” increased to 7,175 in 2013-14, up from 6,006 the year before. As a rate per 100,000 people, this is an increase from 30.1 to 35.3 year-on-year.
Of those, 93% were male, the figures published as part of the Recorded Crime – Offenders report found.
As well as aggravated and non-aggravated sexual assault, the charge includes offences such as child sexual abuse and possessing child sexual abuse material.
A spokesman for the men’s family violence prevention organisation No to Violence, Rodney Vlais, said while it was difficult to say why there has been such a marked increase, he believed more people may be coming forward to report the offences.
“My sense is that the increasing community and public attention to violence against women occurring across much of Australia might be resulting in increased reporting of sexual [violence] against women in general, as well as violence against women in intimate relationships,” he said.
“Of course, reported sexual violence to police is just the tip of the iceberg, as most assaults go unreported, including sexual violence that men use against their intimate partners.”
The data also showed the number of youths with a principal offence of sexual assault and related offences increased from 1,369 in 2012-13 to 1,855 in 2013-14. That represented a jump of 36%.
The director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, William Milne, said this was driven by an increase in non-assaultive sexual offences of 48%.
“While we did see an increase in the number of youths reported for sexual assault and related offences, overall there was a 4% decline in the number of youth offenders,” he said.
There was also an increase in the rate of people charged with illicit drug offences, which rose from 322 per 100,000 people in 2012-13 to 351.4 in 2013-14. This increase was across all subcategories, including dealing or trafficking illicit drugs, manufacturing or cultivating illicit drugs, and possessing and/or using illicit drugs.
The rate of other categories of offences, such as homicide, property damage, and robbery and extortion have decreased over time.
By Jules Morgan Stopping female genital mutilations, and providing high-quality care to survivors, are not easy goals but momentum is gaining to achieve them.
In practising communities, female genital mutilation (FGM) is a social norma public declaration of social acceptability that families believe makes their daughters pure, clean, and prepared for marriage. The ritual is a celebration for the community, as Rehab, cut before her sixth birthday, explains: “Without anaesthetic the midwife started to carve my external genitalia…women who were present started to cheer.” The practice is enforced by communities in which cultural and religious conventions are often more robust than national laws that ban FGM. However, cutting has serious health effects, and is classed by many people as child abuse.
More than 130 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM and, although incidence is declining overall, in some African and Middle Eastern countries, the prevalence is still more than 80% (table). European countries with a large migrant population from FGM-affected communities are now responding more collaboratively, following the long-awaited UN resolution in 2012 that called for a global ban on FGM.
Table : FGM overview in Africa and Middle Eastern countries
Taken from Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a statistical overview (UNICEF 2013). Data are for women aged 15–49 years. FGM=female genital mutilation. B=FGM banned. C=FGM criminalised. *Reporting in Republic of Sudan, not South Sudan. †In some states. ‡In Kurdistan region.
FGM campaigners have been pushing for more action, visibility, and sustainable policy development to end the practice for the past three decades. The charitable organisation FORWARD has taken a leading role in engaging affected communities and delivering professional quality training in the UK, Europe, and Africa. Arriving at the London-based offices, there's a distinctive buzz of activity, and “creating a buzz around the topic of FGM” is exactly what is needed says Executive Director Naana Otoo-Oyortey.
FGM is a health issue “When I was older and became pregnant I was in terrible pain…It wasn't until I was in labour for 4 days and there was no way for the baby to come out, that someone said to me, you're going through this because of your FGM. This joined all the dots upall the problems I'd had sexually, in my health and emotionally, were because of the FGM.” Sarian's words are indicative of a widespread blindness within FGM-practising communities of the link between FGM and health issues such as recurrent bladder and urinary infections, cysts, infertility, obstetric fistula, increased risk of childhood complications, and neonatal deaths.
Sarian and Rehab now work as community facilitators at the Health Advocacy Project, Manor Gardens Centre, London, UK, alongside Rosalind Jerram, FGM project manager, who tells The Lancet that, “In the last 3 months, we gave FGM educational workshops to 136 members of practising communities, including men. We trained 413 statutory professionals on FGM and gave training to 58 students.” Training, education, and awareness are objectives shared by many professionals working in FGM prevention services.
Specialist midwife Joy Clarke based at the Whittington Hospital, London, UK, told The Lancet that 15 years ago FGM, rarely disclosed, would often go undetected until the late stages of pregnancy. Referrals from general practitioners were rare, she explains, and initially most women came to the clinic through word-of-mouth referrals. In her view, to approach the subject with cultural sensitivity, from an educated and informed standpoint, requires specialist quality-approved training. The emotional effect on midwives and health professionals is substantial: “we need our own support group”, she says, with a gravity that speaks volumes. Clarke believes that therapeutic support, “for processing and reflecting”, is vital.
Managed by the Health Advocacy Project, the Dahlia Project, in partnership with the Maya Centre, is run by FGM survivor and campaigner Leyla Hussain, and offers a unique service of group and individual counselling. Hussain told The Lancet that “in FGM communities mental health problems don't exist”. The link between FGM and psychological trauma has, therefore, been ignored or suppressed, particularly by the survivors themselves. She identifies that, “In the UK, the three topics that people are afraid to talk about are race, gender, and sex, and FGM involves all three.”
Receptive world stage The UK has had legal sanctions preventing FGM in place for almost 30 years. However, only after many hard-fought years do campaigning organisations and individuals feel more visible. Political support and high-profile media coverage have been effective drivers of social change.
On Feb 6 International Zero Tolerance Daythe UK Department of Health announced new measures to end FGM, including £1·6 million to improve National Health Service response, a more integrative and mandatory reporting system, and improved training for front line health workers. Additionally, there is a unified call for the Department of Education to enforce and openly support training in schools, for teachers and for students, who some believe are being wrongly sheltered from the brutality of FGM, keeping at-risk individuals stigmatised and unprotected.
One Department of Health initiative has been the strategic development of the FGM Enhanced Dataset, which aims to move away from anonymous data and collect prevalence information about patients receiving treatment. Deborah Hodes and Sarah Creighton, from University College Hospital, London, UK, have been instrumental in its development and told The Lancet that numbers are expected to escalate following its implementation, before a plateau. However, with mandatory reporting the numbers will be more accurate and better inform policy and service requirements across the country.
Local solutions Marleen Temmerman, director of WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, states the importance of presenting a unified and tough stance in Europe: “Respect for culture stops when it causes harm, and FGM causes harm.” She is concerned about the rise in the income-generating medicalisation of FGM. With increased education about health risks, families prefer the clinical environment to the traditional “bush”. This raises an ethical dilemma that she has herself faced“If I, as a doctor, opt for the little cut, I will perhaps save this girl from the more severe form of FGM”. Temmerman believes that this predicament is shared by families and doctors and highlights the complexity of reaching communities that resolutely uphold the practice for social acceptance. “We must be careful not to overlook all FGM practices as the majority of health risks come from type III and there is danger of encouraging a milder type of cutting. A ban on all practice is imperative”, she says. “Think globally, act locally” is Temmerman's dictum and this is a crucial strategy. The way forward is to support local campaigns in FGM-practising countries, and not try to impose Western solutions on potentially hostile and unreceptive communities.
Recognising the influential role of ambassadors in the diaspora in Europe, FORWARD has shaped programmes in Africa on Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation Researchprojects that encourage intergenerational community engagement at a local level. In Otoo-Oyortey's experience, investing in research undertaken by individuals in practising communities is strategically beneficial.
Waris Dirie, founder of the Desert Flower Foundation, is an influential figure in the international movement to end FGM. The Foundation recognises the economic pressures facing families and have set up Save a Desert Flower, a sponsorship programme that offers US$30 per month to families in exchange for sending their daughters to school and safeguarding them from forced marriage and cutting. Within 1 year, Dirie told The Lancet, “1000 contracts have been signed in Djibouti and Sierra Leone…we have received more than 5000 applications from families…our goal is to save 1 million girls in the next 5 years.” The youth generation is seeing a shift in attitudes, Dirie says, we get 80 000 visits a week on Facebook. Engaging the next generation is pivotal to the prospect of eliminating FGM in the future.
Desert Flower Foundation Centres have opened in Berlin and Stockholm. In Krankenhaus Waldfriede Hospital, Berlin, 50 women have received treatment in the past 18 months. The treatment model is one of individual holistic care, and includes reconstructive surgery of the clitoris and labia. Similarly in the Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, surgeon Hannes Sigurjonsson tells The Lancet that the role of reconstructive surgery, although controversial in FGM cases, has three main benefits: functionality, pain reduction, and aestheticsreclaiming what was taken through violence.
Maintaining momentum UNICEF recognise that although prevalence has been slow in decline, “we can be more optimistic when we look at the changed policy and national horizons”. According to UNICEF, most girls and women in most practising countries believe FGM should stop. Nevertheless, respect for leadership in communities perpetuates the continuation of FGM, so it stands to reason that strategic leadership is needed to end it.
FORWARD's Otoo-Oyortey recognises the opportunities for a worldwide movement, with a global audience ready and willing to act. The organisation's campaign slogan“FGM is my issue too”is one that it is hoping everyone will adopt.
The 2015 UN theme for International Women's Day (March 8) Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it! envisions a world in which women can exercise their choices, whether that be participating in politics or living in a society free from violence and discrimination. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a globally endorsed framework towards advancing gender equality, human rights, and women's empowerment.
Progress on the health-related recommendations from this framework has been uneven. Although maternal and child deaths have fallen since 1995, an unmet need still exists for family planning, gender-based violence is still a huge unaddressed problem, and deaths due to pregnancy-related causes still prevail, especially in developing countries and particularly among the poorest in society, who have no access to sexual and reproductive health services. On March 9, No ceilings: the full participation project, an initiative co-sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will launch the findings and recommendations from its data-driven assessment of the gains made by women and girls since Beijing. Interestingly, they will show that gains made in health and primary education are far greater than in the other areas of economic participation, leadership, and security. But clearly, far more progress in health is needed.
At the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (March 9–20), the political declaration for the 20th anniversary of the Beijing conference will be adopted. The absence of health in the draft is a concern, and it is weak on human rights, especially sexual rights, which encompass abuses such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and violence. Negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda have similarly struggled to address these core issues. Sexual and reproductive health and rights must not be sidelined again as they were initially in the Millennium Development Goals. The opportunities offered by UN negotiations this year must not be squandered if we are to secure actionable commitments that could yield vast improvements for girls and women everywhere.
By JON FERNQUEST/ Reuters News agency New law "aims to stop Thai women's wombs from becoming the world's womb" & ends "rent-a-womb" industry that made Thailand a top destination for fertility tourism.
Baby Gammy who suffers from Down Syndrome with birth mother Pattharamon Janbua. (Wichan Charoenkiartpakun)
NLA passes surrogacy ban on foreigners
The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) today affirmed a law that bans foreigners from seeking surrogacy services to end a "rent-a- womb" industry that made Thailand a top destination for fertility tourism.
The cabinet gave preliminary approval in August for to draft legislation to make commercial surrogacy a crime. It passed its first reading in November and became law on Thursday.
"This law aims to stop Thai women's wombs from becoming the world's womb. This law bans foreign couples from coming to Thailand to seek commercial surrogacy services," NLA member Wanlop Tankananurak told Reuters.
The law bans foreign couples from seeking surrogacy services and stipulates that surrogate mothers must be Thai and over 25.
"The important part is if the couple seeking surrogacy services is Thai or the couple is mixed-race, they can find a Thai woman to be their surrogate providing she is over 25," he said, adding that violation of the law carries a "severe prison sentence" .
Critics say making commercial surrogacy illegal could push the industry underground, making it harder for patients to access quality physicians and medical care.
The country was rocked by several surrogacy scandals last year, including allegations that an Australian couple had abandoned their Down Syndrome baby with his Thai birth mother taking only his healthy twin sister back to Australia with them.
Parliament passes law banning fees and preventing foreign and same-sex couples from seeking surrogacy services
The case of Baby Gammy put overseas surrogacy arrangements in the spotlight in Australia. (Apichart Weerawong/AP)
By Australian Associated Press
Thailand's parliament has passed legislation banning commercial surrogacy, putting a halt on foreign couples seeking to have children through Thai surrogate mothers.
The issue of surrogacy was in the spotlight in Australia last year after a Western Australian couple were accused of leaving a twin boy, known as Baby Gammy, with his surrogate mother after they discovered he had Down syndrome.
The legislation passed by Thailand's national legislative assembly on Thursday closed loopholes in the country's public health laws that enabled commercial surrogacy to thrive.
The new law bans all foreign and same-sex couples from seeking surrogacy services in the country.
Only married heterosexuals with at least one Thai partner are allowed to use surrogates. There are no fees allowed for the service and the surrogate mothers must be Thai and over 25 years old.
The surrogate mothers are also required to be relatives of either the husband or wife.
The legislation also includes a ban on advertising and promotions, and shuts down surrogate agents and unregistered clinics.
The Baby Gammy case made headlines in August 2014 when Thai surrogate Pattaramon Chanbua alleged West Australian couple Wendy and David Farnell had abandoned Gammy and returned to Western Australia with his healthy twin sister, Pipah.
Farnell, a convicted child sex offender, retained custody of Pipah late last year after an investigation by the WA Department for Child Protection.
Through the support of charities and the public, Gammy and his surrogate mother and her family have a new home in Thailand's Chonburi province and he is receiving the medical treatment he needs.
Pattaramon also applied for Australian citizenship for Gammy and it was granted last month.
Officials from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs (Dfat) said last year up to 150 Thai surrogate mothers carrying babies for Australian couples were expected to give birth by the end of 2015.
Dfat officials have negotiated with Thailand for a transition period to enable the children and their Australian parents to depart Thailand.
Turkey rallies over murder of woman who 'resisted rape'
By Selin Girit BBC News
A woman with a bullet hole painted on her forehead takes part in a demonstration against the murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan, who was killed after she resisted an alleged attempt to rape her in the southern city of Mersin, in Ankara on Saturday
Women on the protest argue that violence against women has become more acceptable in Turkey in recent years
Thousands of women in Turkey have protested at the murder of a young woman who allegedly resisted an attempt by a bus driver to rape her.
Police discovered the burnt body of Ozgecan Aslan, 20, in a riverbed in the city of Mersin, on Friday.
They have arrested three men in connection with her death - a minibus driver, his father and a friend.
The Turkish president and prime minister called Ms Aslan's family to offer their condolences.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu promised the family to hunt those responsible for the crime and punish them.
Ms Aslan, a psychology student, was kidnapped on Wednesday on her way home.
The driver allegedly tried to rape her. She reportedly fought him off with pepper spray, but was then stabbed to death. She was also hit on the head with an iron pipe.
The brutality of the murder caused an outcry across Turkey.
Thousands of women staged protests in several cities on Saturday, including Ankara, Istanbul, and Mersin - Ms Aslan's hometown in southern Turkey.
In Istanbul, women activists held two separate protests to show their anger at the murder.
During the day, hundreds gathered behind a banner that read "Enough, we will stop the murder of women!"
In the evening, the crowd got bigger. Thousands of women of all ages and walks of life poured out to the streets.
A young woman, Bulay Dogan, said Ms Aslan's murder scared her.
"I'm afraid, because the same thing could happen to me or my friends. But on the other hand, I'm furious too. How can they [the murder suspects] be so reckless to do something like this?" she asked.
Also on the protests was a gender studies academic who would only give her first name, Zeynep. She thought Ms Aslan's murder was of a political nature too.
"It is the result of the radical Islamic atmosphere created by the government. The men say that women should be conservative. They think if they are not conservative, they deserve this kind of violence," she said.
'Soaring violence' The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its roots in political Islam and has been in power since 2002.
Women's rights organisations say violence against women has risen sharply in the last decade.
Last year alone, almost 300 women were killed at the hands of men and more than 100 were raped, according to local reports.
Street protests across Turkey after woman 'killed for resisting rape'
Protesters took to the streets in Ankara, Istanbul, and Mersin
By Jon Stone
Thousands of women’s rights activists have taken to the streets in cities across Turkey after a woman was allegedly killed for resisting an attempt to rape her.
The burnt body of Ozgecan Aslan, 20, was found in a riverbed in the city of Mersin in the south of the country on Friday.
Women in Mersin shout slogans against the murder of a woman as they hold a picture of Ozgecan Aslan Police have arrested three men in connection with the death: a minibus driver, his father, and a friend.
Officers believe the driver allegedly tried to rape Ms Aslan, who fought back with pepper spray but was then stabbed to death and beaten around the head with an iron pipe.
A woman shouts slogans during a demostration in Istanbul The murder has caused an outcry across Turkey and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo an has telephoned the woman’s family to offer his condolences, according to BBC News.
Women turned out to protest in the capital Ankara Protests took place in the country’s capital Ankara, its largest city Istanbul, and Mersin itself.
Banners at the protest read “Enough, we will stop the murder of women!”
Other demonstrators carried pictures of Ms Aslan, whilst some performed protest dances.
The vast majority of the demonstrators were themselves women. ~~~~~~~~~~~ The Women for Peace Initiative E-Mail:
The Women for Peace Initiative was formed in May 2009 as a collective struggle against male dominance and war. Since then, the members of the initiative have been trying to make streets, homes, schools, and businesses into peaceful areas in order to both heighten the demand for peace and open the doorway to peace all around Turkey. Women are the ones who feel the consequences of war most severely; in ways such as migration, poverty, violence, rape, and discrimination. This is a result of policies which exclude women, decided upon by administrations which also exclude women. Money that should be used for education, health, development of women, and environmentalism, is instead spent on war, military operations, and bombs. The initiative struggles for a world in which no one is subjected to discrimination or violence because of their thoughts, beliefs, identities or sexual orientations; a world in which we live in peace.