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Archive for November, 2013

Government to urge for action to protect women and girls in emergency situations

The Government will urge for international action to protect women and girls from violence and sexual exploitation in emergency situations. Girls and women in crisis situations, such as flood, famine and conflict, face a greater risk of abuse, violence, forced marriage and sexual exploitation.

Intervention in these cases are often not prioritised because their situation is not thought to be life-threatening. The Department for International Development will host an event for donors, the United Nations and international non-governmental organisations and urge that abuse and violence against women and girls is prioritised during a crisis. The pledge comes after a report suggested that female Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon are vulnerable to abuse.

Since the Syria conflict began almost two million people have fled the country, according to figures released by the United Nations.

Around one million refugees are believed to be in Lebanon – nearly a quarter of the country’s population – and many women are in danger of being abused or sexually exploited, according to a report by Oxfam and ABAAD – Resource Center for Gender EqualityThe research suggests that men in refugee camps have low self-esteem because of the situation they find themselves in and vent their frustration towards women and girls.

Violence towards women and children has increased as some men vent their frustration and abuse their power within the household. Outside the household, there are also examples of women and girls who are vulnerable to physical and verbal harassment, including sexual harassment, and in many areas they fear kidnap, robbery, and attacks.

Widowed or other women on their own are particularly vulnerable, with some pretending in public to receive phone calls from their former husbands, to protect themselves from male harassment.


Early marriage of daughters – which was common in Syria before the conflict began – also increased in refugee camps as a way to either protect young girls or ease financial pressures on the family, the report suggested.

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Anti-forced marriages plan adopted

THE social, humanitarian and cultural (third) committee of the United Nations (UN) has adopted a resolution aimed at ending early and forced marriages.
The adopted resolution would be co-chaired and co-sponsored by Zambia and Canada. According to a statement by First Secretary for Press and Public Relations at the Permanent Mission of Zambia to the UN, Chibaula Silwamba, the third committee of the UN adopted by consensus the resolution titled ‘Child, Early, and Forced Marriage’ with a record 109 member-States as co-sponsors. Zambia’s envoy to the UN Mwaba Kasese-Bota told the 193 UN member States on Thursday last week that so many children had been forced into early marriages,  a practice which deprived them of the full enjoyment of their rights as children. The practice also set them up for a compromised adulthood where they were unlikely to realise their full potential.
Dr Kasese-Bota said the high number of co-sponsors demonstrated the global support for the elimination and possible eradication of child, early and forced marriage.

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Honour-based family violence often unreported, say experts

Calgary police and educators are learning about how to recognize and deal with honour-based violence.

Social agencies say such violence is prevalent in the city and often involves child and spousal abuse.

“What we see, what makes it into the news, is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these types of issues,” says John Winterdyk, president of the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association.

The two-day conference is sponsored by Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association and includes police, teachers, lawyers, health-care workers and judges. Aruna Papp, the keynote speaker on Monday, agrees that most honour-based crimes still go unreported. “How do we prevent it? We are not training the professionals. There always seems to be less funding,” she said.

Papp is a victim of honour-based violence, which is defined by organizers in a press release as violence that “stems from a matrix of cultural values premised on women’s inferiority.” Papp says it happens when girls and women who are new to the country embrace Canadian values. “They go to school and they are taught that you can think for yourself, you can make decisions for yourself, you can choose your spouse, you can choose your career,” she said.


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UK arranged marriages: Kidnapping, rape and murder in the name of family honour

“We have kidnappings, abductions, assaults, sexual offences. Anything that you can imagine could happen, does happen, in the name of honour,” says Nazir Afzal, Crown Prosecutor for the north-west of England.

And murder – 10 to 12 cases a year. Yet as the hyper-active, smartly dressed lawyer concedes in his Manchester office, violence invoked in the name of family honour, mostly by citizens of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin, is often hidden and unreported. Mr Afzal knows about honour, having grown up in Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim household.

Honour, he says, can be a good thing, helping bind families and communities together. But, “at the moment in so many communities, in so many families, it is merely used to suppress women, to oppress women. So, if they misbehave in some way, or make their own choice, they have dishonoured the family. If men do the same, well it’s men – you know they do what they want. Regrettably too often it’s used to control women.”

After World War II, Britain received waves of migrants from its former colonies in India, Pakistan and later Bangladesh. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others came, some for higher education, but mostly to work in the factories around London and in the Midlands and north of England. In England, generations who self-identify as Asian now number more than 4 million, 8 per cent of the English population.

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Schools need to do more over forced marriage dangers

Schools must do more to warn children about the dangers of forced marriage, the Lords was told today.

Labour spokeswoman Baroness Thornton said there was evidence that schools were doing “very little to ensure pupils are informed about forced marriage and offer them necessary support if they need it”.

She added: “In fact there is some evidence that some schools are putting students at risk by contacting family members when children had consulted teachers in confidence.” Lady Thornton was speaking during committee stage debate on the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which makes forcing someone into a marriage a criminal offence.

The Opposition was calling for front line staff to be given better guidance on how to deal with the problem. Lady Thornton said the Department for Education did not treat forced marriage as a “child protection issue” in many schools and criminalisation was not enough to tackle forced marriage on its own.

Schools, colleges, police, doctors, social services and airport staff must be aware of what to look for and the appropriate action that needed to be taken. Action taken was not “uniform or adequate” at present, she said.

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Hope at last for Yemen’s child brides as the country’s leaders finally act to stop forced marriages of girls as young as NINE

From Sally Al-Sabahi who, after being married at the age of 10, was raped and beaten by her much older husband to 13-year-old Ilham who, in 2010, died from internal bleeding four days after being forcibly married, the plight of Yemen’s child brides makes for harrowing reading. But following international condemnation and campaigns by charities such as UNICEF and Equality Now, the country’s government finally appears ready to end the shocking tradition once and for all.

Fouad Al Ghaffari, the director general of Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights, has revealed that the country’s minister for Legal Affairs, Mohammed Al Mikhlafi, is to submit a bill that would outlaw child marriages if passed. And in a sign that attitudes might finally be changing in the Middle Eastern country, it was reported last week that police officers stepped in to prevent the marriage of a nine-year-old girl in the southern city of Taiz – the first time such an intervention has taken place.

According to reports on the BBC website, police halted the wedding and convinced the father of the girl, named locally as Hiba, not to allow the nuptials to go ahead.

Although there is nothing currently to prevent Hiba’s wedding from happening at a later date, campaigners are cautiously welcoming of the intervention and the news that legislation could be imminent. ‘In 2009, the Yemeni parliament considered a draft bill that fixed the minimum age of marriage for girls at age 17 and included penalties and punishment for those in violation,’ said Equality Now’s Middle East and North Africa consultant, Suad Abu-Dayyeh.

‘Unfortunately this was not successful, but we are heartened that the Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour has requested the reintroduction of this bill, which would effectively ban child marriages in the country.’

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Forced marriage could be made a crime in Scotland

MSPs are seeking views on whether forced marriage should be a criminal offence.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee wants to know if people believe criminalisation would be an improvement or if present safeguards are sufficient.

The call for evidence comes after an attempt by Westminster to legislate for Scotland on the criminalisation for forced marriage.

The UK Bill would make it a criminal offence for any person to use violence, threats or any other form of coercion to force someone to marry without their free and full consent.

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Protests as ‘child marriage’ imam back at Birmingham mosque

An imam caught agreeing to marry off a 14-year-old girl has been welcomed back to his mosque job, despite protests from worshippers.

Sajid Zafar Hussain has spent the past month suspended from his post at the Jamatia Islamic Centre on Woodlands Road, Sparkhill. He was caught on film agreeing to arrange the wedding ceremony by undercover TV reporters posing as the mother and brother of the schoolgirl.

Mr Hussain was immediately suspended by the mosque but the Mail has discovered he was allowed to return to work last Monday. Yet the decision has divided worshippers, with one mosque member claiming the ‘unjustifiable’ return had caused bad feeling. They said: “When the imam entered the mosque to lead prayers a number of members and trustees protested and asked if he would do the decent thing and resign to avoid causing division within the community. The imam refused to comment.

“A number of his supporters then objected and began to push members around, there was a disorder which was defused by the trustees and the members walking away from the situation. “The Management Committee were asked to explain how they concluded the imam’s actions did not amount to gross misconduct. They too refused to comment.”

The ITV Exposure programme visited 56 mosques across the country and asked clerics to perform an Islamic marriage ceremony, known as a nikah. Mr Hussain and imams at 17 other mosques agreed. The Mail visited the Jamatia Islamic Centre where its President Noor Hussain and joint treasurer Mohammed Fidah confirmed the imam had been allowed to return following an investigation by an ‘independent committee’. The President claimed the cleric had agreed in principle to marry off the schoolgirl as a reaction to the ‘emotional state’ of the female reporter posing as her mother, who he described as a ‘desperate woman’.

Asked if they thought Mr Hussain’s offer to marry off the schoolgirl was wrong, Mr Noor Hussain stressed no criminal offence had been committed as no marriage had actually been conducted.

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Honour and violence

Activist Aruna Papp says more needs to be done to prevent honour killings and honour-based violence in Canada. Papp was the keynote speaker at a workshop held over November 12 and 13 in Calgary to train police officers, social workers and others likely to be involved with the issue to recognize its victims and be effective when helping them.

The workshop, Honour-Based Violence — Training to Eradicate this Global Issue, was organized by the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association (ACCPA), an organization focused on crime prevention strategies and bringing multiple stakeholder groups together to discuss criminal issues. Papp says research suggests the rate of honour-based violence is increasing globally. She also believes that though it is mainly practised and culturally supported in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, it is “absolutely” occurring enough in Canada to merit more attention.

ACCPA president John Winterdyk agrees. Winterdyk has worked extensively in sub-Saharan Africa studying how beliefs about honour and punishment are applied there. “Just by the demographics of Canada we have so many people from other parts of the world that the probability [honour-based violence is occurring] is much higher than we care to acknowledge,” he says.

Neither Winterdyk nor Papp could provide statistics to back up claims of an increasing problem.

Papp was born in India and, after an arranged marriage, immigrated to Ontario in 1972. She has since founded three organizations to assist victims of honour crimes. She says the issue received increased media attention in Canada after the “honour-killing” murders of Aqsa Parvez, Amandeep Kaur Dhillon, Amandeep Atwal and four women in the Shafia family, yet few people here have a deep understanding of it. She believes this lack of understanding means authorities are not trained to help. “Social workers are very well equipped to do counselling, but the cultural aspect becomes a barrier when they don’t understand the ideology behind honour-based violence: What is it? What does it look like? Why is it perpetrated? How is it manifested? They need to understand all that before they can help,” Papp explains. “The way the counselling and intake is taught in universities, the model is set for white Anglo-Saxon middle class clients, so it does not apply to a whole lot of clients.

“It is an ideology about men controlling women. It manifests in different ways and different cultures and that’s what we talk about,” Papp says, adding that it is not the same as spousal abuse as it is typically understood in the West. Honour-based violence is often complicated by the inclusion of extended family or male family members in using force and violence to punish a woman for what they consider dishonourable behaviour in order to restore the family honour they believe her behaviour tarnished. That means police and social workers are faced with protecting her from a number of aggressors instead of just one.

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