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Archive for May, 2020

Brutal alleged murder of girl, 14, by father may lead to law change in Iran

The brutal alleged murder of a 14-year-old girl at the hands of her father has led to a call from Iran’s president to speed up laws punishing so-called honour killings. 

Romina Ashrafi, from the Iranian town of Talesh, was reportedly beheaded while sleeping by her father Reza Ashrafi, who is accused of using a farming sickle to kill her.

He is believed to have murdered Romina after she eloped with her 34-year-old boyfriend.

Girls can legally marry from the age of 13 in Iran, but the average age of marriage is 23, and it is unheard of in rural areas for teenage girls to run away from home to be with their boyfriend.

Five days after the couple ran away, Romina was found and taken to the police, who she reportedly warned of her concern that her father may be violent.

Ashrafi then took his daughter back to the family home, where he is alleged to have killed her.

He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Women suffering ‘domestic and spiritual abuse’ in lockdown, religious leaders warn

Religious leaders have warned that domestic abuse victims in their communities face the greatest obstacles to getting help, and raised fears that the coronavirus lockdown was causing such violence to soar.

Figures from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities said they had heard reports of abuse in the home ranging from psychological and physical violence to spiritual abuse during the Covid-19 emergency.

Campaigners have previously warned there would be a spike in victims fleeing their abusive partners as lockdown eases, with support services, already struggling to make ends meet, being hit with an even higher demand.

A joint statement, signed by leading figures from a range of faith-based domestic abuse charities, said women in faith and black and minority ethnic (BME) communities stay with abusive partners for longer than women in the wider population and are less likely to access support.

“We cannot ignore that there are perpetrators within all our faith communities,” the statement says. “At our best, our faith communities nurture healthy relationships and strengthen society. The home exists alongside our churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and temples, to enable growth within both faith and our local communities”.

Girls at risk of child marriage as half of local authorities fail to keep records

Girls at risk of child marriage are falling under the radar of authorities in England and Wales because of a lack of record-keeping by more than half of the departments responsible for children’s social care, a charity has warned.

IKWRO women’s rights organisationsays it is preparing for a spike in cases following the easing of lockdown and is urging social workers to be ready to respond.

It has written to local authorities amid concerns that some social workers were not fully trained or aware of the complexities around “honour”-based abuse including child marriage.

Responses collected under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that between 2018 and 2019, the latest data available, there were 165 children in England and Wales at risk of child marriage.

Yet 56% of departments responsible for children’s social care in the two countries were found not recording how many minors were at risk of child marriage.

During the same period 280 children in England and Wales, including 117 looked-after children, were identified by those departments that were collecting data as at risk of “honour”-based abuse. Yet 66 local authorities out of those questioned said they had no process for recording those at risk.

IKWRO says it is vital authorities record every potential case of these complex crimes to understand and respond to their prevalence on a national scale.

Huge FGM rise recorded in Somalia during coronavirus lockdown

Somalia’s coronavirus lockdown has led to a huge increase in female genital mutilation (FGM), with circumcisers going door to door offering to cut girls stuck at home during the pandemic, according to Plan International.

The crisis is undermining efforts to eradicate the practice in Somalia, which has the world’s highest FGM rate, with about 98% of women having been cut, the charity warned.

“We’ve seen a massive increase in recent weeks,” said Sadia Allin, Plan International’s head of mission in Somalia. “We want the government to ensure FGM is included in all Covid responses.”

She said nurses across the country had also reported a surge in requests from parents wanting them to carry out FGM on their daughters while they were off school because of the lockdown.

FGM, which affects 200 million girls and women globally, involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. In Somalia the vaginal opening is also often sewn up – a practice called infibulation.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has warned that the pandemic could lead to an extra 2 million girls worldwide being cut in the next decade as the crisis stymies global efforts to end the practice.

Allin said families in Somalia were taking advantage of school closures to carry out FGM so that the girls had time to recover from the ritual, which can take weeks.

The economic downturn caused by coronavirus has also spurred cutters to tout for more business, she said. “The cutters have been knocking on doors, including mine, asking if there are young girls they can cut. I was so shocked,” said Allin, who has two daughters aged five and nine.