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U.S. releases damning human rights report about Nigeria.


 

“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram.”
A new report by the United States has described Nigeria as a country where corruption, official impunity, and gross human rights violations occur at will.
The report described the human rights violations to include extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, mistreatment of detainees, destruction of property, violence against women, vigilante killings, child labour, forced and bonded labour, and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This assessment of Nigeria is according to the 2013 Country Report on Human Rights. The report, which is now in its 38th year, is sanctioned by the U.S. Congress. It, amongst other things, helps inform the U.S. government policy and foreign assistance.
According to the report, the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and the Nigerian Government are the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses in the country.
“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram, which conducted killings, bombings, abduction and rape of women, and other attacks throughout the country, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and widespread destruction of property; those committed by security services, which perpetrated extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention, mistreatment of detainees, and destruction of property; and widespread societal violence, including ethnic, regional, and religious violence,” the report said.
The report came hard on the Goodluck Jonathan administration for institutionalising impunity with the state pardon granted to serial money launderer and former governor of Bayelsa State, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha. It also said the Nigeria government has displayed no willingness to prosecute soldiers and police officers accused of gross human rights violations.
The report makes specific reference to the refusal of the government to prosecute members of the armed forces found to have perpetrated extrajudicial killing and torture in clear disregard of the recommendation of The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Committee against Torture.
“During the year joint task forces (JTFs), composed of elements of the military, police, and other security services, conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa, and Yobe. These raids resulted in numerous deaths of and injuries to alleged criminals, militants, and civilians. Local NGOs, international human rights groups, and political and traditional leaders in the affected states accused the security services of indiscriminate and extrajudicial killings.
“The national police, army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished.”
Inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
The report frowned at the technique of “parading” of suspects commonly used by the police. It observed that most of those paraded are subjected to public ridicule or abuse.
“Police commonly used a technique called “parading” of arrestees. Parading involved literally walking arrestees through public spaces, subjecting them to public ridicule and abuse.
“Bystanders often hurled taunts, food, and other objects. Police defended this practice with the argument that public humiliation helped deter crime,” it said.
It further observed that police flagrantly extort money from civilians and in blatant violation of the law. They use torture to extract confessions from suspects, which are later used to secure convictions in court.
The report indicts the police of rape and other sexual offences of women in their custody. In one example in Abraka in Delta State, in March 2013, a woman said four men raped her while she was in police custody. She said the police had put her in the same cell as the men. She accused the police of failing to help her. According to her, the investigating police office told her to keep quiet about the incident.
Over-crowded and disease-infested prisons
The report described a horrid condition of the country’s prison. It said the prisons are mostly over-crowded and in such deplorable states that they provide fertile breeding grounds for communicable disease. It said prisoners are poorly fed and their health neglected.
For instance, it observed that inmates with mental illness are kept among the general population. Prison warders are also accused of widespread torture, extortions, and sexual abuses such as rape of female inmates.
“Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Prisoners, a majority of whom had not been tried, were subject to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, inadequate medical treatment, deliberate and incidental exposure to heat and sun, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to wholly inadequate sanitary conditions and could result in death.”
“Reports indicated guards and prison officials extorted inmates or levied fees on them to pay for food, prison maintenance, and prisoner release. In some cases female inmates faced the threat of rape. Female prisoners pregnant at the time of incarceration gave birth to and raised their babies in prison,” it added.
“Overcrowding was a significant problem in some prisons. Although national capacity stood at 47,284, an imbalance in the use of prisons resulted in underutilization at some facilities, while others were at more than 800 percent of their designed capacity. For example, the Owerri Federal Prison had the capacity to hold 548 prisoners but held more than 1,784. Ogwuashi-Uku prison in Delta State, with a capacity to house 64 prisoners, housed 541, while Port Harcourt prison, with a capacity to hold 804, held 2,955. Ijebu-Ode prison in Lagos, with a capacity to hold 49 prisoners, held 309,” it continued.
“Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors–many of whom were born there–lived in the prisons. A 2006 report on the rights and welfare of children from the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs to the African Union found an estimated 6,000 children lived in prisons and detention centers. The Nigerian Prison Service reported, however, that as of March, 69 infants resided in prison with their mothers while 847 juvenile inmates were detained in juvenile detention centers.”
Freedom of Speech
The report observed that though the freedom of speech and a free press are guaranteed by the constitution, high-handed security and government officials still occasionally harass journalists.
The report made a case in point of the December 2012 raid of the homes and offices of the editor Musa Muhammad Awwal and reporter Aliyu Saleh of the Hausa-language weekly newspaper Al-Mizan, confiscating their phones and laptops as well as detaining the journalists and their wives.
“Politicians and political parties harassed and attacked journalists perceived as reporting on them or their interests in a negative manner. For example, on April 8, authorities in Abuja detained two reporters for Leadership Newspaper, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe, following the publication on April 3 of an article alleging that President Jonathan had ordered the disruption of operations of his political opponents. Authorities charged the two men with “vexatious publication.” All charges were later dropped.
“Journalists also were at risk of abduction. For example, in March assailants in Ondo State abducted a Nigeria Television Authority journalist, Olubunmi Oke, as she arrived home from work with her infant child and maid. The child and maid were later released. Media reports stated that the assailants had demanded an eight million naira ($50,240) ransom. Oke was freed after three days, following the payment of an undisclosed ransom.
Nicholas Ibekwe
(From Biafra Galaxy)

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Revealed: I Suffered Depression From Chime’s Treatment – Fmr. Enugu First Lady – ChannelsTV.


Wife of the Enugu State Governor, Clara Chime, has finally broken her silence in an exclusive interview with Channels Television, as she recounted her ordeal in the hands of her husband.

As Governor Sullivan Chime’s wife, she was in the public eye for about 5years. She has however been in the news recently because of the controversy surrounding her life in the Government House of Enugu State.

Things fell apart when she reached out to some members of the human right community and legal practitioner, Femi Falana, to save her from her husband.

Her appeal generated reactions from Nigerians and the civil society with several accusations, most of which bothered on unlawful detention and violence against women, given the physical and psychological suffering she was reported to be facing.

In this exclusive video, while recounting her experience, she also debunked claims that she had mental problem.

She said: “I suffered from depression and the treatment I got from my husband led to it.”

She also thanked Nigerians for coming to her rescue, expressing her joy that she is “now liberated.”

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Sir Patrick Stewart calls on ‘one million men’ to promise an end to violence against women.


 

Sir Patrick Stewart speaks at the Diplomat Ballroom in New York, March 8, 2013. (Breakthrough.tv)

NEW YORK—Sir Patrick Stewart stood in the center of the Diplomat Ballroom at the UN Hotel here on Friday, pounding his fist methodically against a podium, each thump punctuated with a number (“One … two … three …”) until he got to nine.

“Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States,” Stewart said.

The 72-year-old British-born actor, best known for his roles in “X-Men” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” served as host for the launch of “Ring The Bell,” a global campaign calling on one million men to make one million “concrete, actionable promises” to end violence against women.

“Violence against women is the single greatest human rights violation of our generation,” Stewart said.

“This is a call to action—not an act that will make things better in six months or a year’s time,” he continued. “This is action that might save a life today, or tonight, or tomorrow.”

The event—coinciding with International Women’s Day and the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at United Nations headquarters—was attended by about 200 assorted actors, activists, politicians, filmmakers and musicians, including Michael Bolton, who fought back tears while talking about his work lobbying for the extension of the Violence Against Women Act passed by Congress earlier this week.

“We will continue to battle,” Bolton, a father of three daughters, said.

[Related: Top UN official urges focus on violence against women]

Later, Stewart received a standing ovation after recalling the repeated violence he witnessed as a 5-year-old child at home.

“I became an expert on when to open the door and throw myself between my father’s fist and my mother’s body,” Stewart said.

He said his father “was unable to control his emotions—and his hands.”

“My mother did not do anything to provoke my father,” Stewart added. “But even if she did, violence is not the answer.”

Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings, who in January launched an initiative to combat domestic violence in his city, suggested “dialing up the shame” for men who commit violent acts against women.

“You can call a man who hits a woman a lot of things,” Rawlings said, “but you can’t call him a man.”

Don McPherson, a former NFL quarterback and college football hall-of-famer turned feminist, agreed.

“We don’t raise boys to be men,” McPherson said. “We raise them not to be women, or gay men.”

McPherson compared the fight to end violence against women with the one to end racism.

“White people confronted white people to fight racism,” he said. “Men need to confront men.”

In a videotaped promise to act, Sir Richard Branson relayed a recent, troubling anecdote from a humanitarian visit he made to Africa:

“Yesterday I was at a clinic we run in Africa called Bhubezi Clinic and there were 40 women in the room. Somebody asked the women if any of them had been raped, and there was laughter amongst the women. We asked why they were laughing. The women said, ‘Ask the question: Has anybody in this room not been raped?’ Not one woman put up her hand.”

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Refusing Abortion ‘Torture,’ Says UN Top Official.


 

pregnant stomach
(© Alexey05 / StockFreeImages.com)

A group of international women medical experts, who gave testimony before the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) on Wednesday, condemned the pro-abortion agenda of the United Nations and its pressure on countries to fall in line.

Their testimony follows a report from Juan E. Mendez, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, stating that refusing a woman an abortion is tantamount to the “torture” of women.

“On International Women’s Day, it is disturbing [that] the United Nations would push such a blatant pro-abortion agenda, especially when the evidence shows that the procedure is never medically necessary to save the life of the mother in any circumstance,” said Dr. Donna J. Harrison, President of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “In fact, abortion is always an act of violence against women. Every time there is an abortion, somebody dies. The U.N. agenda is clear: it is pushing abortion-on-demand that we know hurts women. Women’s health is best protected in a culture [of] life. They must be countered.”

Experts who participated in the International Symposium on Maternal Healthcare presented their research to United Nations delegations this week, including evidence that countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted enjoy the lowest maternal mortality rates.

They point to Ireland as a prime example. It is consistently considered by the U.N. and WHO as one of the safest places in the world for pregnant mothers, without recourse to abortion.

Scientifically documented research was presented Wednesday, which proves that abortion advocates promote risky chemical abortions in developing countries, which contributes to maternal mortality.
“Policies that ensure women will have access to all the information that they need to protect their health and their baby’s health during pregnancy are the most effective way to reduce maternal mortality,” said Dr. Harrison.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

International Women’s day: 3 challenges women face around the world.


It’s not always used as a platform to spread awareness about gender equality – Kazakhstan is known to have beauty pageants on International Women’s Day, while Russian women get flowers that may be poor compensation for inequalities they habitually face. But International Women’s Day, March 8, is generally a moment to celebrate the kaleidoscope of roles that half the world’s population takes on every day. Much of the news is good: Women continue to push into the higher echelons of the working world and get stronger legal protections, such as the just-renewed US Violence Against Women Act. But issues such as violence, inequality at work, and traditional expectations and cultural practices, such as child marriage, confront women on every continent around the world. Here is a sampling of challenges women faced this year:

It’s not always used as a platform to spread awareness about gender equality – Kazakhstan is known to have beauty pageants onInternational Women’s Day, while Russian women get flowers that may be poor compensation for inequalities they habitually face. But International Women’s Day, March 8, is generally a moment to celebrate the kaleidoscope of roles that half the world’s population takes on every day. Much of the news is good: Women continue to push into the higher echelons of the working world and get stronger legal protections, such as the just-renewed US Violence Against Women Act. But issues such as violence, inequality at work, and traditional expectations and cultural practices, such as child marriage, confront women on every continent around the world. Here is a sampling of challenges women faced this year:

Violence

The UN declares an International Women’s Day theme each year. This year’s focus? “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” The story of Malala Yousufzai, the schoolgirl shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating education for girls, reminded the world that the promise of girls’ education and safety in rural Pakistan – among other places – has not been met. The Monitor’s Ben Quinn wrote that when Malala was transferred to a hospital in Britainfor treatment, for some of the diaspora in the UK, the attack “struck a chord in parts of society where traditional attitudes, in particular those carried over from rural northern Pakistan, still manifest themselves through resistance – in a minority of families – toward education of girls.”

Not long after the world caught its breath from the Malala incident, gruesome news from Indiaenergized the international dialogue on violence against women: The case of a young woman brutally gang raped on a bus and left for dead in New Delhi, brought the issue to the forefront in a way that may yet be a game changer for India and other countries. In India, thousands of people protested and pressured the police and government to speed up the sluggish judicial system process in cases for rape, known to drag on for years. It also may have helped spur a movement in Indonesia – though still small – to take to the streets to protest offensive remarks from an Indonesian high court judge who “joked” that women might enjoy rape. Much has been made in the past couple of years of the important role women can play in revolution. But there has been a dark side of that participation: InEgypt, women who dare to go out to protest the government, as the Monitor’s Kristen Chick reports, have faced profound threats to their safety:

Tahrir square has become a terrifying place for women as sexual assault becomes more common and violent. But fed up, civilians are making it their job to prevent it and rescue women from attacks.

Several groups have formed, organizing to prevent such attacks, rescue women who are attacked, and raise awareness about an issue that is not often openly addressed.

And encouragingly, hundreds of volunteers created an organized effort to respond to the escalation of assaults against women in Tahrir.

As women battle such violence across the world, what motivates change?

In Latin America, a region where emerging economies are increasingly paying attention to GDP output, Sara Miller Llana looks at whether a first-of-its-kind study that quantifies the intergenerational price tag of domestic violence could motivate policy-makers, where other efforts have failed.

Women in business

Women are breaking taboos and boundaries globally by forming businesses in the face of significant cultural resistance.

Female entrepreneurs like Myassar Issa in RamallahWest Bank, are gaining a new sense of independence as the family breadwinner. Her husband has two other wives and can’t provide for her and her three sons, reports the Monitor’s Christa Case Bryant.

Since Mrs. Issa’s shop opened with a microfinance loan of $1,400 two years ago, she has repaid that loan and gotten another, doubled her merchandise, and is saving money for her sons to get married.

Statistics of female participation in business are hard to come by, but estimates that women entrepreneurs are increasing in number and today represent 5 to 10 percent of business owners in the formal sector and 30 percent in the informal sector.

Still, they have a long way yet to go. The issue of equal pay for equal work, especially among educated women in the workforce, is a common battle:

Colombia-based Monitor correspondent Sibylla Brodzinsky reports:

Even with an educational advantage, women are still mostly employed in lower-paid occupations inLatin America such as teaching, healthcare, or the service sector, like restaurants. Comparing men and women of the same age and educational level, [an Inter-American Development Bank] study found that men earn 17 percent more than women do in Latin America. That number is actually down from 25 percent in 1992, but the pace at which the gap is narrowing remains slow.

When it comes to the higher-paying fields such as law, architecture, and engineering – where women hold just a third of the jobs – the gender gap widens to 58 percent.

Part of the problem is that the majority of the better-paying jobs available for high-school graduates in the region are culturally associated with men, says Isabel Londoño, an education and gender issues specialist in Bogota, Colombia.

In Europe, Italian women are more likely to get a temporary contract than a male with the same education level, reports the Monitor’s Giulia Lasagni, And since women are overrepresented in temporary jobs, which were the first to be slashed during Europe’s recession, they typically have suffered more.

Entrenched perceptions

Despite significant progress, selling social reform to large segments of the population can be a major problem in many countries. In Afghanistan, even after 10 years of various education and political efforts as well as investing millions of dollars into the country to sell social reform, the status of women remains low. Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a call for change with a report in 2012 that highlighted the ongoing issue of women who are arrested and imprisoned for fleeing abusive family situations.

The authors advocated that the Afghan government stop imprisoning such women. Putting women in jail for this is not supported by the Afghan penal code or Islamic law, HRW officials argued at a press conference for mostly Afghan journalists. The threat of imprisonment also discourages women from reporting abuse or trying to leave dangerous situations.

That human rights officials were met by a few concerning responses from journalists, considered to be among the most educated in the country, highlighted just how high the hurdles may be, Tom Peter reports:

One local reporter asked, “If this is not considered a crime and it becomes rampant in the society and everyone does it, don’t you think that in a society like Afghanistan it will lead to a kind of anarchism here and everything will get out of control? What will be the consequences?”

And still, women and advocates for women’s rights press on, lead by example, and win small victories, even in very traditional societies. In Nepal, for example, the custom of chaupadi forces menstruating women to sleep outside of their homes:

For generations here, menstruating women have slept outside of their homes, in small sheds or in the family stable. They are considered impure and untouchable, so they cannot enter the house or touch communal water or food. The activist, Dhurbar Sunar, is not having it: “I think this is a social crime in terms of women’s rights,” he says.

Mr. Sunar is the Project Coordinator at Samabikas, a local organization pushing to abolish chaupadi here in Achham district and elevate women’s status. They work village by village, declaring them “chaupadi free” as they go.

Another small victory, reports Christa Case Bryant from Saudi Arabia, is the effect of sports on girls in the very traditional country. Though girls are not permitted to play in the presence of men, and it’s still very much kept quiet:

“Sport is … a small window [into change],” says businesswoman Lamya Al Abdulkarim, who recently helped launch a new girls’ soccer program in Saudi Arabia.

The official and societal resistance stem from concerns that female participation in sports will erode Saudi norms, including modest dress and segregation of the sexes. …The skills the girls are learning on the field have translated into bigger wins: One player has been recruited by a female investment fund manager, who says that the strategy, tactics, and quickness honed on the soccer field would be key assets in reading the stock market.

And it’s a broad shift in attitude that is being cited as one of the keys to a quietly promising drop in the rate of violence against women in the US. The rate of partner-to-partner violence dropped 64 percent between 1994 and 2010, according to a US Justice Department report, The Monitor’s Whitney Eulich reports:

“Many in the field cite a broad shift in attitudes that began in the 1980s and ’90s, crediting public awareness campaigns, national legislation protecting victims, and subsequent training of police and prosecutors to recognize intimate partner violence as a crime, rather than as a private matter.

Source: YAHOO NEWS.

Christian Science Monitor

Why We Must Confront the Global Abuse of Women.


Protest
More than 1,000 Colombians gathered in the park where Rosa Elvira Cely was attacked and raped to decry the horrific violence against women that has become a national trend.

The church cannot be silent while the world addresses the worst social injustice of our times.

Several months ago a street vendor named Rosa Elvira Cely placed a desperate call to Colombia’s national emergency number on her cellphone. “I’m in the national park,” she said. “They are raping me! They are raping me!”

Police in Bogotá couldn’t respond fast enough. When they found Rosa she was unconscious and barely breathing. She had stab wounds in her back, she had been raped and beaten, and a jagged piece of wood had been shoved into her vagina. Official reports said the 35-year-old single mother, who had been studying to finish high school, had been impaled.

She died on May 28, and 1,000 Colombians gathered in the park where she was attacked to decry the horrific violence against women that has become a national trend. They carried signs that said, “NI UNA MAS!” (“Not one more!”).

I traveled to Colombia this week to add my voice to this chorus, and to remind the Colombian people—especially its women—that Christians from other parts of the world are praying with them for an end to this bloodshed. I told women in the city of Santa Marta yesterday that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers the best answer to the degradation of women that occurs worldwide.

Last year alone, 51,000 women in Colombia were victims of rape or sexual assault, and similar rates can be found in Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. But the problem of machismo, the harsh male superiority that characterizes much of Latin America, is not just a Latin American problem. The oppression of women is a global phenomenon. Consider these facts:

  • Between one quarter and one half of all women in the world have been abused by their intimate partners. From 40 to 70 percent of all female murder victims worldwide are killed by an intimate partner. (In the United States, where domestic cruelty is illegal and police protection is available, one fourth of women have suffered some form of domestic violence.)
  • Cruelty to women is rampant in the Middle East, where women are forced to veil themselves, forbidden to drive and banned from walking alone. In Pakistan, angry husbands are known to throw acid in their wives’ faces—causing permanent disfigurement. In Syria, Jordan and Iran, women who dare to disagree with their husbands become victims of “honor killings.”
  • In many parts of the world girls are denied education because they are viewed as inferior. There were 185 documented attacks on schools and hospitals last year in Afghanistan, all attributed to Taliban extremists who oppose the education of girls.
  • Mistreatment of women is widespread in Africa, where widows are legally displaced by their families and left with no protection. Hundreds of thousands of girls in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Malawi and other nations are butchered sexually in a barbaric practice known as female genital mutilation. And in South Africa, girls as young as 12 are sold as “wives” to older men who have the AIDS virus. (The men believe that having sex with a virgin will cure them of the disease.)
  • Injustice against women is horribly cruel in Asia, where millions of girls are aborted or abandoned at birth because of their gender. If they are fortunate enough to survive their earliest years, they can become child brides at the age of 9 or 10. Millions of girls in Asian countries, some as young as 6, are illegally trafficked all over the world. The price for their sexual favors can be as low as 50 cents.

I recently met New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is the co-author of the best-selling bookHalf the Sky. He investigated the largely unreported phenomenon of gender injustice and concluded that it is the most crucial social issue of our day.

Kristoff believes that just as slavery was the key social justice issue of the 1800s, and freedom from tyrannical government was the overarching issue of the 1900s, justice for women and girls will become a primary focus in this century. I agree, but I wonder: Will the church sit back and watch secular activists address this cause, or will we enter the fray?

We have a Savior who cares about the pain of women. Jesus ministered in a male-dominant culture in which women were marginalized, demoralized, abused, denied rights, and judged as guilty before they could be proven innocent. Yet He defended women from their accusers, healed them, empowered them, invited them to become His disciples, and allowed them to be the first to announce the good news of His resurrection.

Jesus was the ultimate champion for women’s rights. We cannot truly reflect His heart or carry His message unless we follow His example.

By J. LEE. GRADY.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies the Church Tells Women25 Tough Questions About Women and the Church, and Fearless Daughters of the Bible.

 

Afghanistan: Hundreds of Women, Girls Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes’.


Afghan women
Afghan women interrupt their shopping to watch a photographer. (U.S. National Guard)

The Afghan government should release the approximately 400 women and girls imprisoned in Afghanistan for “moral crimes,” Human Rights Watch said in a new report.

The United States and other donor countries should press the Afghan government under President Hamid Karzai to end the wrongful imprisonment of women and girls who are crime victims rather than criminals.

The 120-page report, “‘I Had to Run Away’: Women and Girls Imprisoned for ‘Moral Crimes’ in Afghanistan,” is based on 58 interviews conducted in three prisons and three juvenile detention facilities with women and girls accused of “moral crimes.”

Almost all girls in juvenile detention in Afghanistan had been arrested for “moral crimes,” while about half of women in Afghan prisons were arrested on these charges. These “crimes” usually involve flight from unlawful forced marriage or domestic violence. Some women and girls have been convicted of zina, sex outside of marriage, after being raped or forced into prostitution.

“It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away from domestic violence or forced marriage,” says Kenneth Roth,executive director of Human Rights Watch. “No one should be locked up for fleeing a dangerous situation even if it’s at home. President Karzai and Afghanistan’s allies should act decisively to end this abusive and discriminatory practice.”

The fall of the Taliban government in 2001 promised a new era of women’s rights.   Significant improvements have occurred in education, maternal mortality, employment, and the role of women in public life and governance. Yet the imprisonment of women and girls for “moral crimes” is just one sign of the difficult present and worrying future faced by Afghan women and girls as the international community moves to decrease substantially its commitments in Afghanista.

Human Rights Watch interviewed many girls who had been arrested after they fled a forced marriage and women who had fled abusive husbands and relatives. Some women interviewed by Human Rights Watch had gone to the police in dire need of help, only to be arrested instead.

“Running away,” or fleeing home without permission, is not a crime under the Afghan criminal code, but the Afghan Supreme Court has instructed its judges to treat women and girls who flee as criminals. Zina is a crime under Afghan law, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Women and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch described abuses including forced and underage marriage, beatings, stabbings, burnings, rapes, forced prostitution, kidnapping, and murder threats. Virtually none of the cases had led even to an investigation of the abuse, let alone prosecution or punishment.

One woman, Parwana S. (not her real name), 19, told Human Rights Watch how she was convicted of “running away” after fleeing a husband and mother-in-law who beat her: “I will try to become independent and divorce him. I hate the word ‘husband.’ My liver is totally black from my husband… If I knew about prison and everything [that would happen to me] I would have just jumped into the river and committed suicide.”

Human Rights Watch said that women and girls accused of “moral crimes” face a justice system stacked against them at every stage. Police arrest them solely on a complaint of a husband or relative. Prosecutors ignore evidence that supports women’s assertions of innocence. Judges often convict solely on the basis of “confessions” given in the absence of lawyers and “signed” without having been read to women who cannot read or write. After conviction, women routinely face long prison sentences, in some cases more than 10 years.

Afghanistan’s 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women makes violence against women a criminal offense. But the same police, prosecutors, and judges who work zealously to lock up women accused of “moral crimes” often ignore evidence of abuse against the accused women, Human Rights Watch said.

“Courts send women to prison for dubious ‘crimes’ while the real criminals–their abusers–walk free,” Roth says. “Even the most horrific abuses suffered by women seem to elicit nothing more than a shrug from prosecutors, despite laws criminalizing violence against women.”

Abusive prosecution of “moral crimes” is important to far more than the approximately 400 women and girls in prison or pretrial detention, Human Rights Watch said. Every time a woman or girl flees a forced marriage or domestic violence only to end up behind bars, it sends a clear message to others enduring abuse that seeking help from the government is likely to result in punishment, not rescue.

The plight of women facing domestic violence is made still worse by archaic divorce laws that permit a man simply to declare himself divorced, while making it extremely difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce, Human Rights Watch said. The Afghan government made a commitment to reform these laws in 2007 under its National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan, and a committee of experts drafted a new Family Law that would improve the rights of women. This new law, however, has been on hold with the government since 2010, with no sign of movement toward passage.

“It is long past time for Afghanistan to act on its promises to overhaul laws that make Afghan women second-class citizens,” Roth says. “Laws that force women to endure abuse by denying them the right to divorce are not only outdated but cruel.”

By maintaining discriminatory laws on the books, and by failing to address due process and fair trial violations in “moral crimes” cases, Afghanistan is in violation of its obligations under international human rights law. United Nations expert bodies and special rapporteurs have called for the repeal of Afghanistan’s “moral crimes” laws. The UN special rapporteur on violence against women has called on Afghanistan to “abolish laws, including those related to zina, that discriminate against women and girls and lead to their imprisonment and cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.” The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged Afghanistan to “[r]emove so-called moral offences as a crime and release children detained on this basis.”

“The Afghan government and its international partners should act urgently to protect women’s rights and to ensure there is no backsliding,” Roth says. “President Karzai, the United States, and others should finally make good on the bold promises they made to Afghan women a decade ago by ending imprisonment for ‘moral crimes,’ and actually implementing their stated commitment to support women’s rights.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

By Human Rights Watch.

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