The Human Impact

Divorce may be legal in Morocco, but it’s still controversial

By Maria Caspani

A veiled woman hails a cab late at night on a deserted road in Casablanca, Morocco. As the taxi takes off, the driver asks her what on earth she is doing out alone at such a late hour.

“I was working,” the woman responds as the disconcerted driver asks her whether her husband approves. “I’m divorced,” she says.

For a woman in Morocco, there are few situations that are worse than that of Khadija, the protagonist of “Camera/Woman”, a documentary about a divorced woman working as a camera operator who faces strong discrimination in her community and, ultimately, becomes estranged from her family.

Nine years after the reform of a family law allowed women to seek divorce, separation from their husbands remains a stigma for most Moroccan women, the documentary’s director, Karima Zoubir, told TrustLaw at the film’s screening at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

“Some men, when they know that a woman is divorced, they think she’s loose,” Zoubir said.

When is rape not considered rape?

I had always thought – naively as it turns out – that rape is when a person forces another person, either physically or by using threats, to have sex and/or when there’s an absence of a clear ‘yes’.

Apparently not.

According to the laws in some of Southeast Asia’s fast-developing nations, rape within a marriage isn’t rape. Or if you go by some of the decisions handed down by the courts, it’s not rape if there isn’t a physical struggle or the perpetrator is in his 60s.

Politicians and law enforcement officials raise doubts that a rape has occurred if the victim and the perpetrator know each other or if the female victim is behaving in an ‘unladylike’ way, for example getting drunk, staying out late or being overly friendly with members of the opposite sex.

Is the new Pope bad news for women?

As most of you probably know already, the newly-elected Pope Francis represents a lot of firsts: First Jesuit to become pope. First Latin American (or from the ‘New World’). First pope to take the name Francis.

I’m Italian I take a special interest in his election. He’s the new archbishop of Rome and – due to a long history of mingling between the Italian state and the Catholic Church, due to culture and religion – Italians tend to follow Papal elections with a particular, even if unwanted, attention.

I was messaging my mom on Skype the night the whole thing happened – live webcam on St. Peter’s Square and everything – and I have to say a sort of emotional shiver went through my body as she texted “Biancaaaaaaaaaa” (white) to me as puffs of white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

Should we admire, love or hate Alma’s tale of violence?

There was a moment while watching “Alma: A Tale of Violence” when I wanted to hit the pause button and take a breather.

Only about 40 minutes long, the documentary was, for me, much harder to watch than “Pink Saris”, “Saving Face” or “Banaz – A Love Story” – other films I’ve reviewed for TrustLaw.

The opening frames of the webdoc show a lovely-looking Guatemalan woman with long, dark hair and a warm, wide smile. Then, Alma starts talking, about being 15 and about yearning to belong to her “homies” and their gang in the slum where she lived.

Cairo sex attack victims reveal horrors of Tahrir Square gangs

By Maria Caspani

The accounts of women sexually assaulted during protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square are horrific not just for their sheer brutality but for the apparent level of organisation among huge gangs of assailants.

The degree of premeditation was revealed this week when state-run Ahram Online reported shocking details of mob assaults in the Cairo square where the country’s uprising began two years ago.

“All I remember is hands all over my body, grabbing under the layers of pullovers I was wearing, touching my breasts, opening my bra,” Ahram Online quotes an unidentified woman as saying.

Transporting bras to help sex-trafficking survivors

A cast-off bra can do more to change the world than you might think.

CNN Freedom Project, which shines the spotlight on the perils of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, aims to show us how in a 30-minute documentary airing on Feb. 15, 2013, at 11:30 a.m. EST on the CNN television network.

Mozambique or Bust”, narrated by actress Mira Sorvino — who also serves as U.N. goodwill ambassador against human trafficking — tells the tale of how Denver-based charity Free the Girls collected 34,000 donated bras and recruited help from Truckers Against Human Trafficking and other volunteers to transport them via Chicago to Mozambique.

The bras, considered a luxury item in the African country, are given to sex-trafficking survivors who sell them in used clothing markets.

UNDP’s Helen Clark: balancing water, food, energy key to post-2015 goals

Global development goals due to replace current anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015 could be unified by a concept that calls for an integrated view of economic growth and development, said Helen Clark, head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The concept — the water-energy-food nexus – aims to create a sustainable economy and a healthy environment by considering how each of the three elements interrelate and are affected by decision-making.

“It’s a more holistic approach  –  without water you can’t farm, without clean water you can’t be healthy, without ways of allocating and looking after the water supply there won’t be enough to meet our needs — it’s got many dimensions,” Clark said.

Strong Arms Trade Treaty could help prevent use of child soldiers-Amnesty

Although it is a war crime to conscript or use child soldiers under age 15 in active hostilities, the practice continues in at least 19 countries, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, citing the charity Child Soldiers International.

Amnesty has documented the recent use or allegations of use of child soldiers in MaliCentral African RepublicChadCôte d’IvoireDemocratic Republic of CongoSri LankaSomalia, and Yemen.  As well as perpetrating human rights abuses themselves, many child soldiers are killed, maimed or become victims of rape and other sexual violence.

Poorly regulated weapons sales continue to contribute to the use of boys and girls in hostilities by armed groups and government forces, despite the protective Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child agreed by 150 countries, the rights group said in a statement issued to mark International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.

Menstruation taboo puts 300 mln women in India at risk – experts

More than 300 million women and girls in India do not have access to safe menstrual hygiene products, endangering their health, curtailing their education and putting their livelihoods at risk, say experts at the Geneva-based Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

At least 23 percent of girls in India leave school when they start menstruating and the rest miss an average of five days during each monthly menstrual period between the ages of 12 and 18, according to WSSCC, a partnership run by government, non-governmental organisation (NGO) members and a United  Nations-hosted secretariat.

“From a taboo standpoint they are ostracised – it’s an awkward situation to be in if you are having your monthly period and you simply do not want to be seen by others because they may perceive you as either dirty or unhygienic in some way,” said Chris Williams, executive director of WSSCC.

Think local on post-2015 U.N. global water-security goals – study

Policymakers debating water security must consider how the world’s most vulnerable people cope with variable access to water or the next global development goals will fail to lift rural areas out of poverty, say the authors of a new study.

Ignoring the humanitarian aspects of water security sidesteps important socio-political, economic and environmental factors related to rainfall levels, according to the report from international charity WaterAid and the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

Often the term “water security” refers to global water availability shortages or reflects concerns about securing water for companies or at a national level, WaterAid’s Daniel Yeo told AlertNet.

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