The Human Impact

“They told me to have a sex change” – Iranian lesbian

Sara, a bright young woman studying for a masters at Tehran University, is a lesbian – but if the Iranian authorities had their way, she would change her sex and become a man.

Homosexuality is considered sinful in predominantly Muslim Iran, and homosexual acts are illegal. Sex changes, however, are legal and appear to be positively encouraged by doctors and psychologists as “treatment” for people who prefer their own sex.

When Sara came out to her family nine years ago at the age of 20, she was sent to a psychologist who declared after one 40-minute consultation that she should have a sex change.

“She said I was really a man in a woman’s body and I had to change my body to suit my personality. My sister had brought a photo along, (taken when) I was maybe 5 years old. I was wearing boy’s clothes and had a toy gun in my hand and the psychologist emphasised that this photo showed that I was a man,” Sara told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I was shocked because I had never wanted to be a man and I really liked my body. I had never had problems with my female body. I had emotions towards girls, rather than boys, but I could only imagine myself as a girl loving another girl, not as a man.”

Catch 22: Steven’s story of statelessness in Britain

Three years ago Steven walked into a police station in the British city of Cardiff and asked to be arrested even though he hadn’t committed any crime. When the police refused, he asked if it would help if he insulted an officer. They refused again.

Steven had hit rock bottom after a series of events had left him destitute, and he believed a police cell would be preferable to another night sleeping rough.

His predicament boils down to one fact: No country recognises him as a citizen.

“Being stateless is like being an alien. Anywhere you place me on the planet, everyone will still say, ‘You are not from here’,” he says. “Just talking about it makes me feel anxious.”

Where does human trafficking happen? Right in front of you

Human trafficking has many faces and forms. There’s the pimp enslaving and exploiting young girls in cities across the United States – where an estimated 100,000 girls are trafficked at present. There are the men who buy young boys in Ghana, forcing them into lives of servitude and hard labour, spending long days in flimsy boats in the Lake Volta region, hunched over their fishing lines under a scorching sun.

Not My Life, a powerful documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Robert Bilheimer, tells the stories of survivors of human trafficking around the world, painting a picture of this horrific crime that many people still think of as a phenomenon confined to remote corners of the developing world.

But virtually no country is free of trafficking and most of the victims are poor, said panelists following a screening of the film in New York this week. It’s a crime characterized by three main elements: force, fraud and coercion – which can happen  anywhere.

Fiery activist persuades Gambia to ban FGM

Gambian rights activist Isatou Touray has dedicated her life to ridding her country of female genital mutilation (FGM). In return she has received death threats, been imprisoned and suffered repeated harassment.

But Touray has good news. This year, the tiny West African country is finally set to pass a law banning the brutal ritual, which causes horrific pain and long-term health and psychological problems.

Around 78 percent of women and girls in Gambia are thought to have undergone FGM, which is practised by seven ethnic groups in the predominantly Muslim country.

Swift action needed in fight against child marriage – UNFPA report

Despite gains in some countries, more than 14 million girls under age 18 will be married each year over the next 10 years, a figure expected to increase to more than 15 million girls a year between 2021 and 2030, according to a new report from the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) released on Thursday.

As the number of girls who are married as children grows, the number of children bearing children will increase, and deaths among girls will rise, said the report, timed to mark the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

International conventions declare that child marriage is a violation of fundamental human rights because it denies girls the right to choose when and with whom to marry.

Syrian women face growing abuses, says opposition activist

Suhair Atassi was beaten and detained for her involvement in protests at the start of Syria’s uprising, before going into hiding and being smuggled out of the country late last year.

Now an exile living in Paris, the prominent opposition activist is trying to drum up support for humanitarian aid in Syria where the conflict has escalated. News from Syria seems to get bloodier by the day with civilians killed, wounded and uprooted by clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups.

For Atassi, who was born into a political family from Homs, it is important to remember that the 18-month Syrian “revolution” began with peaceful demonstrations against al-Assad’s rule.

Tunisian constitution must enshrine equal status of women, says activist

 

Tunisian human rights activist Amira Yahyaoui recalls how, at the age of 17, she narrowly missed being shoved under a subway train. This is just one example of the threats and pressures her family faced for their opposition to the country’s then president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted last year in a popular uprising.

During Ben Ali’s 23-year rule, Yahyaoui’s father, one of the North African country’s most distinguished judges, lost his job after sending an open letter to the president decrying corruption and the state of the justice system. Her cousin was arrested for publishing satirical articles about the former leader, and died from the torture he underwent.

Yahyaoui’s experiences left her with no alternative but to fight for democracy and freedom of expression in her country, she explains passionately.

VIDEO BLOG – “Call me Kuchu”: the lives of LGBTI activists in Uganda

SHEFFIELD, (TrustLaw) – Portraing them not as victims but as fighters. “Call Me Kuchu” is a documentary about the combativeness and positiveness of the lgbti community in uganda, and the progress they’re making in a country where being gay is illegal and an anti-homosexuality bill that could sentence hundreds to death is sitting in parliament for the second time, awaiting approval. Directors Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright followed David Kato- who lost his life to the cause- and a group of Ugandan Lgbti activists from the chaotic streets of Kampala to court rooms and drag queen parties, to let the people on the frontline of this struggle speak.” http://www.vimeo.com/43987683
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