The Human Impact

From the sickening to the bizarre, Indian politicians still don’t get rape

A member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist uses an iPad to take pictures of a  protest rally in Kolkata

 

Covering women’s rights issues for so many years in India, I still find the number of ways women and girls are abused and discriminated against unfathomable.

From their discrimination in accessing health care, education and employment opportunities, to their brutal rapes and murders. From having acid thrown in their faces, to being trafficked for domestic or sexual slavery. From their suicides due to dowry demands, to their molestation on buses and trains. It often feels like a bottomless pit.

The December 2012 murder and gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapist on a bus in Delhi jolted many in India out of complacency, and helped bring about greater awareness of violence against women in the country.

But the discussion, particularly on rape, is also bringing to surface the deep-rooted patriarchal and misogynist attitudes that exist in the higher echelons of political power – among those who have the ability to forge laws and policies to protect and empower women.

Comments made by politicians from across the political spectrum bizarrely blamed everyone and everything but the perpetrators of sexual violence.

Is wartime rape inevitable?

The mass rape of hundreds of thousands of women and girls from Bosnia to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo has reinforced the conventional wisdom that rape and sexual violence are an inevitable feature of war.

But rape is not a fact of all wars and if sexual violence does occur within a war, not all armed groups are necessarily involved, experts say.

“There has been a certain kind of rhetoric that all armed groups through history have engaged in sexual violence. But not all armed groups do engage in sexual violence. It’s not just something that always happens in war. Some armed groups can and do prohibit sexual violence,” said Elisabeth Wood, an expert on wartime sexual violence and professor of political science at Yale University.

Extreme measures to “protect” daughters in India

Gurpreet Singh is a determined man. But he is an even more concerned father.

The 32-year-old investment adviser is leaving India and migrating to Australia. There is nothing new in that — tens of thousands of professional Indians emigrate every year.

Unlike most of them, Singh’s reason for leaving is not the pursuit of greater economic returns, but a search for something increasingly perceived by parents to be lacking in India — security for their daughters.

It was the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi last December that jolted Singh, like millions of middle-class urban Indians, and awakened him to the brutalities women and girls face in this largely patriarchal country.

PHOTOBLOG: Women in India’s capital resort to self-defence after gang rape

Women in India’s capital Delhi are gearing up for self-defence little over a month after a 23-year-old student was raped on a private bus in the city and left dying on a highway.

The episode sparked public outrage in India, where many women say they cannot rely on the country’s often gender-insensitive and under-resourced police force to ensure their security.

Now, women are mostly scared of taking buses or rickshaws alone at night and have started booking cabs with female drivers, taking self-defence classes and stocking up on pepper sprays.

Rape hotline a lifeline for Haitian women

BOGOTA (TrustLaw) – A 24-hour hotline for survivors of sexual assaults and rape is proving a lifeline for Haitian women and girls, in a country known for its high levels of sexual violence.

Thousands of woman and girls are sexually abused and raped every year in the Caribbean nation.

Although it was a widespread problem long before the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, sexual violence escalated after the disaster, women’s rights groups say.

Congolese migrants in Angola abused during expulsions -HRW

Migrant women and girls in Angola who lack adequate legal documents have been raped and sexually exploited during expulsions carried out by Angolan security forces, a human rights group said.

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report – “’If You Come Back We Will Kill You’: Sexual Violence and Other Abuses against Congolese Migrants during Expulsions from Angola” – denounced sexual violence, children being forced to witness such abuses, arbitrary beatings and other rights violations suffered by such Congolese migrants in detention centres in Angola.

Detainees were kept in overcrowded cells with no basic sanitation systems and with little food or clean water to drink and wash, the report added.

Invest in women in conflict zones to promote change

Where would you put your money as an investor? A leading campaigner against gender-based violence says there is only one answer – invest it in women in conflict zones.

“Conflict zones have the biggest potential for change,” Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, told delegates at the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford last week.

“If I were an investor I’d invest in conflict zones and women who live there,” said Ensler, author of the award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

After 20 years: still no aid for Bosnian rape and torture victims

Nearly two decades after war ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina, hundreds of women who survived rape and torture in the conflict are still seeking reparations and justice, with only 40 cases of sexual violence having been prosecuted so far, an Amnesty International report says.

“Justice is not only about seeing the perpetrators punished, but it’s also being able to function in everyday life,” Elena Wasylew, the campaigner for Amnesty’s Balkan team, told TrustLaw in a telephone interview from Sarajevo, where the report is being released on Thursday.

“When you ask the women, what does justice mean to you, they say justice means ‘I can access healthcare, that my children can access healthcare, that I can go to work and I don’t have to be ashamed about what happened to me,’” said Wasylew, who has worked closely with women survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) over the last several years.

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