The Human Impact

Public fury over gang-rape in India: Let’s keep up the pressure

So perhaps at last India has woken up to the daily abuse that its girls and women face.

Sunday night’s horrific rape where a 23-year-old woman was beaten and gang-raped on a bus as it drove through the streets of New Delhi has rightly outraged the entire nation.

In a country where news reports of sexual violence against girls and women are commonplace, yet provoke little public reaction, the events over the last four days have been unusual but welcome.

Political parties, university students and women’s rights groups have taken to the streets in cities across the nation to criticise the police and government for not doing enough to stem increasing reports of rape in the capital. Blockading roads and, in some cases, breaking through police barricades to have water cannons fired upon them, they have demanded better protection for girls and women on the streets.

Broadcasting minute-by-minute coverage, 24/7 news channels have kept the country updated in the aftermath of the incident. No detail has been spared – from the condition of the victim who is now fighting for her life in hospital, to the arrests of five men, including the bus driver, to a variety of panel discussions with politicians, social activists and women who have faced sexual harassment in Delhi’s public spaces.

Dial-a-maid, get-a-slave in middle class India

When I arrived in India some years back as a single mother and full-time journalist, there was one thing I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about – finding domestic help.

Maids, nannies, drivers, cooks and cleaners are ten-a-penny amongst the urban middle classes here.

In New Delhi’s neighbourhoods, for example, most families employ full- or part-time help, who do everything from feeding and bathing babies and cooking family meals to sweeping and washing floors.

Slavery beyond the sex trade

In Haiti, it’s the little girl who is kept home from school and forced to clean her sister’s house or else be beaten with electric cables.

Thousands of miles away in India, it’s the shy, young woman left at the mercy of an agent who finds her a job as a maid but takes her earnings. In Bahrain, it’s the Filippino domestic worker who, abused and exploited by her employer, cannot leave.

Millions of people around the world today are trapped in slavery, like seven-year-old Wisline was in Haiti.

London Olympics: The sex-trafficking event that wasn’t

Media reports predicting that London would be overrun by women trafficked to Britain to service spectators with sex during the Olympics reinforced negative stereotypes and diminished the complexity of trafficking, an expert has said.

Georgina Perry, who manages Open Doors, a service for sex workers in London run by Britain’s National Health Service, said fears the Olympic Games would create a surge in sex trafficking were unfounded. The hype around this issue also drove vulnerable sex workers from health care services out of fear they would be treated as criminals, putting them at risk, she added.

Although London’s Met Police are investigating one case of trafficking for sexual exploitation linked to the Olympics, there was no rise in trafficking directly connected to the event, Laura Godman, a spokeswoman for the Met Police, said.

iPhone app helps UK strip-club dancers know their rights

A new iPhone app offers workplace tips for strippers to help them protect themselves against financial exploitation, abuse and a lack of safety.

The “Dancers Information” application and a related website were conceived by researchers after findings from a study of the erotic-dance industry in England and Wales showed that current regulations of nightclubs in the sexual entertainment sector do not automatically address issues of employment status, welfare and security.

Researchers at the University of Leeds surveyed more than 300 women dancers about their working conditions in two separate sets of interviews beginning in 2010-2011, after a new law regulating the sex entertainment industry was introduced in England and Wales in 2009. It was not clear how the law would be implemented, and how it would affect up to 10,000 dancers who researchers said perform in clubs on peak weekend nights.

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.

Poor Kenyan women robbed of choice to give birth

The saddest part of the stories told by 40 HIV-positive Kenyan women who are suing the government for forced or coercive sterilisation is not that they can no longer give birth.

Most already have children, often more than they can comfortably provide for.

“Getting food is a problem,” said Pamela Adeka, who was sterilised after giving birth to twins in 2004.

She later gave them up for adoption as she could not afford to raise them and now lives with her HIV-positive, 14-year-old son.

Prostitution: their bodies, their rights

It is seen as a job no woman would want to do. A job no woman would willingly do.

Yet, spending time in one of Asia’s largest red light districts gives a view of prostitution that jars with what many feminists, gender rights activists and, in fact, society in general believe.

The Sonagachi district – a labyrinth of narrow bustling lanes lined with tea and cigarette stalls, three-storey brothels, and beauty parlours – in the east Indian city of Kolkata raises eyebrows with many who know this place.

Acid attacks: the faceless women you can’t forget

Since I met her over a week ago, I have been unable to forget.

Every morning as I put on my lipstick and black eyeliner in front of the mirror, I am reminded of her face. Or lack of it.

Sonali Mukherjee, 27, is one of hundreds of women across the world who have lost their faces, and their will to survive, as a result of one of the most heinous crimes against women I have come across: Acid violence.

Nine years ago, three men broke into Sonali’s home in the east Indian city of Dhanbad as she slept, and threw concentrated acid over her face.

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