Archive for the child abuse Category

Turning the Tide: Part 1

Posted in abortion, activism, child abuse, child marriage, child molestation, child pornography, child prostitution, child rape, Defining Violence, domestic violence, dowry crimes, elderly abuse, female genital mutilation, female infanticide, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, HIV, honour crimes, human rights, India, intimate partner violence, mail-order brides, male perpetration, men, misogyny, molestation, pedophile, pedophiles, pedophilia, politics, porn, Pro-Feminist Men, Prostitution & Trafficking, rape, reproductive rights, sati, school violence, sex selective abortion, sex trafficking, sexual assault, sexual harassment, single mothers, slavery, social work, son preference, united nations, war, widow cleansing on December 6, 2007 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed

The fight to end violence against women is both historic and universal. Historic, because gender inequality, which lies at the root of this violence, has been embedded in human history for centuries and the movement to end it challenges history, custom and, most critically, the status quo. Universal, because no society is an exception to the fact that violence against women is perpetrated through social and cultural norms that reinforce male-dominated power structures. The struggle is nothing less than a demand for full human rights to be unconditionally extended to all people everywhere.Those engaged in this struggle recognize that despite important advances that have laid the foundation for universal human rights, the work has only just begun. In October 2004, on the 25th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the committee monitoring international implementation stated, “In no country in the world has women’s full de jure and de facto equality been achieved.”

In most countries, in fact, the reality remains bleak. Discriminatory social norms and practices continue to impede women’s full enjoyment of their human rights. Insufficient political will, the extensive under representation of women in decision-making positions and a lack of resources to address the issue are further impediments to progress.

Asserting human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted without dissent by the United Nations in 1948, recognizes the “equal and inalienable rights” of all people, “without distinction of any kind.” Violence against women contravenes a number of the fundamental human rights laid out in this Declaration such as the right to security of person; the right not to be held in slavery or subjected to inhuman treatment; the right to equal protection before the law; and the right to equality in marriage. Nevertheless, states sometimes deploy the argument of cultural relativism to defend practices that abuse women. According to the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, “The universal standards of human rights are often denied full operation when it comes to the rights of women.”

This book highlights through written description and visual representation many of the persistent expressions of gender-based violence. The testimonies of women and girls emphasise that there is no room for complacency or a false sense of rapid progress in the fight against inequality. To the countless women still suffering today, any positive changes that have been achieved must bear little relevance to their immediate reality. Nevertheless, remarkable developments have taken place in recent years, due in large part to the commitment of a few to change the behavior of many. In the face of formidable forces maintaining the patriarchal systems that give rise to both discrimination and violence against women, there is evidence that the tide may be turning.

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Take Back The Tech

Female Genital Mutilation: Part 2

Posted in activism, child abuse, female genital mutilation, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, politics on January 18, 2007 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”: 

“Attitudes sustaining the practice

Custom, religious belief and, at the heart of these, the desire to maintain a woman’s purity by restraining her sexuality have prevailed over negative health effects of FGM to perpetuate the practice. A female circumcisor from Kenya explained that the ritual is a way to ensure purity and fidelity:

“When you cut a girl, you know she will remain pure until she gets, married, and that after marriage, she will be faithful. … But when you leave a girl uncut, she sleeps with any man in the community.”

While there is no definitive evidence documenting why or when FGM began, many theorize that it provided families a means to ensure virginity before marriage. Infibulation scars in particular form a “seal” that both guarantees and confirms a bride’s chastity, and even the less severe forms of FGM may diminish girls’ and women’s sexual desire, thus decreasing the likelihood of premarital relations.

Social control of women and girls remains a primary argument for FGM even today. According to a demographic and health researcher in Eritrea, the most common defence for FGM among survey respondents was that “Chastity is a woman’s only virtue and all measures have to be taken to maintain it. … Women have to be protected, and infibulation is the defense mechanism.” Chastity is not a universal goal, however. In some communities in Kenya, Uganda and select West African countries, a girl may be expected to produce a child before marriage to prove her fertility. If she successfully delivers a baby, she will then undergo FGM and be married. In these atypical examples, FGM is practiced on older girls and women.

Both men and women who embrace the practice say that FGM promotes cleanliness, attractiveness and good health. Implicit in their view is the perception that female genitalia are dirty, unsightly and, if left in their natural state, may breed disease or be susceptible to other maladies. The tradition also increase marriage ability. FGM is believed to confer a sense of general calm on its initiates and, insofar as it decreases sexual desire, to limit the risk of extramarital affairs. In the words of one tribal elder in Kenya, “A circumcised woman will choose a partner for love, not for sex.”

In some communities, in fact, FGM is a prerequisite to marriage. Failing to comply with the tradition may constitute grounds for divorce and/or forced excision. In others, bride price may be significantly lower for an uncircumcised woman. A smaller vaginal opening is thought to increase a husband’s sexual pleasure. Despite this, FGM cannot be assumed to be solely “male-driven”. Some men currently are acknowledging the negative impact of FGM and speaking out against it, even as societies of women continue to insist that FGM is a critical rite of passage for girls.

Practiced by followers of Christianity, Islam and traditional or animist faiths, as well as some Ethiopian Jews, FGM transcends religious belief. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the fact that FGM predates Islam, research suggests that Muslims in particular associate FGM with sunnah, or “required practice”. In fact, clitoridectomy is referred to as “sunnah circumcision” in Arabic. Although most Islamic clerics actively discourage infibulation and an increasing number of imams are speaking out against any form of FGM, some maintain that lesser forms are acceptable. For example, one cleric from Ethiopia, speaking at a regional conference on female genital mutilation concluded, “This conference, and the medical research associated with it, does not show that the sunnah circumcision – cutting only the outer part of the clitoris – has caused any medical complications. … I believe that Islam condones the sunnah circumcision; it is acceptable.”

Across cultures, religions and continents, one common feature of the practice of FGM is the social conditioning of women and girls to accept and defend it. Longstanding traditions and social norms have ordained FGM as a social imperative that promotes the future wellbeing of girls. In most communities, song and poems are used to deride and taunt unexcised girls. Myths similarly help to ensure FGM’s perpetuation. In Nigeria, for example, some communities believe that if a baby’s head touches the clitoris during delivery, the infant will die. Community and family pressure to conform to traditional practices is great for both mothers and girls, and mothers are often the primary actors responsible for their ‘daughters’ mutilation. In the words of one mother who was interviewed at a refugee camp in Kenya, “The practice adds to a family’s prestige in the community. Who would not want to bring honour to her family?”

There are economic aspects to FGM as well. The practice is an important source of income for cicumcisors, who most often are female. In impoverished settings, the financial impetus can be strong. The social support of secret societies also can be compelling, as one 26-year-old female cicumcisor explained: “I was circumcised at 13 and have myself circumcised 23 girls since then. This is the only way I earn a living and feed my children. I was a school when my parents were killed – I had nobody to take care of me and entered the secret society. It was from there I got married.”

Response: from legislation to prevention

In the 1970s and 1980s, FGM gained international attention as a critical health issue for women and girls. As a result, women’s advocates have broadened the discourse surrounding FGM to include gendered considerations of women’s subordination and oppression, acknowledging FGM as a violation of internationally recognized human rights, including the rights to life, liberty and freedom from torture. Largely in response to the worldwide action of numerous local and international organizations, the WHO launched a 20-year-old plan in 1997 to accelerate the elimination of FGM. Since its inception, the WHO initiative has informed individual country plans to eradicate the practice.

Implicitly denounced in several international treaties and conventions that condemn harmful traditional practices, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990), FGM is explicitly condemned in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination Against Violence Against Women (1993), the Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and its Protocol on Women’s Rights (2003).

Many Western countries receiving immigrants from settings where FGM is customary have passed laws forbidding the practice, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. France has used existing legislation to prosecute FGM cases.

At the national level, 14 of the 28 African countries with cultures that perform FGM have instituted legislation prohibiting the practice, most in the last decade, including Benin (enacted in 2003), Burkina Faso (1996), Central African Republic (1966), Chad (2003), Cote d’Ivoire Kenya (2001), Niger (2003), Senegal (1999), Tanzania (1998) and Togo (1998). Nigeria has state laws outlawing FGM (1999-2002), and Egypt’s health ministry declared FGM unlawful and punishable under the penal code (1996).

Infibulation was outlawed in Sudan in 1946 and again following Sudan’s independence in 1956, but the 1993 penal code does not explicitly prohibit FGM. Nor do several other countries with a high prevalence of FGM have laws proscribing the practice, including Eritrea (95 percent prevalence), the Gambia (60 percent to 90 percent), Guinea Bissau (50 percent), Liberia (50 to 60 percent), Sierra Leone (90 percent) and Mali (90 percent). Although no laws in Mali prohibit FGM, the Ministry of Women, Children and Family has developed a national plan for eliminating the practice by the year 2007.

Despite progress in legislation, enforcement of anti-FGM laws in countries where they exist is often poor. Even more importantly, according to the president of the Research , Action and Information Network for the Bodily Integrity of Women (RAINBO), “Social change will not be attained through legal or punitive action alone.” Many experts argue that laws preventing FGM are valuable for underpinning education efforts and giving credibility to those working to eradicate harmful practices, but criminalizing FGM practitioners can inhibit critical discussion and encourage those involved to “go underground” in order to continue the practice, making an already dangerous procedure even more perilous.”

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The Prevalence of Male perpetration

Posted in child abuse, child marriage, domestic violence, gender violence, male perpetration, rape on October 25, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”: 

“The overwhelming majority of violence against women and girls is committed every day and in every nation by men. Where sexual violence and exploitation takes place against men and/or boys, the perpetrators are, again, overwhelmingly male. In categories where violence is embedded in tradition, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and “honour” crimes, women may also play an active role.

Despite the progress that has been made to introduce legal and social reforms to address gender inequality, violence against women and girls continues. Evidence suggests, in fact, that violations such as trafficking, rape, child abuse, child prostitution and pornography are on the rise. The majority of studies of gender-based violence echo the findings of two psychologists whose research led them to conclude, “Most sexual offenders are men. Men commit most of the aberrant and deviant sexual behaviours such as rape, child molestation and exhibitionism. …” Furthermore, and more relevantly, when females are involved in aberrant or illegal sexual behaviour, coercion and violence is less commonly employed.

Even though most acts of violence are committed by men – and studies confirm that men have a higher propensity for violent behaviour than women – not all men behave violently. Are men genetically motivated, or hard-wired, in a significantly different way than women? Or does society teach the sexes to act the way they do?

The nature/nurture polarity

Most researchers reject the notion that biology can be blamed for violent behavior. Male violence, they say, is not genetically based but is instead perpetuated by a model of masculinity that permits and even encourages men to be aggressive. “Men’s monopoly of violence stems from lifelong training in sexist models of masculinity.” Anthropological research shows that domestic violence is virtually nonexistent in some societies, and therefore not an inevitable human condition.

Generally, the “nurture” position rejects the idea that men have a natural propensity to violence of that men have “uncontrollable” violent and sexual urges. In the case of intimate-partner abuse, for example, observers point out that men are able to control themselves in settings where the social or professional cost of their behavior would be too high, but are unwilling to exercise the same restraint when they are behind closed doors.

Those advancing this perspective challenge apologists for male violence, who use biological arguments or the “psychopathological model” for male sexual violence to explain men’s behavior. Instead, they insist that these men are not “sick” or pathological and are responsible for their actions, behaving reprehensibly, with free, conscious choice.

The counterargument to this opinion – which is regularly reinforced and perpetuated via popular culture and religious dogma – claims that men are captive of their libidos. This view maintains that the historic and global evidence of male’s natural aggression and the biological imperative cannot be ignored. While socialization may play an important role in how people behave in different societies and at different points in history, the “nature” position argues that sexual violence is too widespread and too overwhelmingly perpetrated by males to suggest that men and women are not motivated by different forces. These arguments appear to echo 19th-century pseudo-medical claims promoted by some scientists that men were a breed apart and slaves to uncontrollable testosterone, where male promiscuity is seen as a critical vestige of evolutionary forces conferring “selective advantage” on men who impregnate multiple partners.

Other theorists, however, are situated between the two poles of “nature” and “nurture”. They acknowledge a degree of “natural male inclination”, which in combination with repeated negative socialisation reinforces violent characteristics. In patriarchal societies, a significant manifestation of male aggression is man’s perpetration of sexual coercion and violence against women.

Popular perceptions

Irrespective of this debate, there is a virtually univeral de facto acceptance amongst people and communities worldwide that men and women have different natures and different roles to play. Whatever the origin of male violence, most people are caught up in their societies and the times they live and, as a result, may play a strong part in the maintenance of these stereotypes.

In many countries, gender roles are deeply entrenched and reinforced by cultural norms, to such an extent that questioning the status quo involves risk. Even in countires that are seemingly less bound by tradition, where equal rights are codified in law and widely accepted, these stereotypes still dominate the popular mindset.

The United States and Australia are examples of industrialized countries where sexual stereotyping and violence-supporting attitudes remain entrenched among the majority. High incidents of rape, domestic abuse and child abuse in these countries are thought to be linked to a general acceptance of these stereotypes. One study recently estimated that during a 12-month period in the United States, more than 302,000 women and almost 93,000 men experienced a completed or attempted rape. In a 1995 study in Australia, 37 percent of the male participants disagreed with the statement that “Women rarely make false claims of rape.” One in six respondents to the survey agreed that “Women who are raped often ask for it.” Rape is, of course, only an indirect indicator of such beliefs or stereotypes.

Psychological research demonstrates strong evidence that violence is a learned behavior that may be passed down the generations. “The highest risk marker for a man to use violence against his wife and child is early exposure to violence in his childhood home.” A negative finding when one considers the current number of boys witnessing their fathers’ violent behavior, but also one that offers hope, perhaps, that nonviolence can be similarly learned. ”

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Violence against Girls in School: Part 2

Posted in child abuse, politics, rape, school violence, sexual harassment on October 16, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”: 

“Leading by example

Even if they do not commit such acts against students personally, teachers who do nothing to combat verbal and physical harassment by other teachers and students (usually boys against girls) send out a clear message. Their failure to act is a tacit acceptance of the status quo and communicates to the students – especially boys – what behaviors is acceptable in school.

In the United States, a teacher refused to take action against a male student who was harassing a 14-year-old girl: “I was in class and the teacher was looking right at me when this guy grabbed my butt. The teacher saw it happen. I slapped the guy and told him not to do that and went on with the lesson like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.”

One 13-year-old South African girl explained her disappointment with the inaction of her teachers after two male classmates raped her: “All the people who I thought were my friends had turned against me. And they [the rapists] were still there. I felt disappointed. … If they [the teachers] had made the boys leave, I wouldn’t have felt so bad about it.” The girl stopped attending school because of the incident.

Such dynamics allow abuse to become an integral aspect of school life. Teachers who challenge the behavior of colleagues – by opposing acts of violence or questioning the judgment of those who tolerate it – also risk professional ostracism. Although it is less well-documented, anecdotal evidence suggests that in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, female teachers also are intimidated by sexual violence and harassment. Female teachers in Pakistan who travel each day to work in villages away from their homes, for example, risk verbal harassment and even physical assault from men en route.

The perception of risk to female teachers may be a significant factor in discouraging women from pursuing careers in education. Fathers or husbands my forbid their daughters or wives from teaching because of the threat of sexual violence against female teachers. This can have a negative impact in cultures where girls’ access to education depends on the presence of female teachers. There is also evidence of sexual violence against young women in teacher-education colleges. In one study in Ghana, women said they were intimidated by college lecturers and pressured for sex in exchange for good grades, but this phenomenon warrants much further study in different country contexts.

It would be wrong to assume that the presence of female teachers alone would prevent violence against girl students. If female teachers are marginalized and oppressed by the prevailing gender dynamics of an institution, they may be able to prevent sexual harassment and abuse or provide the support girls need.

In a 2001 study in Uganda, girls felt that female teachers ignored the very real issue of sexual harassment by boys and male teachers in the school: “The [female] teacher themselves do not challenge sexual harassment in school but just choose to tolerate it, thereby giving a helpless situation to the girls.” But when female teachers also are subject to sexual harassment by male teachers and students, there is little they can do to prevent it happening to their students.

A global problem

There is a correlation between a girl’s age and the likelihood of her falling prey to violence at school. Adolescent girls are at greatest risk. Such abuses, however, are not culture-specific. Girls of every ethnic, social and economic group can be targets. Although most recent research has concentrated on schools in sub-Saharan Africa, the problem is not unique to this region. Studies and interventions in North America, Europe, South Asia and Latin America suggest that violence against girls is a problem in schools around the world.

In the United States, a 2001 survey of more than 2,000 students between 13 and 17 years of age found that 83 percent of the girls and 79 percent of the boys had experienced harassment. In the United Kingdom, research conducted with children aged 10 to 11 and 14 to 15 indicated that sexualized teasing of girls by boys in mixed secondary schools is common. Girls explained that boys called them names such as “prossie” [prostitute], flicked their bra straps, looked up their skirts and grabbed and fondled them.

In refugee camps and other conflict-affected settings, abuse of power by men in positions of authority over vulnerable women and girls is also a major issue. Teachers may exploit their status within the community and use their economic power, however slight, to manipulate students, which can jeopardize the future of entire families. Refugee children see education as a critical means to improve their families’ financial situation. Their desperation to succeed in school makes them all the more susceptible to abuse.

In a 2001 survey of 560 secondary-school girls in Botswana, 67 percent said that they had experienced unwanted touching, pressure for dates and other forms of sexual harassment. For 25 percent of them, this was a regular occurrence. A report in 2002 found that girls at refugee schools in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia were subjected to abuse and exploitation, often by their teachers. The study revealed that in most cases good grades were exchanged for sex. The problem was widespread and integrated into the culture of the schools, in part because there was no system of checks and balances to protect the girls.”

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Violence against Girls in School: Part 1

Posted in child abuse, child rape, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, politics, rape, school violence, sexual harassment on October 7, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed.”

“A hostile learning environment

Gender-based violence is one dimension of the broader problem of violence in schools, and it manifests itself in a variety of ways. Whatever form it takes, violence against female students and teachers creates an atmosphere of intimidation and danger in an environment that should nurture and inspire.

While both boys and girls can be victimized at school, there are specific forms of gender-based violence to which girls most often are subjected. It may be verbal harassment – in the form of so-called teasing – or it may be of a more physical nature, such as unwanted touching and contact. It can also be more overtly violent, as in cases where girls are sexually assaulted or raped on or near school premises. Research in schools in Ghana, Zimbabwe and Malawi has shown that violence against girls includes sexual propositions to girls by older male students and teachers, as well as the use of sexually explicit language by teachers and students. Overtly sexual graffiti also can intimidate young women and create a hostile school environment.

Girls are more susceptible to violence because of inequities of power and status in society. Boys who are abused, however, usually are victimized by other boys as punishment for not conforming to the prevailing norms about what constitutes suitable male behavior or appearance. Their perceived weakness lowers their standing in the school hierarchy, making them vulnerable to taunting , bullying and other forms of aggression. One boy in the United States was scared to admit to his male friends that he disagreed with their harassment of female students: “Some of the boys that I considered my friends even began to do it [sexually taunt girls]. It felt awful to watch, but if I said anything, it wound not stop them and they would hurt me.” While it was difficult enough for girls to speak out about their experiences of violence, notions of appropriate masculine behavior make it even harder for boys to admit that they, too, are targets of abuse.

Such oppressive control of sexuality in schools also pressures boys to follow certain models of masculine an heterosexual behavior – which can result in greater acts of violence against girls. These notions are reinforced in many ways – formally through the curriculum and teaching materials, and informally, through the words and actions of teachers and other role models. Boys may feel the need to “prove” themselves, and one way of doing so is to sexually harass girls, either verbally or physically – and to do so publicly. In some circumstances this may go as far as gang rape. Human Rights Watch, for example, has documented cases in South Africa where girls as young as nine years of age were raped by two or more boys on the school campus.

Girls, too, are under considerable peer pressure to conform to gender norms, such as making themselves physically attractive, tolerating harassment and allowing themselves to be the target of sexual jokes and innuendo. While there may be initiatives in place to make schools more “girl-friendly”, the underlying dynamic is one of gendered power imbalances, with boys and men – and their perspectives – dominant. In much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, girls who attend upper primary and secondary schools are a very small minority. In countries such as India, Chad, Malawi and Mozambique, less than 50 percent of girls who start school remain until Grade 5. Their institutions are dominated by male teachers and male students, and decision-making at all levels rests clearly in male hands. In Southern Sudan, for example, less than 7 percent of teachers are women, and in Bolivia only 16 percent of all head teachers are women. Women hold only 30 percent or less of teaching posts in 16 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Female teachers usually are concentrated in urban settings, with far fewer in rural and remote areas.

Such male-dominated contexts make it very difficult for girls to assert themselves and to challenge male power. Doing so may men ostracism and losing the support of friends and family. Reports from South Africa, for example, indicate that boys specifically target girls they perceive to be arrogant and assertive, such as prefects, student leaders or girls who perform well in school. Girls who are subjected to violence in school often have little recourse for complaint or even support – especially at the secondary level, where there are usually fewer girls compared with boys and very few female teachers. The majority of teachers are men, many of whom condone the behavior of boys – or even worse, are perpetrators themselves. Girls may fear retaliation or negative consequences, such as exam failure or undue punishments, if they speak out and especially if they name the perpetrators.

A violation of trust

In many instances, the very people who are in positions of trust in a school and responsible for the well-being of students are the perpetrators of gender-based violence. A number of studies highlight the prevalence of sexual misconduct by teachers and the extent to which they neglect their duty to care.

A male teacher in Kenya was accused of grading girls based on their looks after making them parade in front of him at the head of the class while he studied their figures. In a study in Botswana, 20 percent of girl students said that they had been propositioned for sex by teachers. Ten out of 16 girls at a school in Ghana had been asked for sex by teachers, and five of them knew of a girl in their class who was having sex with a teacher. In a similar study in Zimbabwe, 19 percent of the girls interviewed had been propositioned by a teacher, and a much larger number of them (63 percent) knew other girls who had been approached. Girls reported that teachers were quite open about their intentions, making advances on girls during class and sports activities. Some girls were thought to accept such propositions for financial benefit, to be favored in class, to avoid punishment or to gain better marks. In South Africa, one teacher who sexually abused a number of students offered a young woman high grades in exchange for sex:

“I went to his dorm and walked to the lounge. He gave me a hooch [an alcoholic drink]. I was lame. I knew what was happening to me, but I couldn’t move. He picked me up and took me to his room and started taking my clothes off. He took his clothes off. He’s twice my size and, like, five times my weight and has so many muscles. Then he penetrated me. When I came to, I got up and went to my dorm. … I was scared to tell anyone because I was afraid no one would believe me. I had been raped before, and no one believed me then. … The next day he asked me to come back. I gave him back his key and said I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. … About a week later he asked me if I would come do Afrikaans with him, and that he would give me good marks.”

Students who were the subjects of a study in Pakistan reported that teachers forced them to perform sexual acts by threatening them with or inflicting corporal punishment. Physical punishment, with its sexual undertones, is another way in which male teachers assert their power over female students, and in which the sex-power-gender dynamics between men and women in society at large are played out in the school setting.]

Where teachers are underpaid and lack access to professional support and development opportunities, sexual relations with students may be considered a “fringe benefit”. This is especially true in remote areas, where there are rarely effective systems in place to supervise teacher conduct or prosecute incidences of violation. Girls and their families may think it is futile to seek justice. Futhermore, not all parents, teachers and students disapprove of such relationships. If a girl becomes pregnant by a teacher, parents may be reluctant to pursue prosecution. In some very poor communities – in Southern Sudan, for example – families actually may welcome the pregnancy, as it might compel the teacher to marry the girl or pay compensation. In other contexts, parents feel disempowered and are unaware of how to challenge a teacher’s behavior.”

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Sex Trafficking: Part 2

Posted in child abuse, child prostitution, feminism, gender violence, mail-order brides, Prostitution & Trafficking, rape, sex trafficking, slavery on September 18, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed.”:

“Health risks and consequences

As each trafficking incident unfolds, the victim experiences threats to her physical and mental health. These risks have been catalogued in detail in a multi-country study of trafficking covering Albania, Italy, the Netherlands, Thailand and the United Kingdom. From the pre-departure stage, to the travel, transit and destination stages, through to detention, deportation and integration or return and reintegration, women and girls may experience repeated physical, sexual and psychological abuse or torture, including forced or coerced use of drugs and alcohol, lack of adequate food, withholding of medical treatment, forced unprotected sex, threats or intimidation of their loved ones, denial or privacy, frequent relocation, public discrimination and social exclusion.

Acute and chronic physical and mental health problems are the frequent outcome. Beatings and/or rape initially may be used by traffickers to establish their authority, instill fear and discourage any attempts to escape. Victims’ failure to comply with traffickers’ demands may result in further violence. Physical and sexual assault also occur in encounters with clients. Because many young women and girls who are trafficked for prostitution are unlikely to be able to negotiate safer sex, they are also highly vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In all forms of prostitution, the links to HIV vulnerability are high, especially when clients are violent and/or refuse to use condoms. In Nepal, HIV prevalence among prostitutes is estimated at 20 percent. In Cambodia, that figure climbs to 29 percent, and in Zambia to 31 percent. In South Africa, as many as 70 percent of prostitutes are infected with HIV.

Other potential consequences of the abuse and torture suffered by trafficked women and girls include forced and/or unsafe abortions, malnutrition, tuberculosis, hepatitis, depression, self-harm, addiction and, ultimately, death. “Neary” and “Svetlana” are among the incalculable number of women for whom trafficking proved fatal.

“Neary” grew up in Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child, and – in an effort to give her a better life – her sister married her off when she was 17. Three months into the marriage, Neary went to a fishing village with her husband, who rented a room in what she thought was a guest house. But when she woke the next morning, her husband was gone. The owner of the house told her that she had been sold by her husband for $300 and that she was actually in a brothel. For five years, Neary was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition to brutal physical abuse, Neary was infected with HIV. The brothel owner threw her out when she became sick, and she eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/AIDS at the age of 23.”

“Svetlana” was a young Belarusian looking for a job in Minskland when she met some Turksih men who promised her a well-paying job in Istanbul. Once Svetlana crossed the border, the men confiscated her passport, took away her money and imprisoned her. Svetlana and another foreign woman were sent to the apartment of two businessmen and forced into prostitution. In an attempt to escape, Svetlana jumped out of a window and fell six stories to the street below. According to Turkish court documents, the customers called the traffickers instead of taking her to a hospital. Svetlana died as a result of her injuries, and her body lay unclaimed in the morgue for two weeks until Turkish authorities learned her identity and sent her body to Belarus.

The supply side of the sex-trafficking equation

Some victims of sex-trafficking are simply abducted or relocated internally or transnational. Many others, however, choose to leave their homes in search of a brighter future. Deceived by traffickers’ promises of the good life, they have no idea that they will be forced into prostitution. Even the few victims who understand and accept that they will be working in the commercial sex industry cannot anticipate they extent to which they will forfeit control over their health and welfare. They may believe they are choosing the best of possible options.

The supply side of the trafficking equation is made up of the conditions that cause individual women and girls to be vulnerable to trafficking. Researchers have described a convergence of “push” and “pull” factors. Push factors for an individual woman or girl might include domestic violence, child sexual abuse, single parenthood or inducement by impoverished parents or criminal husbands. At the broader societal level, lack of education and employment opportunities, economic crises or war. HIV/AIDS is another push factor, to the extent that the pandemic is leaving an increasing number of the world’s children orphaned and vulnerable. Pull factors might include the hope of a higher standard of living, shifting and/or increased migratory flows and , for many women and girls, “the timing and apparent quality of the offer to depart.”

According to one expert, “Traffickers are extremely clever and full of a lot of common sense.” In other words, they choose their targets carefully. The particular vulnerabilities of women and girls that make them the preferred mark of traffickers are fundamentally linked to gender-based discrimination, oppression and violence. Where women have little power, rights or opportunities, they are at greater risk of being trafficked. As such, trafficking is as much a product of violence against women and girls as it is a source. In a remote village in Nepal, for example, girls traditionally are afforded very few rights within their families or society. Their disempowerment is a boon for those who control their fate:

“In Chautara, a Tamang village north of the Kathmandu Valley, Bhim Tamamang is a relatively wealthy man. His cottage is roofed with tin, and his son’s motorcycle is parked outside, next to the buffalo shed. Although he has no electricity, a television stands in the corner of the room, covered in cloth. “We will have electricity here in a few months,” he says. Bhim’s prosperity is a result of his fortune to have fathered four daughters. Three are working in the brothels in Mumbai. The fourht, age 12, will go next year. “Gurung and Magar families send their sons to the army. Their sons send money home. Why shouldn’t we send our daughters to help us?”

The demand side of the sex-trafficking equation

For many individuals operating at the local level, such as Bhim Tamang, poverty alleviation is a driving force for engaging in trafficking. In countries including India, Pakistan, Burma, Nepal and Thailand, girls may be sold into prostitution to pay off money loaned to their parents. Further along the chain of exploiters, all the way up to the organized-crime networks, commercial profit is the primary incentive in the escalation of human traffic around the world. Established routes used by drugs and weapons racketeers, especially in southeastern Europe, facilitate the illegal trade in humans. Many of these routes pass through “transition countries”. In these countries, which often are marked by war or steep economic decline, the forced sex industry is 10 times for lucrative for exploiters that other forms of forced labour.

Regardless of the elements of poverty, greed and organized crime, no trafficker would be successful without market demand. The sex industry throughout the world is the most recognized source of demand for the trafficking of women and girls. In some settings, sex tourism further feeds the incentive for trafficking.

It is not just the sex industry itself, however, that promotes sex trafficking. Racial and social discrimination within the sex industry figure prominently in the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. According to one expert, “Research shows that historically and cross-culturally, a large percentage of clients seek prostitutes whose racial, ethnic, caste or national identities are different from their own. Thus we find that women and children in prostitution serving local demand are often migrants, and that men’s prostitute use increases when they are abroad.”

By importing and exploiting foreign prostitutes, traffickers are better able to meet demand criteria, and at reduced cost. Hence, a sign outside of a sex club in Hong Kong reads: “Young fresh Hong Kong girls, White, clean, Malaysian girls; Beijing women; Luxurious ghost girls from Russia.” Mitko, a pimp working in Bulgaria promises customers, “Ten minutes and I can get you a girl – any girl – blond, brown, black or white.”

Another perceived attraction of a trafficked woman or girl is her powerlessness. She is significantly less likely to have authority in the sex transaction than a voluntary commerical sex worker who is legally or otherwise empowered to exercise some measure of control over her working conditions. If she is young, the added promise of virginity attracts men seeking to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections. Conversely, clients who already have sexually transmitted infections may believe, according to the myth of the “virgin cure”, that sex with a virgin will heal the disease. In a study conducted in 2003 by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), three-quarters of the 185 clients surveyed expressed a preference for prostitutes under the age of 25, and 22 percent preferred those 18 years of age or under. For many of these clients, this predilection is related to the fact that younger women and girls will be more docile in the sex transaction.

Yet another source of demand for trafficking is men seeking brides, domestic workers or sex slaves. While consensually arranged marriages do not fall within the trafficking rubric, the conditions in which a young bride may find herself once she has entered the marriage may amount to trafficking. The mail-order bride industry has come under scrutiny by trafficking experts for this very reason. The largely unregulated trade of mail-order brides follows traditional trafficking patterns. Brides from impoverished countries within the former Soviet Union, Asia and Latin America are sent to paying clients in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. In the most extreme scenario, according to one expert, a mail-order bride client “may go so far as to undertake serial sponsorships or immigrant women to supply new recruits for prostitution rings. In this case, he will hold the bride in debt bondage because he paid for her to immigrate to North America, and then force her to participate in slavery-like practices in order to obtain her freedom.”

All text is copyright (IRIN). Full permission is given for reproduction for non-commercial purposes.

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Female Genital Mutilation

Posted in child abuse, female genital mutilation, feminism, gender violence, politics on September 15, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed.”: 

“Defining FGM

Synonymously identified as female genital cutting or female genital circumcision, “Female genital mutilation” broadly encompasses “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.” Although many variations in procedures as well as terminology exist within and across the cultures where FGM is practiced, a standardized international classification for FGM was collaboratively developed in 1995 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Fund for the Populations Assistance (UNFPA).

The first method within the classification, commonly referred to as “clitoridectomy”, involves holding the clitoris of a girl child between thumb and index finger, pulling it out and then partially or fully amputating it with a swift stroke of a razor, knife or other inner surface of the outer lips of the vagina (labia majora) is also cut. The wound is then fused together with thorns, dung or other poultices, or stitches – a process that may be reinforced by tying together the girl’s legs for a period of up to six weeks. The resulting scar tissue typically covers the urethra and part or most of the vagina. A small hole is retained for the discharge of urine and menstrual blood. A fourth, “unclassified” type of FGM uncludes a wide range of harmful practices, from piercing or incising the clitoris to burning, scraping or introducing corrosive substances into the vagina.

While it is estimated that 85 percent of all FGM practices worldwide fall within the first two types, approximately 80 to 90 percent of girls in Dijibouti, Somalia and Sudan, as well as small percentages of girls in Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Tanzania undergo infibulation.

International debate regarding the appropriate terminology to describe FGM is almost as controversial as the practice itself. All official United Nations documents currently use the term “mutilation” to emphasize its medically gratuitous and severe nature. Many working on the ground, however, maintain that the term “cutting” is a more value-neutral and therefore respectful articulation of a practice to which many cultures and individuals remain committed. Others working both internationally and locally have used the term “circumcision”. While still popular idiomatically, the use of this term is diminishing in international discourse because its association to male circumcision (removing the foreskin of the penis) minim sizes the nature and effects of most types of genital cutting performed on women. Comparable genital “circumcision” for men would involve the partial or complete removal of the penis, in addition to the foreskin.

Although male circumcision is considered by some advocates to b a fundamental violation of a boy’s right to bodily integrity, its health impacts are currently the subject of heated discussion. Those opposed to male circumcision argue that it has negative impacts on men’s health and sexuality. Evidence also suggests that when performed in unhygienic settings male circumcision can lead to infections, injuries and even death. A recent study conducted in South Africa, however, concluded that circumcision may have positive effects for males in terms of reducing their risk of contracting HIV.

For females, the evidence is not similarly equivocal. Even the most minimal form of FGM can affect a girl’s normal sexual function and put her at risk of a wide spectrum of negative health consequences.

The health effects of FGM

The immediate physical effects of FGM may include severe pain, shock and hemorrhaging. There is also high risk of local and systemic infections, including abscesses, ulcers, delayed healing, septicaemia, tetanus and gangrene. Long-term physical complications may include urine retention and associated urinary-tract infections, obstruction of menses and related reproductive-tract infections, infertility, painful intercourse and prolonged and obstructed labor. FGM also can facilitate the transmission of HIV, especially if infected infants and girls are cut in group ceremonies were circumcisers use the same instrument on all the initiates. Even after it has healed, the scarred or dry vulva of an excised or infibulated woman can be torn easily during sexual intercourse, increasing the likelihood of HIV transmission by an infected partner.

In addition to a host of physical effects, the psychological terror of FGM may also have a lasting impact, including a sense for some girls of no longer having control over their bodies – especially if they are ambushed and forced to submit to the procedure. One young girl from Burkina Faso recalled what she initially thought was a casual visit to a relative’s house:

“They asked us to go around for sweets and eggs. When we arrived, three women caught me, bundled me in to the toilet, pinned me down and undressed me. … I saw the knife and knew what was going to happen. I cried out, but I couldn’t find the words to speak.”

All text is copyright (IRIN). Full permission is given for reproduction for non-commercial purposes.

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