Archive for the child rape 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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Sexual Assault and Harassment: Part 2

Posted in child marriage, child rape, Defining Violence, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment on December 4, 2006 by breatheinspirit

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

“Generating reliable data on sexual violence

According to a sexual violence expert from the United States, “rape appears in many guises” and, as such, requires careful investigative methods that capture the range of women’s and girl’s experiences. When researchers use narrow definitions of sexual violence, the reported rates of sexual crimes are likely to be relatively low. Crime-victim surveys reflect this: While they are useful because of their broad scope and comparable methodology, questions on sexual violence may not discriminate between different types of sexual assaults and/or perpetrators. In data presented by the WHO on a select number of crime-victim surveys, rates of reported sexual victimization (recorded in the five years to each survey) range from less than 2 percent in Bolivia, Botswana, China and the Philippines to 5 percent or more in Albania, Argentina, Brazil and Columbia.

Although still scarce and somewhat difficult to compare because of differences in data-collection techniques and definitions used, more targeted sexual violence surveys typically generate higher rates of reporting among participants. A variety of such surveys from the United States, for example, suggest that between 14 percent and 20 percent of the general population of women in that country will be raped at least once in their lifetime. In the Czech Republic, 11.6 percent of women responding to a national survey reported that they had experienced forced sexual contact, most commonly in the form of vaginal intercourse. Forty percent of a random sample of 420 women in Toronto, Canada, reported at least one episode of forced sexual intercourse since the age of 16. Specific subgroups are at an even greater risk. Research from the United States on women with disabilities, for example, indicates they are at one-and-a-half time greater risk of sexual victimization than women without disabilities.

The use of explicit questions in these surveys helps to overcome underreporting related to biases or preconceptions associated with the semantics of rape. Even employing the language of forced or coerced sex, rather than rape, can produce more accurate estimates of women’s and girl’s exposure to sexual violence. In a South African Study, 11 percent of the adolescents surveyed said they had been raped, but further 72 percent reported being subjected to forced sex. A survey of unmarried adolescents seeking abortions in 17 hospitals in China found that 48 percent had experienced sexual coercion at least once.

An increasing number of studies have focused on the issue of coerced or forced sexual initiation among adolescent girls. Average estimates of coerced first sex among adolescents around the world range from 10 percent to 30 percent, but in some settings, such as Cameroon and Peru, the number is closer to 40 percent. In a survey of high school students in Korea, 39 percent of sexually active females reported that their first experience of sex was the result of force or pressure from their partner. Studies of nine countries in the Caribbean estimated that incidents of forced first intercourse were as high as 48 percent.

 Identifying the Perpetrators

Many studies have confirmed that most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim. In fact, according to the WHO, “One of the most common forms of sexual violence around the world is that which is perpetrated by an intimate partner.” In a recent study of a representative sample of married and unmarried young men and women in Kenya, more than one in five sexually experienced young women had been subjected to nonconsensual sex. Those who had been married were at a greater risk of coercion than respondents who had never been married, and husbands were often identified as perpetrators. Other studies from around the world that have specifically investigated intimate-partner violence suggest that on average one in five women has been forced to have sex by her partner – in some settings those numbers are much higher. In general, sexual assaults by intimate partners are reported tow to eight times more often than assaults by strangers.

One sexual violence expert concluded, “The most important lesson learned about interpersonal violence in the past 20 years is how frequently it is perpetrated by apparently normal individuals.” Rather than verifying assumptions that rape is committed by a small number of disturbed men, research suggests that many men around the world share the attitudes and beliefs necessary to commit an act of sexual violence. In other words, the “high prevalence of rape largely reflects a high level of social tolerance of the crime.”

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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 in Women and Girls

Posted in child abuse, child prostitution, child rape, feminism, gender violence, politics, Prostitution & Trafficking, slavery on September 13, 2006 by breatheinspirit

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

“Defining trafficking

In November 2000 the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, was added to the United Nations Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime. The protocol offers the most universally acknowledged definition of trafficking:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt or persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Involuntary servitude is the essential feature of human trafficking. For this reason, trafficking is often synonymously referred to as “modern-day slavery”. Men, women, boys, and girls are bought and sold – sometimes many times over – to work in brothels and strip clubs, in sweatshops, in mines, on plantations, at construction sites, as beggars, brick makers, domestic help, circus performers and even camel jockeys. Some of them are held in debt bondage and expected to pay off a balance due to win their freedom. Other have no debt, but as a result of threat or force live as virtual prisoners.

Closely linked to money laundering, drug trafficking, document forgery and human smuggling, trafficking in persons generates an estimated US $9.5 billion in annual revenue, much of which goes into the coffers of organized-crime networks. Every country in the world is implicated in this slave trade, whether as a point of origin, transit or destination.

Since 2000 the United States Department of State has issued the world’s most comprehensive annual report on trafficking. The latest edition calculates that 600,000 to 800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders each year – and these figures do not account for those who are trafficked “internally”, from one destination to another within their own countries or communities. The report further estimates that 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls, and most of them are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. According to the International Labour Organization, this industry “has become highly diversified and global in recent years.”

Although exact numbers are difficult to learn, available estimates give some indication of the scope of the problem. Approximately 100,000 Albanian women and girls are thought to have been sold into the sex trade in neighboring Balkan countries and Western Europe. Between 1990 and 1997, 200,000 Bangledeshi women were believed to have been trafficked. Some 200,000 Nepali girls under the age of 14 may be working as sex slaves in India. An estimated 600,000 Thai children have been sold into prostitution. Israeli police speculate that 99 percent of women working as prostitutes in Israel are victims of trafficking. In Belgium, between 10 percent and 15 percent of known foreign prostitutes are thought to have been trafficked from abroad. As many as 130,000 women enter Japan on entertainer visas every years, but only about 10 percent of them actually perform in legitimate venues. The rest – many of whom are believed to have been trafficked – are most likely working in sex clubs or as prostitutes. The Middle East, Northern and Latin America, and Africa are also points of origin, transit and/or destination. As with other forms of trafficking, no region in the world appears to be free from the trade of women and girls for sex.

The hazardous journey

Beyond the common denominator of exploitation, every women’s or girl’s trafficking experience is unique. In Albania, where 13-year-old “Alma” is living with her family in a camp for Kosovar refugees, she is convinced by her boyfriend of two weeks to run away from Italy. After they arrive, he forces her into prostitution and beats her repeatedly whenever she refuses. In Nigeria, just before “Betty” is sent to Europe, her sex trafficker has a voodoo priest convince her that her soul will be held captive until she has paid back her debt to the trafficker – possibly as high as $50,000. In Nepal, a familiar older women in the community – perhaps one who was sent to an Indian brothel years earlier and has now returned as a “matchmaker” – approaches the house of “Kamala” and convinces her parents of the good life their daughter will have in Mumbai, India. As she reassures them about how much money Kamala will send home, she is liable to forego discussing the considerable dispensations to herself, the transport organizers and escorts, and the brothel owner.

In Brazil, “Anita” is befriended by an older man and offered a promising job in a big city, far away from the remote rural community where she lives with her impoverished family. She later discovers that her would-be employer has sold her into prostitution. “Karin”, a single mother of two from Sri Lanka, is transported to Singapore by a man who agrees to find her a witnessing job. Shortly after her arrival, she is taken to an open market, where she and other women – from Indonesia, Thailand, India and China – are inspected and purchased by men from Pakistan, India, China, Indonesia and Africa.”

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Child Marriage: Part 2

Posted in child abuse, child marriage, child rape, domestic violence, gender violence, politics on September 12, 2006 by breatheinspirit

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

“The Legal Context

Despite national and international law pertaining to minimum age and consent in marriage, many young girls around the world are still at risk. In 15 countries, the legal age of marriage is 16. Even when legal protections against child marriage do exist, they may be ambiguous, allow for dual existence of customary and civil law and have limited enforcement mechanisms. Some legal provisions, for example, may allow traditional law to override statutory law, and therefore restrictions against early marriage in state law may not apply to customary marriages.

Moreover, in countries “where there is a discrepancy between the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls, it is consistently lower for girls.” According to CEDAW, these discrepancies “assume incorrectly that women have a different rate of intellectual development from men, or that their stage of physical and intellectual development at marriage is immaterial.” The national laws of Cameroon, Jordan, Morocco, Uganda and Yemen do not specifically accord women the right to consent before marriage. Among the “vast majority” of countries around the world that have codified a women’s equal right to choose a marriage partner, legal provisions are often “merely symbolic” – and as a result unenforced or subject to wide exceptions.

Legislative provisions in many countries allow for child marriage with parental consent, which in the context of traditional societies does little to preserve the rights of girl children. In Algeria, Chad, Costa Rica, Lebanon, Libya, Romania and Uruguay, the law allows a perpetrator of rape – including rape of a minor – to be pardoned of his crime if he marries his victim. In the case of a young victim, stigma, shame, coercion and ignorance of the law, along with a multitude of other factors, may prevent her from exercising her legal right to refuse such a marriage. In Ethiopia, illegal “abduction marriages”, where men kidnap young girls and consummate the marriage with rape, remain prevalent in some rural settings. In a study conducted among 227 Ethiopian wives, 60 percent said they had been abducted before age 15, and 93 percent before age 20.

The failure to prioritize women’s and girl’s rights

Child marriage predominates in traditional societies around the world, where the desires and needs of parents and community may override considerations for the individual development and wellbeing of a girl child. The patriarchal values buttressing these cultures further erode any rights that might otherwise be afforded a young girl. The fact that marrying young maximizes a female’s reproductive lifespan and thus ensures large families justifies the custom of child marriage and ignores the health impact of such a tradition on young wives.

The prevalence of child marriage also may be linked to the economics of poverty. Young girls in certain communities in Africa will generate more bride price because as virgins they are less likely to have HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Conversely, African parents in resource-poor settings who are worried about not being able to find men who can afford a high bride price may prevent a daughter from completing schooling for fear that an education will increase her cost. Once a girl has left school, she is much more likely to get married. In the Asian societies where dowry customs dominate, girls may be married off early because dowry doubles once a girl matures. In Bangladesh, for example, dowry doubles once a girl reaches the age of 15, because she is considered less “marriageable”.

Other motives for child marriage include controlling a young girl’s sexuality and curbing any manifestations of independence. Committing a pubescent or even prepubescent girl to marriage reduces the likelihood of premarital liaisons, which is important when the sexual purity of girls and women is seen as a community prerogative and the basis of family and tribal honour. In societies where subservience to husbands is requisite in marriage, young brides offer the additional benefit of being easier to mould into deferential wives.

Child marriage and gender-based violence

Child marriage is a form of gender-based violence that leads to a range of other forms of violence. Research suggests, for example, that sexual assault may be more common among wives who marry young, due at least in part to the power inequities between older husbands and younger wives. Indian girls from Calcutta who married early reported that their husbands had forced them to have intercourse before they had started menstruating. Despite protestations of pain and lack of desire, 80 percent of these girls said that their husbands continue to force them to have sexual relations.

Girls who marry early may also be at greater risk of physical violence at the hands of their husbands and in-laws. In Jordan, 26 percent of domestic incidents reported in 2000 were committed against wives who were under age 18. As with sexual violence, this increased risk may be associated with age and power differentials. Lack of social networks and economic assets, as well as low self-esteem, make child brides less likely to leave abusive husbands and more likely to tolerate the abuse. In studies in Benin, India and Turkey, for example, 62 percent to 67 percent of young wives – as opposed to 36 percent and 42 percent of older wives – believed that their husbands were justified in using physical violence against them.

Girls who try to escape early or abusive marriages risk retribution from their husbands as well as their natal families, including further abuse, imprisonment or even death. The Commission on the Status of Women in Pakistan, where the honour killings are often linked to domestic violence, reported in 1989 that “men are constantly fighting to retrieve their women because they have run away.” Data from prisons in Afghanistan’s capital city in Kabul in 2004 indicated that the majority of female inmates had been married before age 16, and that incarceration was highly correlated to child marriage. “Zabia” is one such case:

“When [Zabia] was 10 years old her parents sold her in marriage to a 50-year-old man who was deaf and dumb. She was raped on her wedding night. In the years that followed, [Zabia] ran away to her father’s house some seven or eight times. Every time she returned, her father beat her and held her in chains until her husband came to retrieve her. She finally escaped to the city, where she met a kind woman who took her in. After some time, [Zabia] met a young male relative of the woman, became engaged and married him. She had been happily married for six months and was pregnant when she told her second husband her true history. The second husband, who accepted her past, went to meet [Zabia’s] parents to tell them of her whereabouts and happy marriage and invited them to visit their daughter. Instead, [Zabia’s} parents reported the couple to the police, who imprisoned them for illegal marriage.”

Husbands of young wives are often significantly older, and therefore more likely to die before their wives. While it may seem a reprieve in cases of violent marriages, lack of property or inheritance rights, as well as high rates of illiteracy among young brides, puts those widows at great risk for multiple forms of exploitation. In certain parts of India, a girl whose husband has died may be given in nata to a widower in the family. Although officially designated his wife, she may become “the common property of all the men in the family.” In parts of Africa, a widow is remarried, according to the practice of levirate, to a brother of her deceased husband. Any resulting children are given the name of the deceased husband, thus ensuring the continuation of his lineage. If a widow refuses to marry her brother-in-law, she not only risks being cast out of his family, but also losing custody of her children and any rights to her husband’s property. Widowed women also can be traded as commodities in dispute negotiations between families or communities – given as a wife, for example, from one family to another to reinstate the honour of an aggrieved man and his clan.

The multiple health risks of child marriage

In addition to the physical dangers associated with domestic violence, child marriage poses many other health risks. Because of the greater permeability of their vaginal tissue and other biological factors like hormone fluctuations, girls are more vulnerable than mature women to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Their age, limited life experience and inferior status also make it more difficult for young wives to negotiate safer sex.

While marriage to girls is considered a protective measure for husbands, it may have the opposite effect on their wives, especially in polygynous societies. In a recent study undertaken in Rwanda and cited in a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report on child marriages, 25 percent of girls who became pregnant at 17 or younger were infected with HIV, even though many reported only having sex with their husbands. The study found that a higher incidence of HIV infection was directly correlated to a younger age of sexual intercourse and first pregnancy. In findings from rural Uganda, girls aged 13 to 19 who were HIV-positive were twice as likely to be married as girls who were HIV-negative. For young wives, “abstinence is not an option – those who try to negotiate condom use commonly face violence and rejection.”

The leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-old girls worldwide is complications from pregnancy and child-bearing. According to public-health experts, for every girl that dies during pregnancy or childbirth, 30 more will suffer injuries, infections and disabilities. And the risks are not limited to the mother: If a girl is under the age of 18 when she gives birth, her baby’s chance of dying in its first year of life is 60 percent higher than that of a baby born to an older mother. Moreover, the extended reproductive span of a girl who is married early puts her and her children at risk due to a greater number of pregnancies and deliveries. According to one study, women who marry before age 19 will have two to four times more children than those who marry after age 25.

The additional burden of obstetric fistula

One of the most physically and psychologically debilitating effects of early child-bearing is fistula, a rupture of tissue that results in an opening between the vagina and the bladder or the rectum, or both, which is reparable only with surgery. Primarily caused by obstructed labour, fistula is closely linked to marriage and child-bearing among girls between 10 and 15 years of age. In one 1995 study in Niger, for example, 88 percent of women with fistula were in this age group when they were married. As will all pregnancy-related injuries, young married girls in resource-poor settings are least likely to get treatment for fistula. With leaking urine and feces, a malodorous girl suffering an untreated fistula is likely to be ostracized by her community and divorced by her husband.

Child marriage is so common in Ethiopia that doctors at the Fistula Hospital, based in the capital city of Addis Ababa, operate on approximately 1,200 girls a year. Those who are of and manage to find transport to the hospital are probably only a small proportion of the young women needing treatment.

An urgent human rights concern

The Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, from which much of the information included in this chapter has been drawn, is a network of nongovernmental organizations with international affiliates that shares “a vision of marriage as a sphere in which women and girls have inalienable rights.” The early work of the Forum highlighted the fact that very little is being achieved at either the international or national level to address the global problem of child marriage.

The Forum’s most recent report in 2003 emphasized that there is considerable work to be done to end the practice of child marriage. Much of this effort involves lobbying governments to adopt and enforce laws that both prohibit child marriage and ensure that girls have equal access to education. Just as important, however, is changing the attitude and behavior of community and religious leaders, whose complicity allows child marriage to continue. Finally, the Forum asked for increased support to programs that empower young girls, to help them realize that their futures need not be preordained by customs that deprive them of their rights to mental, social and physical wellbeing.
Agencies such as the United Nations Fund for Population Assistance and UNICEF have started to demand action to end child marriage, while international nongovernmental organizations, including Population Council and the International Center for Research on Women, have pioneered initiatives to research child marriage, raise awareness and inform policy discussion. Despite some of these gains, the magnitude of the problem requires greater effort, not only through prevention, but also through prevention, but also through supporting girls who are already in child marriages. Policy makers, elected officials and community and religious leaders, as well as individuals, all have a critical role in making a difference in the lives of girls and young women.”

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Mary’s Story

Posted in child abuse, child prostitution, child rape, feminism, gender violence, rape on September 8, 2006 by breatheinspirit

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

“When “Mary”, a 14-year-old Kenyan girl was very young – she cannot remember her age at the time – her father claimed that she was not his biological daughter and tried to kill her. Running away from her house with no clothes on, she was taken in by “Jane”, an adolescent, who bathed, clothed and fed her, Jane worked nights as a child prostitute, and Mary soon joined her. One night, Jane brought Mary to a man’s house. Mary, who was high on alcohol and marijuana, doesn’t remember much of what happened, only that she was raped repeatedly and then locked in a room. For three days, her hands and legs were tied together and she was raped into submission. Mary’s rapist then became her pimp. He sent her out onto the streets at night and forced her to hand over her earnings each morning.

“I was so unhappy, but I had no choice. One day when I tried to escape, he caught me and put a knife to my throat. I screamed so loud. A neighbor heard me and came to the house. She took the knife away but didn’t help me any further.”

A group of child prostitutes who had heard about Mary’s troubles informed the police, who arrested her pimp and required him to undergo a medical examination, which confirmed gonorrhea. Mary, who stayed at the police station for two days and also had a check-up, had contracted gonorrhea as well. Police contacted the local nongovernmental organization End Child Prostitution in Kenya to help Mary. The agency, which had no funds for a shelter, referred Mary to a rescue centre in Nairobi, several hours away from where she was living. The facility, run by the Irish humanitarian agency GOAL, provides children with basic literacy training and medical support.

“I was so unhappy with my life, but had no possible escape. On the streets I had to keep all of my feelings inside – there was no one to talk to. At last I am okay, I feel so lucky to have been brought here. I still have terrible nightmares about that man when I sleep. If someone talks to me about that time in my life, I go blank and I feel dizzy. I cannot think straight. I have never had an education, but I am being given a chance to learn to read and write. I can’t think so far into the future at the moment. I am just so grateful for the help I have been given since my rescue.

“There are so many girls where I come from who have been raped and are living a life like I did. If anyone wants to help, we desperately need a shelter for those children to escape to – a shelter that can offer vocational training, and give them a chance for a better life.”

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

Child Pornography

Posted in child abuse, child pornography, child rape, Uncategorized on September 6, 2006 by breatheinspirit

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

“Child pornography in the contemporary world

Not surprisingly, Japan is a major Asian producer of child pornography. Around the world, there are strong links between child prostitution, child-sex tourism and the production of child pornography.

Girls and boys of all ages, including infants, are sexually exploited in pornographic imagery. Both “a crime in and of itself, and … a picture of a crime scene,” child pornography stretches back centuries. In the last 30 years, however, it has become a thriving enterprise, with images that are more hardcore than before and increased access to those images via the Internet.

Most pedophiles do not use child pornography to turn a profit. They are more likely to stockpile pictures and films that they can copy and trade, thereby adding to their private collection. Nevertheless, the advent of modern home video and personal computer technology has made child pornography easier to produce and trade without detection. As a result, underground distribution has become more organized and commercialized. In the United States alone, the estimated revenues of the child pornography market are approximately $2 billion to $3 billion per year, making it one of the country’s most lucrative cottage industries. Russia is notable as an emerging market, second only to the United States as a source for child pornography.

In modern times, no region in the world is exempt from the production of child pornography. During the industry’s early days, most images were of Western children, many from the United States, whose pictures were commercially reproduced in Europe. A minority of other images were from India, Mexico and Africa. With the growth in sex tourism, images of Asian and Eastern European children were added to the global stock and trade in child pornography, as sex tourists filmed and then distributed their encounters with children. Latin American children also have been exploited on film by both international and local pedophiles and child abusers. In Brazil, street children in particular have been targeted for pornography that is exported to North America.

Many victims of child pornography are boys. In the United States, over 50 percent of child pornography seized in raids depicts boys, and in Canada that figure is 75 percent. In Japan, however, girls are captured in the majority of images. For both boys and girls, their exploitation on film can have a lasting psychological impact. Because of an almost inexhaustible shelf-life, pornographic images can continue to be reproduced and shared, such that “long after the child has grown up, he or she knows that someone, somewhere, may be looking at their picture, witnessing their degradation and distress.” This has perhaps never been more true than in the age of the Internet.

Evidence suggests that a significant number of consumers of child pornography are likely to be active child abusers. The Internet facilitates this link, because it “not only acts as a mechanism for making, displaying, trading, and distributing child porn, it also acts as a vehicle for child pornographers to make contact with and ensnare new victims.” Child sex abusers can enter Internet chat rooms where children congregate, gain their trust and either solicit pictures of them online or arrange to meet them – sometimes traveling across continents – for the purpose of sexually abusing them. One study from the United States found that one in five children who go online regularly is approached by Internet strangers for sex.

Moreover, the Internet allows pedophiles and child abusers to receive positive reinforcement in a way that can legitimize and normalize their criminal behaviors. According to one convicted pedophile, “The Internet is great. It’s a whole world that sucks you in. With 24 hours of first going on I’d found child porn … I found people I could talk to. People who felt like me … I never had so many friends.”

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