Swiss Minister calls for ‘world without #deathpenalty’


Didier Burkhalter (left) with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo y MarfilDidier Burkhalter (left) with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil (Keystone)

June 12, 2013 – 21:38

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has highlighted Switzerland’s commitment to the abolition of capital punishment at the opening of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty in Madrid.

“Switzerland aims to ensure that those countries which have not as yet abolished the death penalty at least place a moratorium on its use,” he said in a statement released by the foreign ministry.

In it, he added that capital punishment was incompatible with the values represented by Switzerland and had an impact on the country’s other obligations such as the prohibition of discrimination.
 
The death penalty was abolished from Swiss federal criminal law in 1942, but remained available in military criminal law until 1992.

Together with Spain, France and Norway, Switzerland is patron of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty which is hosting around 1,500 delegates from over 90 states in Madrid until Saturday.

Today, 140 of the world’s 198 states have renounced the use of capital punishment, but a quarter still retain the death penalty. Executions continue to take place every year in around 20 states – mainly China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

In 2012, various states (Botswana, Gambia, India, Japan, Pakistan and Kuwait) reapplied the death penalty after years of de facto moratorium, according to the foreign ministry.

Bilateral talks

Prior to the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, Didier Burkhalter held bilateral talks with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo y Marfil.

Topics set to be discussed included the OSCE chairmanship which will be taken over by Switzerland in 2014, the situation in Europe, youth unemployment and bilateral issues.

“Step-by-step progress”

The stated Swiss goal is a “world without the death penalty” as capital punishment cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights and, in particular, violates the right to life, said the foreign ministry statement.

“Switzerland strives for step-by-step progress with this goal in mind. It advocates for a moratorium or at least certain limitations to be placed on the use of capital punishment in states which continue to employ the death penalty through lobbying at both the multilateral and bilateral level.”

The foreign ministry also calls for compliance with international standards concerning withholding the death penalty for minors and non-enforcement of capital punishment for pregnant women or mentally disabled persons.

In this regard, Switzerland supports, among others, the work of the International Commission against the Death Penalty which was launched at the Fourth World Congress in Geneva in 2010.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

 

There will never be another Asghar Ali


 Jyoti Punwani
Mumbai Mirror | May 15, 2013, 12.00 AM IST
There will never be another Asghar Ali
Asghar Ali Engineer passed away on Tuesday. He was 74
By: Jyoti Punwani

Scholarly, courageous and secular, Asghar Ali Engineer spent his life combating regressive beliefs and practices while presenting a modern, humanistic interpretation of Islam

The passing away of Asghar Ali Engineer leaves everyone poorer. He wasn’t only the face of the Bohra reform movement – a movement for human rights supported by the tallest intellectuals of the country. He was a scholar of Islam, whose interpretation of it was progressive and humanistic, embracing the egalitarian ideals of Marxism and feminism. The world, including the bastion of conservative Islam, Saudi Arabia, invited Engineer to share his knowledge and liberal reading of his religion.

Engineer was a brave man. Assaulted six times, twice almost fatally, by orthodox Bohras, simply for fighting constitutionally against the absolute hold of the Syedna over the community, it would have been easy for him to give up a fight he began openly in 1973, with an article in The Times of India. The social boycott against him declared by the Bohra clergy cut him off for years from his family, including his mother, and in his words, “almost drove (me) mad”.

The political establishment, all the way up to Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee, stood solidly behind the Syedna. Yet, Engineer remained a Reformist throughout, and not just in his personal life. Under his guidance, the Reformists became a force to reckon with, with women at the forefront of the movement. He showed the same courage in openly organising support for the Shahbano judgment, when the Muslim establishment mounted acampaign against it.

For me, Asghar Ali Engineer was many things – a fount of knowledge and a guru, yet one so devoid of arrogance that I was able to, over the past 20 years, interact with him as a friend. I first met him as a member of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, of which he was both founder and vice-president. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, CPDR members used to demonstrate holding placards in a narrow lane across the road from Badri Mahal, Fort – that was as close to the Bohra headquarters as the police would allow us to get. Yet this insignificant bunch of youngsters, led by Engineer and a few other Reformists, would be considered enough of a threat to be stoned by orthodox Bohras. I used to be terrified, but not the much older Engineer.

As a novice in journalism, I turned to Engineer for everything concerning Muslims – be it history, the freedom movement, communal politics. Always ready to share his immense knowledge, he never grew impatient at my endless questions. I would interview others too, but no one had his rounded, secular, yet scholarly perspective.

In 1984, after seeing the partisan conduct of the police towards the Shiv Sena, during the riots that broke out in Bhiwandi, Thane and Mumbai, I told him I supported those young Muslims who felt revenge was the only solution. “No, never,” was his immediate response. “Revenge will only set off an endless cycle of violence, which will help no one, Muslims least of all.”

His way was to change minds. But that will take forever, I replied. Yet that’s what he never stopped trying to do through his writings and interactions with youngsters, policemen and IAS trainees. Every communal riot was investigated by him personally, or by his team, to trace the root causes, for as he said, religion was not the cause of conflict, its political use was.

Engineer won many awards, but the one that suited him best was the Right Livelihood Award or the Alternate Nobel, given to him in 2004 “for promoting religious and communal co-existence, tolerance and mutual understanding”.

With all his qualities, Engineer was essentially a simple man. I remember him walking outside his ramshackle building holding his little daughter Seema’s hand; remonstrating and embarrassed as his wife grumbled to me about being left behind for weeks as he travelled all over the world; chuckling at some wry comment on the irrelevance of pseudo-secularists.

Engineer had told his family he would like to be buried where his friends from the Progressive Writers Association, Kaifi Azmi, Jan Nisaar Akhthar and Ali Sardar Jafri, were. No doubt, he’ll be happy reciting Urdu poetry with them. But we, who still need him, will wonder where to find another like him.

WHEN ENGINEER BOWED BEFORE THE SYEDNA

The first and last time Engineer bowed in front of the Dawoodi Bohra high priest was when he was physically forced to by a marshal in the Syedna’s chamber. He had been taken there by his father, himself a priest, after his matriculation result was declared. Seeing others “fall on their knees and crawl with folded hands to the Syedna’s chamber, where he sat on a high chair like a king, (then) prostrate, lie with face down in submission before him,” Engineer refused, believing that sajda was to be performed only before Allah. Abusing him as ‘shaitaan’, a marshal caught his neck and forced it down. (From A Living Faith, Engineer’s autobiography)

 

Men Deemed ‘Too Handsome’ Deported from Saudi Arabia #WTFnews


Men Deemed 'Too Handsome' Deported from Saudi Arabia for Fear They Would Be Irresistible to Women

APR 16, 2013

At least three men attending an annual culture festival in Saudi Arabia were kicked out of the country after religious police officers deemed them “too handsome” to stay.

The men, delegates from the United Arab Emirates, were minding their own business at theJenadrivah Heritage & Cultural Festival in Riyadh when members of the mutaween suddenly “stormed” the pavilion and removed the men by force.

“A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission [for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices] members feared female visitors could fall for them,” the Arabic-language newspaper Elaph reported this week.

The Emirati delegates were subsequently deported back to their home country.

According to an official statement released by the UAE delegation following the incident, it seems the religious police were unnerved by the presence of an unnamed female artist from the UAE.

“Her visit to the UAE stand was a coincidence as it was not included in the programme which we had already provided to the festival’s management,” said UAE delegation head Saeed Al Kaabi in his apology to festival officials.

[H/T: MSN Nowphoto via AP]

 

Amnesty International Reports on Death Penalty Trends


death-penalty

By 
Published: April 9, 2013

At least four countries that had not used the death penalty in some time — India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia — resumed doing so last year, the rights organization Amnesty International says in its annual compilation of capital punishment trends.

Amnesty, the London-based group that has made abolition of the death penalty one of its signature causes, also says the number of executions in Iraq nearly doubled in 2012 compared with a year earlier, which it characterized as “an alarming escalation.”

Nonetheless, its yearly review, released early Wednesday in London, said the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012.

“In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past, ” Salil Shetty, secretary general of the organization, said in a statement. Amnesty said only 21 countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the same as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier.

It said at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide in 2012, two more than 2011, and at least 1,722 death sentences were imposed in 58 countries, compared with 1,923 imposed in 63 countries the year before.

“Only one in 10 countries in the world carries out executions,” Mr. Shetty said. “Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind.”

Amnesty also pointed out that its compilation excluded what it said were the thousands of executions it believes were carried out in China, where the number of capital punishment cases is kept secret. The organization said it still believed China remained the world’s top executioner.

Besides China, the top executors in 2012, Amnesty said, were Iran with 314, Iraq with 129, Saudi Arabia with 79 and the United States with 43. The report also noted that only nine American states executed prisoners in 2012, compared with 13 the year before, and that in April, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.

 

#India Shameless abstention from the historic Arms Trade Treaty


In the 15th year of its nuclear tests, India has abstained from the just concluded UN Arms Trade Treaty, having become the largest importer of arms in the world last month. What happened to the stability and security that the nuclear bombs were supposed to bestow on us?

P K Sundaram, dianuke.org

Just as the news of adoption of the first-ever Arms Trade Treaty by the United Nations poured in, I tried searching for India’s stance and I found the Times of India’s breaking report silent. This is not surprising as India has abstained from this historic arms trade regulation pact which received the support of 154 out of 180 countries. While 3 countries – Iran, Syria and North Korea opposed this treaty, India abstained along with 23 others like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia etc.

International-Arms-Trade-Treaty-BananaIndia opposed the proposed treaty since the beginning. Pakistan, being a friendly neighbour when it comes to arms race, has been supportive of India’s stance, but it surprised the world by supporting the just treaty at the last moment.

The US under the Bush administration had vehemently opposed the treaty, but President Obama engineered a reversal of the stance and finally got his country to support the pact, despite immense conservative pressures like those from the National Rifle Association.

India’s insatiable arms obsession

Last month, India made it big into two global lists: it came 137th in a list of 186 countries in the global human development index, and it became the world’s largest  arms importer accounting for the 12% of the world’s total arms trade. India’s share in global arms trade has gone up by 25% – in the period between 2003-2008, it purchased 9% of the total arms transferred in the global arms market.

The report titled Trends in International Arms Transfers published by the reputed Stockholm Institute of Peace Research (SIPRI) listed India as the world’s biggest importer of arms between 2008 and 2012. The global trends of arms transfer reveal a lot. While all the 5 biggest important were Asian countries – India (12 per cent of global imports), China (6 per cent), Pakistan (5 per cent), South Korea (5 per cent), and Singapore (4 per cent), all the major exporters of arms were from the West: US, Russia, Germany and France. China replaced the UK as the 5th largest exporter of arms.

Alarmingly, SIPRI’s press release notes that “Several countries in Asia and Oceania have in recent years ordered or announced plans to acquire long-range strike and support systems that would make them capable of projecting power far beyond their national borders”, while mentioning India’s acquisition of nuclear powered submarine from Russia last year. Israel and the US are biggest beneficiaries of India’s military shopping spree, both signalling and resulting in major implications for its foreign policy.

India: Rising Weapons Expenditures After 15 Years of Going Nuclear

India’s increasing arms imports defy the claims of the nuclear hawks since 1998 that induction of nuclear weapons would bring stability and security for the country.  May 11th this year would mark 15 years of India’s nuclear tests in Pokhran. India’s defence expenditures – on both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon systems – have increased dramatically since then. Contrary to the claims of providing stable security to India, the nuclear weapons have pushed India to acquire more death machines. India’s defence budget has gone up from Rs. 35,277 crore in 1998 to a whopping 2,03,671.1 crore in 2013. In 2012-2013, India spent 1.93 trillion, or $40 billion, marking an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year. India has been recently spending much more on naval and air forces compared to the army, a trend indicative of its rising power projections and self-perception. It’s defence expensesbetween 1992 and 2012 have shot up by 1005%. 41% of which goes into acquisition of new weapons. In 2012, while it’s GDP grew by 6.7%, figures on defence expenditure growth varied between  by 13 to 19%.

Unabated Arms Race in South Asia

Arms race – both nuclear and conventional – is going unbridled in South Asia. Both the countries have been upgrading their nuclear arsenals, qualitatively and quantitatively. While India goes on to define its ‘minimal credible deterrence’ maximally, Pakistan has diversified its nuclear arsenals by including tactical nukes January this year. Add to this the frequent missiles tests, of ever increasing ranges and payloads. South Asia is also home to gigantic military exercises on both sides – recently Indian Air Force did its biggest-ever exercise called Operation iron Fist in Pokhran with nuclear-capable missiles. Pakistan, at the start of this year, had conducted a huge military exercise called Saffron Bandits.

Glaring Poverty Amid Super Power Dreams

Compare the facts on military build-ups with the shame of poverty in both the countries. While more than 40% people go to sleep without food in Pakistanmore than 230 million Indians go hungry daily. 37% of Indian deaths are still caused by “poor country” diseases like TB and malaria. A recent Oxford study has suggested that Nepal is reducing poverty faster than India. India’s While our national budget is hijacked by the security establishment, India last year ranked worst place among the G-20 countries for being a women – in terms of female education, health and safety. In terms of gender equality, in fact India fared worse than Pakistan in the UNDP human development report published in march 2013.

Needless to say, this huge stockpile of arms will push India into further belligerence and uglier conflicts. While India-Pakistan border has found place in the Guinness book of world records to be the world’s largest militarized territorial dispute, Indian political elite has been using heavily-armed tactics to subdue the dissenting sections of society – from the adivasis in the midland to the ethnic minorities in the north-east and elsewhere.

It is time to call the bluff of the political leadership in India which has twisted and perverted the peaceful and Gandhian credentials of our country to pay lip service to peace while indulging in worst kind of adventurism and a criminal distortion of national priorities.

 

Saudi cleric terms women Shura Members prostitutes; receives flak #Vaw


Monday February 25, 2013 10:26:16 AM, Agencies

 

For the first time, women will represent 10 percent of the 150 seats of the Saudi Shura, or consultative council, in the coming legislative term, Xinhua reported.> A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Dubai: A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Derogatory terms such as “prostitutes” and “the filth of society” were used to describe the female academics and technocrats who were sworn into the Council a few days after a highly-acclaimed Royal Decree was issued by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Al Arabiya reported Sunday.

The tweets quickly became widely-spread through the social media network and rapidly developed their own hash-tags; however, many Saudi tweeps condemned the attack on the female Shura members, especially since they came from figures who are supposed to preach tolerance, compassion and respect, the report added.

Among the clerics who resorted to insults was member of the Islamic Ministry for Da’wah, Guidance and Endowments, Ahmed Al-Abedul-Qader expressed his discontent of women partaking a role in the Shura Council over his Tweeter account, “They thought they can mock the mufti by giving these ‘prostitutes’ legitimacy to be in power. I am not an imposter, and imposters do not fool me. For how long will the forts of virtues be torn down?”, according to Al Arabiya.

Following angry reactions by Twitter users, Qader said: “We have heard and read many insults against (God) as well as mockery against the prophet, prayer be upon him, and none of those defending (these female) members was angered.”

For his part, Dr. Saleh al-Sugair, a former teaching assistant at King Saud University slammed the assignment of female members at the council and tweeted: “The insolent (women) wearing make-up at the Shura Council represent the society? God, no. They are the filth of society.”

His tweet reads: “The fools of the Shura council, these immodest women represent the society? I swear by God’s name they do not. They are society’s scum, garbage.”

This wasn’t the first controversial statement al-Sugair، who is not a cleric but a medical doctor known for extreme religious views.

Last year, he called for a complete separation in medical colleges between male students and female students.

He spoke on what appeared to be a religious program saying “ why do you need to employ females when we have unemployed males who are providing for their families” and he added “what is the point of having a male doctor with a female secretary?”

He insisted that there is no need to have female receptionists in hospitals and especially in male sections.

Sugair has over 40 thousand followers on twitter and is known for advocating against women employment, women driving, and women treating male patients.

However, the backlash to the recent statements regarding the Shura Council appointees was severe.

Author Maha al-Shahri tweeted: “(These statements) are a moral crime. The government has to set laws to (teach) them and their likes (morals).”

Doctor Abdelrahman al-Sobeyhi tweeted: “Every disease has a medicine to heal it except stupidity.”

Another user, Ali Abdelrahman, wrote: “This is ignorance that does not belong to Islam.”

“The problem is that they think they have immunity from God!” another twitter user said.

A royal decree last month amended two articles in the council’s statute introducing a 20 percent quota for women in the country’s Shura Council, and the king appointed 30 women to join the consultative assembly.

The council was sworn in last week.

The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king – and until recently were exclusively male – works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia. It can propose draft laws which would be presented to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.

Previously, the European Union has welcomed Saudi King Abdullah’s recent decree allowing women to be members of in the kingdom’s Shura Council for the first time as a major development in the direction of women empowerment.

“We welcome the announcement made by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday Jan. 11 to appoint 30 women to the country’s previously all-male Shura Council,” according to statement by Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the European Commission.

 

Bombay High Court- Absent dad can’t get access to child


 

By Rosy Sequeira, TNN | Jan 21, 2013, 03.59 AM IST

MUMBAI: A father who is absent cannot get the same rights as a father who
is available, said theBombay high court even as it recalled its order
allowing a man electronic access to his 12-year-old son.

On January 11, Justice Roshan Dalvi reviewed and set aside her October 2012
order allowing access to the child through video conference. The judge
noted that despite the video conference arrangement, the father remained
absent. Further, his whereabouts are not known except that he lives in the
Middle East. Justice Dalvi said he does not attend court, conducts
litigation through his constituted attorney and has not given his personal
address. “The father who refuses to show his presence cannot get the same
rights as a father who presents himself,” she said.

The couple married in September 1991. Their son was born in November 2000.
Subsequently, the man abandoned his wife and child in Saudi Arabia. In
August 2009, the husband filed for divorce through his constituted attorney
before the Pune family court. His application that his mother and
constituted attorney get access to the child was rejected by the FC in
March 2012.

On October 15, 2012, Justice Dalvi said access can be granted only to the
father who is the legal guardian and none other. She then directed that the
child will communicate with his father through video conference. Since the
Pune FC did not have video conference facility, it was arranged at the HC
on December 7, 2012. On that day, Justice Dalvi was informed that the
father’s advocate was absent as a relative was in hospital. The judge said
even if the advocate was absent, the father could have been told to remain
present at the video conference. His Skype identity was also not provided.
The wife’s advocate Flavia Agnes said the entire exercise was to harass the
wife and child who live in Pune.

She said the father has been abusive towards the child who is medically
fragile. “The wife’s contention that the exercise was only for the
harassment of the child is seen to be correct,” said Justice Dalvi. She
said the husband failed to avail of the opportunity granted by the court
and his conduct has proved his wife’s contention.

“The prejudice in respect of the access by video conference is seen from
the fact that it is too cumbersome to afford the father the luxury and
facility of electronic access when he is not available for personal access
and has not claimed any such access in the light of the fact that for an
unjustifiable excuse, the father remained absent and the child was made to
undergo the agony,” concluded Justice Dalvi.

 

Marriage or rape? 90-year-old Saudi man weds 15-year old girl #Vaw #WTFnews


Monday, 07 January 2013

Close friends of the bride’s family said she was frightened on the wedding night and she locked herself up in the room for two successive days. (Photo courtesy of www.youm7.com )

Close friends of the bride’s family said she was frightened on the wedding night and she locked herself up in the room for two successive days. (Photo courtesy of http://www.youm7.com )

By Reem Hanbazazah
Al Arabiya

The recent marriage of a 90-year-old Saudi man to a 15-year-old girl has sparked condemnation from human rights and social media activists in the kingdom.

A member of the Saudi National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), urged authorities to intervene to save the child.

On Twitter especially, activists criticized the parents of the girl for giving her out to a man decades older than her.

In an interview the groom insisted that his marriage was “legal and correct,” and that he paid $17,500 (SAR 65,000) dowry to marry the girl, who is the daughter of a Yemeni father and Saudi mother.

The 90-year-old man told the story of his first night with the little bride. He said she entered the bedroom before him and she locked the door from inside so he could not enter. This he said made him “suspicious about some kind of conspiracy” by the girl and her mother.

He vowed to sue his in-laws to give him back the girl or return him the expensive dowry he paid.

Close friends of the bride’s family said she was frightened on the wedding night and she locked herself up in the room for two successive days before fleeing back to her parents’ home.

The member of the Saudi National Association for Human Rights (NSHR), Suhaila Zein el-Abedin urged authorities to intervene “as soon as possible to save this child from tragedy.”

El-Abedin noted that marriage in Islam must be based on mutual consent and this was not satisfied as demonstrated by the girl’s move to lock herself up in the room.

She said the girl’s parents were also to be held responsible for marrying their daughter to a man of the age of her grand grandfather.

She urged establishing the minimal age of 18 for marrying girls, saying this will pave the way for punishing violators, according to a report by al-Hayat newspaper.

Jamal al- Toueiki, a psychologist, said forced marriage may subject girls to abuse and violence and this could lead to their suicide if nothing is done to save them.

Twitter reaction

On twitter, Mouhammad Khaled Alnuzha ‏@mkalnuzha, a legal expert asked: “Is this a case of human trafficking crimes punishable by law?”

‏@sx84, who identifies himself as another legal expert, stated: “She is still considered as a product! A father sells his daughter without mercy, to be bought by money and status and power; all of it for the sake of fulfilling a desire.”

Nawal Saad @lhnalkhlwd wrote on his account: “When people of reason and wisdom are asked to be silent and the ludicrous are set loose, we will see these anti-human behaviors.”

Samira Al-Ghamdi @SamiraAlGhamdi, a psychologist at a child protection center, wrote: “We need a law to penalize these acts … enough child abuse.”
She added that the story of the child bride should be titled “A 90 years old ‘buys’ a girl … or : A father ‘sells’ his daughter…”

 

London-Protest against sexual violence in India @7thJan 2013


7th January 2013 at 4-7pm

Outside the Indian High Commission, LondonWC2B 4NA

WARNING: The details below of the gang rape that took place recently on 16 December might be graphic and/or upsetting for some.

Please share this with your friends, colleagues, activists, feminists and blog, tweet, facebook and other social networks.

Update: 3rd January 2013
Please note the Protest has now been extended to 7pm
The 23-year-old medical student died from her injuries on 29th December

We have all been shocked by the recent case of a young woman who was gang raped by a group of six men on a bus in Delhi. When she was taken to hospital, the doctor found that she had severe injuries to her intestines and all over body. ” that a rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines along. That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines.” She remains critically ill.

Shocking as it is, this is only one of many acts of horrific sexual violence that take place every where and every day in India. The world’s largest democracy was named the worst country in the G20 countries for violence against women (after Saudi Arabia) in the recent Trust Law/Reuters Survey. This is the heart of darkness in ‘India shining’. By drawing world wide attention to this horror and solidarity for Indian women, we hope to shame the Indian government into acting now by making public spaces safe for women, starting with implementing the laws and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Southall Black Sisters invites you to stand in solidarity with Indian feminists who are demanding:

  1. Increased patrolling and deployment of police, including police women in public places so that such incidents can be prevented, and women’s safety assured; improved infrastructure to make cities safer for women.
  2. Fast track courts to deal with rape cases, hearings to be held on a day to day basis, so that sentence can be delivered within a period of 6 months. Police investigation to be conducted in a time bound manner.
  3. Standardized investigation procedures to be circulated to all police stations, with action taken against police personnel who do not implement them properly;
  4. Increased sensitization, effective investigation and accountability of the police in dealing with heinous crimes against women.
  5. Immediate relief, legal and medical assistance, and long term rehabilitation measures to be provided to survivors of rape, without delays and hassles.

SAFE ACCESS TO PUBLIC PLACES IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE FOR WOMEN ALL OVER THE WORLD!

Please bring banners, placards, whistles, songs, slogans and all your friends and let the our anger echo from the Indian High Commission all the way to India.

Hope to see you there.

For further information please contact us

Tags: 

 

A victory against modern day slavery- HRW


December 1, 2012
  • Nisha Varia

Governments may never be able to count the number of women and girls who escape getting trapped into domestic servitude due to better labour standards. But by closing gaps in legal protections and enforcement, they will no longer be providing employers the tacit permission and leeway that has allowed exploitation of domestic workers to flourish.
Nisha Varia, women’s rights senior researcher

The ILO Domestic Workers Convention was unthinkable just a few years ago. It represents the culmination of years of effort by domestic workers, advocates, and officials to shine a spotlight on a long-ignored but significant sector of the workforce, says Nisha Varia

If someone had told me 45 years ago that we would be here today, I would not have believed it. We do not have to be slaves anymore. — Myrtle Witbooi, chair of the International Domestic Workers Network and former domestic worker from South Africa, Geneva, June 10, 2011

Growing activism against modern-day slavery has highlighted the abuse and exploitation suffered by millions of men, women, and children around the world. Donor funding has flowed to create shelters and services for victims while a proliferation of anti-trafficking legislation has focused on arresting and prosecuting traffickers.

Until recently the crucial role of prevention has enjoyed less visibility and support, but the growing domestic workers’ rights movement, and the development and adoption of a landmark treaty last year provides a promising example of how to move forward in the fight against forced labour.

While the break-up of an organized crime syndicate may seem a more obvious sign of progress, governments could make significant progress against modern-day slavery by ensuring robust, comprehensive legal frameworks protecting a range of human rights, including guarantees for labour protections as seemingly mundane as a minimum wage, a weekly day off, and limits to hours of work.

Overcoming initial scepticism and resistance, members of the International Labour Organization (ILO)—governments, trade unions, and employers’ associations—have done just that. On June 16, 2011, they voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new groundbreaking treaty that, for the first time, established global labour standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workersworldwide who clean, cook, and care for children, families, and the elderly in private households.

ILO Convention 189 Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers radically changes how domestic workers—the vast majority of whom are women and girls—and their work inside the home are valued, recognized, and protected. Its desperately needed and long overdue protections shake deeply entrenched gender discrimination in social and legal norms, and, in some countries, the lingering legacies of slavery.

I woke up at 5 a.m., cleaned the house and made breakfast for the children and worked all day. I went to sleep at 3 a.m. I never got a chance to rest…. The wife of the employer shouted and beat me every day…. The employer had my passport. The door was locked. I was not allowed to go out or even talk to the neighbours. I never received my salary. - Chain Channi, Cambodian domestic worker, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 12, 2011

In a review of 72 countries’ labour laws, the ILO found that 40 percent did not guarantee domestic workers a weekly rest day, and half did not limit hours of work. Many national child labour laws also exclude domestic workers, meaning employers can employ young children and make them labour for long hours, often at the cost of their education and health.

Over the past 12 years, Human Rights Watch’s research on domestic workers in countries as diverse as Indonesia,Saudi Arabia, the United States,Morocco,Guinea, andEl Salvador has documented pervasive abuses and labour exploitation, including excessively long working hours without rest; unpaid wages for months or years; forced confinement in the workplace; food deprivation; verbal, physical, and sexual abuse; and forced labour including debt bondage and trafficking. Domestic workers, many of whom are migrants and at least 15.5 million of whom are children under the age of 18, who suffer such abuses typically have little access to redress.

Migrant domestic workers confront additional risks posed by language barriers, precarious immigration status, excessive recruitment fees, and employers’ confiscation of passports. Human Rights Watch investigations across Asia and the Middle East have documented the failure of many governments to monitor recruitment agencies that impose heavy debt burdens or to ensure that migrant domestic workers have access to courts, information about their rights, and support services when they face abuse.

Forging Global Labour Standards

The ILO convention was unthinkable just a few years ago. It represents the culmination of years of efforts by domestic workers, advocates, and officials to shine a spotlight on a long-ignored but significant sector of the workforce. These efforts focused on the ILO, with its unique tripartite structure in which workers’ groups, employers’ groups, and governments (183 countries are members) negotiate international standards, with all three component groups having a vote.

Speaking during the negotiations in Geneva, Maria Luisa Escorel, minister counsellor from the permanent mission of Brazil, Geneva, said: “The lack of protection for domestic workers represents a significant gap in the coverage of international labour standards…. Domestic workers around the world are looking to the ILC [International Labour Conference] to adopt a convention that would help to overcome past injustices and give domestic workers a better future.”

Many governments initially expressed hesitation or direct opposition to a legally binding convention on domestic work, citing the impracticality of monitoring work in private households and their reluctance to add to a growing body of international labour standards, many of which had poor rates of ratification. However, lobbying bydomestic workers’ organizations and NGOs, an ILO survey of laws and practices around the world, and compelling opening statements at the negotiations by the workers’ group and key governments made a strong case that the pervasive exploitation and abuse in this sector could no longer be neglected.

Some of the most contentious debates during the negotiations included regulation of employment agencies, elements of written contracts for domestic workers, provisions on social security and a healthy working environment, and how to account for working hours when domestic workers are not actively working but must be available to be “on-call.” Surprisingly, provisions on monitoring and inspections of private homes garnered little controversy during the final debate.

From the outset of negotiations, key governments provided decisive support, advocating strongly for binding standards that would extend equal labour protections to domestic workers. Delegates from Australia, Brazil, South Africa, the US, Argentina, and Uruguay spoke up repeatedly to introduce and defend strong provisions and to point to effective country-level examples of legislation and implementation.

As negotiations progressed, support for the convention grew. Some states with initially hostile attitudes changed their positions as they heard evidence of the abuses against domestic workers and concrete examples of how legislation in a diverse array of countries could improve domestic workers’rights. Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia), along with Bangladesh, Indonesia, and India, reversed early opposition to a legally binding convention and expressed support in the final vote.

In the end, on June 16, 2011, the newly negotiated standards won overwhelming support, with 396 delegates (representing governments, workers, and employers’ associations) voting for the convention, 16 voting against, and 63 abstaining. Swaziland was the only government to vote against the convention.

The ILO Domestic Workers convention guarantees domestic workers labour protections equivalent to those of other workers, including for working hours, minimum wage coverage, overtime compensation, daily and weekly rest periods, social security, and maternity leave. The new standards oblige governments to address the minimum age for children in domestic work and their right to attend school, protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, regulate recruitment agencies and fees, and set out measures for effective monitoring and enforcement.

Translating Standards into Change on the Ground

While we celebrate this historic moment, we also know that there are many challenges to face in our struggle to ensure that these rights, now enshrined in Convention form, are upheld, protected, and defended. - Migrant Forum in Asia, statement, Manila, June 16, 2011

Adopting a new convention is only the first step in a long, difficult campaign for widespread ratification and implementation. Encouragingly, although the process is slow, many countries are reviewing and revising their national legislation to bring it into conformity with the convention. Dozens of countries worldwide have submitted the convention to the appropriate national authorities for reviewUruguay, the Philippines, and Mauritius have been the first to ratify the convention, which will become legally binding in September 2013, and several Latin American countries will likely complete their formal ratification processes soon.

Whether governments are close to ratifying the convention or not, they will feel pressure to respect the standards it sets forth. For example, several countries are in the process of adopting legislation on domestic work, such as Kuwait, the UAE, Lebanon, and Indonesia, and they will consult the standards as they finalize their laws. Singapore and Malaysia, two of the nine countries that abstained when the convention was adopted, will find it in their interest to introduce reforms anyway to remain an attractive destination for migrant domestic workers who can increasingly opt for better working conditions and pay elsewhere. After years of rejecting the need for reform,Singapore finally agreed to require a weekly rest day for domestic workers.

Discrimination and exploitative practices are deeply entrenched and recognition and respect for domestic workers’ rights will not improve overnight. To make the new standards count, advocates must strengthen efforts at the national level to replicate their success in Geneva. They must also raise public awareness among key constituencies such as national labour officials, employers, trade unions, and the media. They will then need to build momentum around ILO ratification and related legislative reforms.

Because the strength and diversity of the domestic workers’movement varies greatly by country and region, another priority is to provide international support to national and regional groups as needed. This may entail defending freedom of association for domestic workers, providing financial and organizational support to fledgling groups, or building alliances among domestic workers, labour, migrants, women’s rights, and children’s rights organizations.

Finally, dissemination of best practices and lessons learned, particularly on experiences with successfully enforcing domestic worker protections, will be crucial for ensuring that strong global standards turn into concrete improvements in local practices.

Governments may never be able to count the number of women and girls who escape getting trapped into domestic servitude due to better labour standards. But by closing gaps in legal protections and enforcement, they will no longer be providing employers the tacit permission and leeway that has allowed exploitation of domestic workers to flourish.

Nisha Varia will be speaking at the Trust Women Conference in London, December 4th-5th.