An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India for atatck on epaceful protesters in Odisha

English: A screenshot from a Video posted by w...

English: A screenshot from a Video posted by (Photo credit: Wikipedia)










Shri Manmohan Singh


Honourable Prime Minister of India




7 February 2013




Your Excellency,




We, the undersigned, are deeply anguished over the recent attacks on the people of Govindpur and Nuagaon villages of Jagatsinghpur District in Odisha who have been using the most democratic means to resist the forceful acquisition of their lands for the POSCO project.




We are shocked to learn of the manner in which Government of Odisha officials along with over 12 police platoons entered the villages around 4 am on Sunday 3 February 2013 and indiscriminately hit women and children with lathis (sticks), cut trees and destroyed several betel vines. Reports indicate that more than 50 persons have been injured, of them three women and one old man severely. The police also arbitrarily arrested and detained several men and women who tried to resist the action, including one of the leaders of the people’s movement.




The use of indiscriminate force against women, children, men, and older persons by the police is highly condemnable. The state government claims that people are willingly giving up their lands for the POSCO project. If this were the case, it would not be necessary to send in over 12 platoons of police in the middle of the night and resort to lathi charge and violence. To be attacked at this hour and be caught unawares despite countless organised attempts on part of the affected villagers and POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) to appeal to the government, shows the deep failure on the part of the state machinery to engage in democratic means with the people whose land it seeks to acquire.




This violent act by the state government appears to be a result of the announcement on 28 January 2013 of the Commerce Minister (Mr Anand Sharma) that the Government of India will review delays in POSCO’s USD 12 billion plant in Odisha, as it is committed to ensuring “smooth take off” of the project – the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. The Commerce Minister also reportedly announced that this project is being reviewed by you and your office.




This act of aggression by the government violates a range of national laws and policies, including the Constitution of India, the Forest Rights Act 2006, the March 2012 order of the National Green Tribunal suspending environmental clearance of the project, the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 as well as recommendations of several independent and government committees. In its attempt to lure foreign investment into the state, the Government of Odisha and the Government of India has circumvented all democratic norms, including the Palli (Gram) Sabhas, and violated the human rights of its own people.




The actions by the Government of Odisha, with the support of the police and POSCO, also clearly violate several international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsthe Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, all of which India has ratified. This recent attack on the people of the area also infringes international standards and guidelines, including the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement – which lay down obligations of both state and non-state actors.




The recent actions of the government are also illegal because the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between POSCO and the Government of India expired in June 2010.




Since 2006, the people of the area have been peacefully resisting the project because of its extensive destructive impacts on their lives and livelihoods. The non-violent resistance of local villagers to the project, however, has been met with violence, implication of false charges, and arbitrary arrests and detention of men and women. All attempts for dialogue with the government have failed, as the government has repeatedly used force with the support of the Centre in pushing for the POSCO project in Odisha.




We strongly condemn this violent and undemocratic attack on people and the violation of their human rights, including the rights to adequate housing, land, food, work/livelihood, health, and security of the person and the home.




Respected Prime Minister, since this project is being reviewed directly by you and your office, we prevail upon you to ensure:




  • Immediate withdrawal of police from the area;
  • Immediate release of people who have been illegally arrested and detained;
  • Immediate investigation and prosecution of officials responsible for perpetuating violence  against men, women and children in Gobindpur Village;
    • Halting of all forms of land acquisition;
    • Provision of adequate medical care to all the injured in the area;
    • Restitution, including compensation for injury and the destruction of property, trees and betel-vines; and,
    • An objective ‘social impact/eviction impact assessment’ of the project, as per the requirements of the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007, and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement.






We look forward to an adequate response from your government, and hope that you will act in accordance with India’s legal obligations and protect the rights of your people.






Signed by:


Miloon Kothari, former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, UN Human Rights Council



Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director, Housing and Land Rights Network, Delhi




Asit das- posco pratirodh solidarity delhi








Ghana: Of Women, Human Rights and Laws

English: Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations ...

English: Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Mavis Otinkorang, 4 June 2012

Laws are meant to regulate society and protect the human rights of all citizens. The 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution has clear provisions guaranteeing the fundamental human rights of all citizens.

Article 12 of the Constitution guarantees every person in Ghana‘s fundamental rights and freedoms and Article 17 provides protection against discrimination and enjoins the State to take steps to end all forms of discrimination on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnicity, religion and creed, social and economic status. Article 35 (5) (6) enjoin the State to end all forms of discrimination through law reforms and affirmative action.

In addition to the Constitution, there are both national and international laws which address the issue affecting particular segments of the population. Examples are the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) and the Children Act 1998 (Act 560) protect the right of workers and children respectively.

Laws, instrument and Convention to improve Women?s Status and Promote Gender Equality

On women, laws have been paased over the years to improve their situation. These include the Intestate Succession Law PNDC Law 111(1985), Customary Marriage and Divorce Registration Law PNDC 112 (1985) and the Labour Act 651 (2003).

Amendments of some criminal laws, now contained in the consolidated Criminal Code, have provisions which protect women from harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. These provisions have also broadened protection against sexual violence. The Children’s Act protects children from early marriage, and Matrimonial Causes Act supports women seeking divorce under both customary and ordinance marriages.

Ghana has also obligations under international human rights instruments such as the UN Chapter of 1945 and Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 1979.

Ghana also has obligations under regional instruments such as African Charter on Human and Peoples Right. The state is required to incorporate the provisions of these instruments into national laws.

In addition there are commitments arising from various UN conferences on women. The 1985 Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (NFLS), the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (PfA) and the 2000 review on Beijing commitments known as the Beijing + 5 as well as, UN conferences such as the Vienna Human Rights Conference, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (1994), the Social Summit (1994), and the 2000 Mellennium Development Goals (MDGs) have clear provisions for improving the status of women and promoting gender equality.

Women continue to live with discrimination and biases

In spite of these laws and instruments, women continue to suffer bias and discrimination in Ghana. International Human Rights instruments have not been fully integrated and enforced within national law.

In addition, national laws do not go far enough and fail to address the requirement of a comprehensive review of all laws to ensure the repeal of discriminatory laws. Certain legal instruments such as the Bill on Property Rights are yet to become laws, although years have passed since the 1992 Constitution called for their passage.

As a result, women continue to contend with discrimination and practices in employment, marriage, divorce, and in access to resources such as land, labour, capital and technology.

For example, only a minority of women in formal employment enjoy protection from labour laws. Also, women continue to live with discrimination in relation to their rights and obligations in marriage and the grounds for divorce. Additionally, women, can be divorced under customary laws on grounds of witchcraft, stealing and adultery, while these are not grounds for divorcing a man.

Practices such as polygamy, though lawful under customary and religious laws, are discriminatory, unconstitutional and increase women?s insecurity and vulnerability in marriage life. Several men who are involved in acts of bigamy are not made to account for their actions even though the Criminal Code makes such acts unlawful.

Court decisions show that the law governing the distribution of marital property after divorce does not sufficiently take into account women?s non-monetary contributions to the acquisition of such property.

There are also critical issues of poor implementation of the law due to bias against poor women and men, lack of resources, low capacity, undue delays in court processes, entrenched patriarchal attitudes and systemic gender inequalities. Furthermore, there is limited or no access to legal processes as a result of problems of cost availability of services.

The few women are who are able to access the legal system find themselves dealing with an unduly formal and alienating environment. Very few women and men are fully aware of women?s rights under the law partly because of the poor performance of institutions tasked with legal education.

To ensure that the law becomes an effective instrument for gender justice, Ghanaian women are demanding that, among others that, government initiates a constitutional review process to ensure that all constitutional provisions promote the principle of fundamental human rights, freedoms, economic and social rights for all women and men on an equal basis.

Also, it is being demanded of government to complete the review of the entire body of laws in Ghana to ensure their conformity with the 1992 Constitution and obligations under International and Regional Human Rights Instruments.

While recorgnising the validity of polygamous marriages under customary and religious laws, the government and law enforcement agencies should ensure that the laws against bigamy are properly enforced.

Again, government should put in place policies and programmes which discourage polygamy and encourage monogamy, with the view to abolishing polygamy as a form of marriage in Ghana in the future.

The grounds for divorce under customary laws should be amended to make them uniform for both men and women.

Women?s non-monetary contributions to their household should be recognised and valued through equal distribution of property acquired during marriage and divorce and inheritance proceedings.

The Customary Marriage Registration Law should be reformed to enable either party to register a marriage, if it is established that the other party is obstructing registration without justification in order to protect the right of persons in customary law marriage.

Economically, government should by 2015 complete reforms of the entire social security system to expand its scope and coverage to ensure the meaningful protection for all citizenry. Specifically, women demand that the conception scope of social security be expanded to enable all citizenry of Ghana to enjoy unemployment benefit and pensions as taxpayers. This also implies a fundamental reform of the tax systems to broaden and strengthen the revenues base.

Also, that the coverage of Social Security benefits is expanded to include medical care, sickness insurance, family and maternity benefits and unemployment benefits.

That the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSINT) vigorously implements the changes in the current Social Security laws to extend coverage to all citizens irrespective of the nature and place of their work.

Government should by 2008 make and implement an Affirmative Action policy with legal backing to ensure the full integration of women in all spheres of public life.

Additionally, law enforcement institutions should vigorously implement laws passed to protect women?s rights including the prosecution of violations of such laws.

Also government by 2012 should enact and fully implement specifics laws and measures to promote and protect the rights of women and girls in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW) and all international and regional instrument regarding women?s rights and take steps to ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW to enable women in Ghana to benefit from its provision.

Others are that, the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) develops and implements a comprehensive programme to raise awareness about provisions of international, regional and national women?s rights laws and instruments, and inculcate in the general public respect for the rights of women.

Lastly, the Ministry of Education should activate Human Rights education from primary to tertiary levels of education.

Call for Written Submission to CEDAW Committee

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

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Inviting Written Submissions – The Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) Asia Pacific Regional Consultation for the Proposed General Recommendation on Human Rights of Women in Situations of Conflict and Post Conflict

Dear Friends,

CEDAW Committee’s Asia Pacific Regional Consultation for the Proposed General Recommendation on Human Rights of Women in Situations of Conflict and Post-conflict is scheduled to be held on 27-28 March 2012, In Bangkok (Thailand)

This is a call for national and regional level women’s rights groups, NGOs and networks in the Asia Pacific actively engaged in protecting women’s rights during conflict and in peace-building and reconstruction processes during the post-conflict & transition settings to submit Written Submissions to the CEDAW Committee’s Working Group organising the CEDAW Committee’s Asia Pacific Regional Consultation on the Proposed General Recommendation on Human Rights of Women in Situations of Conflict and Post-conflict on 27-28 March 2012 in Bangkok.

The CEDAW Committee pursuant to its mandate on elaboration of the nature and scope of State Obligations on realisation of women’s human rights in conflict and post-conflict settings based on the CEDAW framework have called for a consultation for this region. The Consultation is aimed to assist the CEDAW Committee in developing provisions of its General Recommendation on Women in Conflict and Post-conflict situations, in light of the diversity of conflicts and diversity of experiences and issues faced by women in realisation of their human rights in CEDAW and recognised in other international human rights treaties.

The organisation of this Consultation of the Committee is being supported by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of the Women (UN Women) and the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific is assisting the Committee, the UN Women and the OHCHR in organisation of this Consultation in Asia Pacific. As space for participation at the Consultation is limited, the CEDAW Committee welcomes and urges additional written inputs from women’s human rights groups and peace advocates who are not able to be physically present to be submitted.

The CEDAW Committee’s Working Group on the Proposed General Recommendation on Human Rights of Women in Situations of Conflict and Post Conflict presented the Concept Note of the General Recommendation on the Day of General Discussion held on 18 July 2011 (in conjunction with the Committee’s 49th Review Session in New York). The purpose of the General Recommendation is to provide appropriate and authoritative guidance to State Parties on the measures to be adopted to ensure full compliance with their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil women’s human rights during times of armed conflict and in all peace-building processes, which includes the immediate aftermath of conflict and long term post-conflict reconstruction. The rationale of the CEDAW Committee to organise regional consultations for the proposed General Recommendation is to highlight the impact of conflict on women in the region and focus on the context specific priorities as well as women’s priority concerns in the post-conflict context, e.g. impact of conflict on women from minority communities, and bring the regional perspective to the four thematic areas covered in the Concept Note on the General Recommendation, namely, Access to Justice, Women’s Participation in Peace-building Processes, Violence against Women and Women’s Economic Opportunities in the post-conflict settings, as well as other relevant thematic areas.

We would like to encourage national level groups and organisations involved in addressing the impact of conflict and post-conflict & transitions settings on recognition, exercise, access and realisation of women’s human rights as envisioned in the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) submitting their written submissions:

Illustrating the challenging realities of women both as victims, as active member of conflict (women combatants) and as agents of change in post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction processes;

Describing the actions, non-action and omissions on the part of State and its agencies resulted in aggravating the negative impact of on-going conflict and post-conflict situations on women and girls in exercise and protection of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights;

Identifying gaps and challenges in drawing accountability of State as well as non-state & private actors including private militia & armed groups under the humanitarian and international human rights law, in particular CEDAW;

Providing recommendations to the CEDAW Committee’s Working Group on elaboration of the nature and scope of State Obligation to protect women’s human rights in situations of conflict and post-conflict, and scope of authoritative mandate of CEDAW to the women’s realities in these contexts

The Written Submissions must be prepared in English and must be precise and specific on the factual as well as theoretical/conceptual framework details. It will be useful to include 1-2 case studies on different and distinct roles played by women in situations of conflict and post-conflict to substantiate the recommendation put forward to the CEDAW Committee for the Proposed General Recommendation.

Preferably the Written Submissions should not be more than 10 pages including the annexures. We would welcome soft copies of analytical research papers, reports and studies that your organisation and/or network would like to share with the CEDAW Committee’s Working Group on the Proposed General Recommendation on Human Rights of Women in Situations of Conflict and Post-conflict to build its understanding on the specificities of conflict and post-conflict settings from the region to be addressed in the proposed General Recommendation to ensure women’s human rights under CEDAW are fully and equally realised and protected.

Please find attached an Outline to guide you in preparation of the Written Submission. Attached with this email are the Concept Note and Summary Report of the Day of General Discussion organised by the CEDAW Committee on the Proposed General Recommendation on Human Rights of Women in Situations of Conflict and Post-conflict.

Please send us your Written Submissions at or by 25 March 2012 (16 hrs. Bangkok Time)

For further inquiries, please feel free to write to Gauri Bhopatkar (Programme Officer, IWRAW Asia Pacific) at or

IWRAW Asia Pacific

10-2, Jalan Bangsar Utama 9

59000 Kuala Lumpur


Tel: (603) 2282 2255

Fax: (603) 2283 2552

Email: /



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