#India- Report demands full compensation for victims of Kandhamal riots


Special Correspondent, The Hindu

 The report was released by Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
A report titled 'Unjust Compensation' prepared by Housing and Land Rights Network highlighting property losses of private individuals during the Kandhamal riots, in Bhubaneswar on Friday.—Photos: Lingaraj Panda
A report titled ‘Unjust Compensation’ prepared by Housing and Land Rights Network highlighting property losses of private individuals during the Kandhamal riots, in Bhubaneswar on Friday.—Photos: Lingaraj Panda

Centre for Sustainable Use of Social and Natural Resources (CSNR), Bhubaneswar, and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), Delhi, on Friday released a report on the compensation paid to the families that had suffered damage and loss of property during the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2007 and 2008.

The report noted that though the State government provided immediate relief, compensation for ‘damaged houses’ and death, it did not enumerate and provide compensation for the loss of property (other than housing) such as household articles, vital documents (like educational certificates, land records), agricultural equipment, utensils, clothes, agricultural and forest produce, livestock, poultry, and livelihood-related losses.

The government was not having a policy to assess and compensate such losses.

The report was released here by Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.

The panel also consisted of Dhirendra Panda, Secretary, CSNR, Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director, HLRN, and Prafulla Samantara and Nicholas Barla, human rights activists.

The findings of the impact assessment study revealed that the real costs and losses suffered by individuals and families who experienced destruction of their homes and property were immense. While extensive damage to property, both movable and immovable, had been reported, the State has only compensated families for loss of homes.

On the basis of the findings of this study, the report recommended to the State government to take immediate measures to adequately rehabilitate and resettle the victim-survivors of the Kandhamal violence.

The report further urged the government to ensure full reparation to those persons whose livelihoods were affected due to violence and strife.

The government should provide adequate financial assistance to those children whose education was affected because of destruction of books and educational material, unavailability of study material, loss of academic certificates, and inability to attend school during and after the violence, the report suggested.

It further said that the government should provide financial assistance to victim-survivors whose documents of land and property were destroyed and facilitate the process to obtain alternative documents.

The government should develop a new policy for victim-survivors of violence due to conflict, such as in the case of Kandhamal, and implement it immediately, the report said, while urging the government to prepare a long-term strategy to protect and promote secularism and non-casteism in Odisha.

Take Action to Improve Conditions for Dalit Women- UN Special Rapporteur #Vaw #Womenrights


Women and Girls Facing Caste-Based Discrimination Need Special Protections
JUNE 7, 2013
  • Many [Dalit women] experience some of the worst forms of discrimination. The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalization, which perpetuates their subordinate position in society and increases their vulnerability, throughout generations.
Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

(Geneva) – United Nations member states should focus urgent attention and decisive action to improve conditions for Dalit women, four international nongovernmental organizations said today. The combination of caste and gender makes millions of Dalit women extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including rape, forced prostitution, and modern forms of slavery.

“Many [Dalit women] experience some of the worst forms of discrimination,” said Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in a written statement. “The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalization, which perpetuates their subordinate position in society and increases their vulnerability, throughout generations.”

Following a side event on June 4, 2013, at the UN Human Rights Council on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women and women from similarly affected communities, IMADR, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group International, and the International Dalit Solidarity Network called on UN member states to support efforts to eliminate gender and caste-based discrimination. The multiple forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women have mostly been neglected until now, but some UN human rights bodies, including Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have begun to pay attention to this serious human rights issue.

Dalit women leaders from four caste-affected countries in South Asia took part in the side event and made strong appeals to the international community as well as their own governments to address discrimination. This was the first time that a UN event focused exclusively on the situation of Dalit women, whose courageous struggle for human rights has come a long way over the past decade.

Addressing the event in a written statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, reiterated her “fullest commitment in contributing to the eradication of caste discrimination and untouchability and the correlated deeply rooted exclusion, exploitation and marginalization of Dalit women and other affected groups” through the work of her office.

Pillay, who has spoken out strongly against caste discrimination on a number of occasions, also called on UN member states to “take on the challenge of addressing caste-based discrimination and the human rights violations flowing from this seriously and by mobilizing all of their relevant institutions to this end.”

The ambassador from the German UN Mission, Hanns Heinrich Schumacher, said he had been “shocked” when gathering information about the situation of Dalit women and came to realize the “urgency, the dimension of the problem.”

The fact that numerous states co-sponsored the event demonstrates the increased international attention to the situation of Dalit women – an interest that now needs to be transformed into concrete action by the international community as well as caste-affected countries.

One such country is India, home to almost 100 million Dalit women. Although there are laws in place to protect them, implementation remains an obstacle.
“New laws are useless unless they are implemented, as we have seen with previous efforts to ensure protection of Dalit rights,” said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

Many of the speakers noted that the lack of implementation of legislation that is meant to protect Dalits is a key problem. Manjula Pradeep, director of the Indian Dalit rights NGO, Navsarjan Trust, stressed the importance of more data about the situation of Dalits and said that, “It is time to look at the intersection of caste and gender.”

Many victims of the combination of caste and gender-based discrimination live in South Asia where they are known as Dalits. Similar forms of discrimination occur elsewhere as testified by Mariem Salem, a parliamentarian from Mauritania and herself a member of a group targeted for discrimination, the Haratines, who are descendants of former slaves.

Salem noted that the pervading social attitudes and perceptions which stigmatize Haratine in general are “a key challenge for Haratine women.” She added that “specific types of work continue to be assigned to them on the basis of their hierarchical status,” a description that could also have been applied to Dalit women in South Asia.

 

UN calls for strengthened protection of more than 260 million victims of caste-based discrimination


United Nations Human Rights Council logo.

 

 

 

 

Continued plight of the ‘untouchables’

UN experts call for strengthened protection of more than 260 million victims of caste-based discrimination

GENEVA (24 May 2013) – They occupy the lowest levels of strict, hierarchical caste systems founded on notions of purity, pollution and inequality. They face marginalization, social and economic exclusion, segregation in housing, limited access to basic services including water and sanitation and employment, enforcement of certain types of menial jobs, and working conditions similar to slavery.

They are the Dalits of South Asia, who constitute the majority of victims of entrenched caste-based discrimination systems which affect some 260 million stigmatized people worldwide, people considered ‘untouchable’.

Caste-based discrimination remains widespread and deeply rooted, its victims face structural discrimination, marginalization and systematic exclusion, and the level of impunity is very high,” a group of United Nations human rights experts warned today, while urging world Governments to strengthen protection of the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who suffer from discrimination based on work and descent.

“This form of discrimination entails gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses – including brutal forms of violence,” they said. “Dalit women and girls are particularly vulnerable and are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual violence, on the basis of gender and caste. Children victims of caste-based discrimination are more at risk to be victims of sale and sexual exploitation.”

On this day, two years ago, the experts recalled, Nepal adopted the ‘Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Bill’, a landmark legislative piece for the defense and protection of the rights of Dalits. A recent decision by the British Government in April 2013 to cover caste discrimination by the Equality Act serves as a good practice to protect Dalits in diaspora communities.

“We urge other caste-affected States to adopt legislation to prevent caste-based discrimination and violence and punish perpetrators of such crimes, and call on world Governments to endorse and implement the UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent.”*

The UN experts expressed concern about a serious lack of implementation in countries where legislation exists, and called for effective application of laws, policies and programmes to protect and promote the rights of those affected by caste-based discrimination. “Political leadership, targeted action and adequate resources should be devoted to resolving the long-standing problems, discrimination and exclusion faced by Dalits and similarly affected communities in the world,” they stressed.

“Caste-based discrimination needs to be addressed as a major structural factor underlying poverty,” the expert said, while welcoming the acknowledgment of caste-based discrimination as a source of inequality by the global consultation on the post-2015 development agenda.

However, they expressed hope that the agenda will also include specific goals for the advancement of Dalits and particularly affected groups. “Their specific needs require tailored action to lift them out of poverty and close the inequality gap between them and the rest of society,” they underlined.

“We will pay specific attention to the particularly vulnerable situation of people affected by caste-based discrimination and advocate for their integration and inclusion so that they can fully enjoy their human rights in accordance with international human rights law and national legislation”, the UN independent experts said.

“No one should be stigmatized; no one should be considered ‘untouchable’”.

The experts: Rita IZSÁK, Independent Expert on minority issues; Rashida MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Gulnara SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and its consequences; Najat Maalla M’JID, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Mutuma RUTEERE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Catarina de ALBUQUERQUE, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; Magdalena SEPÚLVEDA, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

(*) UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent:
http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session11/A-HRC-11-CRP3.pdf

For further information on the experts mandates and activities, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Marta Franco (+41 22 917 9268 / mfranco@ohchr.org) or write to minorityissues@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

 

 

 

 

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences finalises country mission to India


 

 

Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences finalises country mission to India

NEW DELHI (1 May 2013) – At the end of her official country mission to India, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, delivered the following statement:

“I have been mandated by the Human Rights Council to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to recommend measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the Government of India for having invited me to visit the country from 22 April to 1 May. The invitation, which was in response to a request from my mandate, was received prior to the events that led to the death of a young woman in Delhi on 16 December 2012. The protest actions and outpouring of sadness and anger; and the extensive coverage by the media, both local and global; has generated a huge focus on the issue of violence against women and girls in India.  This mission has generated country-wide interest, and also, demands for the addressing of this systemic problem as an urgent imperative, at both the State and the non-state levels.

During my visit, I held meetings in New Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Manipur, and gathered information from other states, including Tamil Nadu. I am grateful to all my interlocutors, including Union and State authorities, National Human Rights Institutions, representatives of civil society organisations, and United Nations agencies. Most importantly, I want to thank the individual women who shared their personal experiences of violence and survival with me. The pain and anguish in the testimonies of loss, dispossession, and various human rights violations, was visceral and often difficult to deal with.

The Government of India has signed and ratified numerous international human rights instruments and has also adopted numerous progressive laws and policies at the Union and State levels. Numerous laws, including amendments to existing laws, have been enacted to address various manifestations of violence against women. Among others, these include: the Indian Penal Code which broadly includes crimes against women. This law includes the crimes of rape, kidnapping and abduction for specified purposes, homicide for dowry, torture, molestation, eve teasing, and the importation of girls, among others. More specific laws on crimes against women include: the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act 2013, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, the Commission of Sati Prevention Act 1961, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 among others.

Furthermore, the following Bills are currently under discussion: the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill 2012, the Readjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Bill 2013, the Removal of Homelessness Bill 2013, the Prevention of Female Infanticide Bill 2013, the Abolition of Child Labour Bill 2013, the Child Welfare Bill 2013, the Indecent or Surrogate Advertisements and Remix Songs (Prohibition) Bill 2013 and among others.

At the institutional level, the realisation of the promotion and protection of human rights broadly, and women’s rights and children’s rights specifically, are vested in numerous Union and state level Ministries, Departments, Commissions, Committees and Missions for the empowerment of women. Furthermore, I was informed about numerous programs and policies that have been put in place in recent years to address the issue of violence against women within a human rights and development framework. These include schemes addressing the needs of victims of rape, trafficking, domestic violence, and so on. Some of these schemes address counselling, support, skills development, access to benefits and also to shelters. Public/private partnerships have been forged within different spheres including the police sector. The laws and schemes highlighted above will be analysed and discussed fully in my mission report.

I welcome the Government of India’s speedy response after the rape incident of 16 December. A judicial committee headed by the late Justice Verma was established, and new legislative measures were adopted earlier this year. While this legislative reform is to be commended, it is regrettable that the amendments do not fully reflect the Verma Committee’s recommendations.

It is unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive and specific equality and non-discrimination rights legislative framework for women, to address de facto inequality and discrimination, and to protect and prevent against all forms of violence against women, was lost. The speedy developments and also the adoption of a law and order approach to sexual wrongs, now includes the death penalty for certain crimes against women. This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework which is underpinned by transformative norms and standards, including those relating to sexual and bodily integrity rights. Furthermore, the approach adopted fails to address the structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is a positive development in the aspirational goal of protection for victims of family violence. The discrepancy between the provisions of the laws and the effective implementation thereof, whether through the use of the police generally or the Protection Officers in particular, was a recurrent complaint which I heard. Despite provisions intended to offer legal, social and financial assistance to victims, many women are unable to register their complaints. As a result, the vulnerability of women increases, and further, they are also deprived of the benefits prescribed in the law – as proof of registration of cases is required for access to many benefits. Furthermore, prevention of violence, as a core due diligence obligation of the State, does not feature in the implementation of this law.

Despite numerous positive developments, the unfortunate reality is that the rights of many women in India continue to be violated, with impunity as the norm, according to many submissions received. Mediation and compensation measures are often used as redress mechanisms to address cases of violence against women, thus eroding accountability imperatives, and further fostering norms of impunity.

Manifestations of violence against women

Numerous experiences of violence, whether direct or indirect, in different spheres including the home, the community, and in institutions, whether perpetrated by state actors or condoned by the State, was shared with me during the mission. Violence is being experienced in situations of peace, conflict, post-conflict, and displacement among others. The denial of constitutional  rights in general, and the violation of the rights of equality, dignity, bodily integrity, life and access to justice in particular, was a theme that was common in many testimonies. Violence against women as a cause and consequence of de factoinequality and discrimination was also a common theme in numerous submissions received.

Violence against women and girls in India manifests in numerous ways and varies in prevalence and forms based on numerous factors including geographic location. Some manifestations include: sexual violence, domestic violence, caste-based discrimination and violence, dowry related deaths, crimes in the name of honour, witch-hunting, sati, sexual harassment, violence against lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, forced and/or early marriages, deprivation of access to water and basic sanitation, violence against women with disabilities, sexual and reproductive rights violations, sex selection practices, violence in custodial settings and violence in conflict situations, among others. These manifestations of violence are rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities faced by women, and are strongly linked to their social and economic situation. One interlocutor described violence against women and girls as functioning on a continuum that spans the life-cycle from the womb to the tomb.

During my visit, I heard numerous testimonies of many women who are survivors of domestic violence, whether at the hands of their husbands or other family members. Many of these women live in family settings with deeply entrenched norms of patriarchy and cultural practices linked to notions of male superiority and female inferiority. The lack of effective remedies, the failure of the State to protect and prevent violence against women, the economic dependence of many women on the men in their lives, and the social realities of exclusion and marginalization when speaking out, often results in women accepting violence as part of their reality. The current focus by state actors on preserving the unity of the family is manifested in the welfare/social approach and not in the human rights based approach. It does not take into consideration the nature of relationships based on power and powerlessness; of economic and emotional dependency; and also the use of culture, tradition and religion as a defence for abusive behaviour.

Sexual violence and harassment in India is widespread, and is perpetuated in public spaces, in the family or in the workplace. There is a generalized sense of insecurity in public spaces/amenities/transport facilities in particular, and women are often victims of different forms of sexual harassment and assault.

On the issue of conflict-related sexual violence, it is crucial to acknowledge that these violations are occurring at the hands of both state and non-state actors. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has mostly resulted in impunity for human rights violations broadly, according to information received. The law protects the armed forces from effective prosecution in non-military courts for human rights violations committed against civilian women among others, and it allows for the overriding of due process rights. Furthermore, in testimonies received, it was clear that the interpretation and implementation of this act, is eroding fundamental rights and freedoms – including freedom of movement, association and peaceful assembly, safety and security, dignity and bodily integrity rights, for women, in Jammu & Kashmir and in the North-Eastern States. Unfortunately in the interests of State security, peaceful and legitimate protests often elicit a military response, which is resulting in both a culture of fear and of resistance within these societies.

In India, women from the Dalit, Adivasi, other Scheduled castes, tribal and indigenous minorities, are often victims of a multiplicity of forms of discrimination and violence. Despite protective legislative and affirmative action laws and policies, their reality is one where they exist at the bottom of the political, economic and social systems, and they experience some of the worst forms of discrimination and oppression – thereby perpetuating their socio-economic vulnerability across generations. They are often forced to live in displacement settings, experience forced labour practices, prostitution and trafficking, and also experience intra-community violations of rights.

In consultations in Manipur, I heard anguished stories from relatives of young women who have disappeared without trace or who were found dead shortly after going missing. The lack of response from the police is the norm in such cases, with the attitude being that these are mostly elopement cases. I am deeply concerned about other consequences of such disappearances of young women, including exposure to sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking. More generally, many tribal and indigenous women in the region are subjected to continued abuse, ill-treatment and acts of physical and sexual violence. They are denied access to healthcare and other necessary resources, due to the frequency of curfews and blockades imposed on citizens. Moreover, the chronic underdevelopment prevalent in the region, coupled with frequent economic blockades, is having an impact on the overall cost of essential items, and is exacerbating the already vulnerable situation of women and children living in the region.

Customary and religious practices such as child marriages and dowry-related practices, sorcery, honour killings, witch-hunting of women, and communal violence perpetrated against cultural and religious minorities, were highlighted in numerous testimonies. Communal violence, inspired by religious intolerance, does manifest in some parts of India. Indiscriminate attacks by religious majorities on religious minorities, including Christian and Muslim minorities, is frequently explained away by implying that equal aggression was noted on both sides. Also, such violence is sometimes labelled as ‘riots’, thereby denying the lack of security for religious and other minorities, and disregarding their right to equal citizenship. This issue is of particular concern to many, as the wounds of the past are still fresh for women who were beaten, stripped naked, burnt, raped and killed because of their religious identity, in the Gujarat massacre of 2002.

I am also concerned about the declining female sex ratio in India. The deeply entrenched patriarchal social norms, prevailing views of daughter-aversion and son-preference, the dowry-related link, and, the general sense of insecurity in light of high prevalence rates of gender-based violence, is fuelling a significant drop in female births throughout the country. The Indian Government’s concern about this issue has resulted in the adoption of policies and schemes. The implementation of such interventions is resulting in the policing of pregnancies through tracking/surveillance systems and is resulting in some cases in the denial of legal abortion rights, thereby violating the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

With regard to domestic workers, I am dismayed by the prevalence of numerous violations faced by these women and girls. Many of them, often migrant and unregistered women, work in servitude and even bondage, in frequently hostile environments; performing work that is undervalued, poorly regulated and low-paid. According to testimonies, they are also denied access to essential services and resources provided by the State, as they lack proper identification, and view this as a barrier to access. They are often the victims of various acts of violence, including sexual harassment and victimization by their employers and others.

I have also been informed that women with disabilities experience numerous forms of violence, including sexual violence, forced sterilization and/or abortions and forced medication without their consent. In addition, their experience of discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation reinforces the need for greater attention and specificity.

India has embarked on a journey of aggressive economic growth and this path is viewed as the route to simultaneously addressing its human development challenges. Despite the inclusion of beneficial provisions for women and children in the Five Year Plan, the impact of economic development policies on women is resulting in forced evictions, landlessness, threats to livelihoods, environmental degradation, and the violation of bodily integrity rights, among other violations. The adverse consequence of resulting migration to urban areas is reflected in the living and work conditions of many of these women and children, for example living in slums or on the streets, engaging in scavenging activities and in sex work etc. Some women have committed suicide; others are frequently exposed to acts of harassment and violence, including sexual assault. It was strongly argued by many interlocutors that India’s pursuit of neo-liberal economic growth must not be pursued at the expense of vulnerable women and children, and their right to a healthy and secure environment.

Conclusion

Numerous human rights mechanisms have addressed the violation of women’s human rights in India. The substance of some relevant recommendations addresses the following issues:

1)    There is  a need for urgent measures to end the alarming decline in sex ratios (CEDAW, CRC)

2)    The negative effect of personal status laws on the achievement of overall gender equality (CRC, CCPR, and CEDAW). Such laws need to be reformed to ensure equality in law (CEDAW).

3)    The social and cultural patterns of discrimination against women require urgent action by the State (CEDAW).

4)    Ensure that all victims of domestic violence are able to benefit from the legislation on domestic violence. Develop a comprehensive plan to combat all forms of violence against women (CEDAW). Domestic violence is endemic. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code must be enforced effectively (CESCR).

5)    The implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Public Safety Act and the National Security Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act should be repealed (HRC, SR Summary Executions), as it perpetuates impunity (HRC), and is widely used against Human Rights Defenders (SR HRD).

6)    Grave concerns are noted as regards the continuing atrocities perpetrated against Dalit women. There is a culture of impunity for violations of the rights of Dalit women (CEDAW). Concerns are further expressed for the failure to properly register and investigate complaints of violations against scheduled castes and tribes, the high rate of acquittals, the low conviction rates, and the alarming backlog of cases related to such atrocities (CRC, CEDAW and CERD).

7)    The practice of devadasi is of concern (HRC). The effective enforcement of relevant legislation and the Indian Constitution is required to end this practice (CERD).

8)    To expeditiously enact the proposed Communal Violence (Prevention, Control andRehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 with the incorporation of: sexual and gender-based crimes, including mass crimes against women perpetrated during communal violence; a comprehensive system of reparations for victims of such crimes; and gender-sensitive victim-centred procedural and evidentiary rules, and to ensure that inaction or complicity of State officials in communal violence be urgently addressed under this legislation.

9)    Grave concern is expressed about the continued existence of women and girls employed as domestic workers and their experiences of sexual abuse (CEDAW).

10) Harmful practices on women and girls, including forced marriage, dowry and dowry-related violence are of great concern (CEDAW, CRC, CERD, and HRC). Violence and social sanctions due to inter-caste relationships are also of concern (CERD).

11) The impact of mega-projects on the rights of women should be thoroughly studied, including their impact on tribal and rural communities, and safeguards should be instituted (CEDAW).

12) Continuing disparities in literacy levels are of concern, in particular the educational status of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Muslim women (CEDAW). Effective measures must be adopted to reduce the drop-out rates among Dalit girls (CERD).

13) More effort is needed to end customary practices which deprive women fromunderprivileged classes, castes and religious minorities of their rights to human dignity and to non-discrimination (HRC).

I would like to encourage the government of India to ensure specificity in addressing the multiple and intersecting inequalities and discrimination that women face. My mandate has consistently voiced the view that the failure in response and prevention measures stems from Government’s inability and/or unwillingness to acknowledge and address the core structural causes of violence against women. Linkages should be made between violence against women and other systems of oppression and discrimination prevalent within societies. A legislative and policy approach will not bring about substantive change if it is not implemented within a holistic approach that simultaneously targets the empowerment of women, social transformation, and the provision of remedies that ultimately address the continuum of discrimination and violence, and also the pervasive culture of impunity.

My comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report that I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014.”

ENDS

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm

RashiDa Manjoo, U.N. Special Rapporteur for Vaw visits Manipur, weeps #AFSPA


IMPHAL, April 29, 2013

Iboyaima Laithangbam, The Hindu

 Rashida Manjoo, U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, broke down and wept for a few minutes uncontrollably on Sunday during a consultative meeting here. It was attended by about 200 human rights defenders, families of victims and civil society organisations. The frail mother of Manorama Thangjam, who was arrested, raped and shot dead allegedly by some personnel of 17 Assam Rifles on July 11, 2004, was telling Ms. Manjoo about the tragic death of the girl. She fervently appealed to her for justice.

Ms. Manjoo arrived in Imphal on Saturday. During the consultative meeting on Sunday, 40 separate depositions were made. Speaking about her mandate and the purpose of her current visit to India, Ms. Manjoo said, “The death of a woman is not a new act but the ultimate act in the continuation of violence in the life of the woman.” In her closing remarks, she said that it was not her mandate to comment on the depositions made before her and that her report would be based on facts. She also said that her opinions and conclusions as an independent expert were hers alone and that these would not be changed or shaped by any influence whether from the government or any other organisation.

Irom Sharmila, the woman who has been on more than 12 years of fast unto death demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, also sent a hand-written terse letter to Ms. Manjoo. The letter thanked her for visiting the conflict area. A “justice lover like [her] from a remote hilly state” expected a positive outcome. “Like a viewer of fish in an aquarium, by now you must know the cause and effect of the utter lawlessness in Manipur.” She also wrote that Ms. Manjoo could not change the mindset of the people here.

She says that the government has been spending lakhs of the tax payers’ money in nasal feeding her all these years. She wonders why the people are not saying anything about the misuse of the public money in this manner. The government is doing these things to “suppress my voice of truth forcibly.”

 

#India – No country for kids” 336% hike in child rapes in 10 years #Vaw #WTFnews


336% spurt in child rape cases between 2001 and 2011

, TNN | Apr 21, 2013,

CHILDRAPE

 the heinous nature of the five-year-old child’s rape, an independent report, based on National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures, shows that India is no country for children. The report says a total of 48,338 child rape cases was recorded between 2001 and 2011, and the nation saw an increase of 336% of such cases from 2001 (2,113) to 2011 (7,112).
The report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), however, warns that this is only the “tip of the iceberg” as the large majority of child rape cases are not reported to police while children regularly become victims of other forms of sexual assault too.Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of child rape cases with 9,465 cases between 2001 and 2011, followed by Maharashtra (6,868), Uttar Pradesh (5,949) and Andhra Pradesh (3,977). Delhi, which reported 2,909 cases, ranked sixth on the list.

The report, “India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes”, which has been submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, says that many of the cases take place in juvenile homes.

“It will not be an understatement to state that juvenile justice homes, established to provide care and protection as well as reintegration, rehabilitation and restoration of the juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, have become India’s hell holes where inmates are subjected to sexual assault and exploitation, torture and ill-treatment apart from being forced to live in inhuman conditions. The girls remain the most vulnerable. It matters little whether the juvenile justice homes are situated in Delhi or in mofussil towns,” said Suhas Chakma, director, ACHR.

The 56-page report also highlights 39 cases of systematic and often repeated sexual assault on children in juvenile justice homes. Out of the 39 cases, 11 were reported from government-run juvenile justice homes, while in one case a CWC member was accused of sexual harassment during counselling sessions. The remaining 27 cases were reported from private or NGO-run juvenile justice homes.

 

Denial of abortion is “torture,” says United Nations report #Vaw #reproductiverights


Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

report recently presented to the United Nations (PDF link) says that a denial of abortion can be considered torture, in line with actual methods of female torture such as female genital mutilation.

ultrasoundThe report by Juan E. Méndez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is cited as a report “on certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Méndez, a visiting professor at American University’s law school, makes some bold statements in Section B, entitled “Reproductive rights violations.” His assertions show just how far the quest for abortion has come in the world – to a point where the torture of a baby ripped from the womb and sucked away and thrown into a medical incinerator is considered a human right that spares someone else from torture.

Section 46 of his report notes:

International and regional human rights bodies have begun to recognize that abuse and mistreatment of women seeking reproductive health services can cause tremendous and lasting physical and emotional suffering, inflicted on the basis of gender.  Examples of such violations include abusive treatment and humiliation in institutional settings;   involuntary sterilization; denial of legally available health services  such as abortion and post-abortion care; forced abortions and sterilizations; female genital mutilation[.]

To compare involuntary sterilization and female genital mutilation – permanent methods of actual torture – with the denial of a “right” to take another life is tragic. In fact, it doesn’t actually line up with the U.N.’s own statements.

The U.N.’s Committee against Torture defines torture in its Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and it actually reads more like a pro-life statement in its language:

Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person …

The U.N. then goes on to define what torture is:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Clearly the U.N.’s version of torture doesn’t seem to allow for the killing of a baby in utero, but Méndez does. Though many current exceptions to abortion laws note that “mental suffering” is justification for that exception and include it as a health reason to have an abortion, the comparison of who suffers more, a woman who carries a baby to term and gives the baby up for adoption or the one who lives forever with the reality of choosing to kill her baby, cannot adequately be evaluated by one man making a report to the United Nations.

While it would be wrong to assume that a woman carrying a child she is not prepared to raise would not be painful, it is also wrong to call it torture. Torture would be punishing her for the pregnancy or forcing her to raise a child she isn’t prepared to raise. However, the real torture is inflicted on the baby in her womb, who will be sucked out and discarded if that abortion happens.

Méndez goes on to note that:

For many rape survivors, access to a safe abortion procedure is made virtually impossible by a maze of administrative hurdles, and by official negligence and obstruction. In the landmark decision of K.N.L.H. v. Peru, the Human Rights Committee deemed the denial of a therapeutic abortion a violation of the individual’s right to be free from ill- treatment. In the case of P. and S. v. Poland, ECHR stated that “the general stigma attached to abortion and to sexual violence …, caus[ed] much distress and suffering, both physically and mentally.”

It’s unquestionable that a rape survivor who gets pregnant (notably, this is about 1% of all rape victims, so not a majority of those seeking abortions, though a valid minority) needs great care. The tragedy inflicted on her must be handled well, but the torture has come from the rapist, not from the denial of taking another life. Our torment should never allow us the right to kill another. A culture that seeks to nurture and care for victims of torture needs to put its focus on caring for the victim, giving resources, and providing many other solutions that will help heal the tragedy by giving a woman lasting comfort to the effect that she has helped to redeem a tragedy, not to create another.

Méndez is insistent that denial of abortion is torture, though, for all cases. He says in section 50:

The Committee against Torture has repeatedly expressed concerns about restrictions on access to abortion and about absolute bans on abortion as violating the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. On numerous occasions United Nations bodies have expressed concern about the denial of or conditional access to post-abortion care. often for the impermissible purposes of punishment or to elicit confession.  The Human Rights Committee explicitly stated that breaches of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights include forced abortion, as well as denial of access to safe abortions to women who have become pregnant as a result of rape and raised concerns about obstacles to abortion where it is legal.

Here forced abortions are presented as on par with denial of abortion. But the fact is, they are not. A forced abortion takes a life, and the denial of abortion saves one. A forced abortion can never be undone. A woman is subjected to the horror of having her body violated (possibly a second time, if she was a victim of rape), and knowing life has been taken from her. Denying someone a right to have a life taken is not torture; it’s a basic human right for the unborn life.

By all accounts, Méndez would consider the North Dakota legislature torturers for deciding that life begins at conception. He would consider Kansas and Arkansas as inflicting torture for passing laws that protect life. However, denying abortion isn’t torture, because the motive isn’t torment; the motive isn’t to make someone suffer, but to prevent the suffering of the baby destroyed and of the mother, who will have to live with it.

The extra tragedy in this culture of death is that we have walked forward into the past, where we justify death as a merciful thing, when truly it brings destruction. Méndez has stretched the definitions to a point that distorts them and, in the process, manages to reduce the true suffering of victims of such horrific crimes as female genital mutilation to the level of carrying a living baby to term. Protecting life can never be equated with killing it.

 

 

Your chance to influence UN Special Rapporteur’s report on access to medicines and the right to health –



Add your voice today!
We would like to encourage you to add your voices to the UN Special Rapporteur‘s report on access to medicines and the right to health. Your voices will significantly contribute to integrating women’s human rights and a feminist perspective to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health.

Background Information

Pursuant the Human Rights Council resolution 17/14, Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, is working on a study on existing challenges with regard to access to medicines in the context of the right to health, ways to overcome them and good practices, to be presented to the Council at its twenty-third session in June 2013.

Add Your Voice

In preparation for this study, the questionnaire has been prepared by the UN Special Rapporteur to seek the views of relevant stakeholders on this important subject. It is an important opportunity for women in the Asia Pacific to critically inform the Special Rapporteur on the situation of access to medicines and the right to health in the region. Your contribution in sharing issues, persistent structural challenges, promising practices and innovative strategies will be crucial in informing the report.

To add your voice, please complete the questionnaire (click here to download) and submit it electronically to srhealth@ohchr.org by Friday, 12 October 2012.

 

For more information,http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/AccessToMedicines.aspx

Consultation on access to medicines and the right to health

The Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover invites all relevant stakeholders (States, UN agencies, national human rights institutions, civil society and community groups) to participate in the consultation on access to medicines and the right to health.

The objective of this consultation is to enable interested parties to submit information and comments to the Special Rapporteur, who was mandated by the Human Rights Council (resolution 17/14, para 11) to prepare a study on existing challenges with regard to access to medicines in the context of the right to health, ways to overcome them and good practices, to be presented to the Council at its twenty-third session in June 2013.

Your information will substantively inform the forthcoming study on access to medicines and the right to health.

Please make your submissions (in English, French or Spanish) by completing the relevant questionnaire below (in Word) and emailing it to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on srhealth@ohchr.org.

You can read the overview of the Special Rapporteur’s study on access to medicines here

Thank you for your submissions.

The closing date for all Government submissions is Friday, 14 September 2012.

Questionnaires for Governments: English – French – Spanish

The closing date for all submissions from pharmaceutical companies is Friday, 28 September 2012.

Questionnaires for pharmaceutical companies: English only.

The closing date for all submissions from international civil society organizations is Friday, 12 October 2012.

Questionnaires for international civil society organizations: English only.

 

Environmental activists ‘being killed at rate of one a week’


Death toll of campaigners involved in protection of forests, rivers and land has almost doubled in three years

Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro
Tuesday June 19 2012
guardian.co.uk

The struggle for the world’s remaining natural resources is becoming more murderous, according to a new report that reveals that environmental activists were killed at the rate of one a week in 2011.

The death toll of campaigners, community leaders and journalists involved in the protection of forests, rivers and land has risen dramatically in the past three years, said Global Witness.

Brazil  the host of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development  has the worst record for danger in a decade that has seen the deaths of more than 365 defenders, said the briefing, which was released on the eve of the high-level segment of the Earth Summit.

The group called on the leaders at Rio to set up systems to monitor and counter the rising violence, which in many cases involves governments and foreign corporations, and to reduce the consumption pressures that are driving development into remote areas.

“This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio,” said Billy Kyte, campaigner at Global Witness.

The group acknowledges that their results are incomplete and skewed towards certain countries because information is fragmented and often missing. This means the toll is likely to be higher than their findings, which did not include deaths related to cross-border conflicts prompted by competition for natural resources, and fighting over gas and oil.

Brazil recorded almost half of the killings worldwide, the majority of which were connected to illegal forest clearance by loggers and farmers in the Amazon and other remote areas, often described as the “wild west”.

Among the recent high-profile cases [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/12/brazil-amazon-rainforest-activists-murder” title=”] were the murders last year of two high-profile Amazon activists, Jos? Cl?udio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo. Such are the risks that dozens of other activists and informers are now under state protection.

Unlike most countries on the list, however, the number of killings in Brazil declined slightly last year, perhaps because the government is making a greater effort to intervene in deforestation cases.

The reverse trend is apparent in the Philippines, where four activists were killed last month, prompting the Kalikasan People’s Network for Environment to talk of “bloody May”.

Though Brazil, Peru and Colombia have reported high rates of killing in the past 10 years, this is partly because they are relatively transparent about the problem thanks to strong civil society groups, media organisations and church groups  notably the Catholic Land Commission in Brazil  which can monitor such crimes. Under-reporting is thought likely in China and Central Asia, which have more closed systems, said the report. The full picture has still to emerge.

Last December, the UN special rapporteur on human rights noted: “Defenders working on land and environmental issues in connection with extractive industries and construction and development projects in the Americas ? face the highest risk of death as result of their human rights activities.”

19 June 2012 update: The number of deaths in Brazil was wrongly cited as 737  this has been corrected to 365. The headline and opening line of this story have been changed to reflect that.

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