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Dr. Seham Sergewa had been working with children traumatized by the fighting in Libya but, after being approached by mothers who reported that they had been raped, added a question about rape to the survey she was distributing to Libyans living in refugee camps. 259 women said they had been raped by militiamen loyal to Muammar Qaddafi.
From the article:
Dr. Sergewa's questionnaire was distributed to 70,000 families and drew 59,000 responses.
"We found 10,000 people with PTSD, 4,000 children suffering psychological problems and 259 raped women," she said, adding that she believes the number of rape victims is many times higher but that woman are afraid to report the attacks.
The women said they had been raped by Qaddafi's militias in numerous cities and towns: Benghazi, Tobruk, Brega, Bayda and Ajdabiya (where the initial three mothers hail from) and Saloum in the east; and Misrata in the west.
Some just said they had been raped. Some did not sign their names; some just used their initials. But some felt compelled to share the horrific details of their ordeals on the back of the questionnaire.
In March 2011, Amnesty International reported that the Egyptian military had subjected female protesters to "virginity tests." The women told Amnesty that they had been handcuffed and beaten, stripped searched and photographed by male soldiers, then restrained by female soldiers while a man in a white coat performed a virginity check. The military initially denied the accusations, but an anonymous senior general has confirmed to CNN that the virginity tests did in fact happen, saying that these women "were not like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters."
From the article:
The general went on to insist that the tests were necessary because "we didn't want (the women) to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove they weren't virgins in the first place."
What are virginity tests? They are a controversial but relatively common practice in Egypt -- so much so that hymenoplasty (hymen restoration) is often sought by Egyptian brides to protect their reputation on their wedding night. But their use as an intimidation factor by security forces seems to be a new twist.
And based on the outrage across Egypt over this abuse, it seems that the military's attempt to intimidate and smear the women protesters has backfired. Human rights groups are demanding a full investigation and several demonstrations are planned in coming days in support of the women.
Egyptian security forces have a long and troubling history of abusing and torturing citizens for political ends. They have engaged in widespread intimidation tactics since the upsurge in political violence and Islamic militancy in the early 1990s, including the detention of women, children, and the elderly. In the last two decades, the practice of arrest and detention without trial has expanded to anyone considered a threat to the military or the former regime of Hosni Mubarak, especially those advocating political reform.
Women suffer special mistreatment. For example, Esraa Abdel Fattah -- better known as the "Facebook Girl" who in 2008 mobilized thousands of young people to march for political change -- was arrested for her leadership role in those protests. Egypt's security forces tried to destroy her reputation by accusing her of being a prostitute, but her Facebook compatriots saw through that ploy and several young men even proposed marriage to her while she was detained.
A human rights commission report estimates that 10,000 women are victims of human trafficking in Mexico City, but there were only 40 investigations of the crime and three convictions in the city in 2010.
In January through March of 2010, SPLC researchers interviewed approximately 150 women who were either currently undocumented or have spent time in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. The women all have worked in the U.S. food industry in Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, New York or North Carolina. A few have now obtained legal status. Researchers also interviewed a number of advocates who work with immigrant women and farmworkers. The interviews were conducted almost exclusively in Spanish, and recordings were transcribed and translated into English.
From the report summary:
Facts About Immigrant Women Working in the U.S. Food Industry
Undocumented women are among the most vulnerable workers in our society today. They fill the lowest paying jobs in our economy and provided the backbreaking labor that helps bring food to our tables. Yet they are routinely cheated out of wages and subjected to an array of other abuses in the workplace. They are generally powerless to enforce their rights or protect themselves. The following are facts from the SPLC report Injustice on Our Plates.
There are an estimated 4.1 million undocumented women in the U.S. today. In addition, 4 million U.S.-born children — citizens by birthright — live in a household with at least one undocumented parent.
Undocumented women typically earn minimum wage or less, get no sick or vacation days, and receive no health insurance.
Legalizing undocumented workers would raise the U.S. gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over a decade. On the other hand, if the government were to deport all 10.8 million undocumented immigrants living on U.S. soil, our economy would decline by $2.6 trillion over a decade, not including the massive cost of such an endeavor.
Each year, undocumented immigrants contribute as much as $1.5 billion to the Medicare system and $7 billion to the Social Security system, even though they will never be able to collect benefits upon retirement.
There are an estimated 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers employed in the United States.4 The federal government estimates that 60 percent of farmworkers are undocumented immigrants; farmworker advocates say the percentage is far higher.
The National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) published by the Department of Labor reports that about 22% of the farmworker population is female. Thus, there are an estimated 630,000 women engaged in farm work in the United States.
The average personal income of female crop workers is $11,250, compared to $16,250 for male crop workers.
A mere 8 percent of farmworkers report being covered by employer-provided health insurance, a rate that dropped to 5 percent for farmworkers who are employed seasonally and not year-round.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, farmworkers suffer from higher rates of toxic chemical injuries and skin disorders than any other workers in the country. The children of migrant farmworkers, also, have higher rates of pesticide exposure than the general public.
Each year, there are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 cases of physician-diagnosed pesticide poisoning among U.S. farmworkers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Farmworkers are not covered by workers’ compensation laws in many states. They are not entitled to overtime pay under federal law. On smaller farms and in short harvest seasons, they are not entitled to the federal minimum wage. They are excluded from many state health and safety laws.
Because of special exemptions for agriculture, children as young as 10 may work in the fields. Also, many states exempt farmworker children from compulsory education laws.
Almost a quarter of the workers who butcher and process meat, poultry and fish are undocumented.
At least half of the 250,000 laborers in 174 of the major U.S. chicken factories are Latino and more than half are women.
Working in a chicken factory is one of the most dangerous occupations in America. Line workers endure a frigid and wet work environment, without adequate bathroom breaks, while being exposed to numerous hazards handling chicken on hangers that whiz by a rate of hundreds per minute. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not enacted any regulation to limit the speed at which poultry and meat processing lines operate — despite the appallingly high rates of injury directly attributable to the line speed. In the decade ending in 2008, 100 poultry workers died in the U.S., and 300,000 were injured, many suffering the loss of a limb or debilitating repetitive motion injuries.
The U.S. Department of Labor surveyed 51 poultry processing plants and found 100% had violated labor laws by not paying employees for all hours worked. Also, one-third took impermissible deductions from workers’ pay.
Sexual Abuse On the Job
In a recent study of 150 women of Mexican descent working in the fields in California’s Central Valley, 80% said they had experienced sexual harassment. That compares to roughly half of all women in the U.S. workforce who say they have experienced at least one incident.
While investigating the sexual harassment of California farmworker women in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that “hundreds, if not thousands, of women had to have sex with supervisors to get or keep jobs and/or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing and touching and propositions for sex by supervisors.”
A 1989 article in Florida indicates that sexual harassment against farmworker women was so pervasive that women referred to the fields as the “green motel.” Similarly, the EEOC reports that women in California refer to the fields as “fil de calzon,” or the fields of panties, because sexual harassment is so widespread.
Due to the many obstacles that confront farmworker women — including fear, shame, lack of information about their rights, lack of available resources to help them, poverty, cultural and/or social pressures, language access and, for some, their status as undocumented immigrants — few farmworker women ever come forward to seek justice for the sexual harassment and assault that they have suffered.
In interviews for this report, virtually all women reported that sexual violence in the workplace is a serious problem.
Using data from the 2009 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization, this article looks at the prevalence and nature of self-reported violence against Aboriginal women in the ten Canadian provinces.
In 2009, close to 67,000 Aboriginal women aged 15 or older living in the Canadian provinces reported being the victim of violence in the previous 12 months. Overall, the rate of self-reported violent victimization among Aboriginal women was almost three times higher than the rate of violent victimization reported by non-Aboriginal women.
Close to two-thirds (63%) of Aboriginal female victims were aged 15 to 34. This age group accounted for just under half (47%) of the female Aboriginal population (aged 15 or older) living in the ten provinces. Young females were also highly represented among non-Aboriginal victims.
The majority of violent incidents against Aboriginal women committed outside of a spousal relationship did not result in injury (84%) and did not involve the use of a weapon (89%). Comparable findings were seen among non-Aboriginal women.
Over three-quarters (76%) of non-spousal violent incidents involving Aboriginal women were not reported to the police, a proportion similar to that for non-Aboriginal women (70%).
Among victims of spousal violence, close to six in ten Aboriginal women reported being injured during the 5 years preceding the survey, compared to four in ten non-Aboriginal women (59% versus 41%).
Similar to non-Aboriginal women, about 4 in 10 Aboriginal women (42%) stated that they were very satisfied with their personal safety from crime.
In 2005 I traveled to Afghanistan to write a newspaper story about women entrepreneurs, women who turned to business to create jobs and hope for their families. I wanted to find a story that no one was writing about, a story that mattered. That story was Kamila Sidiqi.
Los Angeles Times: Despite social taboos and other hurdles, a group of twenty nine women become the first to graduate from an officer-candidate program mentored by U.S. troops. Officials hope to eventually go from a few hundred women to 30,000 female soldiers.
"The drive to bring Afghan security forces up to a reasonable fighting standard has taken on added urgency; their role is considered central to the U.S. exit strategy. Western officials hope that in three years, Afghan soldiers and police officers will assume the lead role in safeguarding the country.
For that, women are badly needed, not only for culturally sensitive tasks such as entering homes and dealing directly with the women present, or carrying out body searches on other women. They also are expected to fill out the ranks as the armed forces embark on a concerted expansion.
Women account for a tiny fraction of both the police and army, even after almost a decade of intensive nurturing by U.S. and other foreign forces. Only a few hundred women serve in the army. But the goal that women eventually will make up 10% of a force that is slated to grow to nearly 300,000. Many of the women who have joined the security forces, particularly those from rural areas, face intense opposition from family, community elders and sometimes from the men they serve alongside.
A new facility is being constructed for them at the main Kabul Military Training Center, and the next women's officer-candidate class is expected to be five times the size of this one. As so often happens in Afghanistan, what appears to be an advance for women is simply a matter of regaining rights once freely enjoyed. Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon for women to hold top ranks in the Afghan military. But during the ferocious civil war of the early 1990s, followed by the five-year reign of the Taliban movement, women could barely leave home, let alone hold positions of authority outside it."
National Women's Law Center: The poverty rate for women has risen to almost 14%, according to a study of 2009 Census data conduceted by the National Women's Law Center. Poverty rates were much higher for women of color and single mothers. On the upside, the poverty rate did decline for older Americans, including elderly women living alone. Analysis also reveals gaps in health care coverage and wages between men and women. The organization is pressing Congress to make changes to assist the vulnerable population of women living in poverty.
"The poverty rate for women rose to 13.9 percent last year, the highest rate in 15 years, according to a National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) analysis of 2009 Census data released today. Over 16.4 million women were living in poverty, including nearly 7 million women in extreme poverty, with incomes below half of the federal poverty line. Poverty among men also rose in 2009, to 10.5 percent from 9.6 percent in 2008, but remained substantially lower than among women.
For some women, the analysis reveals an even bleaker picture. Poverty rates were substantially higher for women of color, approaching one in four among African-American women (24.6 percent compared to 23.3 percent in 2008); Hispanic women experienced a similar increase from 22.3 percent in 2008 to 23.8 percent last year. Nearly four in ten single mothers (38.5 percent) lived in poverty in 2009, up from 37.2 percent in 2008. More than 15.4 million children lived in poverty last year, a spike of nearly 1.4 million. Over half of poor children lived with single mothers in 2009.
'When over 16 million women are struggling to pull themselves and their families out of poverty, it’s insulting for Congress to consider spending hundreds of billions of dollars to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans,' said NWLC Co-President Nancy Duff Campbell. 'Congress should focus on measures to create jobs and help hard-pressed families, not millionaires.'
In addition, the wage gap between median earnings for men and women remained as wide as in 2008. Women working full-time, year-round in 2009 were paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. 'The wage gap makes it more difficult for families relying on women’s wages to achieve and maintain economic security,' said NWLC Co-President, Marcia D. Greenberger. 'The Senate must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in the current session to close the wage gap and secure fair pay for women.'
For the first time in 2010, the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report will assess efforts made by governments and others within the United States to address trafficking. Because the Center has led the way to assist state legislators in the 50 states to develop effective laws and policies, we believe that our comments to the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Office will be invaluable to this assessment.