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In a vote of 23 to 19, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to request the High Commissioner to commission a study to be finalised by December 2011 to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law could be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also decided to convene a panel discussion during the nineteenth session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the facts contained in the study commissioned by the High Commissioner.
From the news release:
Regarding human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, the Council requested the High Commissioner to commission a study to be finalised by December 2011 to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law could be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also decided to convene a panel discussion during the nineteenth session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the facts contained in the study commissioned by the High Commissioner.
Action on Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In a resolution (A/HRC/17/L.9/Rev.1) regarding human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 19 against, and 3 abstentions, the Council requests the High Commissioner to commission a study to be finalised by December 2011 to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity; decides to convene a panel discussion during the nineteenth session of the Human Rights Council, informed by the facts contained in the study commissioned by the High Commissioner and to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity; and decides also that the panel will also discuss the appropriate follow-up to the recommendations of the study commissioned by the High Commissioner.
The result of the vote was as follows:
In favour (23): Argentina; Belgium; Brazil; Chile; Cuba; Ecuador; France; Guatemala; Hungary; Japan; Mauritius; Mexico; Norway; Poland; Republic of Korea; Slovakia; Spain; Switzerland; Thailand; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States and Uruguay.
Against (19): Angola; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Cameroon; Djibouti; Gabon; Ghana; Jordan; Malaysia; Maldives; Mauritania; Nigeria; Pakistan; Qatar; Republic of Moldova; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Senegal and Uganda.
Abstentions (3): Burkina Faso; China and Zambia.
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
A TrustLaw expert poll identifies Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia as the world's most dangerous countries in which to be female in 2011. The poll by TrustLaw Women, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s recently launched women’s rights news and information service, asked 213 gender experts from five continents a number of key questions to help establish the “most dangerous countries for women”. Poll respondents included aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists. All were chosen for their expertise in gender issues.
Afghanistan emerged as the most dangerous country for women overall and worst in three of the six risk categories: health, non-sexual violence and lack of access to economic resources.
Respondents cited sky-high maternal mortality rates, limited access to doctors and a near total lack of economic rights. Afghan women have a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth, according to UNICEF.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), still reeling from a 1998-2003 war and accompanying humanitarian disaster that killed 5.4 million people, came second mainly due to staggering levels of sexual violence in the lawless east.
More than 400,000 women are raped in the country each year, according to a recent study by U.S. researchers. The United Nations has called Congo the rape capital of the world.
"Statistics from DRC are very revealing on this: ongoing war, use of rape as a weapon, recruitment of females as soldiers who are also used as sex slaves," said Clementina Cantoni, a Pakistan-based aid worker with ECHO, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department.
"The fact that the government is corrupt and that female rights are very low on the agenda means that there is little or no recourse to justice."
Rights activists say militia groups and soldiers target all ages, including girls as young as three and elderly women. They are gang-raped, raped with bayonets and have guns shot into their vaginas.
Pakistan ranked third largely on the basis of cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women. These include acid attacks, child and forced marriage and punishment or retribution by stoning or other physical abuse.
"Pakistan has some of the highest rates of dowry murder, so-called honour killings and early marriage," said Divya Bajpai, reproductive health advisor at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
Some 1,000 women and girls die in honour killings annually, according to Pakistan's Human Rights Commission.
India ranked fourth primarily due to female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking.
In 2009, India's then-Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta estimated that 100 million people, mostly women and girls, were involved in trafficking in India that year.
"The practice is common but lucrative so it goes untouched by government and police," said Cristi Hegranes, founder of the Global Press institute, which trains women in developing countries to be journalists.
India's Central Bureau of Investigation estimated that in 2009 about 90 percent of trafficking took place within the country and that there were some 3 million prostitutes, of which about 40 percent were children.
In addition to sex slavery, other forms of trafficking include forced labour and forced marriage, according to a U.S. State Department report on trafficking in 2010. The report also found slow progress in criminal prosecutions of traffickers.
Up to 50 million girls are thought to be "missing" over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide, the U.N. Population Fund says.
Some experts said the world's largest democracy was relatively forthcoming about describing its problems, possibly casting it in a darker light than if other countries were equally transparent about trafficking.
Somalia ranked fifth due to a catalogue of dangers including high maternal mortality, rape and female genital mutilation, along with limited access to education, healthcare and economic
"I'm completely surprised because I thought Somalia would be first on the list, not fifth," Somali women's minister Maryan Qasim told TrustLaw.
"The most dangerous thing a woman in Somalia can do is to become pregnant. When a woman becomes pregnant her life is 50-50 because there is no antenatal care at all. There are no hospitals, no healthcare, no nothing.
"Add to that the rape cases that happen on a daily basis, the female genital mutilation that is being done to every single girl in Somalia. Add to that the famine and the drought. Add to that the fighting (which means) you can die any minute, any day."
Poll respondents included aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists.
According to a report by the Women's Justice Taskforce in the UK, effective community sentences that command the confidence of the courts, rather than incarceration, should cut women’s offending, reduce the women’s prison population and save the public purse.
Over the past 15 years the women’s prison population has risen from 1,800 to over 4,000 today – an increase of 114%. Most women serve short sentences for non-violent crime and for those serving sentences of less than 12 months, almost two thirds are re-convicted within a year of release. The average cost of a women’s prison place is £56,415 a year. By contrast, an intensive community order costs in the region of £10,000 - £15,000.
The Taskforce was established in 2010 by the Prison Reform Trust, supported by the Bromley Trust, to take a fresh look at an old problem this time focussing on the economics, structure and accountability of women’s justice. Chaired by Fiona Cannon OBE, Diversity and Inclusion Director at Lloyds Banking Group, its membership includes senior representatives from the Magistrates’ Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers, probation, prisons, women’s centres, politics, the media and former offenders. The report, Reforming Women’s Justice, includes an economic analysis by Dr James Robertson, former chief economist at the National Audit Office.
The report makes clear that the current economic climate and the government’s proposed overhaul of the justice system provide a timely opportunity to look again at how women’s justice is delivered. The government's programme to reduce unnecessary imprisonment should be accelerated, and the money saved from the women’s prison estate reinvested to support effective services for female offenders in the community. Many of the solutions to women’s offending lie outside of the justice system in health, housing, and treatment for drug addiction and mental health needs. This demands a coordinated cross-departmental approach. The report calls for greater ministerial accountability and a cross-government strategy for women’s justice with accountability built into relevant roles within government departments and local authorities.
The Taskforce says lessons can be learnt from reform of the youth justice system where, in contrast to women, there has been a measurable reduction in the numbers of children in prison, the numbers of young people entering the justice system for the first time, and in youth offending. It suggests that proposals in the Ministry of Justice’s green paper, Breaking the Cycle, to devolve youth custody budgets to local authorities should be extended to women’s custodial provision.
Dr Robertson’s economic analysis draws on evidence that investing in appropriate alternatives to custody for women could reduce intergenerational offending and is more cost effective than prison in the long term. Women released from custody having served a sentence of less than 12 months are more likely to reoffend than those who received a community order; in 2008 the difference in proven reoffending rates was 8.3%. An estimated 17,700 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment and only 5% of them remain in their own home whilst their mother is in custody. According to Dr Robertson, research studies to date support the likelihood of “an overall net advantage for society from community based intervention for women offenders, compared to custodial sentences.”
However, while women’s prisons are funded centrally through the National Offender Management Service, women’s centres rely on a wide range of funding sources to enable them to supervise court orders and deliver services for vulnerable women in their area. The Taskforce heard evidence from the manager of one centre that was reliant on 37 different funding streams, with a mixture of statutory and non-statutory sources, all with different methods of evaluation and reporting arrangements.
On 11 May 2011 the Ministry of Justice announced a one off joint funding package of £3.2m between the National Offender Management Service and the Corston Independent Funders’ Coalition to keep women centres open for 2011/12. The report states: “Whilst this is undoubtably positive news, the current situation of regular funding crises and last minute rescues is counterproductive and should be resolved ... What is currently unclear is the criteria by which projects will be assessed, and the levels of funding that will be available.”
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.
About 6.6 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries at the end of 2010, a nearly 22-fold increase since 2001, according to a new report AIDS at 30: Nations at the crossroads, released today by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
A record 1.4 million people started lifesaving treatment in 2010—more than any year before. According to the report, at least 420 000 children were receiving antiretroviral therapy at the end of 2010, a more than 50% increase since 2008, when 275 000 children were on treatment.
According to the report, the global rate of new HIV infections declined by nearly 25% between 2001 and 2009. In India, the rate of new HIV infections fell by more than 50% and in South Africa by more than 35%; both countries have the largest number of people living with HIV on their continents.
The report found that in the third decade of the epidemic, people were starting to adopt safer sexual behaviors, reflecting the impact of HIV prevention and awareness efforts. However, there are still important gaps. Young men are more likely to be informed about HIV prevention than young women. Recent Demographic Health Surveys found that an estimated 74% of young men know that condoms are effective in preventing HIV infection, compared to just 49% of young women.
In recent years, there has been significant progress in preventing new HIV infections among children as increasing numbers of pregnant women living with HIV have gained access to antiretroviral prophylaxis during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. The number of children newly infected with HIV in 2009 was 26% lower than in 2001.
According to the latest estimates from UNAIDS, 34 million [30.9 million–36.9 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2010 and nearly 30 million [25 million–33 million] have died from AIDS-related causes since AIDS was first reported 30 years ago.
Despite expanded access to antiretroviral therapy, a major treatment gap remains. At the end of 2010, 9 million people who were eligible for treatment did not have access. Treatment access for children is lower than for adults—only 28% of eligible children were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2009, compared to 36% coverage for people of all ages.
While the rate of new HIV infections has declined globally, the total number of HIV infections remains high, at about 7000 per day. The global reduction in the rate of new HIV infections hides regional variations. According to the report, above-average declines in new HIV infections were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa and in South-East Asia, while Latin America and the Caribbean experienced more modest reductions of less than 25%. There has been an increase in the rate of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East and North Africa.
In virtually all countries, HIV prevalence among populations at increased risk of HIV infection—men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers and their clients, and transgender people—is higher than among other populations. Access to HIV prevention and treatment for populations at higher risk of infection is generally lower due to punitive and discriminatory laws, and stigma and discrimination. As of April 2011, 79 countries, territories and areas criminalize consensual same-sex relations; 116 countries, territories and areas criminalize some aspect of sex work; and 32 countries have laws that allow for the death penalty for drug-related offences.
According to the report, gender inequalities remain a major barrier to effective HIV responses. HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age, and more than a quarter (26%) of all new global HIV infections are among young women aged 15-24.
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
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.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that more than 400,000 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year, an average of 1,100 women a day. Around 60 percent of victims were forced to have sex by their husbands or partners. The study used nationwide data collected by the government between 2006 and 2007.
From the press release:
A new study based on examination of government-collected and nationally representative data from the Democratic Republic of Congo shows that levels of rape and sexual violence against women in the country are 26 times higher than official United Nations estimates. The study, spearheaded by The Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research, Graduate Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, is published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Tia M. Palermo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine, Graduate Program in Public Health, and colleagues, found in their analysis that more than 400,000 women ages 15 to 49 in the DRC had experienced rape in a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007. That is the equivalent to 1,152 women raped every day, 48 raped every hour, or four women raped every five minutes.
A survey by the Commonwealth Fund shows that women will benefit from more access to health care once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014.
From the Overview:
Women have greater health care needs than men, and generally play larger roles in the health care of family members. Rising health care costs combined with sluggish income growth has contributed to losses in health insurance among women and rising rates of problems gaining necessary health care and paying medical bills. Women who seek coverage in the individual insurance market face additional hurdles—few plans offer maternity coverage and, in most states, insurance carriers charge higher premium rates to young women than men of the same age. The Affordable Care Act is bringing change for women through required free coverage of preventive care services, small business tax credits, new affordable coverage options, and insurance market reforms, including bans on gender rating. When the law is fully implemented in 2014, nearly all the 27 million working-age women who went without health insurance in 2010 will gain affordable and comprehensive benefits. Data for this study were drawn from the Commonwealth Fund 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from July 14 through November 30, 2010. The survey consisted of 25-minute telephone interviews in either English or Spanish with a random, national sample of 4,005 adults, age 19 and older, living in the continental United States.
This report looks at the impacts of cash transfers (CTs) on gender dynamics both within households and communities. This report was commissioned because of the agencies’ concerns that while CTs, now being used in many different emergency contexts, are expected to benefit women and contribute towards their empowerment there was little evidence being collected to see whether this was in fact happening.
From the Executive Summary:
Power relations and gender roles within households and the community are culturally and geographically specific. The impact of the CTs on women depended very much on the setting. Overall, there were many positive benefits for women, including increased self esteem and confidence to handle money and an acceptance by men that women are capable of playing such a role. On the whole, intra-household relations improved as a result of the CTs targeting women and there were indications that some of these improvements may last beyond the length of the programme.
However, there were also clear challenges. Both the community implications of how the CTs were implemented and the effect of the CTs on traditional coping strategies were a significant worry for some beneficiaries. Community relations did not necessarily improve, and in some cases worsened, as a result of the programmes. The CTs also tended to reinforce rather than challenge women’s traditional household and social roles. CTs were perceived as helping women to simply perform their roles ‘better’. In this context, women are expected to carry the burden of food provision and to manage the payments responsibly, often in the face of multiple pressures and claims. Likewise male roles were imbued with negative stereotypes, which will have damaging effects on the potential for long-term changes in gender relations. Complex social dynamics, such as polygamy, was not accounted for and the distribution of food within households remained highly gendered and hierarchical.