Women in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is an island in the South Pacific located just north of Australia, with a population of around 7 million. It is a developing country, ranking 156 out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index. 

Papua New Guinea suffers—like most developing nations—from high levels of poverty and corruption within the government due to vast oil and gas reserves.

But Papua New Guinea doesn’t simply have to deal with the normal problems of a developing country. Sadly, in recent years this island nation has become known for rampant and increasing violence against women.

It has been reported that 68 percent of PNG women suffer from violence. What is worse is that one in three women have reportedly been raped. As with most rape statistics, that number is often low, as many women who have been raped do not report it.

Violence against women in Papua New Guinea is not always of a sexual nature. Women are often accused of sorcery, and violence is used as retribution. In February 2013, there was a highly publicized case of a 20-year old woman accused of sorcery. As punishment, she was burned alive. 

Domestic violence seems to be the most prevalent form. It is often the result of the male’s desire to assert authority over his female partner because he may perceive that she is acting insubordinate or lazy. 

Amnesty International states that this type of violence “includes rape, being burnt with hot irons, broken bones and fractures, kicking and punching and cutting with bush knives.”

There have been some attempts by the government to deal with this issue. In April of last year, the 1971 Sorcery Act, which criminalized sorcery, was repealed.

In September 2013, the parliament in PNG passed the Family Protection Bill, which made domestic violence illegal. 

However, many women still do not know of the existence of this law, and implementation has been difficult and not very far reaching. The same is true of the sorcery law, which is in the appeals process and does not change the pervasive cultural view of the existence of sorcery.

Women’s groups from within and outside PNG continue to try and spread awareness of this issue and work on programs that attempt to eradicate these grave human rights violations.

Statistics and research on this subject are hard to find though. Women’s rights groups have a difficult time funding further research because no raw data exists. Papua New Guinea is low on the international radar.

Awareness and further research on this issue is needed in order to help the women of Papua New Guinea escape this terrible cycle of violence.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: Child Fund, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Islands Business, Human Development Report, United Nations,
Photo: ABCNews

pollution in nigeria
Amnesty International has recently released a report claiming that United Nations Environmental Programme’s 2011 recommendations for pollution cleanup in the Ogoniland region of Nigeria have been ignored.

In 2011, UNEP found that pollution in Nigeria was caused by government negligence and, specifically, by the oil company Shell. UNEP was commissioned by Shell to review the area in an attempt to convince the locals to allow for their return.

Shell left the Ogoniland in 1993 amid a wave of protests. The company has been trying to reconcile with the locals ever since.

However, the UNEP report did not produce findings favorable to Shell, as it stated that people in Ogoniland have “been living with chronic pollution all their lives.”

For example, drinking water was found to have high levels of the known carcinogen benzene, and the amount was 900 hundred times higher than what the World Health Organization considers safe.

The UNEP concluded that it would take 25-30 years to clean up the oil pollution left behind by Shell.

Three years later, yet another watchdog organization is saying that pollution is still a serious problem in Ogoniland.

Amnesty international led a joint report with Friends of The Earth Europe, Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Environmental Rights Action and Platform to say that “in the three years since UNEP’s study was published, the government of Nigeria and Shell have taken almost no meaningful action to implement its recommendations.”

Recommended measures like emergency water supplies were said to be “erratic” by the locals. Water was infrequent and often smelled bad.

Shell has been slow to decommission much of the equipment they left behind in 1993. This equipment is subject to corrosions, which contributes to further pollution.

There are also continuing oil spills, but Shell blames the government. Shell believes the spills occur because gangs break the pipelines to steal the crude oil, and it is the governments responsibility to deal with this.

Amnesty International and other groups involved in the joint report call for Shell to stop making excuses and take responsibility for the devastation they have brought upon Ogoniland and its people. This situation is far worse than what a brief summary can explain. To see the full report, click here.

Eleni Marino

Sources: Amnesty International, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

my body my rights
Amnesty International launched the “My Body, My Rights” campaign to address the sexual and reproductive rights that every person should be granted. It stresses the need for all individuals to have the power to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives. It goes further to state that every government ought to safe guard these rights so everyone can live without fear of discrimination.

Part of the campaign lists the basic rights a person should have. The list includes:

· Make decisions about your own health
· Have access to information about health services
· Decide if and when you want children
· Choose if and when you want to marry
· Access to family planning (which includes contraception and legal abortions if justifiable)
· Live free from rape and violence

The security of sexual and reproductive rights is a fundamental problem in today’s world. According to Amnesty International, many people lack access to accurate information, sexual education and health services that they need in order to live a healthy life. For example, over 3,000 people each day are infected with HIV but of the 3,000, only 34 percent can answer basic questions about the disease and how to prevent it.

Those particularly affected by the failure to uphold sexual and reproductive rights are young women and girls. Specifically, females from poor and marginalized families often times fall victim to rights abuses. They are denied access to the health information and services they need because of discrimination. This reality can be seen in the fact that the leading cause of death in developing countries for girls 15 to 19 years old is pregnancy complications.

To demonstrate the pervasiveness of this issue, Amnesty International presents a series of little known but alarming realities. For example, more than 60 percent of teens in four sub-Saharan African countries do not know how to prevent pregnancy. Additionally, in 76 countries, sexual actions between people of the same sex are considered illegal. The problem is not limited to developing countries, as evidenced by the fact that about 83 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 in the United State have experienced sexual harassment.

The campaign includes striking photos of body paintings done by Tokyo-based artist Hirkaru Cho. The 3-D paintings are meant to capture Amnesty International’s messages of violence against women, marriage equality and right to health services, including contraception.

One particularly impactful photo is of a person’s face broken in two and is meant to depict everyone’s right to: choose a partner and to be open about sexual orientation and gender identity. Another image shows a stack of books on a man’s back which is meant to represent everyone’s right to know and learn about one’s body, sexual health and relationships.

Amnesty International calls for an end to all policies, social norms and other barriers that prevent people from accessing the services and information they need to lead a healthy life. It asks people to take action by petitioning to global leaders and UN representatives to better address the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: Amnesty International, Huffington Post, The Independent
Photo: Femsource

June 14 marked the kickoff of the 2014 World Cup hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a match between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil won 3-1, but amid the celebrations, angry Brazilians took to the streets to protest the World Cup.

Many Brazilians are angry that their government has decided to spend $11 billion on the soccer tournament rather than use the money to benefit their own people. These critics feel that the money should have gone to projects like low-income housing, hospitals, and schools.

Before the Brazil/Croatia match, a group of about 100 people took to the streets about seven miles away from the stadium where they threw rocks and started fires in an attempt to block people from reaching the game. The protest resulted in police using tear gas, at least one arrest, and spectators had to walk through rubble and debris to reach the stadium. The police have been accused of using excessive force by Amnesty International, who labeled the protesters as peaceful. Though the protests usually start out as peaceful demonstrations containing a serious message, more often than not a protestor will ignite havoc by throwing a rock or attacking police.

After the game, a group of about 600 people marched through the city carrying signs that read “FIFA go home” and “World Cup Corruption.” This protest is the most recent in a long string of anti-government protests that have taken place in multiple cities throughout Brazil over the past year.

Near the stadium a makeshift town of plastic tents known as the “People’s Cup” lays host to more than 3,000 families, who claim that the cost of rent has risen drastically since the beginning of the stadium-building process. With rent now far exceeding the minimum wage of $360 a month, many Brazilians have been forced out of their homes and into these temporary neighborhoods, reminiscent of the depression’s Hoovervilles.

Many Brazilians who are not directly involved with the protests still show sympathy for the cause and have begun rebelling in their own way. Such rebellions include not supporting their home country in the tournament, and instead rooting for other countries such as Argentina and England. A presidential election is set to take place in Brazil shortly after the World Cup, so there is hope among the people that the government will change radically after the people have cast their ballots.

In addition to the people protesting outside the stadium, there have been strikes led by teachers, police officers and subway workers, as well as marches organized by the Homeless Workers Movement.

— Taylor Lovett
Sources: CNN, The Guardian
Photo: Forbes

central african republic
Although a new United Nations (U.N.) report claims it is too early for the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic to be considered an ethnic cleansing or genocide, the international community needs to act soon before this violent conflict develops into something more serious.

This report seems to clash with a previous U.N. human rights report that claimed ethnic cleansing transpired in the months of fighting between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic.

Since the fighting began in December, the death toll has reached into the thousands and hordes of Muslims have left the country in fear. Children have been beheaded and entire villages have been burned to the ground. Unfortunately, the Central African Republic, one of the world’s most poverty-stricken countries, has been abandoned by its seemingly powerless transitional government.

The new U.N. report also denounces Chad and Sudan for contributing to the violence.

Muslim rebel forces, known as Seleka, have been blamed for atrocities against civilians during their 10-month rule. Violence by Christians ensued after the rule ended in January.

The report states, “The fact that there is an anti-Muslim propaganda from certain non-Muslim quarters does not mean that genocide is being planned or that there is any conspiracy to commit genocide or even a specific intent to commit genocide.”

Amnesty International objected to this statement: “I would say that … the report is ignoring the fact that the massive displacement of the Muslim population in the Central African Republic is not simply a consequence of the violence there, but its goal,” senior crisis response adviser Joanne Mariner states. Christian militia fighters “have made no secret of their intent to kill or forcibly expel all Muslims from the areas under their control.”

The report warns that if the international community does not react quickly, the situation will worsen and could potentially lead to genocide and ethnic cleansing.

There is a significant inadequacy of peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and the 2,000 French troops and 5,800 African Union peacekeepers lack the ability to subdue the violence.

If the international community wants to prevent this tragedy from worsening, protection on the ground needs to be enhanced. Forces would have to defend sites and shield displaced persons more diligently. A.U. and French forces would need to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians.

The U.N. Security Council aims to deploy 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers to the Central African Republic. But this action will not happen until Sept. 15, 2014, and the troops will only be on the ground through April 2015. Additional African countries would have to join the A.U. force, and the U.S. and E.U. countries would also have to increase their involvement.

The transitional government is not adequate and it needs immediate support from donors and international experts to restore it. Only 31 percent of the U.N.’s appeal for humanitarian aid has been matched. It is essential for donors to pay their outstanding pledges as the conflict worsens.

 — Colleen Moore

Sources: ABC News, Time
Photo: Freestock