The World’s Largest Slum
Located in the northwest periphery of Karachi, Pakistan lies the world’s largest slum, Orangi Town. This slum is home to over 2.4 million people. Established almost 18 years ago, it stands as the largest town in Karachi. While it does not have a notorious reputation for poverty like many other slums across the world, the people in Orangi Town do have to deal with a lack of basic amenities and services. These are five important facts about Orangi Town, the world’s largest slum.

5 Facts About Orangi Town: The World’s Largest Slum

  1. The 12th Largest Megacity: In 2016, the U.N. named Karachi the 12th largest megacity with a projected population of 18.7 million people by 2025. Orangi Town also is home to a very diverse group of ethnicities including the Seraikis, Sindhis, Bohras, Ismailis, Punjabis, Mahajirs, Pakhtuns and Kashmiris. Despite the variety in ethnicity, Orangi Town is 99 percent Muslim, which implicates a lack of religious diversity.
  2. Water Scarcity: Water scarcity is one of the most potent problems in Orangi Town. The town relies heavily on the Hub Dam, which is unreliable at providing sufficient water. As a consequence, Karachi officials must look at alternate ways of obtaining safe drinking water. Experts found that the other channels have many pathogens in them. Water quality is the culprit of 40 percent of deaths in Pakistan and a prominent cause of child mortality, with 60 percent dying from diarrheal diseases.
  3. The Orangi Pilot Project: In 1980, Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan founded the Orangi Pilot Project with the goal of alleviating the effects of poverty across the region. Dr. Khan emphasized the need to create affordable sanitation, health, housing and finance facilities. Currently, there are three institutions operating under the Orangi Pilot Project; the OPP Research and Training Institute, which manages sanitation and housing; the Orangi Charitable Trust, which specializes in finances; and the Karachi Health and Social Development Association, which manages health programs. Through research and promotion of education for citizens on pertinent topics, the Orangi Pilot Project became one of the most successful nongovernmental organization projects to date.
  4. Housing and Overcrowding: Similar to many slums in the world, Orangi Town has a housing crisis with the demand for homes three times higher than the supply. Roughly eight to 10 people share a two-bedroom household in many parts of Orangi Town. The suboptimal living conditions that overcrowding causes, combined with the lack of services such as clean water, led to the spread of harmful diseases such as cholera and dengue fever.
  5. Gang Violence: Orangi Town suffers from the effects of crime and violence all too common in poverty-ridden areas. Many instances of gang violence are a product of the various ethnicities that reside in Orangi Town. This led to turf conflict where groups mark their land, usually based trade and markets, and employ violent tactics toward those that encroach on their land. Furthermore, studies show that women are more susceptible to petty crimes and sexual harassment due to the socioeconomic standards in Orangi Town. From 2011 to 2014, 77 percent of women in Orangi Town were victims of rape.

While the situation may seem hopeless due to the plethora of issues including an inefficient government and ethnic tension, Orangi Town is taking steps in the right direction to help eradicate the effects of poverty. Sanitation continues to be a core problem in the region, but the efforts of the OPP and individual citizenry are significant. In 2016, Saleem Khan, a resident of Orangi Town, developed a plan to create a new sewer system and pipeline to eliminate wastewater and halt the spread of detrimental diseases on his street. The growth of microfinance and work centers for women helped strengthen the economy and facilitate cooperation, as opposed to conflict, across the people in Orangi Town. It is imperative that the government reforms the anarchical nature of Orangi Town and takes initiative to abate the widespread crises. Funding infrastructure projects, creating schools and building homes will go a long way to improve the lives of millions in Orangi Town, the world’s largest slum.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Wikipedia

Rape Epidemic in India
The rape epidemic in India garnered international attention in 2012, when several men brutally raped and beat a woman, Nirbhaya, on a bus. The event immediately spread across the globe and sparked massive international outrage. This pushed the government to promise new laws. However, it did not make any tangible changes. A minor positive change was a social shift resulting in more women finding the strength to report cases of sexual assault. Perhaps the most gruesome fact from this brutal event is the regularity of gang-rape in India. Nirbhaya’s case, while one of the most horrifying stories of rape, is only one among thousands.

Solutions in Bangladesh

There is a precedent for solutions to these types of problems. One solution is for the law to change in a way that punishes those who physically or sexually abuse women. Bangladesh has effectively lowered its acids attacks on women to just 75 in 2014 whereas it was previously 492 cases in 2002. It accomplished this by mandating the death penalty as the crime for acid attacks. Since Bangladeshi men now fear the severe ramifications for an acid attack, they refrain from hurting women with this method. However, if Bangladesh and India enacted rigorous laws for all types of abuse on women, then at the very least, those particular men would not be able to abuse women at as drastic of a level as they are currently.

Snehalaya Provides Aid to Abused Women and Children

Women who suffer abuse can still have hope since many NGOs are actively working to support the victims and help them get back their dignity and return to a normal life. One example is Snehalaya, which provides a safe space for women and children who are suffering abuse, and helps over 15,000 people per year. Snehalaya strives to use “grassroots outreach and education” to lower the amount of domestic abuse and violence that occurs in India. Women who are victims of sexual abuse can count on Snehalaya to provide the proper support group to push them towards a normal life, which is even more important because sometimes a woman’s parents may not accept her after she has become a victim due to social stigma.

Another solution for the rape epidemic in India is women’s empowerment through properly educating women, which is what Sayfty strives to do. It strives to provide women the tools to be safe from acts of sexual violence and to teach women how to defend themselves. While the first solution provides a legal means for female empowerment and the second provides a way to help them after they become victims, Sayfty is essential because it empowers women to stand up for themselves while suffering abuse or at least provides them with knowledge of how to get away from predators and get help.

The efforts of millions of women who are finding the bravery to call out abusers are defeating the rape epidemic in India. The laws in India are slowly changing to match modern social attitudes. NGOs are empowering women to lead their own fight. Though change is slow, it is inevitable, and more women are getting the justice they deserve every day.

Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

 


Manisha Mohan, a research scientist at MIT Lab, has developed a sticker-like wearable sensor that can detect sexual assault in real time and quickly alert nearby people, as well as send distress signals to the victim’s family and friends. This sensor to detect and prevent rape sticks to clothing just like a sticker would, and can be trained to learn the difference between when a person is undressing themselves and when they are being forcefully disrobed.

If the device detects forceful disrobing, it sends a message to the wearer’s smartphone to confirm if the act was consensual. If the wearer does not respond in 30 seconds, the phone emits a loud noise to alert nearby people. This alarm can only be stopped by the user with a predefined password used within 20 seconds. If the alarm is not stopped, the app automatically sends distress signals to family and friends, along with the victim’s location.

The sensor learns from the environment and is trained to differentiate between normal undressing and forceful disrobing, which allows it to detect signs of an assault even when the victim is unconscious or not in a position to fight against the attacker. This can act as a life-saver, particularly for victims that are minors, bed-ridden patients or intoxicated people. This sensor to detect and prevent rape works in two modes. In passive mode, the wearer is assumed to be conscious and can set off distress calls on their own by touching a button in case of an impending danger or threat. In active mode, the sensor tries to detect signals from the external environment.

From heart rate monitors to fitness watches, wearable technology is becoming a norm in today’s society. In a world where an estimated 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence, Mohan’s sensor to detect and prevent rape comes as an immediate and effective solution. In Mohan’s own words, “We don’t need bodyguards, I think we should have the ability to protect ourselves.”

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly signed a Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. More than 20 years later, one in three women still suffer from physical or sexual violence. It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence some point in their lives. However, some national studies show this number to be as high as 70 percent. In 2012, a study conducted in New Delhi, India found that 92 percent of women reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces. Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims detected globally and women and girls together account for about 70 percent, with girls representing two out of three child trafficking victims.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

Article 308The infamous Article 308 – a bill allowing rapists to forgo punishment by marrying their victims – was repealed by the lower house of parliament in Jordan’s government in late July. This comes after years of activists’ attempting to fight it.

Article 308 was intended to be a precautionary measure to protect womens’ honor. As Jane Arraf of NPR reported, “According to tribal and social customs in a lot of Jordan, if a girl or a woman is raped, it reflects on the victim and harms her family’s honor. Forcing her to marry the rapist is used as a solution. Some of the lawmakers opposed to changing the law said being married would erase the stigma of rape.”

According to the Ministry of Justice in Jordan, 159 rapists avoided prison sentences because of Article 308 between 2010 and 2013. After 2013, the Ministry of Justice stopped publicly providing that information because of the controversy it created. Because of recommendations by the royal judiciary committee, Jordan’s Cabinet officially rescinded it in April of 2017.

Asma Khader, a lawyer who has worked on cases regarding Article 308, has worked to repeal the law for 35 years. She is the executive director to Sisterhood Is Global Institute and is a top campaigner for women’s rights. Khader and other activists believe that the repeal of Article 308 will hopefully bring a change in the mindset of shaming and blaming the victim in cases of rape.

Ghada Saba, a women’s activist, noted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that “Our problem in all of these things, whether it’s human rights or women’s rights, is ignorance,” she said. “People … see women as a container that holds their children, nothing beyond that.”

Although the upper house still has yet to repeal the law, many believe that members will be largely in favor of it. Jordan is one of many countries – including Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia – that has repealed some version of this law in the past. Lebanon is currently working to repeal one of its variants, Article 522.

Thankfully, with the help of local and international activists, Jordan is on its way to moving past traditions and onto a brighter path for women’s rights.

Sydney Roeder
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking
There are several types of human trafficking, and they all have a common denominator: an abuse of the intrinsic vulnerability of the victims.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the treat or use of force or other forms of coercion.”

Trafficking of individuals is a serious crime and a heinous violation of human rights.

“Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims,” said the UN.

The following are various categories linked to human trafficking:

Sex Trafficking

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime suggested that 53 percent of the victims are forced into sexual exploitation. “Sex trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, or harboring of persons through threat, use of force, or other coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This includes movement across borders, as well as within the victim’s own country,” affirmed Human Trafficking Search.

The International Labour Organization estimated that there is a worldwide profit of $100 billion for forced commercial sexual exploitation.

Additionally, “the perceived inferior status of women in many parts of the world has contributed to the expansion of the trafficking industry,” confirmed Human Trafficking Search.

Involuntary Domestic Servitude

Involuntary servitude happens when a domestic worker becomes enslaved in an exploitative position they are incapable of escaping.

“Domestic servitude is the seemingly normal practice of live-in help that is used as a cover for the exploitation and control of someone, usually from another country. It is a form of forced labor, but it also warrants its own category of slavery because of the unique contexts and challenges it presents,” said End Slavery Now.

Forced Labor

According to Human Trafficking Search, “Forced labor is work or service that is extorted from someone under the menace of any penalty and work or service that the person has not offered voluntarily.”

The International Labour Organization estimated that approximately 20.9 million people are enslaved to forced labor, and 4.5 are subjected to sexual forced exploitation.

Debt Bondage

“Debt bondage is a type of forced labor, involving a debt that cannot be paid off in a reasonable time,” said Human Trafficking Search. It is a period of debt during which there is no freedom, consequently, it is also known as debt slavery.

Child Soldiers

Child soldiers are described as persons under the age of 18, who have been recruited by armed forces in any capacity. Currently, there are thousands of soldiers worldwide.

“The definition includes both boys and girls who are used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes,” added Human Trafficking Search.

Child Sex Trafficking

There are approximately 1.8 million children subjected to prostitution or pornography globally.

The Human Trafficking Search defined it as “a sexual exploitation by an adult with respect to a child, usually accompanied by a payment to the child or one or more third parties.”

Child Labor

A child is considered to be involved in child labor activities if this minor is between the ages of 0 and 18, is involved in a type of work inappropriate for their age and in a dangerous work environment.

However, there are several forms of child labor. The most common ones are related to the informal sector of the economy and are linked to agricultural labor, mining, construction and begging in the streets.

Said by the Polaris Project, “human trafficking is a form of modern slavery – a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.”

Isabella Rolz

Sources: Human Trafficking Search, UNODC, End Slavery Now, Polaris Project, United Nations, International Labour Organization

Darfur Genocide
The Darfur Genocide is one of the worst human rights abuses of modern time. Over 90 diverse tribes and sub-clans populate the region of Darfur which is located in western Sudan. With a pre-conflict population of 6 million people, tensions within the region leading to the Darfur Genocide were produced by multiple interconnected factors including ethnic conflict, economic instability and political opportunism.

The level of violence and destruction at the height of the Darfur genocide was staggering. In 2005, the Coalition for International Justice interviewed 1,136 Darfur refugees located in 19 camps in neighboring Chad. A staggering 61 percent of the respondents noted that they had witnessed the killing of one of their family members.

 

Top 10 Darfur Genocide Facts:

 

  1. In 1989, then-General Omar al-Bashir seized control of Sudan through a military coup. The country was in the middle of a 21-year civil war between the North and South regions when the leader came to power and tensions continued to build. Conflicts began to increase within the ethnically diverse Darfur and weapons started flowing into the area due to a struggle for political control.
  2. The conflict escalated in 2003 when two non-Arab rebel groups within Darfur, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, accused the government of neglecting the region and took up arms against it. The Sudanese government, led by al-Bashir, quickly responded with a counter-insurgency campaign against the rebels and began backing a brutal Arab militia known as the Janjaweed. Civilians within the country were the ones to ultimately pay the price for the escalating violence and began receiving a barrage of attacks from government, pro-government troops and rebel groups.
  3. The dispute is generally racial and not religious in nature. Muslim Arab Sudanese (the Jajaweed militia group) systematically targeted, displaced, and murdered Muslim black Sudanese individuals within the Darfur region. The victims are generally from non-Arab tribal groups.
  4. According to the United Human Rights Council, over 400 villages were completely destroyed through the conflict, forcing mass amounts of civilians to be displaced from their homes. The Janjaweed would set out to destroy the houses and buildings within the community, shooting the men and gang raping the women and children. Families would be separated and killed. Those who escaped the brutal onslaught would then be faced with an arduous journey to find refuge.
  5. Many citizens fled the violence and relocated to refugee camps within the area and neighboring Chad. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, approximately two million individuals are still displaced due to the violence, with the majority having left their homes between 2003 and 2005 — the height of the conflict.
  6. Malnutrition, starvation and disease were serious concerns. Residents have been able to receive limited humanitarian assistance during the conflict due to the Sudanese government hindering aid efforts within the region and violence against humanitarian programs already in place. According to UNICEF, attacks on humanitarian vehicles, convoys, and compounds are common, impacting the availability of vital aid services. Approximately 25 to 30 international relief organizations have left the area due to security concerns or have been expelled by the government, as reported by The Washington Post.
  7. In June 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched investigations into the human rights violations occurring in Darfur. According to the United Human Rights Council, the government refused to cooperate with the investigations and denied any connection with the Janjaweed militia group.
  8. On March 4, 2009, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first ever sitting president of a country to be indicted by the ICC for directing a campaign of mass killing, and rape against civilians in Darfur. His accusations according to the BBC include crimes of humanity including murder, extermination, rape and torture, as well as war crimes including attacks on civilians in Darfur, and pillaging towns and villages.
  9. The United Nations estimates that as many as 300,000 individuals have been killed since the start of the Darfur conflict in 2003. The majority of these casualties are from civilian men, women and children who lived within communities throughout the area.
  10. While the conflict has eased, it is by no means over. According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, levels of violence have increased since the start of 2013. Approximately 400,000 individuals were displaced from their homes during the first half of 2014 alone as the Darfur crisis persists.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: BBC, United Human Rights Council, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Darfur Australia Network, UNICEF, The Washington Post, Sudan Research, Analysis, Advocacy
Photo: Haiku Deck

women's bodies
In many places around the world, women and young girls are viewed as commodities. Whether or not they are raped themselves, women’s bodies are used to atone for crimes committed by others. More than 700 million women alive today were married under 18, and more are used as a way to bring justice to criminals.

In some countries, it is legal for a rapist to escape prosecution if he marries his victim, who is usually a minor. This practice is allowed in Algeria, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia. The law was also up for debate in Mozambique earlier this year. Even in places where the law is not on the books, often rural, traditional customs allow for it.

This year, a man in Zimbabwe raped a 14-year-old girl. He had been harassing her, and her grandmother told her to marry him. After the rape, her grandmother continued insisting she marry the man, and he took her away from her home. Against the law of the state, he called her his wife and continued raping her until her mother paid for her bus fare to get home.

A 13-year-old girl in India also reported that cops forced her to marry one of her attackers after being gang-raped.

The motivation behind the marriages has to do with honor. Girls who lose their virginity are seen as worthless, or unable to find a husband, so their families will often marry them off to their rapist in order to restore their honor. Some countries do not view marital rape as a crime, so anything happening within marriage is seen as honorable. Sometimes there is external pressure to force their child into marriage.

In 2012, 15-year-old Amina Filali killed herself by ingesting rat poison after she was forced to marry her rapist. She endured continued rapes and beatings before committing suicide. Her family and her rapist’s family agreed to have the two married, in part because of honor, but also because of pressure from authorities.

Families also force children into marriage because of war. Child marriage is seen as protection from the raping and kidnapping that often happens in conflicts.

Honor is a major factor, and rape causes shame for the victim, not the attacker. Sometimes the quest for honor affects justice for rape victims. In Northern Africa, the punishment for rape depends on whether the victim is a virgin or not. In Pakistan, although a Women’s Protection Bill was passed in 2006, if a woman is of “generally immoral character,” punishments are not as severe or are completely ignored.

A Somali girl named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was gang-raped by three men in 2007. The family reported the incident to the militia, but instead of prosecuting the perpetrators, Aisha was stoned to death. According to the local police force, she had committed adultery.

The honor associated with young girls’ virginity extends beyond their own sexual experiences. Sometimes local law will allow young girls to be raped because of crimes committed by family members. The idea is that a girl’s loss of virginity is a blow to the entire family’s honor, so the crime of the family can be paid by her body.

This year, in a northern Indian village, a leader ordered the rape of a 14-year-old girl. Her brother had sexually assaulted another woman. The victim’s husband was to carry out the rape himself, while she received no assistance. A 22-year-old was ordered to be gang-raped by 13 of her neighbors for going outside her community for a relationship. A 24-year-old was gang-raped because her brother eloped with another man’s wife. She was then forced to marry one of her attackers.

All of these women’s bodies are being used in the name of justice. The highest reports of rape come from Europe and America, but the social stigma, discriminatory laws and patriarchal culture of some areas of the world prevent women from speaking out against their attackers.

Women fear the consequences of speaking out. Sometimes they are not even related to a crime, but their bodies are used to exact “justice,” anyway.

– Monica Roth

Sources: Amnesty International 1, Amnesty International 2, Al Jazeera America, Jezebel, UNICEF, Mumbai Mirror, The Nation, The Daily Beast, NewsdzeZimbabwe
Photo: The Daily Beast

When a man in India was accused of assaulting a neighbor’s wife, the village leaders ordered a horrendous punishment: the rape of that man’s 14-year-old sister. The neighbor was instructed to carry out the rape, which occurred sometime after midnight on Sunday and daytime on Monday. The punishment–called revenge rape–is not uncommon in rural India.

In January, another council of village elders ordered the gang rape of a 20-year-old in West Bengal for being involved with a man from another community. She was beaten, raped and later died from injuries, as they had also raped her with a metal pole. And a year ago, a 24-year-old woman in northern India was forced to marry a man and was then gang raped as punishment for her brother’s elopement.

In most of rural India, women are still viewed as the property of their families and even their communities. Though rape outside of marriage is illegal in India, eye-for-an-eye revenge rape is still part of the tradition.

“If you want to hurt the husband, hurt the father or hurt the community, then you rape the woman to say, ‘All right, I’m soiling your goods,'” explains secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association Kavita Krishnan.

The rapist’s wife defends his actions. Her father was reportedly one of the village elders that ordered the revenge rape.

The mother of the 14-year-old victim told CNN that she had begged the council members and fellow villagers to stop the rape of her child, but no one did anything.

“We begged with folded hands but they would not listen. They dragged her away to the forest,” the mother recalled.

The young teen’s parents found their daughter bleeding an hour after the violent rape and took her to the police station. According to the police spokesperson, her clothes were smeared with blood. Later, she was admitted to the hospital because of renewed bleeding and difficulty walking.

The Indian police have arrested the rapist, his father-in-law and the attempted rapist from the week prior. However, securing a conviction and then keeping that conviction from being overturned is difficult in India. Only 1 out of 635 rape cases reported in India in 2011 have resulted in conviction. Though the Delhi attack has begun a reformation of women’s rights, the laws are not well enforced in rural India, and marital rape is still legal.

– Kimmi Ligh

Sources: NPR,  Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal 1, The Wall Street Journal 2, RYOT, NY Daily News, USA Today, National Post
Photo: NY Daily News

rape
Bollywood, the large Hindi-language film industry based out of Mumbai, India,  is speaking out against rape and the abuse of women. Seeking to spread awareness about these issues within and without the industry, the campaign’s targeted audience is all people throughout the country. The initiative is led by a top radio station, with actor John Abraham as its ambassador. The entire movement utilizes the slogan, “Now the nonsense ends, change begins.”

The focus is on women’s safety at work, at home and in public spaces, which builds on previous campaigns emphasizing the need to change sexist language and to stop acid attacks against women. Bollywood is attempting to draw pressing issues within Indian society into the spotlight.

On the radio, celebrities like Abraham have begun to use their influential positions to voice their backing for the anti-rape movement. This comes as a pivotal change because in the past, stars normally avoided speaking on any pressing social issues.

The public outcry and protests after the 2012 gang rape and death of a young woman in Delhi are in large part responsible for the change in attitude. While a number of celebrities were advocates for social change before, the shocking Delhi incident resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of movie stars and individuals in the general public taking a stand against rape culture.

Celebrities’ participation in the anti-rape effort helps maintain the pressure to change both social and political views on rape. In India, like in many countries, rape is a critical problem. The number of reported cases increased by 902 percent from 1971 to 2012. Due to social stigma and shame, many cases still go unreported.

Although the backbone of India’s anti-rape movement remains predominantly with the public and the media, Bollywood stars’ involvement is helping to strengthen and sustain it. For example, actor and director Farhan Akhtar is using many different media outlets to lead the MARD, Men Against Rape and Discrimination, which seeks to redefine the perception of masculinity.

Others are making movies that directly address the issue of gang rape, such as producer Siddhartha Jain’s film “Kill The Rapist?” Scheduled to premiere in October 2014, the movie allows audiences to participate in deciding what should happen to the rapist in the story. The overarching message of the film aims to deter potential rapists and engage the public about the need to report rapes.

And all of these efforts appear to be bringing change. In the capital alone, the number of reported rape cases increased dramatically from 433 in 2012 to 1,036 in 2013.

The film industry, though, has often reaffirmed misogynist culture on screen by objectifying women and even, at times, condoning sexual harassment in their movies. Despite the fact that not all of Bollywood has completely shed its sexist and male-dominated ways, the stance many stars are taking demonstrates that both the industry and all of India can change their attitudes about women.

Although completely redefining public opinion about rape and the role of women in society will not occur overnight, the positive steps taken in the public, the media and in Bollywood have made the issue part of the mainstream dialogue. With continued efforts to raise awareness and encourage conversation, the people of India seek to better protect and value the rights of women.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: Aljazeera, The Scotsman, The Washington Post
Photo: Curry Culture

reproductive health
Modern conflicts continue to uphold the old adage “when elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” Women and young children are the most vulnerable members of society for a variety of reasons, meaning they must endure the hard end of the stick when conflict rolls through their communities.

Children are vulnerable for obvious reasons – they are physically weak, ideologically malleable and typically do not have nearly as many financial resources as adults. Their plight is apparent on the United States’ southern border, where thousands of Central American children are seeking shelter after fleeing rampant violence in their home countries.

Women also lag behind men concerning access to financial resources. Widows are left in a rough position after their husbands are killed during armed conflict, having to care for their children and make a livelihood in the absence of a male head-of-household. In addition, rape is a prominent consequence of war and can leave the victim physically, emotionally and socially scarred. Women are often the target of sexual violence, which leaves stigma, disease and unwanted pregnancies in its wake.

Women are most exposed to the setbacks of conflict when they are with child. The World Health Organization reports that out of the 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality rates, eight of them are experiencing conflict.

A recent publication by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that, “Conflict can negatively impact all aspects of reproductive health, directly through damage to services, gender-based violence and forced displacement of populations, and indirectly through reductions in the availability of basic health care and breakdown of normal social institutions.”

The RCOG report also states that humanitarian emergencies lead to 170,000 maternal fatalities each year, and that 15 percent of displaced women face life-threatening complications during pregnancy.

Conflict prevents women from accessing reliable contraceptives as well. An increase in unwanted pregnancies leads to a rise in dangerous abortion practices, which account for 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide.

In light of rising global migration and ongoing conflicts, humanitarian workers must continue to be particularly sensitive to reproductive health issues if they wish to help the most exposed victims of violence.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Tech Times, Trust.org
Photo: Flickr