The lack of toilets is one of the main causes of rape in India.

In Lucknow, India on May 27, two teenage girls went out into the bamboo fields to relieve themselves since they did not have a toilet in their own house. This is common among many of the households in India. The two young girls were raped and killed, then hung from a mango tree in their village.

“More than 60 percent of the rapes in the state occur when the victims step out to relieve themselves because they do not have toilets at their homes,” the state’s top cop says.

According to UNICEF, almost 50 percent of people living in India relieve themselves outside in public due to the lack of toilets.

While the bigger issue due to the lack of toilets is women getting sexually assaulted, another issue to think about is lack of sanitation and the humiliation that women have to go through. The lack of toilets dehumanizes, degrades and makes women feel even more powerless despite all the other issues pertaining to poverty.

According to an article in The World Post, U.N. figures show that out of the 1.2 billion people, 665 million of them do not have a private place to go to the bathroom.

According to a study done by the World Bank in 2010, the lack of toilets in India costs more than $50 billion a year because of deaths and hygiene-related diseases.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement , an organization that makes low-cost toilets, decided to build toilets in 108 of the houses in the village where the two girls were from.

– Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: The Star, Huff Post
Photo: CNN

Loutchama was just 12 years old when she was a victim of rape in Haiti. Her attacker, a man named Etienne Rene, and Loutchama’s neighbor at the time, reportedly had noticed none of her family members were home on April 30, 2011. After hearing of the rape, a physical altercation between Rene and Loutchama’s mother, Adrienne, would result in Adrienne’s eventual arrest.  Yet, while Rene, too, was arrested at his home soon afterward and would eventually be put on trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Adrienne feels devoid of justice. Loutchama died on August 26, 2013, and Adrienne believes it to be a direct result of Rene’s sentencing.

It would not be until a year and a half after Loutchama and her mother filed for rape against Rene that he would be sentenced. Haiti’s Minister of Justice, Jean Renel Sanon, says that it usually takes “four months” from the time a rape is reported to make it to court. Yet, all too regularly, cases are prolonged. Inevitably discouraged by Haiti’s judicial patriarchy, cases are usually given up by the victim mere months after their happening.

Poverty is a factor, too. Those with more money can afford to have warrants served expeditiously, guaranteeing them quicker justice. Yet, for the majority of poor Haitian women, their cases which are at the hands of the judge can be held stagnant for as long as five years if they are not dropped prior. A UN study conducted in 2012 proved just this. In a sample of 2010 reports, only one of a total of 62 rape cases filed over a three-month period made it to court.

For women like Loutchama, going through the judicial process is a constant reminder of their attack. Many of these women, most who work as street vendors, cannot afford a day off from work to go to trial and, subsequently, resort to unofficial monetary arrangements with their rapists. Of course, this poses a major problem. More often than not, poor rapists cannot actually afford to pay their victims, and zero judicial ties to the promise results in complete injustice.

Now crippled by her daughter’s death and worried for her own safety, Adrienne who, prior to the case, had never even heard of the term “human rights” believes Rene’s payback has just begun. “I’m poor,” she said. “And I will never have justice.”

Yet, Rene’s 15-year sentence may just be the long-awaited beginning of said justice for rape victims in Haiti. Through the recent works of Haitian organizations such as the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, more rapists are being persecuted than ever before. In 2011, 13 of 22 rape cases resulted in conviction. While rape culture in Haiti is still all too prominent, many of these women are just beginning to feel secure enough to stand up for their own human rights.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: IJDH, JJIE, Salon
Photo: Ehowzit

In light of the recent Santa Barbara massacre, Twitter users have taken the web by storm through the #YesAllWomen hashtag. The result has been incredible: voices around the world have given personal (yet all-too universal) recollections of misogyny as it exists in their professional, social and familial lives. An example of social media’s power to do good in the world, the campaign is only growing as more than a million posts (and counting) have been spreading around the web.

Elliot Rodger killed six students from the University of California-Santa Barbara last week, and wounded 13 others. Just before the massacre, Rodger wrote a 140-page “manifesto” crippled with misogynistic remarks, claiming that he would take “retribution” for the crimes against him and would punish the world for those women who refused to sleep with him. The media frenzy that followed proved unique: the massacre and its aftermath was about more than just one mentally disturbed man exacting revenge. It is about a culture of misogyny and the detriment it can cause.

Today, more than 311 million working-age women live in countries where sexual harassment is not outlawed in the workplace. In many less-developed countries, a third of women are married or in a union by only 18. Around 60 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, and 2.6 billion women live in countries where rape within marriage is not outlawed.

These statistics are what the campaign #YesAllWomen stands for: across the world and in varying degrees, women are still treated as lesser citizens. #YesAllWomen works to teach that we have remained all-too blind, and it is doing so in strides.

Accessible to most of the world at any time or place, the campaign has brought a unique, understandable perspective of feminism to the most-reached platform in the world: the Internet. Yet despite the campaign’s current popularity, many wonder if it will do any good to solve the problem in the long run, comparing the campaign to short-lived, social media frenzies like #BringBackOurGirls (which has died down in response to the now popular #YesAllWomen.)

These social media phenomenons, some argue, do little to prevent or change the actual circumstances of the problem. Yet it can be argued that their real success is by infiltrating and educating by providing a much-needed lesson as to why misogyny is a serious problem we must work to fix. #YesAllWomen attempts to bridge this problematic gap.

– Nick Magnati

Sources: CNN, Chicago Tribune, UN Women, Foreign Policy
Photo: The Province

Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group from Nigeria with an anti-western world thought. Over 4,000 people have been killed since 2002 when the extremist group began. A month ago Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 Nigerian girls ranging from age 12 to 15 while they were attending school. Recently, the group released a video to the press threatening to sell the girls into slavery and have yet to be rescued. The motive behind these killings and kidnappings is the resistance of anything socially or politically western or modern, such as education. The Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, stated that “all schools are targets.”

The Nigerian universities have come to a halt due to the fear surrounding the campuses because of these attacks by the extremists. The English translation of Boko Haram is “western education is forbidden,” and over 20 schools have been burnt to the ground by the militant group. The extremist group believes that the secularized, western way of life is corrupting the government and society in Nigeria. The goal of Boko Haram’s leader is to create an Islamic nation, and give rise to “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” which is also the Arabic meaning of Boko Haram.

The crusade of the attacks on schools by the group is claiming a toll on Nigerian standards of education. Poverty in Nigeria is rising, and a large number of students are not attending, especially Nigerian girls who are living in fear because of the recent abductions. The Nigerian government has had to close down schools and universities for long periods of time due to these growing issues of security.

The fear Boko Haram has instilled in Nigeria is increasing poverty, and lowering human development rates every day. The acts committed by the group are violations of human rights, and are continuing to impede the advancement of female education. The efforts to encourage education for children, especially in young girls, is important to continue to grow the Nigerian economy and prevent the spread of poverty through rural areas. Female education brings empowerment to young girls and is also an investment in Nigeria’s future, in areas including the health sector. Health services like protection against HIV and AIDS, and lowering pregnancy in the community is also a significant factor in female education.

Boko Haram is mainly composed of young, poor Nigerian men. This is another consequence of the rising poverty and employment rate, causing these young men to become conflicted with religious righteousness and the justification of these killings and abductions. The religious extremist group recruits young members from Islamic schools and turn them to violence to extend the message of a non-secular Islamic state. Religious terrorism is a dangerous problem not only for the Nigerian civilians, but the country’s resources and economy as well.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: The Guardian, BBC

sexual_assault_in_sri _anka
Sri Lankan Women’s Affairs and Child Development Minister Tissa Karaliyadda remarked that female victims should marry the males who sexually assaulted them to reduce the amount of rape in Sri Lanka. If the victim is underage, he suggests that the marriage be postponed until the victim reaches the age of eighteen, the legal age of consent in the country.

Karaliyadda explained to local media that, “the idea is to ensure the victim gets justice. If she feels the rapist must marry her for what he did to her, then she must have that option.”

But why would a girl wish to marry the person who sexually assaulted her? Is it because girls who have sex before their marriage will find it extremely difficult to find a husband in the future? Does their society mark them as unclean and force them to atone for the sexual assault? Is marriage the only solution to rid them of their dishonor?

Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has a different viewpoint. He believes that underage female rape victims should not wait until age eighteen to be married. He is quoted saying “if under aged girls are statutorily raped and the sexual act was however with consent, it may be good to have legislation that allows the perpetrator to marry the victim with her consent.”

What is most unsettling about Rajapaksa’s quote is not the part about forcing attackers to marry their underage victims, but that sexual activity between a child and an adult can be consensual.

In Sri Lanka, eighteen marks the age of consent, maturity and adulthood. Eighteen-year-olds can legally drive, smoke, drink alcohol and provide consent for sexual activity. The age of consent varies across the globe from twelve in Angola to twenty-one years old in Bahrain.

Rajapaksa’s belief that sexual activity between a child and an adult can be consensual is incorrect. Not only are their brains and bodies not fully developed, most children lack the emotional maturity and awareness to make informed important decisions. This is why statutory rape laws exist. Statutory rape laws are designed to prevent adults from “exploiting the ignorance, the trust, the inexperience and the terror of children.”

Chamal Rajapaksa, current Speaker of the Parliament and also the elder brother of President Rajapaksa, believes that “nobody can make men responsible for the violence against women. Women are responsible for it.” It is exactly this kind of viewpoint that perpetuates gender inequality and sexual assault in societies where women have very little agency. Sexual assault in Sri Lanka and gender equality is not merely a women’s issue, as it affects men, women, boys and girls. Instead of focusing on finding remedies to sexual assault after it has already happened, perhaps officials should attempt to prevent sexual assault in Sri Lanka before they actually take place.

-Sarah Yan

Sources: First Post, Buzzfeed, Care 2, Sri Lanka Guardian

LBGT Community
In 1996, South Africa became the first in the world to provide constitutional protection for LGBT people. South Africa is also the only African country on the continent that recognizes same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, there is a rise in the attacks against the LGBT community, especially lesbians. These attacks against lesbians are known as corrective rape, which is when a man rapes a lesbian in thought that the action of rape will turn that person straight. One 26-year-old lesbian living in Cape Town stated that “Men do it because they hate what we are. The feel threatened by us.”

One example of corrective rape in South Africa was a five-hour-long brutal rape that consisted of beatings and strangling of a young lesbian by the name of Millicent Gaika. She survived the attack and her rapist Andile Ngcoza was arrested and found guilty for rape. Although, he was arrested his bail was set at six dollars and he escaped prosecution.

Another example of a LGBT hate crime occurred this year. David Olyn, a 21-year-old gay man was beaten with bricks and burned to death in South Africa, as a group of teens watched. Accordingly, the teens were not shocked at this behavior because this is something that is a weekly occurrence. Therefore, the teens did not tell authorities.

Due to these horrific events the United Nations has launched a program called Free the Equal in 2013. This program is an effort to create an education program aimed at promoting respect for the LGBT community in South Africa.

South Africa does have the best recognition for gay rights on the continent, but these brutal attacks and rapes are still on the rise. However, the South African government is taking steps to combat the hate crimes and violence. These steps include the proper training of officials for the LGBT community’s needs. A young woman in the South African LGBT community stated that “Lots of my friends have been raped for being a lesbian. It is not an unusual thing.” Furthermore, new laws are being implemented to send the message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in South Africa.

How can the United States help with the South African government’s aid in combating LGBT violence? The United States has been working with prosecutors for the past decade in legal protection for LGBT rights. The United States can lend a hand in the South Africa government by showing correct methods used for training and prosecution for the protection of the LGBT community in South Africa and also share the experience from the past in dealing with hate crimes.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Human Rights First, Human Rights Campaign
Photo: The Guardian  

The history of disparate rights between the Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi tribes exploded in April of 1994, followed by 100 days of genocide in which the Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000-1 million Tutsi people. Rape was encouraged to destabilize the community’s infrastructure and traumatize its people, resulting in the vicious, serial rape of 250,000 to 500,000 women.

Since the reinstatement of Rwanda’s government, all citizens have been allotted equal rights and the long road toward reconciliation has begun. Since the number of accused hugely outweighs the law officers, the Gacaca court system was set up allowing small communities to hold courts and trials where suspects may confess their crimes and promote reconciliation by disclosing the fates of lost community members.

The government’s newly instated laws of racial equality throughout the country extend to social stigmas as well, bolstering the marginalized. But one group was overlooked: children produced by the Rwandan genocide’s relentless rapes.

Chantal Mukeshimana, now 46, lost her husband and three of their children in the genocide during which she was repeatedly gang-raped. One of these attacks implanted her now-19 year old daughter, Angélique, who has always felt distanced by her mother and blames herself for the pain her existence recalls.

Angélique is one of 20,000 young adults who are products of the Rwandan genocide rapes. Kananga from the Unity and Reconciliation Commission has stated, “When we offered support to widows and children we thought we were supporting everyone.” These children of rape are suspended between their parents; they feel shunned by their Tutsi mothers for the horrific means of their conception, and have no means or wish to find their ‘genocidaire’ Hutu fathers.

Chantal is currently responsible for Angélique, two surviving children from her late husband, and her brother who was paralyzed in the genocide. With no government aid she relies on her community of women for support, most of whom have pasts similar to her own. None have had access to rehabilitation therapy, and they’ve banded together in an attempt to plug the holes of their shattered families.

Today, as they enter adulthood, children of the Rwandan genocide rapes are struggling to come to terms with their history. They are a constant reminder to their communities of the violence that killed their loved ones and stole their bodies. Without serious reconciliation many will remain emotionally crippled forever, extending the horror of the genocide beyond the lives of those who experienced it.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: About, UN
Photo: Flickr

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced this week that he will not retract his country’s official apology for its military’s use of sex slaves during World War II. Abe’s cabinet had been reviewing a landmark 1993 cabinet statement in which Tokyo acknowledged for the first time that the Japanese military had directly or indirectly been involved in establishing brothels for its soldier in territories occupied by imperial Japan during its brutal conquest of east Asia in first half of the twentieth century. Up to 200,000 women are estimated to have been forced to work as sex slaves in Japan’s military brothels.

Speaking on Friday to the budget committee in the upper house of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, Abe said he had, ” no thought of my cabinet revising,” the 1993 apology, known as the Kono statement, after then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. “We must be humble regarding history… it should not be politicized or made into a diplomatic issue,” Abe said.

The decision by Abe, a rightwing nationalist who recently angered his country’s east Asian neighbors by visiting a controversial war shrine commemorating Japan’s war dead, is being seen as an effort by the hawkish prime minister to placate South Korea, which has criticized Tokyo for its perceived failure to atone for wartime atrocities. Japan annexed the Korean peninsula in 1910 and ruled it as a Japanese colony until the end of World War II in 1945.

Abe’s attempt to mollify Seoul, a strategic partner in countering China’s economic and military rise, comes ahead of a possible meeting between the Japanese prime minister and South Korean President Park Geun-hye next week on the sidelines of a nuclear disarmament summit in The Hague.

On Wednesday, Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Akitaka Saiki traveled to South Korea in a bid to lock down a meeting between the two leaders at next week’s summit. After meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Akitaka left without obtaining a commitment from South Korea for a meeting between its president and Abe, as Seoul continued to insist that Tokyo do more to make amends for it militaristic past.

The Prime Minister’s decision not to revise the 1993 apology comes about two weeks after Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced that Abe’s government was forming a team to review the Kono statement, in which Tokyo acknowledged for the first time that, “The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.” Comfort stations is a Japanese euphemism for the brothels operated by the Japanese imperial military in territories conquered by Tokyo during its conquest of east Asia in the first half the twentieth century.

Abe’s refusal to revisit Tokyo’s groundbreaking admission represents a u-turn for the sometimes hard line prime minister, who at times has pushed a revisionist version of history that white washes over Japan’s wartime atrocities. When he was running to be the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2012, Abe said “there was no evidence” that the comfort women had been forced to work in the brothels.

Late last year, Abe angered China and South Korea, both of which were occupied by Japan during the first half of the twentieth century, when he visited Yasukuni, a Shinto shrine that commemorates Japan’s war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals.

– Eric Erdahl

Sources: BBC, BBC, Nikkei Asian Review
Photo: Enformable

Traditionally held beliefs and social values are stubborn to change through government policies and legislation. In many societies, this includes social acceptance or tolerance of child marriage, child labor, domestic violence, discrimination, rape and sexual abuse. Government policies have difficulty eradicating these practices because not only are these practices deeply ingrained in their societies, but governments of developing countries are often unable or reluctant to protect those who are most at risk.

Community-based programs have the power to transform these traditionally held beliefs.

Through groups, individuals are educated about their legal and humans rights. These programs utilize community groups to change social norms through collective discussion and decision-making. Communities can address, prevent and respond to the problems that exist in their circles.

Democratic participation of the families and children is a key proponent of boosting the success of these programs. Individuals, such as women and children, who are usually marginalized in communities, are given the chance to share their stories.

A case in Ethiopia shows the capability of community-based programs to change social norms. In 2000, female genital mutilation (FGM) was still extremely widespread in Ethiopia. A local NGO, Kembatti Mentti Gezzima, began working to “empower women and communities to fulfill their rights and to be free from abuse” by organizing public workshops called the Community Conversations. They were held twice monthly for at least a year to facilitate discussion and promote understanding of the harmful practice of FGM.

In 2008, a review study found that only 3.3 percent of respondents still practiced FGM. The community not only altered traditional practices of FGM, but changed the legal norms surrounding it as well. This in Ethiopia demonstrates that creating change through community-based programs is a slow process, but it can lead to lasting social and legal transformation.

At the moment, there is relatively weak empirical evidence to support community-based programs. Organizations largely focus on collectively qualitative evidence and testimonies from the communities. However, beyond anecdotal support, organizations can use a program evaluation with a high quality methodology, data collection and data analysis to ensure a strong evidence base that includes more quantitative evidence.

Short-term successes are projected to be limited, while long-term successes are anticipated to be long lasting and highly beneficial for the communities.

In many developing countries, government policies cannot reach those in need due to weak and lack of enforcement. However, community-based programs have the potential to bottom-up reform and alter beliefs that discriminate against the marginalized and the weak.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: UNICEF, CPC Conference
Photo: UNICEF Australia

Thousands of women in Iraq are being illegally detained and abused, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Many of these women, held by Iraqi security forces for months or sometimes even years without access to a judge, are often questioned about the crimes and activities of their male relatives and not about the crimes they are supposed to have committed.

Violence in Iraq is presently at its highest level since 2008, with more than 1,000 people dead in Iraq just in January. Human rights groups and diplomats are increasingly vocalizing the various cases of mistreatment within the country, yet to little avail. As stated by the HRW report, over 4,500 women are currently being detained in Iraqi prisons. While a majority of these women are Sunni, people of all sects and classes are affected, causing dire unrest among the masses.

One woman interviewed by HRW had suffered beatings, electric shocks and rape, abuses not uncommon among Iraq’s female prisoners. She was later executed, regardless of the medical report that had been filed in her favor. An employee at a women’s prison facility contributed to concern for sexual abuse, stating that employees assume police rape prisoners en route to the prison.

This tragic situation has indubitably angered Iraqis, adding to the frustrations long protested by Sunni Arabs. Breaches in civil and human rights of this sort only serve to exacerbate the sectarian divide within Iraq. Although most Sunnis are not thought to support militant jihadist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,) the abuses make them far less likely to support the efforts of the authorities working to rid the country of those groups.

A lack of trust between the groups and communities living within Iraq’s borders is cause for concern both regionally and globally. If Iraqi authorities desire cooperation, perhaps it would benefit to treat all members of the country’s makeup with the equal and adequate rights necessary to maintain a sustained peace.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, BBC
Photo: The Brussells Tribunal