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

News related to India in recent years has focused on a distressing part of life in the nation. That is to say, a purported prevalence of rape has come to the forefront of the nation’s international presence. Recently, for instance, a Danish tourist vacationing in New Dehli was allegedly raped by two men. The attention has brought to light what many people allege is a burgeoning ‘rape culture,’ and a society that views women’s rights as less than important.

The attention has pushed Indian politicians to address the issue more fervently, as the nation has a poor record on pro-women rights. Gender inequality is, however, firmly embedded in the foundation of the nation’s culture, which can be seen by powerful figures such as the head of India’s National Intelligence Agency stating, “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it.” Such a statement clearly demonstrates that an outdated mentality towards women’s rights persists in the nation, a mentality where blaming victims for rapes seems to be the main attitude toward this epidemic. For instance, Madyha Pradur, India’s Home Minister, blamed the Swiss rape victim for her attack, stating that if she had notified local authorities about where she planned to travel, the attack most likely would not have happened.

Gang-rape has historic roots in India, having been used since the creation of Modern India. It was especially used as a “weapon of oppression” against women throughout the nation. Rampant unemployment has led to men developing “personal alienation,” coupled with deeply “ingrained misogyny.” It’s argued that gang-rape has been a budding phenomenon, only growing due to a legal and court system which has been mostly indifferent to the concerns of women, or wholly incompetent in dealing with an upsurge of rape cases.

Conditions have been improving in recent years, however. In comparison to more developed nations like the United Kingdom, Indian rape convictions were much higher. Only about 7% of rapes in the United Kingdom actually led to convictions, where-as India had a conviction rate of 24.2% in 2012, a stunning rate considering it’s developing nation status which gives it less resources to deal with the issue.

Rape cases are, furthermore, being more publicized in India, as shown through the increased reporting on rape throughout the nation. The major catalyst for India was the infamous Dehli gang rape of 2012, which brought into focus, the welfare of women in the nation and how authorities handle the delicate nature of rape and assault cases. The Dehli Gang rape occurred in December of 2011 and led to major protests that rocked the nation as well as the creation new legislation that refocused anti-rape laws.

As it stands, the amount of reported rapes increased, doubling from 143 reported between January and March of 2012 to 359 following the Dehli gang rape. As tragic as the rape was, it has turned rape into newspaper fodder, with major media outlets in India reporting “each and every rape case.”

The Indian nation is hopeful for change. With rapists being held more accountable for their actions, the nation may overcome this widespread epidemic.

– Joseph Abay

Sources: IBN Live, TIME, ABC News, CNN, NDTV, Think Progress, Telegraph, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Spiegel Online
Photo: The Guardian

Village Council Orders Young Woman to be Gang Raped
An unidentified young woman in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal was gang-raped by 13 men because of an order by her village’s council on January 20
. The rape was a punishment by the council because she had agreed to marry a man of her choosing, Khaliq Sheikh, a village outsider. All 13 men were arrested, including the council’s chief who not only ordered, but also participated in the rape.

After hearing that an outsider had proposed to the young woman, Balai Mardi, the village’s chief, immediately started taking action against the couple. People in the village went to the woman’s house to detain Sheikh, and the next day villagers took both he and the woman to the town’s square and tied them to trees.

Mardi told the couple to pay fines of about $442, and after paying the amount, Sheik was allowed to leave. The woman’s family refused to pay the fine, which is when Mardi reportedly ordered men in the village to “enjoy her.”

She was repeatedly raped in Mardi’s hut, after which he told her that if she or her family reported the rape to the police, her house would be destroyed.

Despite the risks, the young woman and her family went to the police, and all 13 rape suspects were arrested and charged with “rape, wrongful confinement, verbal threats, and assault.”

Meanwhile, the young survivor was admitted to the hospital and is in stable condition.

Expressing a feeling of betrayal, the survivor’s mother states, “The crime was committed by our own people [who] tortured my daughter and dumped her at home late at night.” The young woman asserts that her own neighbors were among those who raped her.

In 2010, in the same region as this recent rape, village elders told a woman to take her clothes off and stand in public for having “close relations” with a man from a different caste.

Sunil Soren, a leader from another village nearby, asserts that people in the region “respect our women a lot,” but that the young rape survivor was “in an objectionable situation” that “pollute[s] the minds of youngsters.”

“In the excitement, some wrong things happened,” Soren states.

West Bengal is 7.5% of India’s population, but in 2012, the area made up 13% of reported crimes against women. This figure could be because of a higher rate of crimes or that the police in the area take rape more seriously.

Village councils are prevalent in rural parts of India, where they enforce strict values and can be involved in choosing partners for marriage. These bodies often discourage marrying outside of the village, partially for fear that communal land claims will be weakened.

Multiple rape cases in the last year have put India in the global spotlight and caused profound anger over sexual violence against women. These crimes have led to changes in law, with 20 years the maximum sentence for rape, and broader awareness of the problem in India. There is, however, little evidence that rape is more common in India than in other nations.

Like all nations, in India, many victims fear reprisals if they report sexual abuse, and this young woman in West Bengal is no exception.

During an interview, a fellow villager and family member of one of the rape suspects said that the woman “is a bad character.”

She continues, “She was going around with this non-tribal man. We told her not to, but she didn’t listen…If she dares to come back to the village, I will kill her.”

Kaylie Cordingley

Sources: New York Times, New York Times, Los Angeles Times
Photo: Glenn Losack

Morocco Overturns Law Protecting Child Rapists
Up until this week, Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code allowed those convicted of “corruption” or “kidnapping” of a minor to marry his victim and avoid prosecution. That is, Moroccan law held that a person who rapes a child could evade punishment – by marrying his victim.

Rooted in traditional views holding that the loss of a daughter’s virginity is a stain on her family, the law has been encouraged by judges to spare families from shame.

Yet for one family, the law has cost them the ultimate price.

Article 475 came to international attention in 2012 when 16 year-old Amina Filali killed herself after being forced to marry her rapist. Filali was accosted on the street and raped when she was only 15. When she told her parents two months later and they took the matter to court, the judge pushed marriage.

“It is not something that happens a great deal – it is very rare,” reported Abdelaziz Nouaydi, who runs the Adala Association for legal reform. Sometimes, he conceded however, families of victims would agree to a marriage out of the fear that their daughters would be unable to find a husband were it to get out that she had been raped. The families, then, would push the marriage onto the daughter in order to avoid a scandal.

According to Filali’s father, it had been the prosecutor who had advised his daughter to marry. The perpetrator, Moustapha Feliak, initially refused the marriage arrangement; yet given that the penalty for the rape of a minor was 10-20 years in prison, he ultimately accepted the marriage. Filali apparently complained to her mother multiple times that her new husband was physically abusive but her mother only counseled patience.

Seven months into the marriage, 16 year-old Filali swallowed enough rat poison to end her life.

Her death received extensive media coverage and sparked protests throughout a number of Moroccan cities. Furthermore, a Facebook page titled “We are all Amina Filali” was formed in the days after the suicide and proceeded to grow exponentially. A campaign was also started by the international advocacy group Avaaz that demanded the government adopt promised legislation to aid in fighting gender-based violence. By the time Avaaz turned the petition in to Morocco’s parliament, more than a million signatures had been collected.

This week’s new amendment proved that these efforts were fruitful, however, though activists hailed Morocco’s new legislation, many express that more should be done. For example, on one hand, says Fatima Maghnaoui, who heads a group supporting female victims of violence, “it’s a very important step. But it’s not enough… We are campaigning for a complete overhaul of the penal code for women.”

Amnesty International agreed with this view calling Wednesday’s amendment a move in the right direction but also “long overdue.” The global human rights group pushed for a comprehensive strategy to protect Morocco’s women and girls from violence: “It took 16-year-old Amina Filali’s suicide and nearly two years for the parliament to close the loophole that allowed rapists to avoid accountability. It’s time to have laws that protect survivors of sexual abuse,” the rights group’s deputy regional director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: BBCGlobal PostHuffington PostAl Jazeera
Photo: Alif Post