10 facts about violence in honduras
In Honduras, the homicide rate is currently 43.6 per 100,000, meaning for every 100,000 of Honduras’ inhabitants, about 44 people will be murdered every year. With this statistic alone, it is easy to see Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. However, by evaluating the implemented solutions working to combat violence, homicides in Honduras appear to be dropping; raising the possibility of losing its position as the murder capital of the world. Here are 10 facts about violence in Honduras.

10 Facts About Violence in Honduras

  1. Murder – In 2011 Honduras experienced a peak in murder rates making Honduras the holder of the highest homicide rate in the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the murder rate in Honduras decreased by 30 percent. Homicides went down from 88.5 per 100,000 residents to 60.0 per 100,000 and have remained constant or decreased slowly depending on the year. However, in Honduras, only 4 percent of reported homicide cases result in arrest showing there is still lots of room for improvement.
  2. Lack of Trust – Police and judicial systems in Honduras suffer from corruption, lack of training and a list of cases so long that even honest, well-equipped officials struggle to keep up. As a result, members of the most vulnerable Honduran communities often do not trust the police, public prosecutors or judges to do their jobs. Fearing retaliation from violent perpetrators, they often refuse to provide witness testimony necessary to bring about a conviction. This causes Honduran judicial officials to lose trust in victims. This lack of trust and support fuels a vicious cycle of violence and impunity that has contributed to Honduras’ status as one of the most violent countries in the world. The Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police is working to rid the force of corrupt leaders, strengthen public and police relations and reorganize their internal and external goals. Today, the Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police has put in nearly 15 months of work and suspended or removed 5,000 police from the force.
  3. Poverty – Poverty and violence are directly related, and they work together to generate difficult living conditions in Honduras. As of 2017, 64 percent of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. Further, Honduras has the second smallest middle class in Latin America, at only 10.9 percent of the population. A larger middle class would result in stronger public institutions, stronger economic growth and greater societal stability. Therefore, Honduras would see lower levels of violence because of stronger societal relations. Working to stem both violence and increase economic opportunities is the key to sustainable development.
  4. Illegal Drug Trade – Central America serves as a transit point for at least 80 percent of all cocaine shipments between the Andean region and North America. Criminal groups in Honduras are very aware of this and profit primarily from drug trade and extortion as well as kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking. In February 2019, authorities in Honduras arrested four Colombian citizens caught in an attempt to smuggle over 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States through a remote region of the country’s eastern coast. This is one example of thousands.
  5. Gangs – Gang presence in Honduras is common in poor urban areas and where territory is controlled by members of rival gangs, the most powerful being the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. The most common age for Honduran gang members is between 12 and 30. Gangs constitute a real but often misunderstood feature of these 10 facts about violence in Honduras. While there is little doubt that they are involved in significant levels of violence, gangs are highly diverse and linked more to localized insecurity rather than the transnational danger ascribed to them by the media and certain policymakers. It is understood that 40 percent of gang members claim to be involved in gangs to ‘hang out,’ 21 percent because they had gang member friends and 21 percent to evade family problems. There is also a correlation between youth unemployment and gang membership: only 17 percent of gang members were employed and 66 percent actively characterized themselves as unemployed.
  6. Domestic Violence – One woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, and the country has the highest femicide rate in the world. Shocking numbers of rape, assault and domestic violence cases are reported. However, 95 percent of cases of sexual violence and femicide in Honduras were never investigated in the year 2014. As mentioned above, widespread underreporting is likely to be linked to the lack of trust in governmental figures such as police and judicial systems. Rape is widespread and is employed to discipline girls, women and their family members for failure to comply with demands. In Honduras, there is a 95 percent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women is the norm rather than the exception.
  7. Honduras Youth – The expansion of gangs and the increase in violence is linked to the lack of opportunities for the youth of the country. Many young Hondurans turn to gangs for their welfare protection and identity construction because they see no other way. Gangs emerge in this context as an option that is often desired for the marginal youth as it provides a form of transition from adolescence to adulthood. About 2 percent of females go completely uneducated, compared to 3 percent of males. Likewise, secondary school lasts between two to three years between the ages of 13 and 16, and 38 percent of females drop out compared to 33 percent of males.
  8. The Public and Prevention – In areas with low levels of violence, residents have taken incidents of crime and made an effort to minimize conditions that might allow violence to thrive. Kindernotheilfe has partnered with the community-formed group Sociedad más Justa (ASJ). They are dedicated to improving the living conditions of children and young people in Tegucigalpa and protecting them from violent abuse. Since 2004, parents, children, young people, teachers, churches, justice officials, city administrations and other NGOs have gotten involved. Some of their help include psychological and legal counseling, neighborhood patrolling and organized children’s clubs and activities.
  9. USAID and Honduras Citizen Security – On Sept. 30, 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development programs for Honduras invested in a $34.17 million project lasting until Feb. 13, 2021. They are working to support the Government of Honduras’ efforts to improve the service delivery of justice institutions; increase the capacity of police to work with targeted communities; and incorporate respect for human rights to help reduce violence, decrease impunity and implement human rights standards within government institutions. During the third quarter of year one, they achieved key targets, including launching five city events, holding an international conference, instituting a Supreme Court Innovation Committee, connecting with the LGBTQI committee and collaborating with other donor programs.
  10. The Peace and Justice Project – The Peace and Justice Project provides investigative, legal and psychological support for people with few resources who have been victims of violent crimes and push for structural change in Honduras’ security and justice systems. The project has a 95 percent conviction rate, almost 24 times the national average. This has reduced the impunity rate in key communities from 4 percent convictions to 60 percent convictions for violent crimes, while also reducing the overall homicide rate drastically. Over the last 10 years, 600 lives have been saved through interventions in these violent communities.

These 10 facts about violence in Honduras prove that while strides have been made, violence in Honduras is still a major global concern. Communities and citizens of Honduras should continue to make a difference by demanding higher standards and continuing prevention actions. Furthermore, other nations should continue to support by becoming involved in helping strengthen institutional, governmental and police and judicial systems to see long term change.

Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

Following­ the eruption of violence in 2018, Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, has seen its economic progress stagnate and its domestic life falter. The additional unrest is making Nicaraguans more vulnerable to violence and instability. While Nicaragua’s overall crime rate is low, certain areas, like the rape of minors and political violence, are high. These 10 facts about violence in Nicaragua provide a glimpse after one year of conflict.

10 Facts About Violence in Nicaragua

  1. Political violence occurred in 2018 in response to the government’s social security reforms. Protests occurred between April and July, and the government responded brutally. More than 300 people were killed and hundreds detained during three-month anti-government protests where citizens demanded that President Daniel Ortega — who has been in power since 2007 — step down. In the subsequent six months, the government arrested and jailed opposition leaders and those who challenged his authority, his human rights abuses, his consolidation of power and his low 10 percent approval rating.
  2. Sixty thousand Nicaraguans have sought asylum from the violence in Costa Rica. In July 2018, Costa Rica alone received about 200 requests by Nicaraguans for asylum per day. The U.N. is seeking to support countries who take Nicaraguan refugees.
  3. Violence between protesters and government-sponsored paramilitary groups disrupts access to resources. Roadblocks appear without apparent reason, mostly around cities, and limit the availability of food and fuel.
  4. Civil unrest continues unpredictably. Although protests are forbidden, they occur and government forces respond with violence. The poor infrastructure in parts of the country limits the potential of international assistance.
  5. Access to healthcare is limited due to the unrest. Government hospitals are understaffed and frequently deny treatment to suspected protestors. Ambulances are unreliable, denying treatment or not visiting certain areas.
  6. Sexual assault, especially against girls, is common. More than two-thirds of the 14,000 rapes reported between 1998 and 2008 were committed against girls under the age of 17, and nearly half of them were under the age of 14. More recent statistics during Ortega’s presidency are unavailable, but anecdotal reports suggest that gender-based violence is widespread. A stigma follows survivors of rape, but not perpetrators. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed grave concern.
  7. Domestic violence against women is controversial in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Constitution contains both protections against and provisions for violence against women under certain circumstances, like marriage. Legal dialogue has fluctuated through the 2010s. In 2012, in response to high levels of femicide and little legal response, a women’s rights group pushed through Ley Integral Contra La Violencia Hacia Las Mujeres (Law 779) expanding the legal definition of violence against women, establishing specially-trained prosecutors to hear gender-based violence cases and further protect victims. Since then, 779 has been systematically weakened by a series of legislative and presidential decrees. Local conservative legislators and religious leaders see 779 as potentially destructive to families if women could seek reprisal for domestic violence. Although rape is illegal, domestic/intimate violence, child-marriage and dating violence is still high.
  8. Violence is hurting Nicaragua’s economic growth. Between 2014 and 2016, poverty in Nicaragua decreased from 29.6 to 24.9 percent and extreme poverty from 8.3 to 6.9 percent. But due to the social and political unrest since April 2018, the economy contracted in 2018 by 3.8 percent. The World Bank supported Nicaragua through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, to support poverty reduction measures in the country.
  9. Violent street crime is spotty, but regional, and is greater in urban areas after dark. Street crime is more prevalent in Managua, Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, San Juan del Sur, Popoyo, El Transito and the Corn Islands.
  10. The homicide rate is low and falling. The homicide rate held steady with 15 in 100,000 people 2014-16, but it fell to 6 in 100,000 in 2018—far lower than comparable economies. Men commit homicide six times more frequently than women and people ages 15-26 are the most likely to commit homicides.

Heather Hughes
Photo: U.N.

anti-human trafficking software
Children are the most vulnerable population in the world. Even the most vigilant of parents cannot watch their children at all times. Every country suffers from kidnapping, although certain countries have much higher rates than others. For example, in 2015, Lebanon held the highest rate of 16.9 per 100,000 people kidnapped. The reasons for kidnapping children vary drastically, but one of them is human trafficking. This abhorrent practice has been going on for far too long, but with modern technology, there are organizations developing ways to stop it through anti-human trafficking software. Thorn is an organization founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to defend children from human trafficking and sexual abuse.

Digital Defenders of Children

As a digital platform dedicated to ending child trafficking, “Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children concentrates on the role internet plays in facilitating child pornography and child sexual slavery internationally. By putting its efforts towards reclaiming the battleground for a better future of the world’s youth, Thorn is using digital technology to track down victims of sex trafficking and child pornography as well as those who facilitate it.

And, even though some communities get targeted for “easier access,” child sexual abuse is not confined to any one group. Online pornographic images and videos involve both girls and boys from 0-18 years old with diverse backgrounds. In one of their reports for tipline, “the Canadian Centre for Child Protection found that children under 12 years old were depicted in 78.3 percent of the images and videos assessed by their team, and 63.4 percent of those children were under 8 years of age.” The same study found that 80.42 percent of the children were girls while 19.58 percent were boys. These staggering numbers underline the importance of Thorn’s work in targeting child pornography, especially when the physical and psychological trauma endured in early childhood affect the victims for the rest of their lives.

Child Sexual Abuse Deterrence Program

The majority of the sex trafficking victims end up in the situation because of living in poverty. As children of more impoverished and uneducated families, they often at higher risk of abduction or even being sold into slavery where they can end up in the estimated $13 billion pornography industry. In 2018, one in seven runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children likely became victims of sex trafficking, the majority of which came from low-income families. Therefore, issues of poverty ultimately need to be addressed in order to stamp out child sexual abuse entirely.

Poverty isn’t the only catalyst. Child pornography wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a market in which to sell it. So, to prevent the pattern from spreading even wider, Thorn communicates directly with people actively searching for material featuring child sexual abuse with the aim to make them think about and realize its consequences and hopefully to change their behavior by helping them understand their accountability for the detrimental situation these children are in. Thanks to Thorn’s child sexual abuse deterrence program, more than 140,000 individuals have sought help in addressing their role in supporting child pornography.

Progress So Far

With the help from Thorn’s anti-human trafficking software, law enforcement officers and investigators have already identified 5,791 child sex trafficking victims and rescued 103 children who were victims of sexual abuse that was recorded and distributed. Thorn continues working with more than 20 international NGOs and more than 40 tech partners, aiding more than 5,000 law enforcement officers in all 50 states and in more than 18 countries in the fight to eliminate sex trafficking and abuse.  

Ending human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children might be one of the worst fights society faces today, but with the help of organizations like Thorn creating anti-human trafficking software not only to find and recover these children but also to hold accountable and attempt to rehabilitate those who support the industry, there is hope of seeing a reduction in these types of atrocities in the future.

Photo: Flickr

Kenya
In the current climate of American culture, one has most likely heard or participated in a discussion about consent; but, in many nations and cultures, having a conversation about sexual consent can be quite foreign.

Global Conversations on Consent

Rape and sexual assault are pervasive parts of all societies. Currently, about 120 million girls worldwide, or roughly 1 in 10 of the women on Earth, have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts in their lives.

Contrary to many popular beliefs which imagine the perpetrators of these crimes to be strangers, it is most common that the person who commits sexual violence against girls and women are current or former boyfriends, partners or husbands.

Often women who suffer sexual violence at the hands of intimate partners do not consider these acts to be crimes. It can simply be seen as innate to such partnerships due to the cultural normalization of sexual violence. In 37 countries, perpetrators of rape are exempt from prosecution if they are married or subsequently marry their victim.

Ending the Silence

The historical power inequity between men and women has shown long-standing connections to sex. Interpersonal violence against a weaker partner is widespread and systematic, but sexual violence is rarely discussed within professional or familial relationships. Such silence occurs due to shame from the social stigmas attached to victims and widespread inexperience in conversing on such difficult and painful topics.

Global conversations on consent are amazing ways to lift the burden on survivors and victims of sexual assault and rape. In many countries with available data, less than 40 percent of women who experience physical or sexual violence seek help.

Education and Support

In so many instances, victims internalize these assaults through culturally induced practices of self-blame. Opening platforms where survivors have room to share their narratives is a paramount aspect in the struggle to end violence against women.   

An incredible example in the fight to begin global conversations on consent can be found in the education programs provided by the non-profit, No Means No Worldwide in Kenya and Malawi.

No Means No

No Means No Worldwide is training instructors in high-risk environments to teach a rape prevention curriculum to girls and boys aged 10-20 in both schools and clubs.

Education has major links to the perpetration and susceptibility to violence in both men and women. No Means No Worldwide’s curriculum empowers both girls and boys to create cultures of mutual respect. Girls are taught to identify risk and that they have the choice to say “no.”

If that “no” is not respected, girls and women can also learn physical skills to defend themselves. Boys learn to challenge their perceptions by questioning rape myths. Boys are also taught to ask for consent and to intervene if they expect or witness predatory behavior.

The Right Direction

The results of these programs are astounding. In the areas where their curriculums have been implemented, No Means No Worldwide has seen a 51 percent decrease in the incidence of rape and a 46 percent decrease in pregnancy-related school dropouts.

Fifty percent of girls stopped a rapist within the first year after training, and there was a 73 percent success rate of boys who intervened to prevent an assault.

Speaking Up

Poverty and sexual assault are experiences that are inextricably intertwined; the existence of each fuel the other and back again. People living in poverty and lacking in economic power and resources are at greater risk for sexual violence. In a world where women continue to be economically dependent, less educated and poorer than men, their sexual dignity and human rights are eternally at risk.

Rape is preventable, but first, we need to admit that sexual assault is happening. Global conversations on consent are one step in the road to ending violence against women — so start talking.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

sex trafficking in India
The trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This profitable industry generates an estimated $99 billion each year. Unsurprisingly, women and girls make up 96 percent of victims of sex trafficking. The action of sexual exploitation is a human rights violation. This exploitation robs these women and girls of integrity, dignity, health, security and equality.

Sex Trafficking in India an Ongoing Issue Despite New Laws

Sex trafficking in India continues to be lucrative and persistent, and poverty is a major factor. Many vulnerable women and girls are lured into the industry because of the promise of employment. When these women and girls are faced with the harsh reality of poverty, hunger and homelessness, many of them see this as the only option. Matters of poverty are sometimes so severe that parents will sell their own daughters into the trade. These women and children have no other options because they do not possess an education or the skills or the resources to escape sex slavery.

Although India’s Parliament passed a bill amending laws concerning sexual violence and making sex trafficking a criminal offense in 2013, this law will only be so successful. Trafficking is profitable, and corruption is widespread. Traffickers can easily pay off police officers to avoid the deserved charges, which leaves women and children still very much at risk and unprotected.

Sudara Provides Employment Opportunities for Sex Trafficking Victims

A mission-driven company exists on behalf of these women and children to not only empower them, but to provide them with dignified employment opportunities. Sudara is an online store that sells items such as clothing, bags, jewelry and children’s toys, yet there is so much story behind each of these items.

Sudara started in 2006 by partnering with a sewing center in India and taught six women how to sew a pattern for loungewear pants that have been named Punjammies. The previous year, founder Shannon Keith had just returned from a trip to India, where she heard many stories of women who were sold into sex slavery and women who were being picked up off the streets by local pimps.

From the beginning, Sudara’s focus and goal has remained the same: to empower women to live in freedom from sex slavery through safe, sustainable living-wage employment. Every pair of Punjammies robes and slouch pants are made in India, and every style is named after a woman at one of the centers.

Fifteen years later, Sudara has multiple sewing center partnerships with people from all over India and the United States. One of these center partners, Ivana, provides women who are at high risk of trafficking with valuable skills training on computers and tailoring. In addition, the center also offers counseling services for every woman as well as on-site childcare for their children.

Sudara’s mission also emphasizes providing a level of care that allows a woman who has been a victim of sex trafficking in India to heal from her past and facilitate training that leads to a self-sufficient future. Because of this, Sudara pays the sewing center partners a premium that goes towards medical care and counseling. This premium also goes towards job placement services and micro-loans for women who would like to start a business of their own.

Sudara’s Nonprofit Arm Helps the Most Vulnerable in India

Sudara also created a nonprofit organization, the Sudara Freedom Fund, to further its social impact goals. The donations made during checkout at sudara.org go towards the Sudara Freedom Fund and have helped fund safe housing for women escaping sex trafficking in India, equipment for new or growing sewing centers and back-to-school programs.

With the continuous support of donations to the Sudara Freedom Fund, one of their most recent successes is the Sunetha Home, which opened in 2017. The Sunetha Home is providing safe housing, meals and an education for 10 girls living in a red light district of India.

Although companies such as Sudara and its nonprofit, the Sudara Freedom Fund, are putting their efforts towards creating freedom for hundreds of women and girls who are at high risk of sex trafficking in India, it is not enough to end sex slavery once and for all. To do that, it is necessary to break the cycle of slavery for the next generation and the generations after that. By supporting Sudara and other philanthropic organization, many people are doing their part to combat the sexual exploitation that millions of women and children face.

– Angelina Gillespie
Photo: Flickr

John Marks
In an increasingly polarized world, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to be split on issues. Although this may not be negative, such binarization certainly has the potential to breed conflict. Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is a non-governmental agency that seeks to prevent violence that results from differences. Here are ten facts about Search for Common Ground that provide a better understanding of what the organization does.

10 Facts about Search for Common Ground

  1. Search for Common Ground was founded by John Marks in 1982 in Washington D.C. His vision was to replace the dog-eat-dog mentality of the world with the premise that everyone is better off if we are all better off.
  2. SFCG is revolutionizing the way the world deals with conflicts. Through listening and cooperation, the company brings people together toward a common goal and away from conflict.
  3. They have 59 offices worldwide and work in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.
  4. Search for Common Ground is dedicated to upholding human rights. As a result, they served as a signatory for a delegation in Nigeria known as the Steering Committee of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative.
  5. SFCG has a great global outreach program, as 795 thousand individuals volunteer with SFCG every year.
  6. Search for Common Ground has global initiatives such as “The Team.” This is a television series where soccer players must overcome their ethnic, social, religious and racial differences and use diversity to work together. This has proved to be an effective method to reach viewers as Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League said, “football (soccer) is a remarkable tool which can break down barriers, foster understanding, and teach people valuable lessons on a wide range of social issues.”
  7. SFCG encourages cooperation in specific locations through dialogue, media and community work.
  8. SFCG has been successful in using dialogue to better relations. In one case, they transformed the reputation of police officers in the Terai region of Nepal through the Pahunch Project. This project invited Terai youth and police officers to play football and ask questions about one another. Notoriously there is tension among these groups, but afterward, one participant named Mamta said, “The football clinic has made my friends and me positive towards the police.” In fact, she even later decided to become an officer herself.
  9. SFCG created a video: L’Équipe to address gender-based violence. It revolves around the perspective of two African women soccer players that are victims of sexual violence. Despite their pain, the two women seek to better their situation and community. This is one of the many SFCG media tools that reaches 51 million people annually and provides encouragement for women to stand up against sexual violence.
  10. The Kpaika community within the Democratic Republic of Congo is a poor area that is prone to attacks from rebel groups. In response, SFCG organized the Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC) project. This project bettered communication within the community by establishing radio networks and emergency plans of action. As a result, the community has felt a lot safer and is more prepared for potential attacks.

Creating Change

These facts about Search for Common Ground do not encompass the entirety of the organization’s successes as a whole. To learn more about the organization or how to help, visit sfcg.org.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in GhanaUnfortunately, in many countries around the world, women are not treated as an equal to men. Ghana is not an exception, as women are more likely to live in poverty, have less land, are excluded from decision-making, and make minimal income. These existing hardships make it hard for women’s Empowerment in Ghana.

Violence against women is a major issue that women face in Ghana. Women and young girls often face widespread violence, sexual harassment, and abuse in the areas that they populate, which includes their homes, workplaces, the streets, and on public transportation. In many circumstances, women have to constantly live in fear of being attacked and this can lessen their likelihood of living a full life.

The lack of control that women in Ghana have over their own bodies is also extremely harmful. Women and girls are forced to endure dangerous practices that bring great suffering to them. One of these practices is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). At the young ages of 10 through 12, young girls are forced to go through this mutilation. In addition, they may be forced into marriage, sex-selective abortion, dowry-related crimes, honor crimes, and other harmful practices.

An organization, act!onaid, is a global movement that is working in Ghana to help improve rights and reduce poverty. Some of the issues they are working on are bringing awareness to violence against women and girls, bringing women to the forefront of decision making and leadership opportunities, and harnessing women’s economic empowerment and economic justice. They are working to include women’s rights as a priority in developmental policies and advocating for spaces where women’s voices, especially those from poorer backgrounds will be heard.

Dealing with women’s education in Ghana, there are major inequalities when it comes to women’s access. The country is nearing gender parity in primary education, but the gender gap in post-primary education level remains a challenge, although there was a marginal improvement in percentage of girls in senior high school and technical vocational education and training.

To bring about women’s Empowerment in Ghana, act!onaid has adopted strategies and interventions to promote gender equality and women empowerment. They have established the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs through Executive Instrument. They will be initiating and coordinating formulation policies to monitor and evaluate the execution of policies in place to ensure the promotion of gender equality and empowerment.

Additionally, the organization plans to implement gender-responsive budgeting. They plan to use a strategy using the government’s fiscal policy to achieve gender equality and to implement the gender-responsive budgeting in three sectors of the economy; education, health, and agriculture. In addition, they plan to mainstream justice as a policy area for gender equity. The legal reforms will include Constitutional provisions for gender equity under the law to criminalize harmful tradition practices against young women and girls.

The country of Ghana has the help of organizations and a government making changes to alter the hardships the women are facing. If these ideas are put into place, women’s Empowerment in Ghana can exist and these women can live full lives.

– Chavez Spicer

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in South SudanOver the past several decades, South Sudan has experienced severe political division, violence and unbearable poverty. Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes to neighboring countries for asylum. The violence has been targeted at men, women, children, the disabled and the elderly. However, women and young girls are considered a particularly vulnerable population for violence, specifically physical and sexual violence. This sometimes includes forced marriages. In spite of the vulnerability and risk, women’s empowerment in South Sudan is growing. Here are some things to know about the empowerment of women in South Sudan.

Current Situation

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), approximately 475,000 women and girls are at risk for physical and sexual violence. Most recent estimates indicate that more than half of young women between the ages of 15-24 have experienced some form of gender-based violence. The violence women are experiencing in South Sudan is of serious concern and importance because it deeply impacts women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health, and may also place them at an increased risk for contracting diseases, such as the incurable HIV.

Forced marriages are a frequent practice in South Sudan. Almost 50 percent of South Sudanese girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married, and some are as young as 12. Forced marriages have severe psychological implications for girls and women, but experts also argue that it contributes to the high levels of poverty, gender gaps in education and the country having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

The perpetual gender-based violence and forced marriage creates serious physical and mental health concerns, limits their potential for progress and improvement and strips them of their basic human rights.

What is being done?

The United Nations Development Programme currently works to empower women in South Sudan through education and awareness. Awareness is one of the fundamental aspects of their work in South Sudan, as fear and stigma frequently prevent women from seeking the help they need. The program also provides additional support to women who have already experienced severe violence through counseling services and medical assistance.

The UNDP is also working with the government to encourage women’s empowerment in South Sudan. The government is working to address gender-based violence through mental health support programs and through national planning. South Sudan is in the process of developing a new permanent constitution and building new institutions that reflect the country’s movement towards gender equality and the empowerment of women.

What can be done?

Currently, South Sudan lacks severe governmental infrastructure, and overall the country has some of the worst human development indicators across the globe.  Many programs related to women’s empowerment in South Sudan are underfunded as gender-based violence is not considered to be a priority for government spending, due to the country’s high rate of poverty.

However, poverty and gender-based violence go hand-in-hand. If fewer women are subjected to violence and forced marriages, more women would then have the ability to work and find jobs; in turn lifting individuals, and possibly families, out of poverty. Women’s empowerment in South Sudan needs additional awareness, coupled with increased funding in order to provide women with the best future possible.

– Sarah Jane Fraser

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights Issues in the Marshall Islands
The Marshall Islands, like every country, has human rights issues that plague the nation. According to a 2015 Human Rights Report, the country’s human rights issues include the conditions of its prisons, domestic violence and corruption within the government. Along with these, the Marshall Islands struggles with the protection of worker’s rights, child abuse and trafficking.

The conditions in the Marshall Islands prison facility in Majuro were not up to code in 2015. In the older wing of the prison, the area was much darker and cleanliness was low compared to the newer wing. There were no fights or deaths, however, and no inmates complained of mistreatment.

The Marshall Islands government has yet to find a way to deal with the effects of 67 nuclear weapons tests that were conducted by the United States from 1947 to 1958. 14,000 Marshallese had to relocate and have struggled to keep their health in check long-term because of this. The survivors of this testing have since spoken up and the Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded them $2 billion. This amount was not paid out in full, however, due to lack of funds.

In 2012, the U.N. discovered that more than 60 years later, a long-term solution has yet to be found for the people displaced by the testing. Calin Geogescu, a United Nations Special Reporter, believes that solutions need to be specific to the needs of each individual atoll affected.

Refugee status is still not accessible for the Marshallese. As the effects of climate change cause sea levels to rise higher each year, there is a good chance that their homeland will be gone soon. The Marshall Islands’ laws do not have a system in place to protect its citizens who seek asylum or refugee status. If the islands and atolls fall completely victim to climate change, the Marshallese will have nowhere else to go because their refugee status does not exist.

Sex trafficking and domestic violence are also major issues in the Marshall Islands. The U.N. Population Fund study found that “seven out of 10 women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.” The victims of domestic violence are often discouraged from seeking justice because of cultural restraints. “91 percent of women who experienced domestic violence at the hands of their partner or spouse did not report it due to fear of repercussion or belief that the abuse was justified.”

The NGO Women United Together in the Marshall Islands and a 2011 Domestic Violence Protection and Prevention Act are both attempts at preventing this injustice. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been focused on keeping the children of the Marshall Islands away from violence and trafficking as well. They primarily give their attention to “the right of children to survival; to develop to their fullest potential; to protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation; and to participate in family, cultural and social life.”

These are just a few of the many human rights issues in the Marshall Islands. Improvements are sporadically occurring, but consistency is where these solutions are lacking. A continued focus on what the Marshall Islands has already implemented will help resolve these human rights issues.

Mackenzie Fielder

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Genocide of Yazidis by ISILIslamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State, is an insurgent group operating in Iraq and Syria. Its propaganda is centered around brutality towards its enemies and those who violate Islamic law. Here are 10 facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL.

Top Yazidis Genocide Facts

  1. The Yazidis are a Kurdish religious minority who live in Iraq, Syria, the Caucasus region and some parts of Turkey and Iran. Their religion has elements of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. The Yazidis were subjected to genocide several times under the Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries for their beliefs. On August 3, 2014, ISIL attacked the Yazidi living in Sinjar (Iraq).
  2. The most important of the facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL is the orchestrated attack that was a part of a wider offensive to take control of minorities and Christians, who were asked to convert to Islam or pay religious taxes to stay alive. However, the Yazidis were declared infidels and “devil-worshippers” who deserved to be exterminated from the face of the earth.
  3. Tens of thousands of Yazidis had to flee to Mount Sinjar. They remained trapped there for days and many died of hunger and dehydration, while hundreds were massacred by ISIL. On August 7, 2014, the U.S. announced military action to help the trapped Yazidis at the request of the Iraqi government.
  4. Around 10,000 Yazidis were either killed or captured in August 2014 alone, out of which 3,100 were murdered by gunshots, beheaded and burned alive.
  5. In addition to the killings, ISIL systematically separated the women to rape, sexually mutilate and sterilize while many children were sent to training camps.
  6. The sexual violence against Yazidi women captured by ISIL is the most talked about among the facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL. Around 7,000 women were sold as sex slaves or handed to jihadists as concubines. Girls as young as nine were sold off to Islamic State fighters, routinely raped and punished with extreme violence when they tried to escape. Children were killed as a means to punish their mothers for resisting.
  7. Mass graves were found with bodies of older women who could not command a price in the sex market. These mothers and grandmothers were not considered young or beautiful enough to rape, so they were simply taken behind the technical institute to be shot down in Solagh, east of Sinjar.
  8. Videos were recorded of “converted” Yazidi men and boys urging their relatives to convert to Islam and were then shown in all the holding sites. Families that obeyed were reunited. However, ISIL determined in the spring of 2015 that all conversions by Yazidis were false and separated all the reunited families.
  9. The Yazidi shrines of Sheikh Mand, Sheikh Hassan, Malak Fakhraddin and Mahma Rasha were destroyed following the attack. Yazidi homes were marked with symbols to distinguish them from others so that they could be looted and destroyed.
  10. The United Nations has classified the attacks on Yazidis by ISIL as genocide in its report, stating “ISIS has sought to erase the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm; the infliction of conditions of life that bring about a slow death; the imposition of measures to prevent Yazidi children from being born, including forced conversion of adults, the separation of Yazidi men and women, and mental trauma; and the transfer of Yazidi children from their own families and placing them with ISIS fighters, thereby cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their own religious community.”

– Tripti Sinha

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