Jarawa tribe
“Dance,” pressured the policeman to the tribal women who were naked from the waist up. “Dance for me,” he pestered, offering them food in exchange for coercing the semi-naked tribe members to put on a performance for his entertainment. This was a viral video from 2012 that brought mainstream attention to the Jarawa tribe. The video shows a tourist fantasy for those who encroach upon the land for a “human safari” experience. The Jarawa, a tribe that some once hunted down during colonial British rule, now runs the risk of extinction due to growing modern-day threats.

About the Jarawa Tribe

According to scholar George Weber, the Jarawa tribe are Pygmy Negrito people living in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India who are “a remnant population representing perhaps the earliest migration out of Africa of modern Homo Sapiens.” This Paleolithic tribe that still lives a Stone Age hunter-gatherer lifestyle has around 450 members in total. The tribe represents one of the four tribal communities (Great Andamanese, Onge and Sentinelese) living in the region who for the longest time refused contact with modern society. Unlike the Sentinelese tribe who refuse contact violently, the bow and arrow-wielding Jarawa tribe first established peaceful contact with the Indian government in 1997.

The Threats the Jarawa Tribe Faces

While making half-naked women dance is common, poachers similarly lure young tribal women with groceries, alcohol and meat to harm them physically and sexually exploit them. The government-approved “contact” resulted in alcohol and smoking addictions as well as the spread of diseases (the tribes lack the immunity of modern people) with COVID-19 now becoming one of their gravest threats. Additionally, a growing number of settlers is encroaching on tribal land. With one Jarawa for every 1,000 settlers, the wealthier settlers tend to deplete tribal land of resources.

But the most threatening thing to the Jarawa tribe today is “mainstreaming.” Mainstreaming refers to the policy of pushing a tribe to join the country’s dominant modern society. This most notably strips the tribe of its self-sufficiency and identity, leaving them struggling at the margins of society. The Borgen Project spoke with Yash Meghwal, the spokesperson of Tribal Army, a leading organization in India that has been fighting against tribal injustice. According to Meghwal, hunter-gatherer, tribal populations like the Jarawas are “not equipped to survive in a market-based economy.” Elaborating on this, he stated that “to move into the upper echelon of society, one must have proper education and then the adequate business or job opportunity” which governments have failed to provide to the tribes.

The Latest Threat: Human Safaris

Interactions with modern society increased after the construction of the Andaman Trunk Road. The road cuts through the Jarawa tribe’s reserve forests and brought in a large population of refugee settlers. Tour companies now allow “human safari” experiences along this road. This does not just exacerbate abuse, addictions and the spread of diseases from interaction with modern people. It also encourages the treatment of tribes as if they are zoo animals. This cultivates the dehumanization of tribal people. As Meghwal put it, “we are failing if our citizens are equated with wild animals.” Human safaris exist to profit from the poor, powerless tribal population. Thus, the tourism industry has emerged at the expense of their privacy, dignity, health and human rights.

When referring to the road, Meghwal said that “the state is only interested in making new roads as infrastructure. Modern society does not care about the ecological and environmental balance; their focus is more on the extraction from the tribal land.”

Larger Problem of Tribal Discrimination

Discrimination in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is emblematic of a larger problem of tribal discrimination. Unfortunately, this level of discrimination is far bigger than the confines of the Islands. Meghwal claimed that this discrimination comes from conflating the tribal population with the Dalits. The Dalits are among the Indian lower caste. The Indian caste system is a hierarchal system that ascribes supremacy to one group and untouchability to the other. “Both Dalits and tribes suffer similar nature problems such as deprivation, discrimination and exclusion,” Meghwal claimed.

The Borgen Project also spoke with Jarken Gadi. He is a former sociology professor who is now a fellow for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. According to Gadi, this discrimination is a product of “the lack of awareness supplied by educational institutions and media houses.”

Tribal Army as a Solution

Hansraj Meena, one of the most prominent tribal activists in India, founded Tribal Army. This organization may hold the solution to the discrimination of the Jarawa tribe and other tribes across the country. Meghwal claimed that people should grant tribes rights in the case of land and forests. He also mentioned that “we should avoid [letting] too many outsiders into tribal territory.” Additionally, he stated that there is also a need for constitutional measures to protect tribes as they participate in the market economy. Tribal Army has also called for requirements of “reservation in the private sector and in business,” stating “it is the most necessary step for tribal welfare.”

Gadi’s solution to discrimination and threats is a call for awareness programs which the government initiated. These programs would teach the public about the different tribes and how they should treat them. The education system and media can influence thought, change negative attitudes and stop harmful actions toward the tribal community.

Organizations like Tribal Army constantly advocate for policy change. People are challenging the status quo of tribal discrimination. With advancements like these, positive change can come for the Jarawa tribe and for overall tribal welfare.

– Iris Anne Lobo
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the DRCConflict and poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have once again become causes of concern. Conflicts have escalated in recent months and resulted in a crisis that impacts enormous swaths of the country. Since there is a strong link between conflict and poverty in the DRC, international attention and aid efforts have shifted to combat the situation.

The Ongoing Conflict

The current crisis and the damaging relationship between conflict and poverty in the DRC is a persistent problem. For years, the DRC experienced widespread violence, especially in the country’s eastern provinces. About 3,000 civilians died in the eastern part of the country in 2020 alone. There were also much higher rates of human rights violations in 2020 in the DRC. The violence has a destabilizing effect on the entire region.

The most recent escalation in violence occurred as armed groups went on the offensive following military efforts by government forces in 2020. The worst of the fighting is in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. Attacks in recent months in the province of North Kivu displaced nearly 20,000 people. Additionally, about two million people experienced displacement within the province in the last two years.

Interaction Between Conflict and Poverty

The World Bank estimates that nearly 64% of the country lives in extreme poverty. The conflict is one of the key contributors to poverty in the country. In 2017 and 2018, there were two million displaced persons. Additionally, the violence is so widespread that many people have fled multiple times.

Conflict and poverty also resulted in an immense food shortage in the DRC. Hunger in the DRC skyrocketed in recent months due to conflict and COVID-19. “A record 27.3 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are facing acute hunger, one-third of the violence-wracked Central African country’s population.” The areas that have the highest rates of hunger have also experienced widespread conflict.

Aid Efforts

The need for assistance to the DRC is massive. Organizations are providing as much assistance as possible for Congolese people suffering from hunger, conflict and poverty. The UNHCR and other organizations coordinated with local authorities. Since the start of 2020, the UNHCR has provided more than 100,000 people with emergency shelters. The current UNHCR operation in the country has so far only received 36% of the funding necessary.

The World Food Programme (WFP) alone assisted almost seven million people throughout the country in 2020. The WFP distributed tens of millions of dollars of cash assistance throughout the country and tens of thousands of metric tons of food in 2020. However, the WFP stated that it would need $662 million in 2021 alone to address the crisis.

The people of the DRC suffer from a crisis of conflict and poverty. The widespread conflict plays a critical role in keeping most of the population in extreme poverty and causing widespread hunger throughout the country. As a result, sizable amounts of aid have come from organizations such as the UNHCR and the WFP. Still, these efforts require more support from the international community to effectively combat this crisis of conflict and poverty in the DRC.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

Sexual Assault in South AfricaOver 50 care centers in South Africa provide support and resources for survivors of sexual crimes. They serve as “one-stop facilities” for those seeking help. Their mission is “to reduce secondary victimization, improve conviction rates and reduce the time between when a crime is committed and when the perpetrator is finally convicted.” These centers have had success but the overall number of sexual assaults in South Africa, which in reality are most likely significantly higher, are staggering.

Sexual Assault in South Africa

Sexual assault in South Africa is shockingly high. Estimates determined that a sexual offense occurs every 10 minutes. Between April 2019 and March 2020, police statistics reported 53,295 sexual offenses but it is likely that most crimes are not reported. The Medical Health Council estimates that victims only report one in nine attacks. Violence toward women seems to be a normalized part of society as data from 2000 shows similar results. Some claim women in South Africa might experience rape every 17 seconds. Others say every 26 seconds but regardless of exact numbers, it is clear sexual violence toward women is a massive problem for the country.

Police are defensive about sexual assault in South Africa. They say the rate of sexual offenses decreased in the province of Gauteng, but the Institute for Security Studies has pointed out a flaw in their logic. If one considers updated population statistics, the rate of sexual assault increases by 1.5%. As a result, one can determine that 127 people out of 100,000 people were victims of sexual assault.

Rape is an extremely underreported crime. A study in Gauteng in 2010 showed that one-quarter of women who underwent questioning experienced rape in 2009. However, “only one in 13 women raped by a non-partner reported the matter to the police, while only one in 25 of the women raped by their partners reported this to the police.” Therefore, as previously mentioned, statistics about sexual assault in South Africa only show a small amount.

Why Are Numbers So High?

A few factors can show why sexual assault in South Africa is so high. These include how the country struggled to move on from apartheid along with high unemployment, high poverty and unequal land distribution. Both the government and pro-democracy groups used violence to further goals, and after 50 years, society saw violence as normal. The government “used violence to keep control over the ‘non-white’ population, whilst the pro-democracy campaign encouraged violence as a means to further their goals.” The police used violence against women which led to many women fearing or mistrusting the police. This mindset continues to this day.

Police Conviction Records

Convictions for instances of sexual assault in South Africa are low. Around 14% of perpetrators receive sentences for sexual assault with that number going down to 3% when it is against adult women. Around one in 400 rapes in South Africa end in a conviction. Reports say some police take bribes so charges will go away and in Southern Johannesburg, around one in 20 pieces of evidence goes missing. The reasons why most women do not report sexual abuse are clear, as are the reasons why the real number is high. The chances of conviction are very low. While numbers and data often are skewed and naturally change over time, the overall amount of evidence suggests clear problems in the police force when it comes to responding to sexual assault.

Care Centers

Thuthuzela Care Centers have really helped people and since 2006, 51 centers have emerged. The centers are helping survivors and trying to improve conviction rates. Most are near or even attached to hospitals as sometimes medical assistance is necessary. For years, the centers made progress, and now, many centers get around 60-80 patients a month. During holidays, the number is up to around 100-120. The United Nations and the government are currently working to improve the centers even more.

Care centers operate using a five-step process:

  1. A survivor reports a rape case to a center or police station.
  2. The staff at the centers help the survivor obtain medical attention.
  3. The care centers organize counseling for the survivor.
  4. The staff at the centers help the survivor open a police case, which can occur at any time.
  5. The staff arranges ongoing counseling and court preparation for the survivor.

The care centers provide many services to help survivors. However, long-term solutions should also emerge so the actual root of the problem can reach a resolution. However, care centers are still a significant step in the right direction.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Law in South Africa
The poorest citizens of South Africa are amidst a turning point in their history. In July 2021, stress from socioeconomic and pandemic-related challenges boiled to civil unrest after the July 2021 arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. The relationship between circumstances of poverty and conflict drives a volatile history of fragility and rule of law in South Africa and presents challenges to overcoming poverty in the nation.

The Link Between Conflict and Poverty

Poverty and conflict are inseparable resultants of each other: where there is poverty, the fragility and rule of law of a governing body are prone to violence. When more citizens are subject to poor living conditions, the likelihood of conflict is increased. A 2011 report on conflict and poverty describes poverty as a “causal arrow… to the conflict.” This means fragility and rule of law in South Africa are reliant on the improvement of poverty-related conditions. This is due to political promises that call for the end of poverty in the nation. Recent violence suggests that citizens living in poverty believe promises fall short of action. South African unrest in 2021 is anecdotal evidence of the connection poverty and conflict have with each other.

South African Frustration

A 2014 report describes South African citizens taking part in violence as “clamoring for the redemption of the promises made to them.” This description explains the circumstance by which fragility and rule of law in South Africa are affected. Unrest in South Africa explains that poverty plays a major role in exacerbating conflict and makes it clear South Africa has a fragile economy. Those taking part in the widespread unrest were not exercising a meticulously planned attack on the South African government. Rather, those who were looting were filling the absence of governmental aid in the first place. For example, the nation is dealing with a third COVID-19 wave along with rising unemployment. Frustrations in poverty response allowed for unrest to grow in the nation. Jacob Zuma’s arrest was a tipping point in the conflict already consuming lives in South Africa.

Addressing Poverty in South Africa

Poverty reduction efforts in South Africa are mixed. Frustration pointed toward the government reveals widespread poverty. The South African economy has slowed its growth in the past decade. Additionally, the nation has a wide economic disparity between citizens. This disparity is affecting fragility and rule of law in South Africa substantially. In a 2012 report, the Brookings Institution described the nation as “the most consistently unequal country in the world.” Development in the nation has left out a large portion of those living in poverty which means some forgo financial stability.

Regardless of South Africa’s scenario, a key in reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law. The 2011 World Development Report argues that “strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizen security, justice and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence.” This is the goal of current institutions within South Africa. In 2015, the African National Committee, the ruling party of South Africa, adopted The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an addition to its 2012 National Development Plan. The combined goals aim for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality by 2030.

COVID-19 Complications

Progress in sustainable development has not substantially reduced poverty. Rather, the World Bank estimated that poverty increased by 9% due to COVID-19. An increase in unemployment from coronavirus lockdowns highlights the current challenges in reaching the same goals.

Pandemic-related challenges to reducing poverty point to the boiling of governmental control. An increase in household instability during COVID-19 affected fragility and rule of law in South Africa. This explains the recent conflict in the region. Reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law in South Africa.

Addressing poverty and economic disparity in South Africa means answering the roots of conflict. Frustrations with the South African government lie within the ability for individuals to have access to human necessities. Foreign assistance and continual support for South Africa’s SDGs can aid efforts to reduce conflict that induces poverty in South Africa.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

riots in South AfricaSouth Africa’s poverty rates have long been high, and the pandemic exacerbated the situation for the country’s lowest-income people. Furthermore, weeks of riots in South Africa have left buildings burning, food scarce and many people in Durban and the surrounding cities starving.

Reasons for the Riots

On July 8, South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma started serving a sentence of 15 months in prison for contempt of court, an offense that entails disrespectful or insulting behavior toward a court of law or law officials. Zuma’s imprisonment angered supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. As a result, violence and unrest began to spread within the province.

Rioters blocked major highways and burned about 20 trucks, resulting in the closing of two major roads that link the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay to the industrial hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Furthermore, looters ransacked shopping malls, taking food, electronics, clothes and liquor. The attacks spread through KwaZulu-Natal to the Gauteng province, the country’s largest city of Johannesburg and the seat of the country’s executive branch, Pretoria. In Durban and Pietermaritzburg, rioters also burned warehouses and factories, collapsing many of their roofs. A week into the riots, 25,000 army troops were deployed, ending the violence, but plenty of damage had already been done.

The Manipulation of the Poor

Thousands of businesses have closed due to fear of ambush by rioters. In addition, because of many looters taking clothes, food, medical supplies and even flat-screen TVs, more than 200 malls have been forced to shut down.

With many businesses closing down in the Durban area, food, clothes and other supplies are rarities. For people living in poverty in Durban and the surrounding towns, food was always scarce, but now it is even more so than usual. Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political analyst, said the communities have left people in poverty to fend for themselves in a system that keeps them in poverty, causing them to start lashing out.

While the riots initially protested the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, their continuation reflected general grievances over the inequality and poverty that have rocked the country. Amid people in poverty’s anger about decades of mistreatment and discrimination, criminals used the chaos for their own benefit.

July’s riots hit people with unstocked pantries and massive debt the hardest. President Cyril Ramaphosa sent troops to aid police in quelling the riots, but people in poverty remained in need of immediate relief.

Muslims for Humanity

Many Muslim organizations in South Africa have come together to bring relief to people impacted by the riots. South African Muslim businesses and NGOs such as Muslims for Humanity and Natal Memon Jamaat Foundation (NMJ) have come together to distribute bread and milk to communities impacted by violence and looting in the Durban area.

Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr

Women’s rights in FranceWith the rise of women’s rights movements in recent years, French citizens have mobilized to address gender issues, especially the prevalence of femicide and domestic violence. France has made much progress in the realm of gender equality, including the establishment of policies and programs promoting women’s rights in France under the Macron administration. However, there is still much to be done to reach true equality and to end gender-based violence.

Violence Against Women

In France, femicides —  the killing of women by a relative or significant other — have been a significant reason for protest in recent years. La Fondation des Femmes, or the Women’s Foundation, is one protest group that has formed around the issue as it believes government efforts to curb the violence are not enough to keep citizens safe. In a recent article from the BBC, the Women’s Foundation criticized the lack of adequate gun policy as firearms are one of the most common weapons used in femicides.

Additionally, pandemic-induced lockdowns have forced many women to be confined in the same space as abusers, resulting in a 30% increase in domestic violence reports, according to France24. Due to its continued prevalence, gender violence is a central concern for activists advocating for women’s rights in France.

The #MeToo movement also gained traction in France in 2017 under the French name #BalanceTonPorc. Though there were no significant convictions or resignations of perpetrators of sexual violence at first, the rise in protests and social media movements greatly increased the visibility of victims in 2020.

Efforts to Combat Gender-Based Violence

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphasis on gender equality provided much hope for feminist voters during his 2017 presidential campaign. As part of his pledge to support women’s rights in France, Macron implemented protective policies for women and has established the position of Secretariat of Equality between Women and Men, a role currently held by Marlène Schiappa. Under Macron’s administration, France scored 75.1% in 2020 in terms of the Gender Equality Index, ranking third-best among all members of the EU.

In response to protests and the advocacy of groups such as the Women’s Foundation, the French government implemented several pieces of legislation addressing gender violence. According to the BBC, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a domestic violence conference in 2019, during which he pledged to increase the number of temporary shelters for victims, improve the procedures of domestic violence cases and contribute more than $6 million to the cause. French parliament added to these measures by approving a law permitting doctors to reveal the identity of a patient if domestic violence is putting the patient’s life at risk.

Women’s Rights Progress

There has been some improvement as between 2019 and 2020 the number of domestic murders of women decreased from 146 to 90, a historically low number that the government believes to be a result of the work of its policies and law enforcement.

Despite government efforts to decrease gender violence, many individuals are still concerned by the alarming numbers of femicides. Protest groups in France are creating street collages highlighting femicide and sexual harassment. Caroline De Haas, the founder of the feminist movement NousToutes, told the Guardian that “nearly 100 deaths is no reason to celebrate.”

There are several hopeful developments for gender equality in France. However, despite an explicit government commitment to equality, the government must take additional steps to conquer disparities in female employment and leadership, gender violence, harassment and wage gaps. The continued protests asserting an end to violence against women demonstrate the need for more policy and execution of legislation for women’s rights in France.

Sarah Stolar
Photo: pixabay

Books From the Front Lines
On March 4, 2021, outrage flooded the streets of India after the news of a new honor killing. Honor killings happen when a girl or a woman becomes a victim of murder for shaming her family. Often these women are victims of physical abuse, verbal abuse or sexual assault. Bringing attention to the topic of honor-based killings and violence against women and girls are authors that have either experienced these inhumane acts first hand or reported them. Authors from across the globe are giving women a voice against the violence, honor killings and crimes they may suffer at the hands of family members. Below are four books from the front lines that exemplify the courage it takes to speak against honor-based killings.

“Murder in the Name of Honor” by Rara Husseini

In this book, author Rara Husseini provides real-life accounts of honor killings. One focus of the book is the tragic story of Kifaya. Her brother took her life after he sexually assaulted her. Husseini detailed the family’s indifference to her investigation to garner justice for the girl. In an interview with Kifaya’s uncles, Husseini dove deeper into the mistreatment of the young woman even after her death. “They spoke of her as if they were speaking about a sheep, these men were part of the conspiracy, her body not yet cold yet they were here smoking and drinking like nothing happened.”

As a journalist who commits to the truth at every turn, Husseini does not turn away from a confrontation. She has been fighting the articles and laws that protect murderers like Kifaya’s brother and has turned the story of Kifaya into one of recognition in face of adversity.

“Unbroken Spirit” by Ferzanna Riley

Ferzanna Riley, the author of “Unbroken Spirit,” was born to Muslim parents in Pakistan. She experienced a hard upbringing. The deception and betrayal that she and her sister experienced from their parents led them to return to Pakistan from their new home in London. Trapped in a home that permitted violence, Ferzanna questioned her faith daily. In this astonishing true story about faith, loss and violence, readers can learn about Riley’s strength and her unbroken spirit, despite living in an abusive home.

“Daughters of Shame” by Jasvinder Sanghera

In a family where honor matters more than anything, freedom often means risking it all for a way out. This was the case for Jasvinder Sanghera, who was born in England to seven sisters and one brother. All of her sisters married before the age of 16. When she was 14, her family showed her a photograph of a man they told her she was to marry. This began a series of repeated attempts to get Jasvinder to marry. “Daughters of Shame” recounted Jasvinder’s estranged family relationship after she ran away from home at the age of 16.

“Beyond Honour” by Tahira S. Khan

These books from the front lines are a view into the injustices of honor-based killings. The author Tahira S. Khan takes these insights a step further to examine the causes, motives and political aspects of honor-based killings. Tahira S. Khan is a distinguished professor whose work receives inspiration from experience and academic study. She obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in International studies. “Beyond Honour” goes in-depth to examine honor killings as crimes of historical importance.

Honor killings are crimes against humanity. The repercussions of such horrendous actions are something no family should bear witness to. The group Honour-Based Violence Network brings awareness and action to ending honor killings. Its library includes books from the front lines by authors like Rara Husseini, Ferzanna Riley, Jasvinder Sanghera and Tahira S. Khan. One can access these works of great achievement here to obtain awareness about honor-based killings.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

LOVE MYSELF campaignIn 2017, the internationally known K-pop boy band, BTS, started its anti-violence LOVE MYSELF campaign in partnership with UNICEF. The goal was to help promote self-esteem and self-love while ending violence against children and young people around the world. The campaign was widely successful, raising $1.4 million in its first year and $2.98 million to date.

BTS: Background

From the start of its career, BTS broke the proverbial mold for K-pop groups. BTS uses its creative freedom to give voice to its struggles and fears. In doing so, the group was also representing the same struggles and fears of the youth. In September 2017, the group released the first album of a trilogy bearing the title “Love Yourself,” with the final two albums released in 2018. The three-album cycle follows a structure posed by psychologists Erich Fromm and Joseph Magno, presenting a journey to self-love.

UNICEF Partnership

UNICEF began the #ENDviolence campaign in 2013 with a focus on creating a safer world for the youth. When BTS joined four years later with the LOVE MYSELF campaign, the group brought fans and social media presence to the original campaign. BTS helped raise money at pop-up booths at every stop of the group’s global concerts. The group also donated a portion of album sales and 100% of all profits from the LOVE MYSELF campaign merchandise will go toward #ENDviolence. The funds raised through the LOVE MYSELF campaign are used to protect and support children and teens affected by domestic violence, school-related violence and sexual violence. The funds are also used to empower local communities to take a stand and prevent violence.

COVID-19 and a Renewal of Support

The COVID-19 pandemic caused hardships for many. With school closures, young people have been significantly affected. Furthermore, with decreased access to services during the COVID-19 pandemic, a renewed focus has fallen on the mental and psychological well-being of children or young adults enduring any kind of violence, neglect or bullying.

In response, BTS renewed a commitment to the LOVE MYSELF campaign in March 2021, signing on for two more years. This includes expanding the ongoing LOVE MYSELF campaign, supporting UNICEF with $500,000 per year and a separate $1 million donation to UNICEF by 2022. The renewal also raised the campaign to a global partnership, expanding from just UNICEF Korea to UNICEF at large to better help prevent violence against youth across the globe.

As UNICEF supporters, BTS spoke directly to heads of states and other world leaders at a United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York. The group released an exclusive music video to support the campaign and encourage love and kindness online and in real life.

Prioritizing Self-Love and Ending violence

The LOVE MYSELF campaign is close to the hearts of the members of BTS. The core of the campaign’s message is similar to that of the group’s music. BTS wants fans to prioritize self-love and anti-violence. The group’s renewal of support for the LOVE MYSELF campaign with UNICEF shows a continued commitment to protect and empower children and young people around the world.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Violence Against Women
The bill titled the Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence has been under review and edits since 2013. In September 2019, Iran’s legislation approved the bill and now, parliament and the Guardian Council will review it. The vice president for women and affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar is spearheading the bill. Masoumeh Ebtekar entered her position in 2017 and has pushed for reform to protect women from violence. This bill aims to address the issue of domestic violence against women in Iran. For the past 17 years, Iranian women have been campaigning and fighting for a bill that protects women from violence. Here is some information about violence against women in Iran.

Women in Iran

Iranian women frequently receive treatment as second-class citizens and devaluing due to gender-based discrimination. Iranian women also frequently face physical, sexual and psychological abuse. In Iran, domestic abuse is not illegal, leaving women venerable to violence. If a woman’s husband is abusive, the only legal action a woman can take is to have her husband financially support her for the first three months after separation.

The Iranian judicial system systemically discriminates against women in other ways as well. For example, women are legally responsible at 9 years old, whereas the system charges men as adults at 13 years old.

Violence Against Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2020, female-aimed violence in Iran skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It caused public outrage and led to the birth of Iran’s own Me Too movement, sparking protests and demand for reform and equality.

Many public events charged the civil discourse. One of the most public events of violence in 2020 involved Romina Ashrafi, a 14-year-old girl. Her father beheaded her in what he called an honor killing. This act of terror sparked a demand for change, forcing Iran’s legislation to approve and pass the long-awaited bill regarding violence against women. As Iranian researcher Tara Sepehri Far said, “For decades, Iranian women have been waiting for comprehensive legislation to prevent violence against women and prosecute their abusers.”

The Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence Bill

The bill intends to address violence through education. In fact, it will implement educational courses for teachers, parents and students to help others recognize when a woman is at risk of violence and help bring awareness and knowledge to the subject of abuse against women. The bill will also implement legal support for women in abusive situations, including safe houses and medical and psychological aid for women. It will also initiate training for medical workers to equip them on how to help women seek help in abusive situations.

Another major reform of the bill requires law enforcement to redesign how it approaches violence against women. Before this bill, many lawyers and law enforcement were wary of taking on domestic abuse cases, often regarding violence cases against women as a family issue, not rather than a state issue. This bill now requires judiciaries and law enforcement to seriously address the topic and consider them a public safety issue.

Looking Ahead

This bill is a positive step toward ending violence against females; however, Iran must also address the bill’s shortcomings. The bill does not aim to end or address marital rape or child marriage, or even domestic abuse, thus leaving these essential topics in silence.

However, this bill is worthy of recognition for progressing protection for women in Iran. Women in Iran have been fighting for a voice and change and this bill is a powerful reminder that growth and change do happen. While it will not end women’s fight for safety and equality right away, it is a worthy beginning showing that the Iranian government now recognizes that domestic violence and discrimination are significant issues.

– Rachel Wolf
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela Temporary Protection StatusDue to the dangerous conditions in Venezuela, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) helped pass the S.50: H.R. 161: Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021. This act aims to protect eligible Venezuelan citizens residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return to their home country. In addition to other criteria, Venezuelan citizens applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) must demonstrate they have been continuous residents of the U.S. since March 8, 2021, and have been continuously present in the U.S. since March 9, the effective date of the TPS. Considering these prerequisites, USCIS estimates around 323,000 citizens are applicable for TPS.

The Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act allows beneficiaries to remain in the United States for an extended period of 18 months or until September 9, 2022, when the act is no longer active. They are also authorized to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) during this period as long as they follow the requirements of their TPS. An EAD allows non-citizens to work in the U.S. for a certain period of time. Beneficiaries can also apply for authorized travel outside of the U.S. but retain the same immigrant status after returning. It is important to note that TPS does not lead or result in permanent resident status. Whatever past status a beneficiary had remains intact after the act ends.

Current Conditions in Venezuela

This bill is highly necessary when considering the harsh conditions in Venezuela. Poverty in Venezuela increased from 48.4% in 2014 to 96% in 2019. In addition, 80% are currently living in extreme poverty. At least 2.3 million Venezuelans are facing food insecurity. From an economic perspective, in this same timespan, Venezuela’s economy declined by 66%. This has made Venezuela the country with the highest inflation rate in the world. Healthcare has diminished greatly as well, with pharmacies experiencing shortages of approximately 85% of necessary medicine. Also, about 70% of surveyed hospitals lack access to clean water. In terms of violence, Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries with nearly 7,000 extrajudicial killings between January 2018 and May 2019. In addition, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory NGO calculated 46 murders for every 100,000 people during 2020.

Benefits of the TPS

TPS was created under the Immigration Act of 1990 and is currently serving 470,000 people from 10 different countries dealing with severely unsafe conditions. Under the current Biden-Harris administration and the newly written U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, citizens currently benefiting from TPS can access a path to citizenship that wasn’t available before. This act has not yet passed but has gathered attention and would be highly beneficial for both the U.S. economy and immigrants from countries facing violence and civic unrest. After all, current TPS holders have a labor force participation rate of over 80% and are expected to contribute $164 billion to the national gross domestic product over the next 10 years.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, in accordance with the Venezuela Temporary Protected Status Act of 2021, “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”

– Juan Vargas
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