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.

Pregnant in Niger
Pregnancy can be challenging anywhere, but being pregnant in Niger is often life-threatening. Around 14,000 women in Niger die every year as a result of pregnancy-related complications, with only 29 percent of births attended by skilled medical professionals. Because giving birth at home is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition in Niger, only 17 percent of women give birth in health facilities.

Challenges in Being Pregnant in Niger

The difficulties of being pregnant in Niger are exacerbated by the persistence of gender inequality. Women are often treated as property, with girls being married or even sold off before reaching puberty. Violence against girls and women remains a huge problem, especially because victims have often been conditioned to expect and tolerate these abuses.

Due to limited national resources and inadequate funding, the health care system in Niger is unequal to the task of providing universal care for all Nigeriens and relies heavily on assistance from charitable organizations. In 2015, an evaluation of Niger’s national health policy, led by the World Health Organization, revealed that only minimal progress had been made in the area of maternal health. To address this need, nonprofit groups such as Nutrition International are taking action.

Nutrition International

Nutrition International is an organization “helping more pregnant women and their newborns receive access to essential health care services, medicines and other commodities, including vitamins and minerals.” This initiative includes assessing the prenatal and antenatal care as well as pregnancy outcomes and evaluating the potential barriers to care for Nigerien women. These barriers range from a lack of confidence that prenatal and antenatal care is as important as they are being told to more practical concerns such as being able to afford transportation to medical appointments.

The period of time during and shortly after birth is a crucial one for both mother and newborn child. Unforeseen complications can arise, and without adequately trained health providers as well as the proper medicine and equipment, too many mothers and babies needlessly die. Nutrition International is also making materials available to facilities in Niger to provide care to pregnant and postpartum women as well as to train health personnel to give improved care and counseling to their patients. Furthermore, they are utilizing volunteers within the community to impart to pregnant women and their families the importance of antenatal care.

UNICEF and UNFPA

In 2017 alone, 81 out of every 1,000 live births resulted in the death of the infant before reaching one year of age. UNICEF provides support to the government of Niger to ensure that mothers and their babies receive a “continuum of care,” from prenatal to antenatal and promotes the education of girls, which can decrease the odds of childhood or adolescent pregnancy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) implemented a program in 2014 called Action for Adolescent Girls. This has played an important role in helping to improve conditions for women who are pregnant in Niger. One important mission of the organization is to ensure that the women, and not young girls, are entering into marriages of their own volition and not being impregnated before they are physically and emotionally ready.

UNFPA sought out and trained local women to serve as mentors to young Nigerien girls, teaching them the basics of female hygiene, reproductive health, literacy and the basics of how to manage money. They were taught that child marriage is illegal and were informed of their other rights as citizens and human beings. Within the first eight-month cycle of the program, this initiative had already resulted in an increase of contraceptive use from 19 percent to 34 percent.

Looking Ahead

The government of Niger continues to work with global organizations to improve the health of prospective and new mothers as well as their children. USAID contributes to this effort with development and humanitarian programs in Niger, all of which are aimed at making the country more self-sufficient. The more financially solvent the country is, the better educated its population will be, ensuring that fertility rates continue to decline while the Nigerien economy continues to improve. With assistance from the U.S. and other wealthy nations, Niger can fulfill its potential and all of its citizens can thrive.

Raquel Ramos
Photo: Unsplash

Malaysian Women
In the country of Malaysia where 30 million people are affected by widespread poverty, human trafficking, crime, a growing Islamic movement, as well as numerous other misfortunes, women are the most affected by these problems. In some Islamic cultures, there is an outlook that Muslim women should be subservient, submissive and should not have equal rights. However, compared to other Islamic countries, women’s aid in Malaysia has been a much greater success.

In this Southeast Asian country, there have been significant developments in the fight to protects women’s rights. One such organization that has joined this fight is the Women’s Aid Organization. This organization is challenging the antiquated views of women as well as helping to end violence against women and work towards equality between men and women.

The Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) was started, courtesy of Tan Siew Sin, the first Minister of Commerce and Industry in Malaysia, who donated a cash reward of RM 30 thousand to establish a shelter for battered women and their children in 1979. This shelter was eventually made into what is today the Women’s Aid Organization.

The vision of this organization is for violence against women to be eliminated. Its mission statement is “to promote and create respect, protection and fulfillment of equal rights for women. To work towards the elimination of discrimination against women, and to bring about equality between women and men.” Women’s aid in Malaysia has been largely influenced by this organization.

The objective of the Women’s Aid Organization is to provide protection, shelter and counseling to women and their children in the case of mental, physical or sexual abuse at any given time. The WAO also takes on research into the factors that play a part in the inequality of women.

Additionally, the organization advocates with government organizations and NGO’s to abolish factors contributing to the subordination of women through law, policy and organized reforms. It strives to provide a better understanding of the issues of violence against women and the underlying inequalities that they face on a daily basis.

Programs in the Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization has three main services available to help women and their children in times of need.

  1. The first service is the Refuge, which operates as a shelter for abused women and their children. The Refuge is the center for WAO activities to educate women about domestic violence and women and family concerns, which are inevitably associated with this issue.
  2. The second service is the Child Care Centre, which is a place for children of former WAO’s residents who are going back to work and starting their lives over. The children of these women are cared for, either full-time or during the mother’s work hours, and provided an education at local schools along with recreational activities.
  3. The third service is social work, which is the center for advocacy on behalf of the women and children needing help. This section provides services to help women through legal, medical and welfare departments and ensure they are being treated fairly.

These services give women and their children the support and protection they need. Through the combination of these programs and several other services offered through the WAO, an extremely supportive system is created for maltreated women to use whenever it is needed.

Women’s aid in Malaysia has come a long way because of the WAO. Compared to other Islamic countries, this country is more progressive in its approach to the issue of women’s inequalities. Through more organizations like this one, women’s rights will become more of a priority for the authority figures of Malaysia. Aid is very much so needed in this Southeast Asian country, but much more so for women, whose odds are stacked up against them because of the way they have been seen in society for so long.

– Megan Maxwell
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

Global Prevalence of FemicideFemicide is defined as the killing of women. It has also been called gendercide and it is the most severe form of violence against women. The global prevalence of femicide is evident within all regions and cultures.

The Current Situation

Four of the five regions with the highest levels of femicide also have the highest rates of overall homicides, but in Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, femicide rates are disproportionately high in respect to general homicide rates. In India, 8,093 cases of dowry femicide were reported in 2007. In China, female children are twice as likely to die in their first year of life compared to male children and the risk of death is three times higher for second born female children than first born.

Furthermore, in Guatemala, two women are murdered on average every single day. In Mexico, an estimated seven women were murdered every day in 2016. In South Africa, the rate of femicide for 2015 was 9.6 per 100,000 women, 4 times more than the global average that same year.

Cultures facilitate femicide through the normalization of violence against women. Dowry femicide, the murder of a woman by her in-laws over dowry-related conflicts, and honor killings, the murder of a woman by a member of her family for a behavioral transgression, can be considered “traditions” in the Middle East and South Asia. Intimate partner femicide is relabeled as a “crime of passion” in Latin America.

The pressure to desire male children for their dominant advantages over female children is a major cause of femicide in many nations. In societies such as China and India, girls are seen as burdens due to their inability to help support their families financially. The expense of dowries makes female infanticide a viable option for families seeking a more lucrative future.

Combatting the Global Prevalence of Femicide

Governments have a responsibility to protect women’s rights to life and liberty. By creating and enforcing laws that protect women from violence and discrimination, a precedent can be set and the complacency shown to the oppression of women can cease.

In Central America, femicide has been criminalized and prosecutors have been trained to take cases to trial. In Pakistan, sweeping new legislation has been passed to prevent the use of acid on attacks on women. Meanwhile, in Palestine, the first national strategy to combat violence against women in the Middle East was adopted with survivors of violence taking part in the legislation’s drafting. These are important positive steps toward legal recourse and representation in instances of femicide and violence against women.

Improving Female Representation in Government

As of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women, and as of June 2017, only two countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament. Room for women is slowly growing. 11 countries in Latin America and 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have applied for some form of gender quotas to open more space for women in governmental positions of power and influence.

Evidence has shown and continues to show that women’s leadership and inclusion in political decision-making processes improves governments. Female empowerment in government creates room for a discussion of many issues connected to gender equality and puts people with deep personal connections to these issues in positions with the power to fight the global prevalence of femicide.

The Causes of Femicide

Two of the largest risk factors for femicide and sexual violence are a lack of education and poverty which, in many cases, are intertwined afflictions. Education is a two-way street when seeking to end violence against women. It has been found that both men and women with higher levels of education are less likely to commit or experience violence.

By making education available to women, they have more opportunity for economic independence, are less likely to be forced into early marriage and learn skills that make them valuable members of society. In conjunction with educating women, educating men on the human rights of women can stunt the normalization of violence against women in the minds of young men and boys.

A perfect example of such an education can be seen in Nairobi, Kenya, where the nonprofit organization No Means No Worldwide implemented a program to prevent sexual assault on girls and women. The curriculum for males aimed to shift attitudes that lead to the acceptance of assault and rape of their female peers. Those male students in the experimental group who received the aforementioned curriculum were twice as likely as those in the control group to successfully halt instances of verbal harassment and physical or sexual violence against women.

Female empowerment and the re-education of both men and women to the equal rights of women and in culture and society are the keys to ending the abhorrent levels of violence against women and the global prevalence of femicide. Nina Simone once said, “I’ll tell you what freedom means to me. No fear.” Equal power and equal space are a route out from under the oppression of eternal fear, and released from that fear, women can find freedom.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Facing Challenges for Women in the Dominican RepublicIn recent years, the Dominican Republic has transitioned from an agro-industrial economy to a service economy. With this transition has come many changes for the nation, primarily economic changes. The Dominican Republic has experienced significant economic growth due to this transition, which can be seen in its 4.7 percent growth rate between 2004 and 2012. Due to this growth, the Dominican Republic is now classified as a middle-income country, as opposed to a low-income country.

Despite the recent economic success of the country, the Dominican Republic is still facing many obstacles and challenges. Specifically, challenges for women in the Dominican Republic are especially prevalent. Though the economy has grown, so have crimes against women. Reported domestic violence and femicide cases have continued to increase in recent years.

Challenges for women in the Dominican Republic include the basic challenge of surviving. The Dominican Republic has the third highest rate of femicide in its region, and currently, femicide is the primary cause of death for women of reproductive age in the nation. In addition to femicide, gender-based violence has continued to rise in the Dominican Republic.

With gender violence rising, the need for assistance for survivors has risen as well. This need is one that is not being met currently. The Dominican Republic lacks adequate sanctuaries and care centers for the number of abused women and their children in the nation.

In response to these challenges for women in the Dominican Republic, the government has made constitutional amendments that are intended to help the advancement of gender equality in the nation. These amendments include a declaration that the state should promote equal rights for men and women, places an importance upon domestic work and condemns domestic and gender-based violence. In addition to these constitutional amendments, the government has also created the National Plan for Gender Equality, which makes up one of the four pillars of the country’s National Development Strategy.

Though these governmental and legislative actions have not been enough to decrease the amount of violence against women in the Dominican Republic yet, they are important first steps. With these pillars in place and the recent economic growth, the government now has the opportunity to allocate more funding for women’s programs moving forward.

Though the government still needs to make improvements to the amount of funding given to these programs, the problem has finally been recognized. In 2014, an Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, Mildred Guzmán, told the United Nations Third Committee, “As a country concerned about the issues related to women, and as a tireless actor in the long struggle for their advancement and accomplishments, we wish to reiterate the political will of the Dominican Republic for full, inclusive and participatory citizenship. Recognizing that violence against women is an obstacle for the fulfillment of all human rights and in consequence, in the entire citizenship.”

This statement holds hope for the future of women in the Dominican Republic, and now it is up to the government to fulfill this hope.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

Improving Women’s Rights in TunisiaWhile Tunisia has the most progressive laws on women’s rights in relation to other parts of the Arab world, patriarchal values still persist. In 2010, a study from the Tunisian government revealed that many of the country’s women are sexually, verbally and physically abused. However, improving women’s rights in Tunisia has become an initiative for many organizations.

The U.N.’s Work to Represent Women in Politics

In June 2016, Tunisia’s parliament approved an amendment to ensure a greater representation of women in local politics. Applying to regional and municipal elections, the amendment included a proposal for “horizontal and vertical” gender parity in Article 49 of Tunisia’s electoral law. This also marked the first time that 73 Tunisian female parliamentarians (from different backgrounds, parties and political ideologies) conducted their own lobbying in favor of the horizontal and vertical parity.

“Besides being a first in our region, the adoption of horizontal and vertical parity in electoral law is a timely achievement because it will guarantee effective participation of women in the upcoming decentralization process in Tunisia,” said Leila Rhiwi, the U.N. Women Representative from Maghreb. In March 2016, U.N. Women also began a project with Tunisia’s parliamentarians that would support the implementation of the women’s caucus. This will work toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia by increasing their representation in local and national politics.

Aswat Nissa Training Tunisia’s Women For Political Lives

Many Tunisian women find ways to exercise the power given to them by the country’s progressive laws. Some of these ways include Tunisian women attending political academies that began after the country’s Arab Spring revolution in 2011. In October 2016, the political academy Aswat Nissa was revealed to hold monthly training sessions for Tunisian women who enter political roles.

Aswat Nissa teaches Tunisian women many necessary political skills, including how to debate effectively and draft gender-sensitive budgets. Aswat Nissa enrolled forty Tunisian women in 2016.

“I have visited parliament before, but when you’re an assembly member, it’s something else. You are part of this world,” said Aswat Nissa graduate Karima Tagaz.

Tunisia’s New Law Against Gender-Based Violence

In October 2016, Tunisia’s parliament debated a bill to strengthen legislation on violence against women. The bill would be incorporated into Tunisia’s legislative and government policies, defining gender-based violence, outlawing marital rape and increasing penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace. The bill was approved on July 26, 2017, and served as a landmark step toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

“By enacting this new law, the Tunisian authorities have shown a commitment to the rights of women and are setting a standard that many others would do well to follow,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia’s office director at Human Rights Watch. The new law included requirements to assist Tunisia’s victims of domestic violence, providing them with legal and medical support. Tunisia’s authorities intend to ensure adequate funding and political will to fully place the new law into effect.

A Proposal For Tunisian Women to Share in Inheritance

In January 2018, the Committee on Individual Freedoms and Equality (CIFE) planned a proposal for Tunisia’s women to share in men’s inheritance and pass their family name onto their children.

“Tunisia is once again pioneering and irreversibly moving toward advancement,” Bochra Bel Haj Hmida, CIFE’s chairwoman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “All discriminatory laws in the family space and public space are included in the commission’s tasks.”

CIFE’s proposed bill will also ban dowries, allowing Tunisia’s men and women to share their roles as head of the household. CIFE planned to present its recommendations to Tunisia’s president on Feb. 20, 2018, but requested a postponement until after municipal elections on May 6. The news site ANSAmed said that CIFE did not want its proposal to become an issue of electoral tension.

Tunisia’s parliament, the U.N. and CIFE have made much progress in strengthening the representation of Tunisia’s women in politics and protecting their freedom. Many groups will continue working toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

International Violence Against Women ActOn Feb. 15, 2018, Representative Janice Schakowsky of Illinois introduced the International Violence Against Women Act of 2018 to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The overarching goal of the bill is to stop violence against women, with a focus on women in other countries, particularly those who live in poverty.

Why the Bill is Necessary

The bill provides several alarming statistics to show that poverty and violence against women are closely intertwined, such as the fact that one out of three women around the world will face violence and abuse in her lifetime. Also, around 70 percent of women in other countries have said they have personally experienced gender-based violence in their life.

Violence, particularly sexual abuse toward adolescents and pre-adolescents, is significantly prevalent. Surveys in Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Haiti showed that, on average, 28 to 38 percent of young girls and 9 to 18 percent of young boys said they had experienced sexual abuse before they were 18 years of age. Forced marriage of child brides is expected to occur to around 140,000,000 girls between 2011 and 2020. Furthermore, female genital mutilation/cutting has affected around 125,000,000 young girls and women alive today.

The Connection Between Violence and Poverty

However, these distressing statistics do not demonstrate the connection that exists between these forms of violence and poverty. The International Violence Against Women Act further notes that violence against women generally prevents women from engaging in their communities socially, economically and politically.

To be clear, the bill states that economies are affected because, around the world, women are often stuck working low-paying, insecure jobs where they are unable to have basic workers’ rights such as safe reporting systems, access to justice and legal and medical services. The subsequent lack of these rights and resources forces women in poverty to use dangerous methods in order to provide for themselves and their families, which often leads to them experiencing violence and abuse.

Furthermore, violence impacts a woman’s ability to work efficiently and be productive in the workplace and at home, which can hinder food production. As a result, this decreases food security and has the potential risk of subjecting women to more violence. The International Violence Against Women Act noted that research in India, Colombia, South Africa and Uganda found that women who have greater economic power and more control over economic assets are less likely to experience violence.

Strategies of the Bill

The bill aims to end violence against women in multiple ways. First, the bill will work through the continued implementation and monitoring of the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. This strategy was originally passed into law by President Obama in 2012 and was last updated in 2016. The strategy works in three ways:

  1. Prevention of gender-based violence through working closely with a country’s local organizations and civil society, which includes educating men about violence toward women.
  2. Protection for victims of violence by providing related services.
  3. Accountability to create justice for victims and improving legal and judicial systems so that aggressors face consequences for their crimes.

The second strategy described in the International Violence Against Women Act is adding amendments to The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, a law that affirms the U.S.’s goal of helping developing countries achieve security and stable economies. The bill adds amendments that specifically include gender-based violence into the law.

Lastly, the bill seeks the creation of the Office of Global Women’s Issues, to be added as a subset to the existing Secretary of State’s office in the Department of State. The role of the Office of Global Women’s Issues will be to generally promote gender equality and ensure that the status of women and girls around the world remains included in U.S. foreign policy.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Google

taxi service for women
A study by the International Labor Organization isolated a lack of safe transportation as a major contributor to the low number of Pakistani women participating in the workforce. Pink Taxi is Pakistan’s first taxi service for women, and ‘Paxi’ aims to create a safe environment for both its female passengers and female drivers through its Pink Taxi service.

Paxi offers three services: bikes with male drivers for short distances, the Paxi Taxi with male drivers and the Pink Taxi with female drivers. Pink Taxis are Paxi’s women-exclusive car service — the cars will not pick up male passengers between the ages of 12 and 70.

Pink Taxi launched in March 2017 and has been growing in popularity. Two months after launch, the service received approximately 50-60 more requests for rides per day.

 

A Safe Form of Transportation

Karachi’s Urban Resource Center recently released a study that found that 55 percent of women commuting by public bus in Karachi felt uncomfortable and faced sexual harassment. Public buses have large men’s areas and small women’s areas, but separation is oftentimes not enforced.

Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Minister for Transport in Sindh (the province where Karachi is located) supports safe alternative transportation for women. He says: “Having a mode of public transport catering to [the women] alone can solve many of their transport issues.”

 

Call a Cab via an App

The taxi service for women can be called with the Paxi app. To accommodate less tech-savvy customers, Pink Taxi users can also dial a call center or use SMS texting to find a car. The rides can also be hailed on the road. To make the taxis recognizable to passengers, the cars are heavily branded and drivers wear special uniforms.

In addition, Pink Taxi drivers are given free driving and self-defense lessons and extensive communication training. Female drivers might face harassment and threats on the job, but Paxi teaches its female employees how to mitigate these situations.

 

Cost of a Paxi

Each ride is slightly more than a traditional taxi service, with a base fare of Rs. 150 and an additional Rs. 15/km. Other taxis start at a base fare of Rs. 100. Taxis are substantially more expensive than bus fare — a one-way bus ticket costs Rs. 20.

For professional women, Pink Taxis offer a welcome alternative to male-driven taxi cabs; however, the price can exclude lower-income women who rely on the bus for their daily commute.

 

Paxi’s Unifying Goals

Paxi aims to bring its taxi service for women to other cities in Pakistan such as Sukkur and Peshawar — Peshawar, for instance, is deeply conservative and observes strict purdah (seclusion of women), so Paxi would be extremely useful to the women in these areas. In fact, Paxi’s founder, Shaikh M. Zahid, argues that bringing Pink Taxis to Peshawar can give the large number of highly-educated women increased mobility throughout the city. This idea is encouraged by the positive response he’s received in informal talks with religious leaders and women in the community. 

For now, though, Paxi will continue increasing its fleet of women drivers in Karachi to meet growing demand, all while looking to expansions of its services in the future.

 – Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr