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Domestic Violence in TongaDomestic violence in Tonga, specifically against women, has become the leading type of law infringement. The most prevalent instance occurs in the home, which is especially alarming during a pandemic forcing everyone inside. However, Tonga is taking measures to fight this issue. One way is through the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC).

Domestic Violence in Tonga

The amount of reported cases of domestic violence in Tonga has risen over the past five years. Between January and June of 2020, there were about 537 domestic violence reports and 117 issued police safety orders. Out of those, only 99 assaulters faced prosecution.

Tongan women report experiencing physical coercion and control, sexual assault, emotional abuse and physical assault. Police officials state that the chief problem is related to a cultural belief. Tongan men believe they are in a position of power at home and can act however they please because of this entitlement. As a result, women are often scared to report their abuse cases. This is particularly true when husbands, brothers or sons are the perpetrators, as is typical.

Pacific Women reports that three out of four women in Tonga have experienced physical and sexual violence. Relationships can involve abuse as early as day one and continue on for decades, which women often endure. Furthermore, about 85% of women who have suffered from domestic violence are likely to return to the same environments as their attacks. To combat this, the WCCC in Tonga offers an escape for the abused to ensure women are given the protection they need from abusers.

The Women and Children Crisis Center in Tonga

The WCCC was established in 2009 by Director Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki with a group of women and male supporters. The aim was to help those who have suffered from violence. In turn, they gave free counseling and support to victims of domestic violence in Tonga. Further, the WCCC provides 24 hours of free housing to both women and children in the Mo’ui Fiefia Safe House.

When a woman reports her case to WCCC, the volunteers at the organization help guide the victim through the legal process. They explain the amount of time it will take for the victim’s case to reach court and provide information about how and when the police will contact the victim for testimonies. They also educate the victim on the importance of having a medical record when reporting cases like rape. If the woman is willing, the WCCC offers her a platform to voice her experience. The organization focuses on sharing the stories of victims who have used WCCC’s services and how they have benefitted from those services.

Male Advocacy Training

Violence prevention was another main reason for WCCC’s founding. In 2017, the WCCC launched male advocacy training to end violence against women and children and encourage gender equality. The purpose of the training is to educate men on three key ideas: men have control over how they behave in a sexual manner, all sexual activity can only be performed after there is consent on both sides and men are equally responsible for the transmission of sexually active diseases.

The men receive many lessons from knowledgeable speakers to help end the domestic violence in Tonga. Director Guttenbeil-Likiliki said, “In a situation where a woman does not want to have sex but you continue to persist and persuade her to have sex, this is a high-risk situation, as it is considered to be sexual assault or rape.” Melkie Anton, a lead trainer, explains proper relationship roles to male participants. Anton states, “Women are often used as sexual objects,” and when a woman is in a relationship, she must follow all of her partner’s orders. As a result, the man ends up controlling the relationship and may treat the woman’s feelings with disregard. Another learning directive is toxic masculinity. WCCC members detail how issues, such as proving masculinity and competing with other men encourage domestic violence.

Looking to the Future

WCCC members are working toward expanding their organization’s influence throughout Tonga,  particularly through collaboration. The WCCC has partnered with other organizations, such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and the Vanuatu Women’s Crisis Centre. The organization even reaches out to Tongan government agencies, including the Ministry of Education. The work of the WCCC, from aiding victims to education to advocacy, is a step in the right direction. With continued efforts, there can be an end to domestic violence in Tonga.

Sudiksha Kochi
Photo: Flickr

instability in the CongoThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the past decades, war, gender imbalances and lack of political development, as well as conservation issues, have contributed to the country’s vulnerability. Instability in the Congo has been a challenge, but citizens continue to strive for peace and security.

With a population of 84,068,091 in 2018, 50.1% of the Congo’s population are women, while 49.9% are men. The population has a nearly equal gender ratio, though women face significant challenges in gender equality. As in many developing countries, women are not respected equally and typically do not hold positions of power. In the Congo, beginning in 1996, sexual violence has been used as a war weapon to intimidate and control women during and after the war.

According to the U.N., women in the Congo suffer drastically from a lack of rights and increasing vulnerability during the rise of military operations in 2018. With cases and reports of sexual violence increasing by 34% in 2018, the need for change is apparent. The U.N. quickly addressed these issues, working with the Congolese government to negotiate for peace with the Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri. This brought about a decrease in sexual abuse cases committed by such military groups. Though the issue remains, there was a reported 72% decrease in sexual abuse cases following the UN’s intervention.

Poverty and Poaching

A decrease in the Congo’s poverty line has also occurred over the past two decades, although according to the World Bank, 72% of the population remains under the poverty line, living on less than $1.90 a day. With more than half of the Congo’s citizens struggling to make ends meet, poaching is an increasingly significant issue. Conservation is particularly essential in developing countries in which biodiversity and wildlife create tourist attractions that provide crucial economic income. Much of the country’s wildlife, such as elephants and primates, are subject to dangerous conditions. Primates are particularly vulnerable to threats such as the bushmeat trade and the pet trade. These trades are directly linked to poverty and instability in the Congo. This is because the industry provides a source of income and food. Therefore, in order to end poaching, baseline levels of infrastructure, employment and socioeconomic stability must be attained. Until this happens, many conservation establishments, such as the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), Kahuzi National Park and Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center are working to eliminate poaching and protect endangered wildlife.

Protection and Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center was established in 2002 by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles (CRSN). Following the establishment of Lwiro, Coopera NGO stepped up to support the center’s rehabilitation and educational practices. Lwiro gained the support of the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance (ICWCA) and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP). Two women now run Lwiro: Lorena Aguirre Cadarso works as the country director, and Itsaso Vélez del Burgo works as the technical director. These two women strive to ensure that Lwiro is actively addressing cultural and conservation issues in the Congo.

The fact that Lwiro is run by women is unusual, as women in the Congo have been subject to significant gender inequality for decades. They are breaking gender barriers while protecting at-risk wildlife and helping improve instability in the Congo.

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center

Lwiro is home to 92 chimpanzees and 108 monkeys, adding up to a total of 13 different species. Rehabilitation and preservation of primates in the Congo mean saving the lives of the endangered animals, whether they have been injured due to poaching or other reasons. Typically young primates are brought to the center because their families have been taken from them and they will be unable to provide for themselves. Lwiro offers multiple dormitories for the chimpanzees and monkeys and includes a five-acre enclosure for the primates to play while the staff ensures that the dormitories are safe and clean. The rehabilitation of primates requires care and attention, just as the care of humans requires. Infant primates are treated with particular love and attention. Caretakers strive to teach social skills to primates that might have lost their families and would not otherwise be socialized. Lwiro’s mission is to ensure that resident animals acquire the necessary social skills for reintegration into wild chimpanzee communities after completing rehabilitation.

Sexual Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation

Along with primate rehabilitation, Lwiro also offers rehabilitation and treatment for local sexual abuse victims. Sexual abuse is a pervasive issue in the Congo. The center provides treatment for victims ages 2 to 18 years old. Treatment can be modified to meet the needs of particular victims. According to Cadarso, the center helps “victims of sexual violence, victims of gender violence and widows.” The staff uses methods such as Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), meditation and prayer. Lwiro focuses specifically on survivors’ mental health. “You need to give psychological support that aims to provide the tools to resolve their trauma and skills to promote their resilience,” Cadarso stated. Lwiro has worked with nearly 350 victims and counting, most being women and children. The center also provides therapy for individuals for three months and three weeks. It reports an 85% patient improvement rate after treatment. Lwiro’s therapy offerings reveal that addressing instability in the Congo can start at the level of individual people.

A New Psychological Reference Center

Lwiro is expanding its center in 2020, starting a new project to build the first Psychological Reference Center (PCR). In the past, victims have not had a physical place to conduct their psychotherapy sessions. Therefore, this project will be massively impactful. Additionally, the Psychological Reference Center (PCR) will implement new practices such as training primary healthcare workers training to recognize mental disorders like PTSD, depression and anxiety. The second phase will provide similar training specialized for teachers, teaching “skills to recognize children with severe problems so they can be referred for more specialized treatment,” Cadarso states, and “providing listing resources available in their communities.” This initiative will enable individuals to recognize and assist those who are struggling physically and mentally. They will be able to determine proper care or treatment.

The project’s implementation and funding would not be possible without the support of many NGOs, such as the Jane Goodall Institute, the Ivan Carter Wildlife Foundation and more. To address instability in the Congo, multiple approaches are required, and Lwiro ensures that no person — or chimp — is left behind.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

rape
Rape and sexual violence are used as weapons of war because they are inexpensive and have longer lasting effects than guns or other weapons. UNICEF has noted that sexual violence “erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can.” Sexual violence and rape not only have negative, long-term impacts on women, but also their children, their families and their communities.

The effects are far reaching. Women suffer both psychologically and physically, as well as socially and economically.

When women are victims of sexual violence, they often suffer physically from persistent pain, fistula and infertility. Women can also contract HIV or other STDs, that put them at a severely disadvantaged position for the rest of their lives. In instances where women are injured so severely that they are unable to work, they suffer economically as well.

Psychological effects can emerge years later and have a long lasting impact including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), low self esteem and suicidal thoughts.

During conflict, women are at risk for being victims of sexual violence, and in post-conflict societies, women are at risk of the social impacts resulting from being raped or experiencing sexual violence. Using rape as a weapon of war causes long lasting impact on the lives of the victims.

Due to the stigma of rape, women are often forced from their families or divorced by their husbands. This can be extremely problematic in societies where a woman’s economic security depends on marriage. When women are isolated, they are often forced into a life of poverty.

In instances where women become pregnant after being raped, they are isolated from their communities for birthing an “enemy child.” This is detrimental to a woman’s well-being in a multitude of ways, as they are cut from communities that once helped support them. The mental impact is equally severe, while it is even further enhanced by the economic impact of having to raise a child.

On the other hand, societies where a woman’s value is dependent on her ability to have children, infertility as a result of being raped or a victim of sexual violence can seriously affect a woman’s social standing and perceived worth.

Sexual violence and rape as  weapons of war damage entire families and communities whether women stay within them or are outcast. As women are isolated, communities are broken. If they stay, men are affected as they feel they have failed in their role as “protector.” The physical, mental, social and economic impacts felt by women, men and children can last decades and even multiple generations.

— Kim Tierney

Sources: Harvard, The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, ODI
Photo: Woodmark

Syrian_Refugee_Camps_in_Demand
Overfull and varying widely in accommodation, Syrian refugee camps have become an international crisis. The United Nations has made the largest humanitarian appeal for aid ever at $5 billion to relieve the situation but has received less than $2 billion to date. Some 2.2 million refugees are currently scattered across Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt while more Syrians are fleeing war at an alarming pace. Estimates say more than 3 million refugees will be in those areas by January.

Such numbers are startling given the Syrian population before the onset of war was only  22.5 million. Lebanon, for example, has no official camps despite having more than a million refugees in its borders and does not allow the building of permanent refugee structures. Those who can afford it rent apartments or rooms in the cities at an exorbitant rate while others share the homes of sympathetic civilians or even inhabit abandoned buildings in depressed areas. In the northeast region, an average of 17 people per household are packed together according to a study conducted by Doctors Without Borders last year.

Water, food and healthcare are rationed out slowly and insufficiently, with less to go around as numbers rise. Employment for refugees was around 20% last year in Lebanon, and the economies of Iraq, Turkey and Jordan are in little better position to provide opportunities for such a rapid influx of labor.

Dependency on humanitarian aid is heightened and the desperation of the situation has many refugees working for extremely low wages in poor conditions and engaging in child labor. Economic and physical insecurity in Jordan’s Zataari camp has led parents to arrange hurried marriages for their teenage daughters as young as 14. Matchmakers recruit young girls for Saudi husbands but often end up as prostitutes or victims of “pleasure marriages” where the suitor divorces them after consummation.

Though some of Syria’s displaced persons find bourgeois  housing in Cairo or end up in one of Turkey’s refugee camps that consist of metal trailers with access to satellite T.V. and air conditioning, most see basic necessities and sanitation as luxuries. The Domiz camp in Iraq is made up primarily of tents and has 45,000 residents despite being designed for just 30,000. In just two weeks between August and September, more than 1,500 people were treated for upper respiratory infections there by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Security is also an issue in these camps with reports of rape, theft, kidnapping and murder being common. In the Zataari camp, Jordan security forces restrict entry but lack the manpower to adequately police the camp’s 120,000 residents. Other camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey reportedly funnel arms and recruits back into Syria. In Lebanon, crime has increased by 30% and increased tensions between Hezbollah and Sunni refugees may be behind the recent bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

Syria’s bordering nations are gradually increasing restrictions for entering refugees. Lebanon and Turkey are both planning to relocate some people to camps they wish to build within Syria’s insecure borders. Only about 25% of Syria’s refugees are actually in camps now, the rest are trying to survive by their own means. There are also an additional 3.8 million who are internally displaced.

Despite their faults, the refugee camps provide essential support and the need for more camps is evident, but where they can be built and how they will be funded is not so clear.

– Tyson Watkins

Sources: Medecins Sans Frontieres, World Health Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Syrian Arab Republic,
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Moving Refugees, The Guardian, Integrated Regional Information Networks, BBC, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Syrian Regional Response Plan, Aljazeera, The Daily Star United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Stories from Syrian Refugees, The New York Review of Books
Photo: NPR

Gender Inequality Runs Rampant in India

In New Delhi, there are 13 times more toilets for men than there are for women. Specifically, there are 3,712 male public toilets, and a mere 269 female toilets. Women sometimes must resort to defecating in the open, which besides the obvious privacy violation, poses a significant risk of rape and violence.

Public Toilets in New Delhi are just one example of discrimination against women in India; it starts before women are even born, and continues throughout their entire life. Girls can be perceived as a financial burden in parts of India, as a result of their limited income opportunities and costly dowries; 500,000 Indian girls have died as a result of pre-natal sex selection and infanticide over the last 20 years.

If a bride can’t fulfill her dowry, she faces the risk of torture and death at the hands of her in-laws. In 2005, nearly 7,000 Indian women were killed for being unable to meet the financial requirements of their dowries, some of them as young as 15 years old.

Indian women are humiliated, abused, and killed every day. Before they are even born, their opportunities and experiences are decided for them. They will face violence and inequality at almost every turn; and even something as simple as access to public restrooms is not guaranteed for them.

There are ways to encourage gender equality in India, though they may be easier said than done. Laws that discriminate against women need to be amended; girls need to be educated to level the intellectual playing field, and India’s practice of perceiving men above women, needs to be addressed for change to last.

Dana Johnson

Sources: Trust, Advocates for Youth, Brookings
Photo: Asia News