food aid
Over 40 tribal elders in the Bannu region of Pakistan voted to ban women from collecting food aid for Internally Displaced Persons fleeing the military offensive in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Witnesses report seeing men slap women who had joined the line for food rations. The women reportedly left quickly after experiencing such violence, but the question remains as to how widows or women unaccompanied by men will receive aid. One man distributed leaflets discouraging women from attempting to attain food rations with a warning to husbands who fail to keep their women at home. The Bannu region is especially conservative, where women wear full-length burqa robes and rarely venture outside their homes.

Violence and discrimination against women in Pakistan have plagued the country, as recently as on July 23 when unknown assailants threw acid at two women at a shopping center in Baluchistan. A similar attack occurred one day earlier when four women were attacked with acid. In both attacks, the perpetrators rode past on motorcycles spraying their victims with acid. Officials believe the crimes to be the work of religious extremists in the area.

In March, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a body that provides legal advice to the Pakistani government, said laws that ban child marriage are “un-Islamic.” Current laws require boys to reach the age of 18 before marriage, and girls the age 16. Chairman of the Council Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani continued, “Sharia allows men to have more than one wife, and we demanded that the government should amend the law.”

Child marriage in Pakistan, according to experts, explains the country’s high infant mortality rate, as early marriage results in frequent pregnancies with inadequate preparation. The country also has lower reproductive and maternal healthcare coverage for women than its neighbors India, Bangladesh or Nepal.

Over 990,000 people left the North Waziristan following the June airstrikes known as the Zarb-e-Azb operation, and 84 percent of these IDPs have fled to the Bannu District. North Waziristan has long served as a haven for militants in Pakistan and although the Pakistani government claimed to have targeted all militant groups equally, the U.S. and many locals say Pakistan protected the Haqqani group, which has been based in Waziristan for decades. Many accuse the Pakistani military of allowing Haqqani militants to escape before the operation began. The U.S. sees the Haqqani as a threat to stability in Afghanistan, and is withholding $300 million in aid to Pakistan until the Secretary of Defense determines Pakistan to have “significantly disrupted” the Haqqani network.

The Pakistani military has used militants as proxies in Afghanistan and India for decades. Experts believe the operation — which has killed over 450 since June — is intended to primarily target Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, central Asian and Arab militants in the region that militants have traditionally used to launch attacks on Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has since joined Pakistan with its drone strikes on Saturday that killed 15.

– Erica Lignell

Sources: Reuters, International Business Times, Business Standard, New York Times, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Reuters

Last month, two girls were found hanging from trees in India’s Katra village. Another woman claimed she was gang-raped by four police officers. India has had a women’s rights problem for a while now, yet it is only increasing, despite more strict laws. The body of a 19-year-old was just recently found hanging by her scarf from a tree in Uttar Pradesh, making her the state’s fourth female victim in only two weeks.

Rape in India is a rising problem, yet one that is not easily solved. According to official statistics, around 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, though the number is thought to be much higher due to a common fear of punishment and social stigma. Simply, the problem lies in attitude, not a lack of legislation or protection. “Even though the laws are there, many people feel they can get away with anything, an attitude that some of our politicians have gone out of their way to encourage,” said Ranjana Kumari, a prolific women’s rights activist in New Delhi.

Certain politicians have only exacerbated the problem. Earlier this June, Madhya Pradesh state Home Minister, Babulal Gaur (who oversees police,) claimed that rape was a “social crime,” which depended on the man and woman. “It is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.” Gaur’s statements came just months after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav opposed the death penalty for rape, claiming “boys will be boys. Sometimes they make mistakes.”

The most recent victim was thought to have been raped and murdered by two men who she told her family had been bothering her. While they have filed a report claiming their suspicions in her death, the case is basically smoke and mirrors: a district police officer told the New York Times that a preliminary postmortem examination found no evidence to suggest rape.

Unfortunately, this ability for men to “get away” with their crimes is exactly what has caused it to spread to this extremity. “This is not something that is particular for Uttar Pradesh,” said Amnesty International India’s senior researcher, Divya Iyer, on the most recent death. “These sporadic news of rapes bring the issue to the fore, but it is important to see it as a continuum. For every case of rape, there are many more that are not reported, because of the stigma attached and the fear of reprisals. It is important to hold politicians accountable for their statements in order to send the right signals to the community.”

— Nick Magnanti

Sources: Fox News, Religion News, Time, NY Times
Photo: Asia Society


Two 12 and 15-year-old girls were lynched last week in western Uttar Pradesh in India after being abducted, gang raped and hanged by their attackers. The Indian village, known as Katra in the Badaun district, is one of the world’s most impoverished areas.

Most of its citizens work as tillers or take up small, part-time jobs in order to make a living. With hardly any money, most cannot afford a functioning toilet, so they relieve themselves in nearby fields.

Yet this is exactly what would lead to the death of two young cousins after being abducted by three men in the fields of their village. Their attackers hanged the two girls on a tree in the village, which would be on display for the entire community.

Thought by medical experts to have been hanged alive, many are wondering how and why these gruesome attacks could have taken place in a day and age where feminism is, in most parts of the world, on the rise.

India has had a history of women’s rights problems for years. After the gang rape case of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi in 2012, in which four men were all found guilty and given the death penalty, India has been making a concerted effort to tighten their rules regarding violence against women.

Yet this has by no means actually prevented or improved cases of violence against women in the country; in most cases, police insensitivity has been proliferated by patriarchal attitudes of those in governmental power.

The Samajwadi Party is just one example of misogyny’s power in Indian politics. The senior Samajwadi Party leader, Ram Gopal Yadav, spoke of the most recent incident, stating, “[In] many places, when the relationship between girls and boys come out in the open, it is termed as rape.”

Two months ago, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav claimed that “boys will be boys” and vehemently opposed the death penalty as punishment for acts of rape.

The three men responsible for the two teenage girls’ deaths in Katra have been arrested, and two policemen are being held on suspicion for trying to cover up the crimes.

This is not an uncommon occurrence: while a rape is reported every 21 minutes in India, law enforcement failure often results in crimes not being reported or investigated fully. Yet as the case rises in power, world officials are continuing to speak out against these acts of misogyny.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who stated that he was “appalled” by these recent acts, is just one of many to have spoken out. “We say no to the dismissive, destructive attitude of ‘boys will be boys,’” he said. As the government continues to crack down on these acts, many hope its citizens will listen.

 — Nick Magnanti

Sources: The Diplomat, ODT, Scroll, Times of India 1, Times of India 2
Photo: The Story Exchange

On April 14 approximately 276 girls were abducted from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, by the militant group Boko Haram. The international attention and social media activism that have followed since have all been indicators of universal outrage. But most importantly they have underscored the instability which has crippled Nigeria in recent years.

With a $6 billion national annual budget for security forces, Nigeria’s recent mass kidnapping might seem surprising, but it is indicative of a broader spectrum of disarray. Nigeria is the most populous state in Africa and its leading economy, laying claim to the 26th largest economy in the world. However, its citizens are often bound by dire living constraints.

In Nigeria’s Borno state, home to capital city Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, the per capita income is $1,631 compared to $4,000 in political capital Abuja. It is evident that poverty has planted the seeds for violent extremism. Since 2009 Boko Haram, in their quest to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has been implicated in the deaths of over 12,000 Nigerian citizens. In 2013 they were officially declared a terrorist group by the United States government.

Despite Nigeria’s trouble with internal uprisings, it has become clear that its government has been troubled by its own internal issues. Recent Nigerian media reports have revealed that 10 generals and five other senior officers have been court martialed and found guilty of supplying info and ammunition to Boko Haram. This level of extremist sympathizing, while detestable, is not altogether shocking given Nigeria’s current state of affairs.

Corruption on the level of high-ranking government officials has long been linked to poverty throughout Africa. Nigeria has been operating at annual levels of around seven percent economic growth over the past few years but its correlation between national economic growth and increasing living standards has become tenuous at best.

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has framed his country’s growing poverty problems as a problem of wealth distribution. Considering the highly concentrated nature of wealth and political capital amongst the country’s oil barons, this assessment is worth considering. With oil reserves of upwards of 37 billion barrels, only second to Libya in all of Africa, Nigeria is surely not pressed for revenue generating natural resources. However, its influx of oil revenue has not made it a wealthy state.

By 2030 Nigeria’s population size is expected to increase from its 2010 level by upwards of 60 percent, making it the world’s eventual fifth largest population. There are currently over 160 million people living in Nigeria, 42.8 percent of whom are age 14 or younger. However, of the school age children who actually begin formal education, only two-thirds complete primary school. Like the rest of the world, lack of education coupled with the presence of poverty makes for a corrosive pair. It will surely take increasing levels of stability and government accountability to fend the two off.

On June 9, 20 more girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in the northeastern town of Garkin Fulani, Nigeria. The abductions took place only a few miles from where the 200-plus girls were kidnapped in Chibok in mid-April. This most recent example of Nigeria’s internal security woes comes after President Goodluck vowed to protect this vulnerable and embattled area of Nigeria. Instead, another instance of atrocity has once again marred a Nigerian community still reeling from the effects of the past five years.

 — Taylor Dow

Sources: CNN, BBC, Global Public Square, Tribune, Business Day
Photo: The Indian Express

American Jewish World Service
As an organization dedicated to promoting human rights through advocacy, American Jewish World Service aims to “advance the health and human rights of women, girls, and the LGBT community, to promote recovery from conflict and oppression, to defend access to food, land, and livelihood, and to aid communities after disasters.”

The organization endeavors to uphold the Jewish value of “tikkun olam” which literally translates as fixing the world. Much like The Borgen Project, American Jewish World Service understands the enormous impact U.S. legislation can have on the developing world, and therefore, spends much of their efforts on urging representatives to support both economic and social justice in these regions.

American Jewish World Service focuses their work primarily on the Americas, Africa and Asia, and collaborates with other like-minded organizations in order to best promote their cause. Some partners include the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights, which provides a rapid response to areas that are experiencing increased violence against women, The Disability Rights Fund, which aims to support people that are disabled, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, which helps support rights for the LGBT community and the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which supports grassroots organizations by helping facilitate communication between various organizations.

American Jewish World Service’s most recent efforts, however, are aimed at pressuring the Senate to pass IVAWA (the International Violence Against Women Act), S.2307. Passing this act would secure an effective portion of foreign aid toward ending the struggle against gender-based violence. The act itself aims to put programs into action that will do the following: work with women to combat violence while also working to reduce the violence committed against women, stop violence so girls and women can go to school, work and collect food without fear of sexual and all forms of harassment and establishes fighting violence against women as a main concern of U.S. foreign policy.

If you would like to take action in combating violence against women, you can use the following link to email your senator to encourage Congress to pass the IVAWA.

Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: AJWS, Congress, Futures Without Violence, UN Women
Photo: KeyD Media

Over the past decade, Latin America’s economy has improved due to the rising quantity of exports. At the same time, rapid growth of urban centers has created socioeconomic problems like an increase in prostitution and sex trafficking. One of the consequences of the urbanization of Latin America is a rapid increase in population, which in turn results in a larger number of unemployment and homelessness. The high population outnumbers the amount of jobs available for people, especially women. The consequence is that more women living in these urban slums resorting to commercial sex work. These women then become vulnerable to diseases and to violent environments.​

In Brazil, over 40,000 women have murdered for simply being women in the past 10 years. And Honduras is labeled one of the most dangerous places to live for a woman. There, the violent killings of women there have tripled. Unfortunately, only 5 percent of these crimes have been investigated and the murderers prosecuted.

Columbia is facing significant gender-based violence because of military conflict within the country. Women are often attacked who take part in activism to encourage political and social reforms for more representation and rights.

The third most violent place in the world for women is Guatemala. The county ordered a new law to prevent violence against women in 2008, making it the first Latin American country to do so. Yet since the law was implemented, not much has been done to support the new reforms. Women continue to have problems finding prosecution for the culprits.

Not only does violence cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of women in Latin America, but it decreases the region’s social and economic development. The killings are preventing these women from contributing to the economic growth of the country. Seven Latin America countries rank in the top 10 countries in the world for most domestic violence against women.

One answer to this matter is the program U.N. Women, which helps to strengthen the representation of women in government and politics. New policies are developed for women’s economic development; particularly, women in isolated and rural regions in Latin America. These policies aim to create equal and fair workplaces for all women who are seeking or already have employment and to create job opportunities.

UN Women is helping to end gender based violence against women in Latin America by creating services for victims and survivors. This will help by implementing laws to protect women and provide justice for those in need.

— Rachel Cannon

Sources: CSIS, UN Women 1, UN Women 2
Photo: UN Women

Protecting Women's Rights
“Enough is enough” is the sentiment of many regarding violence against women worldwide. Due to the multitude of instances in just the past few weeks, people are finally concluding that better legislation must be made for protecting women’s rights, preventing violence and serving appropriate punishments.

The World Health Organization has acknowledged the violence as an epidemic and has said that one in three women will be the victim of physical or sexual violence, most frequently from her male partner.

From the United States, to India, to Ecuador and many places in between, people are beginning to express their concerns with the way women are being treated. Protests are being held, movements are being led and events are being created to bring awareness to the problem’s severity.

“People are beginning to make the connection between the violence and how women are treated on a day-to-day basis,” Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, said.

In December of 2013, a gang rape in India led to the death of a 23-year-old female student. The woman’s community and other Indian citizens have used this incident as a springboard for bringing about change in the way women are treated and how perpetrators are punished. Since the event, the Indian government has doubled prison terms for rape and criminalized voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women.

In the United States, campaigns against sexual violence in colleges and universities are aiming to increase awareness. For the first time ever, the Department of Education released a list of schools nationwide that are under investigation for their instances of sexual violence and their tactics for handling the situation.

“The violence has been happening forever – it’s not anything new,” Serra Sippel, President of the Washington-based Center for Health and Gender Equity said. “What’s new is that people in the United States and globally are coming around to say ‘enough is enough,’ and starting to hold governments and institutional leaders accountable.”

A notable upcoming event to raise awareness of the problems related to violence against women is The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. This event will be in London June 10 – 13. It will be hosted by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, special envoy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The summit aims to draw attention to four main goals that will drastically change the way women are treated. The first is to improve documentation of sexual violence in conflict. The second involves providing better support and assistance to survivors of sexual violence. The third goal is to ensure that gender-based violence and equality issues are addressed in peace and security negotiations. Lastly, the summit hopes to increase international cooperation to allow for peaceful discussions about issues regarding protecting women’s rights.

The conference will incorporate many other factors, including the launch of the new International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict. This procedure will ensure that all instances of sexual violence are being documented correctly.

Attendees of the event will include any government that has signed the U.N. Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict as well as various representatives from organizations, NGOs and civil societies. The summit will be the largest gathering thus far to discuss this subject.

– Hannah Cleveland


Sources: AOL, Gov. UK
Photo: Flickr

In 2013, 26 women were killed in the West Bank and Gaza by their relatives. This number is double the number of Palestinian women killed in 2012. These so-called ‘honor killings’ are perpetrated by male family members who kill a female family member who is suspected of shaming the family. Human rights activists are calling for a change in the law saying that killing for family honor is just a socially acceptable form of violence against women.

The rise in the killings is attributed to tough economic times and a historical leniency when facing punishment for these crimes. Poverty in Palestine has also been on the rise in the last few years. Pressure has been put on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to repeal sections of laws on the books that allow for short sentences for the perpetrators of honor killings. Many times, perpetrators only face a couple of years at maximum.

Reasons for honor killings vary. One woman was killed by her father for allegedly using a cell phone to talk to a man. Another woman was killed by her brother while praying who later claimed that he acted to preserve the honor of his family. People who claim that they killed to preserve honor are almost always treated less harshly than they would be otherwise.

Former legislator Hanan Ashrawi has repeated called on Abbas to repeal sections of laws that discriminate against women but hasn’t gained much ground. She placed blame on male politicians who put women’s issues on the back burner in favor of other issues they deem more pressing, such as establishing the state of Palestine and ending the Israeli occupation. “We are fighting for freedom and human dignity,” she said. “How can you deprive women of all these things?”

– Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: The Washington Post, Haaretz
Photo: Forqudsday

Citizens of have recently risen up to address the endemic issue of violence against women in Morocco. Women’s rights activists, particularly the Strength of Women activist group, have heavily criticized the government for excluding them from the bill drafting process.

Strength of Women, backed by the European Union, submitted a list of demands to the Moroccan government to address parts in the bill they believe are lacking. The preliminary version of the bill is promising for activists hoping to improve women’s rights in the country.

The bill would take steps to criminalize sexual harassment and impose a 25-year sentence for those found guilty of perpetrating violence against women. It also hopes to impose a possible three year sentence for sexual harassment.

Some are arguing that the bill is largely focused on married women instead of all women. Violence against women is prevalent in Morocco, particularly in marriages where violence against women occurs at a rate of approximately 50%.

According to the state planning commission, approximately 2.4 million women over 18 have been subjected to sexual violence and 3.4 million have suffered physical violence at least once.

Currently, marital rape is not a recognized crime in Morocco.

Those who are critical of the current draft of the bill feel like they have been shut out and their input is not being taken into account. Sara Soujar, a women’s rights activist, spoke at an event pointing out that the bill fails to address single women issues: “the category is totally absent…reading the text, you get the impression that violence basically only affects married or divorced women, even though others may be more exposed.”

While the issue is still unfolding, more research is being conducted about violence against women in Morocco. Women’s rights activists have continued to draw international attention to this bill and hopefully their voices will be heard in the upcoming drafts.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: Al Jazeera, Middle East
Photo: TDH

One Billion Rising
This Valentine’s Day, on February 14, women and men from around the world got together to dance for social justice as part of the One Billion Rising movement. On Valentine’s Day in 2013, one billion people in 207 different countries danced together to raise awareness and stop violence against women. The movement aims to reverse the trend, highlighted by the United Nations, of one in three women worldwide (about one billion women) experiencing rape, abuse or beatings in their lifetime.

Each specific protest will focus on issues pertinent to their community but all issues will focus on the plight of women and girl throughout the world. For instance, the One Billion Rising for Justice rally in Atlanta will focus on sex trafficking, while the 2014 Hong Kong demonstration focused on migrant workers and their rights within the city’s legal system. However, all the demonstrations are untied by the One Billion Rising banner, their commitment to social justice for all, and their use of dance to draw attention to the pressing issue of violence against women.

Even Ensler, founder of the One Billion Rising Movement, began thinking of dance as a means for inspiration after working for solidarity in the Congo. Ensler noted that,  “Women in the Congo dance in a way that calls up every spirit and energy force in the world! They have a way of transforming pain to power when they dance.” Ensler seeks to harness this power in all the women and men that participate in her movement to draw mass attention to the cause.

The movement has gained international attention and is accomplishing its goal of raising awareness for and reversing the shocking reality of violence and abuse that afflicts one in three women throughout the world. This year the President of Croatia, Ivo Losipovic, attended local dance demonstrations and commended One Billion Rising for their efforts to raise awareness. Additionally, Ensler received the 2014 Coretta Scott King A.N.G.E.L. Award (‘Advancing Nonviolence through Generations of Exceptional Leadership’) on behalf of One Billion Rising in Atlanta.

The movement has brought attention to the issue in a novel way that differs from ordinary protests and demonstrations. The rhythmic and assertive style of the dance demands attention from onlookers and is yet still easy enough for anyone to participate.

One Billion Rising’s success is part of a trend for Ensler who has also raised advocacy for women’s issues through her popular play named “The Vagina Monologues.” The play raised important issues relating to the feminine experience since first appearing in 1996 and has appeared in over 140 countries worldwide. Ensler is an advocate for improved social justice everywhere and specifically hopes to end rape and violence towards women while bringing them improved economic equality.

– Martin Levy

Sources: One Billion Rising, One Billion Rising- 2, Seattle Times, Huffington Post, Dalje, Image, Guardian
Photo: Global Fund for Women