Violence Against WomenPhysical or sexual violence against women is causing a global health problem of “epidemic proportions,” according to a new study released by the World Health Organization on June 20.

The report, “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence,” was released in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council. According to the report, more than 1 in 3 women globally are impacted by physical or sexual violence. The perpetrator of such violence is usually an intimate partner: intimate partner violence affects an estimated 30 percent of women worldwide.

The new study compared violence against women in high-income countries with that in other countries. The study found that 23.2 percent of women living in high-income countries experience intimate partner violence, as compared with 36.6 percent in Africa, 37 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and 37.7 percent in South-East Asia.

“These findings send a powerful message,” said Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO. “We also see that the world’s health systems can and must do more for women who experience violence.”

The report looked at the impact of violence on both the physical and mental health of girls and women, including broken bones, pregnancy-related complications, impaired social functioning, and mental problems.

Other findings on the health impacts of intimate partner violence were staggering. The report found that 38 percent of all women who were murdered were killed by their intimate partners. Women who experienced partner violence were twice as likely to have alcohol-use problems and were 1.5 times more likely to acquire syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea. In some regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, those women were also 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV.

The report called for a major scaling up of violence-prevention efforts by addressing social and cultural factors that could be impacting the prevalence of violence. It also called for better health care for women experiencing violence. Simply teaching health workers how to respond to violence could be helpful, the report noted.

The report pulled data from dozens of regional and national studies for the first time. By using regional data it was also able to highlight regional patterns. For example, women in Africa are almost twice as likely to experience violence as women living in lower and middle-income countries in Europe.

– Liza Casabona

Source: World Health Organization, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

Violence in Myanmar Continues to SpreadViolence in central Myanmar has broken out in recent days between Buddhists and Muslims. Estimates of the death toll from a recent rampage through a Muslim area are anywhere from 20 to 40; some of the victims include children. Buddhist attackers have burned mosques and entire Muslim neighborhoods to the ground in bitter offensives against one of the few minority groups in an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation.

Regions of Myanmar have experienced protracted violence, with a majority of the victims being Muslim. Over 150 people have died in the past year as attacks spread inland from coastal areas. Often, police and military units fail or outright refuse to intervene. The national government has ceded some of its authoritarian power in recent years, which had previously helped to quash inter-ethnic violence swiftly. While human rights advocates have been cautiously optimistic about these reforms, the lack of protection for victims of vicious attacks demonstrates how far Myanmar has yet to go.

President Obama has made Myanmar a focus of his travels in Southeast Asia; in November 2012 he was the first American president to ever visit the country. He met with the opposition leader, longtime political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, who cautioned him against being too optimistic when victory appears close. Mr. Obama’s efforts to foster democracy in Myanmar are reflective of his overarching strategy of diplomacy and engagement with those leaders who he seeks to persuade on human rights issues. Now, as inter-ethnic clashes are on the rise, it is time for Myanmar to demonstrate its commitment to a society that protects the livelihoods of all its citizens.

Jake Simon

Sources: New York Times, Reuters

Early Marriage as a Form of ViolenceIn 2020, more than 140 million girls will be attending a wedding – their own. Of these 150 million girls, 50 million will be attending their own wedding before they have even celebrated their 15th birthday.

These numbers are based on current rates of early marriage, according to the UN.

Most child marriages occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In fact, nearly half of all young women are married before the age of 18 in South Asia. In Africa, this percentage drops, but only to one-third.

In light of International Women’s Day, whether child marriage should be considered a form of violence against women and children is up for debate. According to UN Women, early marriage increases a girl’s chance of becoming a victim of sexual violence in the home. It also limits a girl’s access to education because she is often expected to have children and take care of her husband and household. It is also associated with increased health risks due to early pregnancy and motherhood.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was recently presented a petition by the World Young Women’s Christian Association (WYWCA) that urged CSW to help end child marriage by 2030.

Yet, fighting early marriage will be an uphill battle. In many countries and cultures, marrying at a young age is traditional and is not seen as a problem. In some areas, particularly poorer countries, there are not enough resources for girls to continue in school as their male counterparts. Marriage serves as an easy way to justify girls abandoning their education to stay at home. Another issue plaguing poorer countries and people is the practice of a “bride price.” Some fathers will marry their daughters off for the price of a cow, especially during difficult times. According to Catherine Gotani Hara, Health Minister of Malawi, “Someone will come in and give a father a cow for a girl when they are eight or nine years old and when they reach puberty they will give another cow.” Out of need or necessity, a daughter may be worth two cows.

Getting around the barriers surrounding child marriage will require the support of governments and the passing of legislation that raises the legal age of marriage, as well as provides more resources for schools so that girls can reach the same level of education as their male counterparts. Currently, this is what happening in Malawi. The rate of child marriage in Malawi is currently 50 percent but by 2014, the age of legal marriage will hopefully have moved up from 15 to 18. Only time will tell if these steps will help eradicate child marriage.

– Angela Hooks

Source: Guardian

Kenyan Elections Delayed, Recount Requested
The party of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for a cessation of vote counting, accusing the results of being “doctored.” Campaign officials are requesting a fresh count, with oversight on all parts of the tallying process. The final results were supposed to be transmitted electronically, but a server malfunction resulted in a complete failure of the digital voting system. As the results are now being tabulated by hand, citizens nervously await an official result in the Kenyan elections.

In Kenya’s first elections since 2007, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, is the front-runner, despite being accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC asserts that in the violent aftermath of the 2007 election, Kenyatta helped to organize attacks against members of different ethnic groups. If elected, his position as Head of State would make the ICC’s case all the more difficult to see through.

Though many politicians are calling for peace, there is no guarantee that peace will last. Violence has flared in recent months, although the overall level of fighting is far below where it has reached in the past. Further reforms, like the new constitution and election procedures instituted after the 2007 violence, are necessary to ensure that all Kenyans can vote freely and peacefully for whomever they feel best represents their interests in the Kenyan elections.

Jake Simon

Source: New York Times

Violence Flaring as Kenyan Elections ApproachKenya is nearing its first elections since 2007, and rival ethnic groups are beginning to take up arms once more as they fight out their differences. The violence more than five years ago more than 1,000 dead, but reforms since then (including a new constitution) had left many hoping that Kenya can proceed through its voting process in peace. Unfortunately, members of both the Pokomo and Orma tribes have been fighting each other in the Tana River Delta, and so far over 200 people have been killed.

Both tribes claim that the other has victimized them in many ways, including the destruction of homes, villages, and identification documents which prove the bearer is able to vote. And all over the country, the various governor races are prompting discord among Kenyans, many of whom have spent the past few years focusing on building a vibrant economy.

An article in The Daily Nation, the largest newspaper in Kenya, criticized the way Kenyans were behaving as the elections draw near. “All the tribal prejudice, all ancient grudges and feuds, all real and imagined slights, all dislikes and hatreds” are brought out, the journalist argued. To break the cycle of violence flaring as Kenyan elections approach, it will take this kind of honest accountability on the part of all Kenyans to put a stop to the violence before it goes too far.

President Obama has spoken out in favor of cooperation between all Kenyans, but the United States can do even more to help ensure the safety of these people by providing more aid for those Kenyans in poverty. It is far easier to live in peace when there is no need to worry about losing basic necessities at the hands of a government targeting a specific ethnic group. Kenya has experienced surprising economic growth over the past half decade; doing more to extend those gains to all citizens should be a major priority for all parties involved.

Jake Simon

Source: The New York Times