Each year, dozens or even hundreds of women and girls in Afghanistan are subjected to invasive, humiliating, and sometimes painful vaginal and rectal exams in the name of “science.” These so-called virginity exams are not just demeaning – they constitute sexual assault and are often used as evidence against women in court for the “crime” of zina, or sex outside of marriage.
They planned to shoot 19-year-old Saba Qaiser in the head, put her body in a bag, and dump it in the river. It’s pure luck that they didn’t succeed. Saba was wounded but not dead, and managed to drag herself out of the river. Her attackers? Her father and her uncle, who sought revenge on Saba after she married without their permission.
Mutilation as a means to try to safeguard their daughters, as the world gone mad?
A brutal tradition akin to female genital mutilation is spreading in Cameroon’s war zone. Girls’ breasts are “flattened” with hot irons and stones to keep men at bay.
When Grace Tchami started showing signs of puberty at age nine, her mother, hoping to protect her, began to torture her. At about seven o’clock every morning, her mother would take one of the heavy stone pestles used for grinding food and heat it burning hot over a charcoal fire, then press it on Grace’s breasts, attempting to flatten them.
In a small, bamboo-roofed kitchen behind the house, Grace remembers, Mama performed this procedure day after day for three months. Grace’s older brother would hold her legs so she couldn’t run away. And then, still reeling from the ordeal, Grace would be sent along to elementary school.
I met Grace, who is now 16, in this southern Nigerian town where she had…
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Autism affects both boys and girls — but there are distinct signs of autism that are most common in girls.
Source: 11 Signs of Autism in Girls
UNITED NATIONS, New York/ DEBERE TALATA, Burkina Faso – When Roukiatou Youssoupha Diallo, in rural Burkina Faso, was engaged to be married, she was not even 13 years old. The traditional practice, one embraced by her family and much of their community, was not intended to harm her or derail her future, but it almost certainly would.
Child marriage undermines girls’ rights and potential. “It shatters their whole future,” said Nkandu Luo, Zambia’s Minister of Gender and Child Development, at a high-level panel on ending child marriage in Africa, held Wednesday at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Despite near-universal commitments to ending child marriage, an estimated 37,000 girls are married every day around the world, according to UNFPA data from February.
Girls tend to be pulled out of school when they get married. “They will never explore their potential. If they were going to be doctors, they will never be doctors. If they were going to be engineers, they will never be engineers,” Ms. Luo said.
Child marriage inhibits development
The cumulative effects of this practice are dire, said Benoit Kalasa, the technical director at UNFPA. “We have this large cohort of adolescents… A big part of them is being denied the opportunity of growing as human capital, as an asset for countries. And that is a lost opportunity.”
The panellists decried the rationalizations used to explain the practice.
For example, many parents believe child marriage will secure care and protection for their daughters. “Usually the justification is that it is for the safety of the girl,” said Mr. Kalasa, “which is not the case because the consequences are too many.”
In fact, he explained, “you expose her to risks.” Because many child brides become pregnant before their bodies are ready, they face the “risk of dying during delivery or risk of coming out of the delivery with a morbidity [such as an obstetric] fistula.”
Some families marry their daughters off to be relieved of the financial burden of caring for them. “It is unacceptable that the world can accept the argument of poverty, that our families can be so poor as to marry off their girls to get out of poverty,” said Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, the African Union Goodwill Ambassador for ending child marraige.
In fact, child marriage perpetuates poverty. Girls who are forced to abandon their studies to get married will have fewer opportunities to develop skills and earn an income.
Ms. Gumbonzvanda’s own mother was married while still a child, she told the meeting’s attendees. “I know what means to be born of a parent whose dreams were cut short, who lives in the midst of poverty and exclusion.”
Keeping girls safe, in school
Programmes to end child marriage must be intensified, the panellists said, and they must involve a wide range of partners, including governments, civil society and cultural leaders.
One such programme saved Roukiatou, now 13, from getting married.
A partnership between UNFPA and the government, and with local partner Mwangaza Action, helped bring information about the harms of child marriage to areas of Burkina Faso where the practice is prevalent. Local leaders were asked to endorse the abandonment of child marriage and to encourage girls to stay in school instead.
The advocacy efforts reached Roukiatou’s parents in the village of Debere Talata. They were convinced, and the wedding was cancelled. Now, they are proud of their daughter, who has recently graduated from primary school.
An estimated 2,500 girls in Burkina Faso have so far been reached through the programme.
Roukiatou now wants to be an advocate for girls’ education. “I want to become a teacher in order to help my village and all the girls who have not yet had the opportunity to go to school,” she told UNFPA officials visiting Debere Talata in May.
“I want to tell all these Debere Talata parents that school is good for a child.” ……………..’
How can any so called human being do any of these actions attributed to ISIS? They are no respecters of life.
Last August, Vian Dakhil pleaded with her colleagues in the Iraqi parliament, and for the outside world, to pay attention to the atrocities Islamic State was inflicting on Yazidi men and women. She told of Yazidi women and girls being kidnapped, separated from their families, taken from their homes, and enlisted into sexual slavery.
A year later, the world is well aware of ISIS’s brutality—yet the plight of Yazidi women has grown worse. Interviews with women who managed to escape ISIS slave camps and phone calls by women who were taken provide harrowing accounts of enslavement, abuse, and repeated rape; of human beings trafficked and sold to different partners. There are makeshift markets where men can choose their sex slaves. Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, has reported that ISIS has sold abducted teenagers at slave markets “for as little as a pack of cigarettes.” Ms. Bangura cited an internal ISIS document that lists prices for female slaves—often the younger the girl, the higher the price.
ISIS has an elaborate, organized structure for its sexual slave trade, much like it developed an infrastructure for basic services in territories it has claimed. The New York Times reported this week that ISIS planned to establish a sex market before its attack on Iraqi Yazidis on Mount Sinjar last August. The report details how ISIS uses religion to justify rape and sexual slavery and to entice new recruits. A 12 year-old girl repeatedly raped by an ISIS fighter described her experience: The man would go down on his knees and pray before and after raping her, she said, viewing his violation of her as a means of “drawing closer to God.” ISIS considers the sexual use and abuse of Yazidi women as permitted under Islam because they are “infidels.” This distorted interpretation of Islam permits the rape of girls as young as 9.
Muslims and the international community need to do much more to end these barbaric practices. A number of Muslim theologians have challenged Islamic State’s misuse of passages in the Quran to rationalize its abuse of women, but many more need to speak out—and repeatedly. The world must hear much more from the teachers and thinkers at the great centers of Islamic learning such as al-Azhar in Egypt, Najaf in Iraq, and Qum in Iran. They can provide leadership and set a new tone.
And while many countries have denounced ISIS and its beheadings, mass executions, and other horrific acts, little effort has been devoted to rescuing women taken as its sexual slaves. When attempted, rescue efforts have largely been uncoordinated. A sort of “underground railroad” has been organized by Yazidi activists to help free women from ISIS. These activists sometimes purchase the women at slave markets to return them to their families. Such efforts need to be supported and expanded and, where possible, backed by the use of military special forces.
Then there is the plight of Yazidi women and girls who have escaped or been freed from sexual slavery. Although victims of rape and sexual violence, such women face shame and ostracism in their own communities. Last year, Yazidi religious leader Baba Sheikh issued a statement encouraging Yazidis to accept women returning from ISIS territory and to help reintegrate them; a recent U.N. refugee report based partly on interviews with Yazidi survivors said that they have been welcomed back to their communitieslargely because of Baba Sheikh’s exceptional proclamation. Although welcome, this inclusive attitude of one religious leader is not yet a cause for celebration. The Islamic world needs many more voices like Baba Sheikh’s—as well as an all-out effort to address the ISIS threat.
Haleh Esfandiari is director emerita of and a senior scholar at the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Kendra Heideman is the program associate with the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. The views expressed here are their own.
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Being able to make our own decisions about our health, body sexuality and reproductive life is a basic human right. Yet all over the world, many of us are persecuted for making these choices – or prevented from doing so at all. That’s why we’ve launched our global campaign: My Body, My Rights.
My Body My Rights is Amnesty International’s global campaign to help ensure that everyone has access to their sexual and reproductive rights and to stop criminalization of sexuality and reproduction by governments. Over 2014-15, we are working for tangible change in people’s lives in Nepal, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Ireland. It’s your body, know your rights!
You have the right to:
- Make decisions about our own health, body, sexual life, and identity without fear of coercion or criminalization
- Seek and receive information about sexuality and reproduction and access related health services and contraception
- Decide whether and when to have children, and how many to have
- Choose your intimate partner and whether and when to marry
- Decide what type of family to create
- Access family planning; contraception; safe and accessible post-abortion care; access to abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault or incest, and pregnancy that poses a risk to the life or to physical or mental health; and, where legal, access to safe abortion services
- Live free from discrimination, coercion and violence, including rape and other sexual violence, female genital mutilation, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization and forced marriage.
Women and girls and people from groups at risk of discrimination on other grounds, including sexuality and ethnicity, are disproportionately affected by restrictions on their sexual and reproductive rights. For example, young women and adolescent girls from marginalized groups are most affected due to the inequality and discrimination they face, preventing them from accessing the sexual and reproductive health information and services they need.
Everyone has the right to have access to quality, comprehensive, integrated sexual and reproductive health services, counseling, comprehensive sexuality education and information. Barriers to the services and information women and girls need for a healthy life must be removed.
It’s your body. Know your rights!
‘…………..Presented by Lynne Malcolm
Most people tend to think of autism as a male disorder, the character in the film Rain Man often comes to mind. But emerging
research shows that girls often have different symptoms which cause them to slip through the net—misdiagnosed or undiagnosed by clinicians. We look at why girls on the autism spectrum present differently, and whether these sex differences are biological or environmental.