No Vaccine for the Pandemic of Violence Against Women in Latin America

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories

Gender Violence

This article is part of IPS coverage of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25, which kicks off 16 days of activism on the issue around the world.

Despite restrictions due to covid, women from various feminist, youth and civil society groups gathered in the central Plaza San Martin in Lima and marched several blocks demanding justice and protesting impunity for violence against women, on Nov. 25, 2020. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Despite restrictions due to covid, women from various feminist, youth and civil society groups gathered in the central Plaza San Martin in Lima and marched several blocks demanding justice and protesting impunity for violence against women, on Nov. 25, 2020. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Nov 24 2021 (IPS) – Despite significant legal advances in Latin American countries to address gender-based violence, it continues to be a serious challenge, especially in a context of social crisis aggravated by the covid-19 pandemic, which hits women especially hard.


“Existing laws and regulations have not stopped the violence, including femicide (gender-based murders). There is a kind of paralysis at the Latin American level, on the part of the State and society, where we don’t want to take much notice of what is happening, and women are blamed,” said María Pessina Itriago, a professor and researcher and the director of the Gender Observatory at UTE University in Quito.

Pessina, a Venezuelan who lives in the Ecuadorian capital and spoke to IPS by telephone from the university, said violence against women is ageold, and “we are still considered second-class citizens who are not recognized as social subjects.” And this dates way back – to the slaughter of “witches” in Europe in the Middle Ages, for example, she added.

“It hasn’t been easy to achieve my independence, have my own income and raise my children. I have suffered humiliation and slander, but I knew who I was and what I wanted: to live in peace and have a home without violence.” — Teresa Farfán

“The genocide of women is something that has not stopped and now in the context of the pandemic has become more serious. I believe that, in reality, the pandemic that we have experienced for many years is precisely this, that of gender violence,” she remarked.

Her reflection came ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is celebrated on Thursday, Nov. 25 and kicks off 16 days of activism up until Dec. 10, World Human Rights Day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.N. Women warned in March that globally one in three women suffers gender-based violence. And that the problem, far from diminishing, had grown during the covid pandemic and the restrictions and lockdowns put in place to curb it.

The study “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence”, which analyzed data from 2000 to 2018, is the most far-reaching produced by WHO on the topic.

The report, published in March of this year, stresses that violence against women is “pervasive and devastating” and affects one in three women with varying degrees of severity.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, the study puts the prevalence rate of violence among women aged 15 to 49 at 25 percent.

María Pessina Itriago is a professor, researcher and director of the Gender Observatory at UTE University in Quito. CREDIT: Courtesy of María Pessina

María Pessina Itriago is a professor, researcher and director of the Gender Observatory at UTE University in Quito. CREDIT: Courtesy of María Pessina

A regional epidemic during the global pandemic

With respect to femicides, the Gender Equality Observatory of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reports that 4640 women died from this cause in 2019. The organization also called attention to the intensification of violence against girls and women during the pandemic.

The panorama is compounded by the gendered impacts of the pandemic on employment, which reduces women’s economic autonomy and makes them more vulnerable to violence.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the region of the Americas experienced the largest reduction in female employment during covid, a situation that will not be reversed in 2021.

Peruvian sociologist Cecilia Olea, of the non-governmental Articulación Feminista Marcosur (AFM), which is made up of 17 organizations from 11 countries – nine South American nations, Mexico and the Dominican Republic – said there have been significant advances in the last 30 years in the fight against gender violence.

Among them, she cited the fact that States recognize their responsibility for the problem and no longer consider it a private matter.

She also pointed out that Latin America is the only region in the world with a specific human rights treaty on the issue: the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belem do Para after the Brazilian city where it was approved in 1994, which established women’s right to live free of violence and set the framework for national laws to address this violation of women’s rights.

However, Olea said in an interview with IPS in Lima that the legal and regulatory framework has not been accompanied by political strategies to change the social imaginary of masculinity and femininity, which would provide incentives to modify the culture of inequality between men and women; on the contrary, she said, the violence forms part of a culture of impunity.

“Males feel free to oppress and governments are failing in their responsibility to guarantee comprehensive sex education throughout the educational system, in primary school and technical and higher education; this program exists by law but implementation is deficient due to lack of training for teachers and the opportunity to train people in new forms of masculinity is lost, for example,” she remarked.

Olea, a feminist activist and one of the founders of the AFM, said that not only do governments have a responsibility to prevent, address and eradicate gender violence, but there is also an urgent need to ensure health services; justice with due diligence, as the current delays revictimize and inhibit the use of regulatory instruments; and budgets to correct the current shortfall that prevents a better response to this social problem.

Peruvian sociologist Cecilia Olea, a member of the Articulación Feminista Marcosur (AFM), which brings together feminist networks from 11 Latin American countries, takes part in a demonstration outside the Peruvian Health Ministry in Lima, demanding reproductive rights. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Peruvian sociologist Cecilia Olea, a member of the Articulación Feminista Marcosur (AFM), which brings together feminist networks from 11 Latin American countries, takes part in a demonstration outside the Peruvian Health Ministry in Lima, demanding reproductive rights. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Cultural change in the new generations

Raised in a machista home, Pessina rebelled against gender norms from an early age and her constant questioning led her to come up with a new definition of how a good person should act.

“I believe that good people do not tolerate injustice or inequality of any kind, which is why I became a feminist about 15 years ago and I am very happy to be able to contribute a grain of sand with my students,” she said.

Pessina said the challenges to progress in the eradication of violence against women are to provide public policies with a budget to make them work; and to achieve an alliance between the State, civil society organizations and feminist movements to create a road map that incorporates excluded voices, such as those of indigenous women.

“The places where they can file reports are not near their towns, they have to go to other towns and when they get there they often cannot communicate in their own language because of the colonialist view that everything must be in Spanish, and there are no interpreters,” she complained.

Another part of the problem, she said, is that “the State itself blocks complaints and keeps these people marginalized, and they are not taken into account in the countries’ statistics on violence.”

The third challenge was to work with the media in Latin America because of their role in the construction of imaginaries, in order to generate the figure of the ombudsperson focused on gender to ensure that information is treated in a way that contributes to equality and does not reproduce discriminatory stereotypes.

Pessina said that what is needed is a cultural transformation driven by the new generations, in favor of gender equality.

“We see more young feminist women activists mobilizing to make it happen and they will make a turnaround; not now, but maybe in a decade we will be talking about other things. These new generations not only of women but of men, I think they are our hope for change,” she said.

Quechua Indian woman Teresa Farfán, in the foreground, stands with two other rural women with whom she shares work and experiences in her Andes highlands community in Peru. She is convinced that telling her personal story of gender-based violence can help other women in this situation to see that it is possible to escape from abuse. CREDIT: Courtesy of Teresa Farfán

Quechua Indian woman Teresa Farfán, in the foreground, stands with two other rural women with whom she shares work and experiences in her Andes highlands community in Peru. She is convinced that telling her personal story of gender-based violence can help other women in this situation to see that it is possible to escape from abuse. CREDIT: Courtesy of Teresa Farfán

“I wanted a home without violence”

Teresa Farfán reflects the lives of many Latin American women who are victims of machista violence, but with a difference: she left behind the circle of gender violence that so often takes place in the home itself.

She is 35 years old and describes herself as a peasant farmer, a single mother and a survivor of an attempted femicide. She was born and lives in the town of Lucre, an hour and a half drive from the city of Cuzco, the capital of ancient Peru, in the center of the country.

Like most of the local population, she is dedicated to family farming.

Nine years ago she separated from the father of her children who, she says, did not let her move forward.

“He wanted me just to take care of the cows, but I wanted to learn, to get training, and that made him angry. He even beat me and it was horrible, and at the police station they ignored my complaint. He kicked me out of the house and thought that out of fear I would come back, but I took my children and left,” she told IPS during a day of sharing with women in her community.

At her moment of need she didn’t receive the support of her family, who urged her to return, “because a woman must do what her husband says.”

But she did have supportive friends who gave her a hand, both inside and outside her community, as part of a sisterhood of Quechua indigenous peasant women like her in the Peruvian highlands.

“It hasn’t been easy to achieve my independence, have my own income and raise my children. I have suffered humiliation and slander, but I knew who I was and what I wanted: to live in peace and have a home without violence,” she said. A wish that remains elusive for millions of Latin American women.

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For Girls, the Biggest Danger of Sexual Violence Lurks at Home

Civil Society, COVID-19, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories

Gender Violence

Girls' sexual and reproductive rights activist Mía Calderón stands on San Martín Avenue in San Juan de Lurigancho, the most populous municipality of Peru's capital. She complained that the pandemic once again highlighted the fact that sexual violence against girls comes mainly from someone close to home and that the girls are often not believed. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Girls’ sexual and reproductive rights activist Mía Calderón stands on San Martín Avenue in San Juan de Lurigancho, the most populous municipality of Peru’s capital. She complained that the pandemic once again highlighted the fact that sexual violence against girls comes mainly from someone close to home and that the girls are often not believed. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Oct 22 2021 (IPS) – “During the pandemic, sexual violence against girls has grown because they have been confined with their abusers. If the home is not a safe place for them, what is then, the streets?” Mía Calderón, a young activist for sexual and reproductive rights in the capital of Peru, remarks with indignation.


The 19-year-old university student, whose audiovisual communications studies have been interrupted due to the restrictions set in place to curb the covid-19 pandemic, is an activist who belongs to the youth collective Vayamos in San Juan de Lurigancho, the district of Lima where she lives.

Located to the northeast of the capital, it is a district of valleys and highlands areas higher than 2200 metres above sea level, where water is a scarce commodity and is supplied by tanker trucks. San Juan de Lurigancho was created 54 years ago and its population of 1,117,629 inhabitants, according to official figures, is mostly made up of families who have come to the capital from the country’s hinterland.

Lima’s 43 districts are home to a total of 9.7 million people, and San Juan de Lurigancho has by far the largest population.

In an interview with IPS during a walk through the streets of her district, Calderón said she helped one of her friends during the mandatory social isolation decreed in this Andean nation between March and July 2020, which has been followed by further restrictions on mobility at times of new covid-19 outbreaks.

Since then, classrooms have been closed and education has continued virtually from home, where girls spend most of their time.

“She was in lockdown with her two sisters, her mother and stepfather. But she left before her stepfather could rape her; the harassment had become unbearable. Now she is very afraid of what might happen to her little sisters because he’s still living at home,” she said.

But not all girls and adolescents at risk of sexual abuse have support networks to rely on.

An intersection with hardly any passers-by in San Juan de Lurigancho, one of the 43 districts of the Peruvian capital. There are now fewer children on the streets because schools have been closed since the beginning of the covid pandemic and they receive their education virtually. This keeps them safe from violence in public spaces, but increases the abuse they suffer at home. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

An intersection with hardly any passers-by in San Juan de Lurigancho, one of the 43 districts of the Peruvian capital. There are now fewer children on the streets because schools have been closed since the beginning of the covid pandemic and they receive their education virtually. This keeps them safe from violence in public spaces, but increases the abuse they suffer at home. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Data that exposes the violence

Official statistics reveal a devastating reality: Between early 2020 and August of this year there have been 1763 births to girls under 14 years of age, according to the Health Ministry’s birth registration system (CNV).

All of these pregnancies and births are considered to be the result of rape, as the concept of sexual consent does not apply to girls under 14, who are protected by Peruvian law.

Looking at CNV figures from 2018 to August 2021, the total number increases to 4483, which would mean that on average five girls under the age of 14 give birth in Peru every day.

This is also the conclusion reached by the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women’s Rights (Cladem), which in September completed a nationwide study on forced child pregnancy in Peru, published on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

For Cladem, forced child pregnancy is any pregnancy of a minor under 14 years of age resulting from rape, who was not guaranteed access to therapeutic abortion, which in the case of Peru is the only form of legal termination of pregnancy.

“These figures are unacceptable, but we know they may be even worse because of underreporting,” Lizbeth Guillén, who until August was the Peruvian coordinator of this Latin American network whose regional headquarters are in Lima, told IPS by telephone.

The activist headed up the project “Monitoring and advocacy for the prevention, care and punishment of forced child pregnancy” which was funded by the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women between 2018 and August 2021.

An aggravating factor for at risk girls and adolescents was that during the months of lockdown, public services for addressing violence against women were suspended and the only thing available was toll-free telephone numbers, which made it more difficult for victims to file complaints.

“What we have experienced shows us once again that homes are the riskiest places for girls,” said Guillén.

The Cladem study also reveals that the number of births to girls under 10 years of age practically tripled, climbing from nine cases in 2019 to 24 in 2020. And the situation remains worrisome, as seven cases had already been documented this year as of August.

Julia Vargas, 61, works in the municipality of Villa El Salvador, south of Lima, where she has lived since the age of 11 and where she maintains her vocation of service as a health promoter. Through this work she knows first-hand about sexual violence against girls and adolescents, which she says has worsened during the pandemic since they have been confined to their homes with their potential abusers. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Julia Vargas, 61, works in the municipality of Villa El Salvador, south of Lima, where she has lived since the age of 11 and where she maintains her vocation of service as a health promoter. Through this work she knows first-hand about sexual violence against girls and adolescents, which she says has worsened during the pandemic since they have been confined to their homes with their potential abusers. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

One district’s experience

“Sexual violence against girls has been indescribable during this period, worse than covid-19 itself. Men have been taking advantage of their daughters, they think they have authority over them,” said Julia Vargas, a local resident of Villa El Salvador.

This municipality, which emerged as a self-managed experience five decades ago to the south of the capital, offers health promotion as part of its public services to the community.

Vargas, a 61-year-old mother of four grown children, is proud to be a health promoter, for which she has received training from the Health Ministry and from non-governmental organisations such as the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women’s Centre.

“It’s hard to conceive of so much violence against girls,” she told IPS indignantly at a meeting in her district, “and the worst thing is that many times the mothers turn a blind eye; they say if he (their partner) leaves, who is going to support me.”

Studies indicate that women’s economic dependence is a factor that prevents them from exercising autonomy and reinforces unequal power relations that sustain gender-based violence.

Vargas continued: “There was a case of a father who got his three daughters pregnant and made them have clandestine abortions, and do you think the justice system did anything? Nothing! It said there was consent, how can a young girl give consent?!”

“Girls can’t be mistreated this way, they have rights,” she said.

Mía Calderón, a 19-year-old youth activist with the Vayamos collective, demands more and better measures in Peru to defend girls from sexual violence, fueled by the closure of schools since the beginning of the pandemic, which keeps them isolated and in homes where they sometimes live with their abusers. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Mía Calderón, a 19-year-old youth activist with the Vayamos collective, demands more and better measures in Peru to defend girls from sexual violence, fueled by the closure of schools since the beginning of the pandemic, which keeps them isolated and in homes where they sometimes live with their abusers. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

The culprit nearby

Calderón is also familiar with this situation. “The pandemic has highlighted the fact that sexual violence comes mainly from someone close to home and that many times the girls are not believed: ‘you provoked your uncle, your stepfather’, they are told by their families, instead of focusing on the abuser,” she said.

Her collective Vayamos works to help girls have the right to enjoy every stage of their lives. Due to the pandemic, the group had to restrict its face-to-face activities, but as a counterbalance, it increased the publication of content on social networks.

“No girl or adolescent should live in fear of sexual violence or should face any such risk,” she said.

However, Cladem’s research indicates that between 2018 and 2020, there were 12,677 complaints of sexual violence against girls under 14 in the country, the cause of many forced pregnancies.

But official statistics do not differentiate between child and adolescent pregnancy.

The 2019 National Health Survey reported that of the female population between 15 and 19 years of age, 12.6 percent had been pregnant or were already mothers. The percentage in rural areas was higher than the national rate: 22.7 percent.

Youth activist Mia Calderón, health promoter Julia Vargas and Cladem member Lizbeth Guillén all agree on the proposal to decriminalise abortion in cases of rape and on the need for timely delivery of emergency kits by public health services to prevent forced pregnancies and maternity.

These kits contain emergency contraceptive pills, HIV and hepatitis tests, among other components for comprehensive health protection for victims.

“There are regulatory advances such as this joint action protocol between the Ministry of Women and the Health Ministry for a girl victim of violence to access the emergency kit, but in practice it is not complied with due to the personal conceptions of some operators and they deprive the victims of this right,” explained Guillén.

She stressed that in order to overcome the weak response of the State to such a serious problem, it is also necessary to adequately implement existing regulations, guarantee access to therapeutic abortion for girls and adapt prevention strategies, since the danger often lies directly in the home.

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10 Days to Defeat 2547 Miles of Pain

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Gender Violence, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

MEXICO CITY, Oct 20 2021 (IPS) – They call it the Tlaxcala-New York Route. Between one end and the other, there are 2547 miles. An infamous road that today is one of the most important channel for human trafficking gangs. And a route seemingly impossible to destroy because of its million-dollar profits.


Rosi Orozco

The victims traveling along this route from Mexico to the United States experience in their bones what experts call “the globalization of organized crime”, one of the biggest obstacles to ending this crime.

The route is longer than itself. Sometimes it starts in South America, where victims are lured with dream jobs or a love story in Mexico. And it has a stopover in Mexico’s smallest state, Tlaxcala, where human traffickers kidnap their victims to prepare them for their journey north to the United States.

The worst part is in the next 2547 miles, which includes several horror stops throughout Mexico. The victims will be raped on table dances, brothels, bars, even trailer boxes and roadside tents.

If they survive and show endurance, at least 500 of them will be forced to cross illegally into the United States every year.

In New York, the exploitative clients will be of all nationalities: Mexicans, Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans… sex tourists who will take back home a piece of humanity as a souvenir.

They are even likely to record those rapes and the videos will end up on porn sites with untraceable IP addresses that profit from a $97 billion a year industry. And when the authorities want to rescue one of those victims, two questions will overwhelm them. Where do we start? What is the origin of all this?

Since the beginning of the 21st century, organized crime has demonstrated that they know how to go global and evade the isolated efforts of individual countries. Their modus operandi imposes a new vision: if traffickers think internationally, justice must think globally. The “10 Days of Anti-Trafficking Activism” event was dedicated to that task.

Between July 26 and August 6, survivors, activists, and decision-makers debated online and face-to-face in Washigton, Miami and Mexico City for more than 240 hours on how to face the new challenges that impose this old crime and how to stay one step ahead.

Jeremy Vallerand, Rescue Freedom CEO, reminded us that human trafficking is a social problem that is not natural but created by human beings, so it is up to us to end it.

The Executive Director of Global Sustainability Network (GSN), Asmita Satyarthi, called for a global count of victims — there are about 25 million people in human trafficking networks and 30% of them are children.

Héma Sibi, CAP International’s Advocacy Coordinator, asked that we all demand a change of laws at an international level. New laws that punishes exploitative clients, not people who are forced into prostitution.

Chancellor Minister Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, youth leaders such as Alina Luz —Miss Universo Argentina 2020, influencers such as Valentina de la Cuesta, magistrates, mayors, legislators, and more joined events and conferences that can be consulted at www.hojaenblanco.org and the conclusions indicate the way to effectively fight human trafficking.

It is urgent to create international laws that punish trafficking as a crime against humanity. To train police officers with the capacity to investigate this crime beyond national borders. To establish international agreements for financial intelligence units to return to the victims’ money obtained by traffickers, whatever country they are in.

Pivotal actions must go beyond prosecution. More and better prevention campaigns must be created to build bridges between rich and developing countries because that is where the exploiting clients and the exploited person are. National campaigns are no longer enough. The challenge is to build messages thinking about the origin and destination of the victims.

We need more determined participation of society to train new activists with a global perspective and place this topic on the world agenda with the same urgency as other problems faced by humanity, such as climate change or the equitable distribution of food.

Above all, there is an urgency to pass the megaphone to those who have a story that must be heard, because each victim in silence means the loss of a missing ally in the fight against this crime.

The “10 Days of Anti-Trafficking Activism” is one of those crucial events that help us begin to solve those questions that overwhelm us: Where do we start? What is the origin of all this? And by questioning ourselves, we will be able to find how to end those 2547 miles of suffering between Tlaxcala and New York.

So that one day, the seemingly impossible path to defeat will be a memory and the evidence that millions of dollars are not more powerful than millions of people fighting for a world without slavery.

The author is a human rights activist who opened the first shelter for girls and teenagers rescued from sexual commercial exploitation in Mexico. She has published five books on preventing human trafficking; she is the elected Representative of GSN Global Sustainability Network in Latin America.

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South Korea’s Women Fire Back

Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Gender Violence, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health

Opinion

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, KOICA President Lee Mikyung and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (from left) launched a partnership in 2018 that Ms. Lee characterized as “a key foundation and platform for solidarity and collective engagement for gender equality.” The new tripartite agreement– between UNFPA, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UN Women—has combined the strengths of the three partners to improve the lives of women and girls and accelerate the achievement of gender equality, as expressed in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.
Credit: UNFPA/Tara Milutis

SEOUL, South Korea, Sep 1 2021 (IPS) – A strong movement of feminism is sweeping South Korea. While women feel empowered to stand their ground, the men are retaliating.

When South Korean archer An San won two gold medals in just two days during the recent Tokyo Olympics, the response the 20-year-old received at home was a mixed. Some men were angered and said her medals should be taken away. Why? Because her short hair was a sign that she was a ‘man-hating’ feminist.


As bizarre and surreal as it may sound, the attack on An is a bleak reminder of the deep-rooted gender stereotypes in the economically advanced, yet deeply sexist South Korea – and the enormous pressure on women and girls to look and act ‘feminine’. It’s also another episode of the escalating culture war between the country’s increasingly outspoken feminists – and antifeminists seeking to silence their voices.

Lowest in the ranks

South Korea is the world’s 10th largest economy, a tech giant that is home to Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, and a cultural powerhouse whose K-pop stars like BTS enjoy global followings. But despite all the economic and technological advances, the deep-seated patriarchy and gender discrimination remained little changed.

South Korea is ranked at the 102nd in the world in terms of gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum. The gender pay gap in the country is the widest among the advanced economies of the OECD member nations.

It has consistently ranked as the worst place to be a working woman in the Economist magazine’s Glass Ceiling Index. Women account for 19 per cent of parliamentary seats, almost on par with North Korea.

Hawon Jung

Women are under enormous pressure to look perfect at all times and all costs – as shown in the country’s reputation as the world’s capital of plastic surgery. On the busy streets of Seoul, it’s not difficult to find plastic surgery adverts screaming ‘being pretty is everything!’ and rail-thin K-pop starlets presented as role models for teenage girls and young women. The stars’ extreme diet regimens are widely shared on social media and avidly followed by many.

Typical beauty ideals in South Korea for women include pale yet glowing skin, a youthful ‘babyface’, long and luminous hair, wide eyes, a thin nose, and pin-thin body (nearly 17 per cent of South Korean women in their 20s are underweight, compared to less than 5 per cent for their male counterparts, according to a study in 2019).

The pressure begins early: more than 40 per cent of female elementary school students wear makeup, and the number goes up to over 70 per cent for middle schoolers.

Escape the Corset

But women started to fight back. A powerful wave of feminist movement has taken the country by storm in recent years, allowing many women to speak up against sexual discrimination, assault, and objectification like never before.

Since 2018, women have rallied together to bring down many sexual predators, including a popular presidential contender, in one of the most successful cases of #MeToo in Asia.

Tens of thousands took to the streets for months in 2018 to call for tougher crackdown on the so-called ‘spycam porn’ crimes that secretly film women in public space from workplaces to public toilets and share the footage on the internet.

They successfully campaigned to end the abortion ban. The so-called ‘Escape the Corset’ movement was part of that awakening, meant to defy the pressure to follow the rigid beauty ideals.

Women and girls who joined the campaign cut their hair short, destroyed their makeup, refused to wear tight, revealing, or uncomfortable clothes to instead opt for something more comfortable and practical. Since then, short hair has become something of a political statement among many young feminists.

The wave of awakening, however, has also drawn a strong pushback by men who thought – like many around the world – that the women had gone too far, and many labelled feminists as ‘man haters’ who should be punished.

More than 40 per cent of female elementary school students wear makeup, and the number goes up to over 70 per cent for middle schoolers.

The backlash has reached a fever pitch since May when members of many online forums popular among men started to cry ‘misandry’ over a adds that use an image of a pinching finger, a universal gesture to indicate something small.

Online crusade

In a campaign likened by many as a McCarthyian witch-hunt, they claimed whoever created the image must be feminists and out to ridicule the size of their genitals. Despite having no possibility of any political plot, many of the accused companies and government institutions – including the national police agency and the defense ministry – bent down quickly, apologized for hurting the men’s feelings and removed the images from their posters.

These online mobs even enjoyed political backing; Lee Jun-Seok, a young member of the rightwing People’s Power Party, rose to prominence by amplifying the conspiracy theory over the ‘misandrist’ finger gesture, and eventually became the leader of the party in July.

Feeling supported by a powerful politician and emboldened by groveling apologies from companies and the government, the online mobs moved on to their next target—the star Olympian whose appearance didn’t fit into their ideal of traditional femininity.

‘Why did you cut your hair?’ An was asked on her social media, to which she replied, ‘’coz it’s convenient’. The answer was not enough.

A campaign to extract an apology from An for being a feminist began, with some even demanding that the Korea Archery Association take away the gold medals from the ‘man hater’.

But women fought back again. Lawmakers, activists, entertainers, and thousands of ordinary women rallied behind An, many sharing the photos of their short hair on social media as a show of support.

And as the cyber-bullying targeting An raged on, many women across the country watched as An won yet another gold – becoming the first archer in Olympic history to win three golds at a single Game.

Hawon Jung is a journalist and former Seoul correspondent for the AFP news agency. She is the author of ‘Flowers of Fire,’ a book about South Korea’s #MeToo campaign.

Source: International Politics and Society (IPS), published by the Global and European Policy Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

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Parliamentarians Determined to Reach ICPD 25 Goals

Africa, Asia-Pacific, Conferences, COVID-19, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Population, TerraViva United Nations, Women & Economy, Women in Politics

Gender

Delegates from Asia and Africa met during a two-day conference to discuss ICPD25 programme of action. Credit: APDA

Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug 23 2021 (IPS) – Politicians from Asia and Africa shared activism anecdotes demonstrating their determination to meet ICPD 25 commitments. They were speaking at a hybrid conference held simultaneously in Kampala, Uganda, and online.


Ugandan MP Kabahenda Flavia dramatically told the conference that women parliamentarians in her country “stampeded the budget process” to ensure there was potential to recruit midwives and nurses at health centres. Another told of a breastfeeding lawmaker who brought her child to parliament, forcing it to create inclusive facilities for new mothers.

Yet, despite these displays of determination, there was consensus at the meeting, organised by the Asian Population and Development Association and Ugandan Parliamentarians Forum of Food Security, Population and Development, that the COVID-19 pandemic had set the ICPD25 programme of action back, and it needed to be addressed.

In his opening remarks, former Prime Minister of Japan and chair of the APDA, Yasuo Fukuda, commented that the pandemic had “dramatically changed the world. It has exposed enormous challenges faced by African and Asian countries, which lack sufficient infrastructure in health and medical services.”

With only nine years until 2030 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Fukuda told parliamentarians they needed to respond to the swift pace of global change.

His sentiments were echoed by Ugandan MP Marie Rose Nguini Effa, who said in Africa, the pandemic had “affected the lives of many people, including the aged, youth and women. Many young people lost their jobs while girls’ and young women’s access to integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services have plunged.”

Addressing how parliamentarians can make a difference, Pakistani MP Romina Khurshid Alam intimated legislation was not the only route.

Other actions were needed to achieve SDGs, especially those relating to women. For example, the act of paying women the same as their male counterparts would more than compensate for the estimated $264 billion costs over ten years of achieving SDG 5 on gender equality.

Alam, who is also the chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians forum, quoted figures from the World Economic Forum, which had looked at the benefits of pay equity. Each year the discrimination “takes $16 trillion off the table”.

“If we just started paying women the same amount of money that we pay men for the same job. Your country will generate that GDP. We will not have to beg anyone for that money,” she said.

The ‘shadow pandemic’ also threatens to destroy any progress made on agenda 2030, Alam said.
People were put into lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease – but not all people live in three-bedroom houses. Overcrowding in poor areas, the stress of lockdowns led to a 300 percent increase in violence.

Flavia said in Uganda, women’s issues were taken extremely seriously – their role, she said, should not be underestimated.

“Women don’t only give birth. They are the backbone of most economies,” she noted, adding that more than 80 percent of the informal sector is made up of women. She listed various laws created to ensure women are accorded full and equal dignity, including article 33 of the Ugandan constitution, which enshrined this.

Women parliamentarians saw their role as custodians of the ICPD 25 programme as action – and were prepared to act if their demands were not taken seriously, including holding up the budgeting process until critical health posts were funded.

Constatino Kanyasu, an MP from Tanzania, called for collective action.

“Developing countries should merge those efforts with other issues, by addressing Covid-19 together with ICPD+25 commitments horizontally,” she said.

In a presentation shared at the conference, Jyoti Tewari, UNFPA for East and South African regions, showed some progress indices since the ICPD conference, including a 49 percent decrease in maternal mortality before the pandemic.

However, he said there was still a long way to go, with 80 000 women dying from preventable deaths during pregnancy. However, the lockdowns during the two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic had prolonged disruptions to SRHR services.

It was necessary to “sustain evidence-based advocacy to promptly
detect changes to service delivery and utilization, and support countries to implement mitigation strategies,” Tewari said.
Ugandan Deputy Speaker Anita Annet Among expressed concern that one in five adolescent girls falls pregnant in Africa – many of whom drop out of school. With schools closed, the situation had worsened.

She called on parliamentarians to be the voice of the voiceless and ensure “you make strong laws that protect the women and youth. Ensure the appropriation of monies that support these marginalized people.”

A declaration following the meeting included advocating for increased budgets to meet the ICPD 25 commitments, including sexual and reproductive health services for all and contributing to the three zeros – preventable maternal deaths, unmet family planning needs, and eliminating gender-based violence.

• The meeting was held under the auspices of the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) in partnership with The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and hosted by Ugandan Parliamentarians Forum of Food Security, Population and Development (UPFFSP&D).

 

The Fight for the “Lost Souls.”

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Gender, Gender Violence, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

MEXICO CITY, Jul 19 2021 (IPS) – In June, the Department of Homeland Security made a critical announcement. For the first time in U.S. history, more than 15 national and local agencies and civilian organizations conducted a simultaneous major binational operation to find missing children inside and outside the United States.


Rosi Orozco

They called it “Operation Lost Souls”. Its objective was to find girls and boys who were missing and possibly deceived or kidnapped by sexual exploitation gangs.

The secret operation lasted a week. And the result announced by Special Agent Erik Breitzke surprised even the organizers: 24 minors were recovered and, among them, three were located in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The report of the operation does not explain the condition in which the minors were found. Still, it is not difficult to infer why they were in Ciudad Juarez: the United Nations, the International Police, and the Mexican Congress have warned that this border city is a well-known destination for sex tourism.

In 1993, that Mexican city became infamous worldwide due to a phenomenon known as “Las muertas de Juarez,” where hundreds of femicides were discovered under the suspicion that the victims had been recruited for sexual slavery.

More than 28 years later, Ciudad Juarez is still a city known for its tolerance of prostitution, its glittering brothels with hidden girls, and its streets run by pimps and mafias that are tied to the porn industry. It is a pedophile’s paradise.

There is an explanation for that: in Ciudad Juárez, as in many others cities worldwide, the fight against human trafficking has the wrong approach — the police often harass those who are prostituted, not the clients. But there is a growing global movement calling for doing the opposite.

That movement is also trending in Mexico and is inspired by the French law enacted on April 13, 2016, which prohibits any sexual act that has been agreed upon in exchange for money.

It’s a simple but substantial change: to protect human rights, the law should not go against people trapped in prostitution but against clients. In other words, the authorities must attack the most powerful link in the chain, not the most vulnerable.

To this end, it is necessary to stop the criminalization of those trapped in prostitution and, instead, create incentives for their exit from the sex trade.

For example, designing self-employment programs, granting tax benefits for those who wish to leave prostitution, including them in a protected witness program with benefits, issuing temporary residence permits for foreigners who could not get a job because of their immigration status, among other measures.

To reach the goal of lowering sexual trafficking and exploitation, the law needs to strongly target the demand that perpetuates these crimes. The penalties for “client exploiters” need to be strengthened.

To prosecute them more effectively, mexican activists are asking their government to imitate what the French police does by removing the burden of proof of the solicitation from the victim’s shoulders.

The French law has been a successful model, according to the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution (CAP International): it has curbed the investment of traffickers, discouraged clients, provided dignified outlets for the most vulnerable, and swept away the dangers of the tolerated clandestinely.

This model has also proved that pimps are less likely to “invest” in a country with such hard measures against them. Because they see themselves as genuine businessmen, these progressive laws such as the Swedish and French laws that have strong penalties for sex buyers are simply not good for business.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in the General recommendation No. 38 (2020) on human trafficking, encourages this new movement and calls on countries around the world to enforce it, especially in a pandemic context.

“The need to address the demand that fosters sexual exploitation is significant in the context of digital technology, which exposes potential victims to an increased risk of being trafficked,” alerts the General recommendation.

This global movement walks hand in hand with others that have shaken the world, such as #MeToo or the worldwide protests against inequality.

It’s the voice of millions around the world, Mexicans included: never again a city where sex buyers are seen as mere clients and traffickers are treated as businessmen.

To raise awareness among Mexican lawmakers, we will implement from July 26 to August 6 the worldwide campaign #10Days and #VsTrafficking hand in hand with several international organizations that will encourage new activists to stand against exploitative clients and put an end to the suffering of every lost soul in the world.

We are millions convinced of a revolutionary idea: abolishing prostitution does not limit sexual freedom, instead it motivates the sexual freedom that is needed in the world. The one that does not depend on money.

The author is a human rights activist who opened the first shelter for girls and teenagers rescued from sexual commercial exploitation in Mexico. She has published five books on preventing human trafficking; she is the elected Representative of GSN Global Sustainability Network in Latin America.

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