The Long Shadow of Joe Biden’s Legacy on Violence Against Women

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The video, like so many videos ostensibly talking about how to save the world, begins with two white men in crisp white shirts and ties. One of the men is a reporter, the other is then-vice president Joe Biden. They sit facing each other on an Amtrak train, outlines of Anywhere, America, zipping past in the window.

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Joe Biden Expresses Regret to Anita Hill, but She Says ‘I’m Sorry’ Is Not Enough – The New York Times – Took 28 years to apologize? Too little, too late… Time’sUpJoe!

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called Anita Hill earlier this month to express his regret over “what she endured” testifying against Justice Clarence Thomas at the 1991 Supreme Court hearings that put a spotlight on sexual harassment of women, according to a spokeswoman for Mr. Biden. But Ms. Hill, in an interview Wednesday, said she left the conversation feeling deeply unsatisfied and declined to characterize his words to her as an apology. She said she is not convinced that Mr. Biden truly accepts the harm he caused her and other women who suffered sexual harassment and gender violence.

Explaining Sri Lanka’s New Emergency Regulations on ‘Publication’

Sri Lanka’s president issued a new set of Emergency Regulations on 22 April 2019.  This note explains the contents of Emergency Regulation 15, which concerns the ‘control of publications’, and certain other regulations relevant to publication.

There are four features in Regulation 15 worth discussing. Before explaining these features, we should note that a ‘competent authority’ is defined in Emergency Regulation 2 as ‘any person appointed by name, or by office, by the President to be a competent authority’. Regulation 15 does not provide any specific definition for a ‘competent authority’, so we can presume this general definition applies to Regulation 15.

Restriction on publication

First, a competent authority (CA) is given the power to restrict the publication (in Sri Lanka) or transmission (to a place outside Sri Lanka) of something that might be prejudicial to national security, or certain other similar aims. Other aims include public order and the maintenance of essential services. The decision to issue directions can be based on the opinion of the CA. The general focus of this Regulation is on the ‘publication’ of something. However, the term ‘transmission’ can include sharing information to a place outside Sri Lanka even privately. Any person who contravenes a direction of a CA is guilty of an offence.

Prior censorship

Second, a CA can require material, including news reports, editorials, articles, and cartoons, to be submitted to the CA before publication. Regulation 15 therefore appears to enable prior censorship. A plain reading of this provision suggests that the CA’s powers are broad enough to cover any publication that, in the CA’s opinion, might be prejudicial to national security or certain other similar aims.

Newspapers and printing presses

Third, if an offence relates to publishing a newspaper, the president can prohibit the person (convicted of the offence) from publishing a newspaper in Sri Lanka. Alternatively, if a person contravenes a direction of a CA, and the contravention relates to publishing a newspaper, or if the CA is of the opinion that something calculated to be prejudicial to national security (or other such aims) is likely to be published in a newspaper, the CA may (by issuing an order) prohibit the printing, publishing and distribution of that newspaper. In the case of a contravention, the CA is required to first give a warning to the person. However, no warning appears to be necessary when the CA is of the opinion that something calculated to be prejudicial to national security (or other such aims) is likely to be published in a newspaper.

Regulation 15 defines ‘newspaper’ to include any form of publication. This definition can potentially include online publications.

The CA may also prohibit the use of the relevant printing press for any purpose, and may authorise the seizure of the printing press or the premises where it is located. Such powers apply not only to a newspaper specifically named by the CA in an order, but also to any other newspaper (under any other name) that publishes the same content of the newspaper specifically named by the CA. The powers of seizing a printing press extends to situations where the CA is of the opinion that the printing press is likely to be used to produce a document calculated to prejudice national security (or other such aims), even if such document is not meant for publication.

Advisory Committees

Fourth, the president must appoint one or more ‘Advisory Committees’ that are authorised to hear objections from a person dissatisfied with an order of a CA with respect to a newspaper publication or printing press. All members of such committees, including the chairperson, are appointed by the president. The CA is dutybound to inform the proprietor of the relevant newspaper or the owner of the relevant printing press that he (or she) can make representations to the president, and make objections to an Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee must submit a report to the president, who may revoke or vary the order.

Other offences

Apart from Regulation 15, Regulations 32 and 33 contain prohibitions that relate to speech and publication. Regulation 32 prohibits dissemination of any ‘rumour’ or ‘false statement’ likely to cause ‘public alarm’ or ‘public disorder’. Regulation 33 prohibits printing or publishing any document that gives information on or comments on the activities of any banned organisation, or any matter pertaining to investigations of the government into a ‘terrorism movement’, or any matter pertaining to the security of Sri Lanka. For example, publishing a leaked intelligence document would be prohibited under this Regulation.

Consequences

When a newspaper contravenes any provision of Regulation 15, the proprietor, manager, editor and publisher of the newspaper are all separately guilty of an offence.

The consequences of committing an offence under Regulations 15, 32 and 33 are contained in Regulation 49. The Regulation provides that a person guilty of an offence can be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than three months and not exceeding five years, and to a fine of not less than five hundred rupees and not exceeding five thousand rupees.

 

(The author is an attorney-at-law and research director at Verité Research. He thanks Luwie Ganeshathasan, Malsirini de Silva and Rehana Mohammed for their generous time in reviewing this note).

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Women and Girls “Preyed on as the Spoils of War”

A young girl whose family fled the Boko Haram insurgency stands in front of a tent in a camp for internally displaced persons in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Boko Haram has abducted thousands of girls and forced them into unwanted marriages and enslavement. Credit: Sam Olukoya/IPS

By Sam Olukoya
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Apr 25 2019 (IPS)

“They forcefully took us away and kept us like prisoners,” Lydia Musa, a former Boko Haram captive who was abducted at the age of 14 during an attack on her village in Gwoza, in Nigeria’s north eastern Borno State, tells IPS. Musa and two other underaged girls were captured and forced to marry Boko Haram fighters in spite of their protests that they were too young to marry.

“You must marry whether you like it or not they told us as they pointed guns at us,” the now 16-year-old girl recalls.

Boko Haram’s violation of the rights of women and children paints a larger picture of human trafficking, forced marriages and enslavement in Nigeria.

As the extremist group enters the 10th year of its insurgency, it remains formidable enough to abduct women and children at will, continuing “to prey on women and girls as spoils of war,” Anietie Ewang, Nigeria country researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

This West African nation has the highest incidence of Africans being trafficked through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The north and north eastern parts of the country, where Boko Haram is active, have high incidences of forced marriages, while across the country there are frequent cases of young girls being ‘traded’ as modern day slaves.

The group, whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’, is reputed to be among the five-deadliest terror groups in the world. It has been involved in a violent campaign for strict Islamic rule in north east Nigeria and in parts of the neighbouring states of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. More than 20,000 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in 2009.

Boko Haram is also involved in the kidnapping, trafficking and enslavement of children and women. Hundreds of women and children have been abducted since the group’s insurgency started. But Boko Haram’s most well-known abduction occurred in April 2014, when 276 female students were taken away from their dormitory at the Government Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State.

The abduction started a global campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

A few months after the Chibok girls were abducted, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said he would sell them. “I am the one who captured all those girls and I will sell all of them,” he said in an online video in which he justified human slavery. “Slavery is allowed in my religion and I shall capture people and make them slaves.”

Consequently there have been other mass abductions of children in the region since the Chibok incident. In March 2015, Boko Haram fighters abducted more than 300 children from Zanna Mobarti Primary School in Damasak; while 116 female students from the Government Girls Science and Technical College, in Dapchi, Yobe State, were abducted in February 2018 during an attack on the school.

“The way Boko Haram hold women and children against their will is by itself a form of slavery,” Rotimi Olawale of the group Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) tells IPS. The group is involved in a powerful campaign for the speedy and effective search and rescue of the Chibok girls and other abducted women and children.

Olawale says Boko Haram is also using captives, like the Chibok girls, as “valuable bargaining chips” to collect ransoms and secure the release of their members held in Nigerian prisons. While many of the Chibok girls are still missing five years after their abduction, others escaped or were released by Boko Haram in deals made with the Nigerian government. But 112 girls are reportedly still missing.

In an apparent reference to Boko Haram, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that since 2012, non-state armed groups in north east Nigeria have recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry and committed other grave violations against children.

Accounts by others who escaped from Boko Haram’s captivity confirm this.

Ali Mohammed is also a former Boko Haram captive. He tells IPS that while in captivity he saw Boko Haram members using captive girls as sex slaves. “At night they freely go to where the girls are kept to pick them for sex,” he explains.

Another former Boko Haram captive who preferred to be called Halima says male children born through sexual slavery are being breed to be the new generation of Boko Haram fighters. Halima, who gave birth to twins (a boy and a girl), tells IPS how Boko Haram members always celebrate when a baby boy is born in their camps.

“Once they realise it is a male baby they will start shooting their guns into the air in happy mood saying that a new leader has been born,” she says.

“After I delivered the babies, they carried the male in jubilation and were chatting Allah Akbar, in contrast, they did not show any joy with the female, they did not even touch her.”

Boko Haram’s abduction of young persons are in part aimed at turning them into fighters. UNICEF says between 2013 and 2017 more than 3,500 children, most of whom were aged 13 to 17, were recruited by non-state armed groups who used them in the armed conflict in north east Nigeria. UNICEF says the true figures are likely to be higher because its figures are only of those cases that have been verified.

Musa confirms that while in captivity she saw abducted boys being trained to be Boko Haram fighters. “In the mornings, they normally teach them how to shoot guns and carry out attacks,” she says, adding that some of the boys were just 10 years old.

Boko Haram is also known to train children to become suicide bombers. A UNICEF report in 2017, says between January and August of that year, 83 children, mainly girls, were used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers. The UN’s children agency said this figure was four times higher than it was for 2016.

Attempts to use legislation to address such abuses as child marriage, sexual abuse, trafficking and abduction have failed in the past. In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act as a legal documentation to protect children from these abuses. Currently the country’s constitution does not have a minimum age of marriage. Though the Child Rights Act set the marriageable age as 18, it failed in part because a number of Nigeria’s 36 states refused to domesticate the law.

“It was also a failure in states where it was adopted because it only existed on paper and was not enforced,” Betty Abah, a women and children’s rights activist, tells IPS.

In 2016, Nigeria’s male-dominated senate voted against a Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill. The bill in part prohibits trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children. The bill, which also prohibits forced marriage, set 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage.

According to UNICEF, 43 percent of girls in Nigeria are married off before they turn 18. Some of the lawmakers who voted against the bill cited such grounds as their religion which permitted underaged marriage.

“It sends a very bad signal that we have a long way to go if those who are supposed to make laws to protect women and children feel these laws are not necessary,” Abah says.

In the meantime, Musa, may have fled the captivity of Boko Haram but she is too terrified to return home. She now lives in Maiduguri, which is also in Borno State and about 130 kms from Gwoza.

She tells IPS she is home sick. “I am always praying for the crisis to end so that I can return home, for now I cant go back because I don’t want to risk being taken away by Boko Haram again.”

 

—————————————–The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) http://gsngoal8.com/ is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

The post Women and Girls “Preyed on as the Spoils of War” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Riana Group.

The post Women and Girls “Preyed on as the Spoils of War” appeared first on Inter Press Service.