A Brighter Future Begins in a Classroom

Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign by individuals and groups calling for an end to all forms of violence against women. This year’s theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All”. For the next 16 days, Peace is Loud will be sharing reports, quotes from our speakers, and other resources around this theme. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and join the conversation!

 At Peace is Loud, we recognize peace to be more than just an absence of war, but a societal transformation towards inclusion and a celebration of diversity. Similarly, building peace requires a measurable shift in how we treat the people we share a home, classroom, workplace, community, country and world with. A holistic issue requires a holistic response.

In many parts of the world, access to safe, quality education is not a right but a privilege, and requires several factors to converge: Parents or guardians must first decide that their child should be and stay in school, and not be married off at a young age; school facilities and materials must be accessible and affordable; teachers, staff and school officials must be dedicated to a violence-and-harassment-free environment; and school policies must communicate and enforce policies towards that end. All too often, one or more of these factors fail to fall into place. The damage in a child’s life, and to the world as a whole, is monumental.

For the more than 14 million girls in conflict-affected countries who are out of school, the 28 girls married before the age of 18 every minute, the 120 million girls worldwide who have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime, the 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men who were sexually abused as children, and the LGBTQ youth who feel unsafe in their school because of bullying, awareness-raising and calls to action should be scaled up not just during these 16 Days, but every day moving forward. From a young age, children need to be taught that they deserve lives free from violence, that they deserve quality education, that consent is their right, and that their voices deserve to be heard.

We are fortunate to work with incredible women who have been dedicated to ending violence and promoting safe education for many years.  From Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, who set up secret schools for girls in Afghanistan during Taliban rule, to Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda’s tireless call for an end to child marriage and Leymah Gbowee’s support for girls’ education In Liberia, we are inspired every day by the work of our speakers and their colleagues.

If you’re wondering how to make an impact at an individual, local level, particularly around ending child marriage, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Peace is Loud speaker and African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage has a message for you:

(Embed: https://youtu.be/T-q4IZbU7Ms)

To learn more about Peace is Loud or bring a women peacebuilder public speaker to your classroom or event, please visit our website.

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The Missing Girls in Nigeria: There is a need for critical analysis and sustained action on this

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When news of the abduction of nearly 300 school girls in Nigeria broke over four weeks ago, we, as the CAL Secretariat were deeply concerned. We were, and we still are concerned because this gross violation of human and children’s rights is proof of the degree that hegemonic patriarchal power manifests itself and especially on female bodies. We are concerned because as feminists and human rights defenders, this act, and the slow nature in which the Nigerian government has chosen to respond to this crisis is indicative of just how little women and girls’ lives matter, to majority male governments and oppressive male militia and military bodies. We are concerned because this issue is a microcosm of a bigger problem-commodification of female bodies and devaluation of female/feminine importance. We have asked, on Social Media-What Are Women’s Lives Worth?

Another reality worth considering is that girls and women go missing everywhere, and all the time. There are thousands of unaccounted for incidences where girl children have gone missing and these incidences go unreported. Sometimes for years and many time unresolved. In our daily newspapers we see a majority of girls and women reported missing, with little to nothing done by authorities to investigate these issues. Many patriarchal cultural constructions accord more importance to boy children than they do to girl children. This means that some families are least likely to report missing girl children than they are to report missing boy children. The same is said for women, as compared to men. Girls and women, today, still lie at the bottom of the social totem, and this recent turn of events in Nigeria shows that there is a deeper and urgent need for our governments, our communities and society as a whole to give female bodies the same importance that male bodies are often given.

Some statistics out of America (unfortunately these are the only extensive statistics that could be found) show as follows:
• An astounding 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day, including both adults and children
• The federal government counted 840,279 missing persons cases in 2001. All but about 50,000 were juveniles, classified as anyone younger than 18. This means that in 2001, over 790, 000 children were reported missing.
• Two-thirds of the nearly 800 000 victims are ages 12 to 17, and among those eight out of 10 are [white] females, according to a Justice Department study. This means that 80% of the abducted children were girls.
• Nearly 90 percent of the abductors are men, and they sexually assault their victims in half of the cases.

Source: http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/forensics/americas_missing/2.html

This is important because, America is putting pressure and offering military help to find the nearly 250 missing school girls in Nigeria, while they too have a crisis going on as far as missing girl children go. With the current state of affairs between Nigeria and America, especially with regard to the rights of gender non-conforming and non-heteronormative African women and men, this offer, and indeed pressure from the American government, might do more harm than good. And this situation furthermore creates military and military related tensions on a continent rife with militarism and militant oppression-from both State and rebel actors.

In a recently published article in The Guardian, Jumoke Balogun writes: ‘Simple question. Are you Nigerian? Do you have constitutional rights accorded to Nigerians to participate in their democratic process? If not, I have news for you. You can’t do anything about the girls missing in Nigeria. You can’t. Your insistence on urging American power, specifically American military power, to address this issue will ultimately hurt the people of Nigeria. It heartens me that you’ve taken up the mantle of spreading “awareness” about the 200+ girls who were abducted from their school in Chibok; it heartens me that you’ve heard the cries of mothers and fathers who go yet another day without their child. It’s nice that you care. Here’s the thing though, when you pressure western powers, particularly the American government, to get involved in African affairs and when you champion military intervention, you become part of a much larger problem. You become a complicit participant in a military expansionist agenda on the continent of Africa. This is not good. You might not know this, but the United States military loves your hashtags because it gives them legitimacy to encroach and grow their military presence in Africa. Africom (United States Africa Command), the military body that is responsible for overseeing US military operations across Africa, gained much from #KONY2012 and will now gain even more from #BringBackOurGirls.’ This is a worthwhile article-do read it when you get the time to.

As a feminist collective, it is important that we speak to this issue, but more importantly, it is essential that we shift conversations, and shape dialogues around bigger and wider issues, to prevent, or at best attempt to prevent recurrence of such atrocities. We have to hold our governments, tasked with our protection, accountable for our safety and the safety of our children whether they inhabit female or male bodies.

CAL would like to plan some action(s) that bring attention to these multiple, overlapping issues: issues of bodily autonomy, militarism, safety and security; issues of femicide, and the girl child and education; issues of accountability and governance. They all intersect and they all need a voice. This cannot be seen as a once-off, occurrence-there is a bigger picture here, and this conversation has to go on.

We welcome your thoughts on this-and any suggestions on future continued action around this are welcome.

Please send suggested actions to sheena@cal.org.za

The struggle continues. We still hope and wish for the safe return of the stolen school girls back to their homes and families. We demand that justice prevails for these girls and all the other thousands of abducted and stolen girls and women on the continent.

Reprinted with permission from http://caladvocacyblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/the-missing-girls-in-nigeria-there-is-a-need-for-critical-analysis-and-sustained-action-on-this/.

Men and Women Working as Partners for Gender-Sensitive Active Nonviolence

by Isabelle Geuskens, The Netherlands

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The Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) finds it important to apply a masculinities perspective in the work for gender-sensitive peacebuilding. Feedback received from women peace activists in our network initiated this work. They indicated that two main obstacles interfered with their peace activism: (1) society as a whole lacking a gender-analysis of violence; and (2) many men involved in peacebuilding lacking gender awareness.

This confirmed for us that changing cultures of violence requires not only investing in the empowerment of women; it also requires looking critically at men’s socialization. For UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to become a reality, we need to go to all the roots contributing to women’s victimization and marginalization before, during, and after armed conflict. This implies addressing the construction of male gender identities that support men’s dominance, violence and militarization. Hence, it means addressing the deeply gendered nature of violent conflict itself.

It is our experience that, when addressing the topic of gender-sensitive peace-building through men’s gendered experiences of violence and war as well, it is easier to connect men to the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda. Next to paying attention to the privileges of men, this means discussing how men are also losing out from current hegemonic male gender roles in society; and in particular, how these gender dynamics exacerbate during armed conflict.

 At the same time, when questioning hegemonic gender roles, it is important to also invest in alternatives. This includes looking – through a gender lens – at how society perceives and deals with conflict. Often, society frames conflict as something negative, to be solved through a win-lose approach (“power over”). A gender-sensitive nonviolent approach does not see conflict as the problem – as conflict is considered a part of life, and can even carry the seeds of positive change. The issue lies in how we as humans, and particularly men, are socialized and trained into accepting violence as a part of life and in particular a way to address conflict.

Investing in alternatives means investing in people’s skills to recognize and analyze conflict and injustice, as well as in how to address it by strategizing and working together (“people power” or “power with”). It is interesting to mention here that research increasingly argues that a strategy of nonviolence is more effective than violence in achieving policy goals. According to data analyzed by Stephan and Chenoweth, between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent campaigns were more successful in achieving their policy goals (53 % of the time), whereas violent campaigns only had a success rate of 26 %.

To illustrate what is meant by ‘alternatives’, we would like to share some of our lessons learned in terms of integrating a masculinities approach in our training work around gender-sensitive peacebuilding:

  • Investing in monitoring the impact of the work is important as to see whether the approach is relevant and effective. Our trainees informed us that the follow-up trainings they in turn implemented in their countries generated much positive response. They reached out to a diverse group of interested stakeholders; including NGO representatives, police officers, representatives from the media, government officials, lawyers, community elders, religious scholars, student representatives, youth leaders from indigenous groups, and representatives from the men’s movement. Beyond their own trainings, a far broader group was reached (at least 25,000 people), through:                                     – The use of media (radio programs) and the dissemination of articles on nonviolence, women’s rights, masculinities, and peace-building;  

          -The establishment of men’s groups/ programs in their community, to address men’s role in eradicating violence against women and wider violence in society, and to raise awareness on nonviolent conflict resolution;                                                          

 – Providing expertise to other organizations upon request (e.g. workshops);                                                                                    

– Integration of gender-sensitive nonviolence in their organisations’s work (from policy to program level);     

– Joining women’s lobby and advocacy initiatives for women’s rights;                                                                                              

– Sharing the concepts within other networks (incl. regional networks).

  • Trainees confirmed that training male activists to become trainers in gender-sensitive active nonviolence is very effective, since male trainers are often in a good position to reach out to male participants in a group. Equally important is including women in every step of the work. E.g., we always stress working with mixed trainer teams (female and male trainers); which according to our trainees results in powerful role modeling in their communities (“women and men working as partners for gender equality”).
  • Solidarity is very important, as our trainees shared that working for gender-sensitive nonviolence often means being a minority voice. Several shared facing ridicule;opposition; silencing; and even threats. It is therefore important to take time to discuss this reality with trainees, as well as how to deal with it collectively, so that it does not end up undermining one’s commitment.
  • There are no shortcuts; paradigm shifts take time. When we started our work on masculinities, we looked critically at how to build in accountability and sustainability. For us, this meant e.g. investing in thorough and strict selection processes; intensive training cycles (consisting of two trainings and a mandatory country-based follow-up training); and the trainings addressing knowledge and skills building as well as people’s commitment:The personal is political!
  • It is important to invest in the creation of constructive spaces for the “unsaid” and the difficult conversations; e.g. during trainings we create this space through the organizing of gender dialogue sessions, during which male and female trainees can address sensitive gender dynamics/issues.
  • When talking about masculinities and war, it is important to do so against the background of women’s long history of peace activism and organizing against militarism. It is important to raise awareness on the roots of the WPS agenda in the women’s movement;and to keep the masculinities work connected to this bigger picture. This is to prevent masculinities work from being narrowed down to a focus on male victims of war only; and to balance this by also pointing out how male privilege operates; the resulting costs for women; and the importance of women’s participation and leadership in peace-building. It is this “bigger picture” that will support men and women to work together, as partners,for gender-sensitive peacebuilding.


Isabelle Geuskens is the Executive Director of Women Peacemakers Program(WPP), based in The Hague, The Netherlands. Since 2010, Isabelle serves on the 16 Days Advisory Committee. Before working for the WPP, Isabelle worked with local communities and activists in Bosnia Herzegovina and Northern Ireland. She has a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Reclaiming Schools, Safeguarding Quality Education

by madeleine kennedy-macfoy, International

Gender-based violence, especially against women and girls, happens in all societies, across time and space and to any type of woman or girl; it is indiscriminate. One out of every three girls born today will be beaten, forced to have sex or suffer some other type of abuse from an intimate partner during her lifetime. Violence against women and girls can be physical, emotional, sexual, or economic; it happens in private and public places, and in physical and virtual online spaces.

Feminists have shown us that the root cause of violence against girls and women is the deeply entrenched and historically unequal power relations between women and men, and the persistent discrimination against women the world over. Today it is widely recognised that the occurrence or threat of gender-based violence deprives women and girls of their basic human rights.

School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is violence perpetrated against children in and around the school setting. SRGBV is defined as acts and the threat of acts of sexual, physical or psychological violence that happen in or around school and educational settings. Both girls and boys can be the target of such violence, which may include bullying and cyber bullying, sexual or verbal harassment, gang-related reprisals and confrontations, non-consensual touching, rape or assault. Girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment at school, although little is currently known about the numbers of boys who also suffer such abuse in the school setting.

At first glance, it may not be obvious how militarism is linked to school-related gender-based violence. However, in recent years, schools and female students and teachers have increasingly been targeted by terrorist groups. When we consider the role that education plays in shaping young minds, we begin to get some idea of why they are a primary target for violent and militarised insurgents. Speaking about the situation in Afghanistan, footballer and women’s rights activist Khalida Popal has explained that: ‘uneducated youth represents a security issue as the uneducated are more easily recruited to terrorist groups because they won’t ask any controversial questions’. She further stated that ‘girls get poisoned in school’ in Afghanistan. We can see then, that the violence unleashed by terrorists on schools and students is clearly gendered: boys are potential recruits and girls must remain confined to the domestic sphere, so both must remain uneducated. ‘School-related gender-based violence’ takes on a particular connotation when seen in this light: the violence may not happen in or around a school, but it is undoubtedly school-related. And the terrorists will employ any means necessary to meet their objectives.

The atrocious attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban in December 2012 has become the most widely known example of this type of SRGBV: Ms. Yousafzai was targeted because of her activism and advocacy for girls to have access to education in the Swat Valley. In northern Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram (meaning ‘Western education is forbidden’ in Hausa) have burned down more than 300 hundred schools since 2009, and in September of this year they gunned down as many as 50 students as they slept in their dormitories in an agricultural college in the north-eastern part of the country. Similar violent acts against girls’ schools and women teachers have been recorded in Pakistan since 2007. In the Education under Attack (2010) report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) attacks on schools, teachers and students are documented from all over the world. Such attacks include, but are not limited to, mass and multiple killings, explosions, poisoning, and violence by armed groups.

As we focus on gender-based violence over the next 16 days, we must not overlook the violence that occurs in and around schools or the fact that schools are prime targets for militarised extremist groups that are hell-bent on preventing young people from obtaining an education. We must safeguard the provision of quality education because education plays both a preventive and protective role in the struggle against violence in and around schools, but also in the wider society. We must reclaim schools and ensure that they are safe sanctuaries where teachers can provide, and students benefit from, a quality education.

madeleine kennedy-macfoy works on gender equality issues at Education International, the largest global trade union federation, which represents 30 million teachers and other education employees worldwide.

Increasing Militarism and violence against women in Nepal

by Renu Rajbhandari, Nepal

Violence against women continues to be a challenge for post-conflict Nepal. According to available data two cases of rape are reported on average each day. WOREC Nepal, an organization working on violence against women (VAW) registered 1703 cases from August 2012 to July 2013. The survivors face numerous challenges due to the ever increasing impunity and lack of access to justice mechanisms in the country.

Despite this reality, the Government of Nepal has been applauded by the international community for its National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to effectively address the increasing numbers of VAW in the country. Almost seven years have passed since the signing of Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) between the Nepal Communist Party-NCPN (Maoist) and the seven mainstream parties for ensuring peace and security. Although peace and security for the people was central to signing the CPA, implementation remains mainly unmet while the parties work to obtain power and maintain control over national resources.

Up to this period, the peace dividend largely remains with the leaders at the central level leaving the larger section of people powerless. Political instability has been used by the political party and the government to continue the culture of impunity. It is very important to note that reintegration of Maoist soldiers into the Nepal army was one among many other agendas such as constitution drafting, transformation of the country socially and economically, and truth seeking and justice for people affected by conflict . However, reintegration of the Maoist army has taken most of the time and has remained one of the highest priorities. This process has contributed to a deeper militarized mindset within society. The militarization process has affected the people’s collective mindset and the government’s priorities have contributed to the culture of impunity, making it difficult for women to access justice. The difficult, complicated and lengthy court process along with discriminatory laws compounded with unchanged attitudes and practices of security, judicial and health services has posed further challenges for women and those advocating for an end to gender-based violence and access to justice.

Similarly, extremist ideas such as demanding Nepal again become an officially Hindu country, the emergence of different religious groups, a faster rate of conversion to religion, and different forms of identity-based politics are being used to maintain the status quo among political parties. This has also contributed to the failure of the Constitutional Assembly (CA) in finalizing a constitution.  This situation has extended to the level that political parties couldn’t come to a consensus for the creation of the government, though they eventually agreed to bring the Chief Justice and retired bureaucrats to form the government. All this has largely impacted women and exacerbated the occurrence of VAW, which remains at the bottom of priorities for the government and the political parties. There is a lack of interest and effort to create the environment for access to justice for women.

Currently, with the announcement of the elections for a new CA, the militarization process has become more visible. There is a consensus and agreement among the political party and government to mobilize the army under the name of maintaining security during the election. This has largely ignored other issues which are key to addressing sustainable peace in Nepal.  Issues related to transitional justice and creation of mechanisms to address violence perpetuated against women during the conflict has not been given space for serious and thoughtful discussion
among political parties or within government.  

In this situation, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a key space for women’s rights activists to bring issues such as investigation of cases of sexual violence against women during the conflict, and unresolved disappearances of their family members. The Campaign gives an opportunity to bring to attention the increased practice of gender-based violence and impunity, as well as the increasing difficulty to access justice by victims.

The question remains: Despite the militarized mindset of the government and the newly elected CA members, who will address these issues that affect women on numerous levels as a priority?

Renu Rajbhandari is a prominent human rights defender and medical doctor in Nepal and has been at the forefront of organizing communities to voice their concerns. She was appointed as National Rapporteur against trafficking in women and children under National Human rights commission and is the founder chairperson of the Women Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), as well as other groups.

A Story of an Intervention in Mob Sexual Assaults in Egypt

by Amal Elmohandes, Egypt

Appalled by the sexual assaults that took place in Tahrir Square, and after attending a volunteers’ meeting for Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment (OpAntiSH), an initiative formed by volunteers in response to the mob sexual assaults that started taking place in Tahrir Square and its vicinity in November 2012, I decided to volunteer in the intervention group with OpAntiSH, in preparation for the June 30, 2013 demonstrations, calling for the ousting of Mohammed Morsy and dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, changing my mind from my earlier decision to volunteer in the safe houses’ group. The meeting was a part of the comprehensive plan that Nazra implemented in preparation for the June 30 demonstrations, in which mob sexual assaults were greatly expected. A massive response was needed from feminist organizations and others.

Preparations also included printing flyers indicating the hot spots in which attacks take place, and distributing them to protesters in the square to avoid them, trainings conducted in First Aid skills and Listening Skills to survivors of rape and sexual assault, and liaising with private clinics for the provision of medical support to survivors. Planning also included the operation of the hotline of the Women Human Rights Defenders Program (WHRDP) and its coordination with OpAntiSH’s hotline numbers for receipt of calls of attacks. Lighting hot spots in coordination with 2 political parties and other feminist organizations took place, and some of Nazra staff members who volunteered with OpAntiSH in various tasks, including the accompaniment of survivors to private clinics and hospitals to ensure that appropriate medical support is provided, provision of psychological support, and Nazra lawyers following up on cases being reported to the police. Nazra’s Executive Director also received calls of hysterical survivors after they were assaulted.

 As the date of the demonstrations approached, I grew more anxious of the sexual assaults that would take place, but focused my attention on the tasks at hand. After learning about the sexual assaults that took place on June 28th, a decision was made for OpAntish (in coordination with Nazra and other groups) to start its operations on June 29th, rather than June 30th as originally planned. In a previous intervention training session I had made a conscious decision to opt for volunteering in Tahrir Square, after expectations were made that attacks in Tahrir would be far worse than those in the vicinity of the Itihadeya presidential palace. An aspect of my role in Nazra was coordinating with private clinics for the provision of immediate medical support to survivors. I would envision the complete scenario in my head: a survivor attacked, taken to a clinic, her feelings, the terror of having a physician examine her, reeling into her private parts and administering medication. I imagined the forceps, the shots, the horror, and as my fear grew, my conviction became stronger. I imagined myself backing out at the last minute, but as some friends kept advising me to change my mind, I grew more stubborn.

I struggled somewhat with whether I should dress as advised by the core group members (a one-piece bathing suit under several layers of t-shirts, and 2 pants on top of each other), and decided to do so after all. When no assaults took place on June 29th, I felt extremely confident and grateful that I did not have to witness or intervene in an attack. When getting anxious about the next day, I quickly diverted my attention by focusing on the victory of the assault-free June 29.

As I woke up on June 30th, I felt the anxiety seeping into my stomach. I secretly wished that the intervention group would be able to save all the survivors from the horror of rape even though we were told during training sessions that we would never be able to save all the women. The application of what we had learned in the trainings would be much more violent than its simulation in a training session. As I assembled with others in preparation for our positions, a phone call was received by a core member that four women were being sexually assaulted. I renewed my faith in God, and as we were making our way through the crowds, I kept thinking of these women while staring at another volunteer in front of me, making sure that I don’t lose sight of her. Moving through the crowds, I was perplexed with the contradiction of the loving and generous spirit of the volunteers, as opposed to the roaring crowds and aggressors we would soon face.

The night was long; going up 12 stories of a building that my colleagues and I were trapped in with the survivors as the violent aggressors tried to break into the building; other women being brought in; searching with a mother for her daughter; waiting with my colleagues for a naked survivor to come through the door so we can dress her; going back into the crowds and reaching for a woman being attacked on the ground while being groped along with my colleague. The woman slipped from under the metal gate of a shop she was pressed against and we lost track of her; a child who couldn’t find his mother; being stationed to keep a look out from the window of the building for any attacks taking place… As I viewed the crowds, roaring, chanting, screaming, waving their flags, I felt disconnected. I was closely searching for any attacks taking place while the crowds below ambivalently cheered none among them aware of the women being sexually assaulted or raped in their midst. I felt a sudden overwhelming surge of disgust, for the reality of these sexual assaults on the ground was far uglier than I thought. On that day alone, 46 sexual assaults, some of which were rape had taken place, and 186 sexual assaults had taken place during the period June 28 to July 7, 2013.

Amal Elmohandes works as the Director of the Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Program at Nazra for Feminist Studies. Before joining Nazra, she worked at the Bi-National Fulbright Commission in Egypt under the Community College Initiative.

Around the World: Men are Finally at Women’s Sides

By Michael Kaufman

For too long, women stood alone. The woman, alone in her kitchen, after her husband beat her. The woman, alone in her bed, after her boyfriend raped her. The woman, locked alone in a room, by the men who trafficked her. The girl alone, harassed by a schoolmate.

Forty or so years ago, women started saying to their sisters: “You will not be alone.” And so, with tenacity and courage, they stared abusers in the face and set up women’s shelters and crisis centers. They researched the problem and questioned the role of the media, religion, and the state
in allowing the violence. They pushed for better laws and training of police. They challenged harmful traditions. They provided a voice for those girls and women who, for too long, had been silenced. 

It took too long, but finally, men all over the world are now saying to our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our wives, our friends, and to the women of the world: It’s time we stood at your side. And we are realizing that standing up to end gender based violence also means championing better ideals for ourselves.

There were three of us, inspired by the women around us, who started the White Ribbon Campaign in 1991in Canada where I live. At the time, it was unusual for men to speak out against men’s violence towards women. But now, two decades later, this little campaign has spread to about eighty countries. And it’s only one of the fantastic efforts that are now blossoming wherever you turn.

Our awareness-raising efforts aimed at men and boys have spread because women everywhere have said no to the violence. But these efforts have also spread because there are more and more men who want the violence to end. Although far too many men use violence in their relationships, the truth is that in most of the world, the majority of men do not. However, the problem has been the silence of that majority. Because of men’s disproportionate social, political, economic, and religious power, men’s silence amounts to tacit consent.

Recognizing this, many of our efforts are aimed at encouraging men who don’t use violence to speak out against gender based violence to their friends and workmates, and their fathers, uncles, brothers and sons.

In our work, we have learned that positive approaches to reach men and boys are most effective in ending our silence. We speak out in favor of equality between women and men. We speak out for new ideas of manhood that do not include violence. We speak out for better laws and for training of police and judges to implement the laws. We speak out for state support of services for women who are survivors of violence and want to leave violent relationships.

White Ribbon in particular has also spread because it is a campaign that believes that people in their own countries and communities, in their own workplaces, schools and religious institutions, know best how to reach the boys and men around them. No one “owns” White Ribbon. It is an idea and symbol we encourage all boys and men to embrace and make their own.

As a result, White Ribbon campaigns are incredibly diverse: from men in contingents at Carnival in Brazil, to sports teams raising money for women’s shelters, to work with religious officials in Pakistan (some of whom have issued a fatwa against violence towards women), to schoolboys writing chalk messages on sidewalks in Singapore, to leaders of the Australian army speaking out against sexual harassment in their ranks.

Those of us who have been doing this work among men are now also looking not only to raise awareness, but for long-term solutions. For example, our new MenCare campaign focuses on social policy and public education to reach the goal of men doing fifty percent of parenting work, and doing so in nurturing, non-violent ways. We see this as key for ending the cycle of violence and establishing caregiving, and not domination and even violence, as central to our practices and beliefs of what it means to be a man.

Not too long ago, it was only a handful of men here or there who were speaking out against this violence. Now, finally, at last, millions of men are echoing the words of our sisters: “You are not alone.”

Michael Kaufman is co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, a writer, public speaker, and long-time activist supporting gender equality. His latest book is “A Guy’s Guide to Feminism.” He is writing a book on international efforts to engage men to end men’s violence against
women, and another book, with Gary Barker, on the global transformation of fatherhood. We encourage you to read his blog at www.michaelkaufman.com. @genderEQ

The UN Women’s Rights Convention – An International Framework for Legislative Reform to Eliminate Violence against Women

by Angelika Kartusch, Austria

In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a milestone for the recognition of women’s right to gender equality. To date, 187 states parties have ratified this legally binding instrument, which entered into force in 1981. Discrimination is defined in Article 1 CEDAW and encompasses both direct and indirect discrimination, no matter whether committed by state officials or private persons and entities. Further, states parties are obliged to eliminate gender-based discrimination of women in law (“formal equality”) and practice (“substantive equality”).

Gender-based violence – a form of discrimination
Although the Convention addresses a broad range of areas of life in which women experience discrimination, such as political life, employment, the health system or education, it makes no reference to violence against women. This gap was closed by the CEDAW Committee, the expert body in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Convention, in 1992, when it issued General Recommendation No. 19 on violence against women (GR 19). According to GR 19, gender-based violence (GBV) is a form of discrimination and as such encompassed by the CEDAW’s definition of discrimination in Article 1. GBV is understood as violence that is directed against women because they are women or that affects women disproportionately. GR 19 reiterates the obligation of States to eliminate violence against women committed in the private sphere by acting with due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish such violence and to provide compensation to victims.

Standards for legislation to address violence against women according to CEDAW
While GR 19 is as such not legally binding, it is a source of authoritative interpretation of the Convention and, through its list of recommendations, provides a comprehensive framework for state legislation to eliminate GBV and provide adequate and effective protection to all women. To this end, GR 19 calls upon states to establish criminal sanctions, civil remedies and effective complaint procedures and remedies, including compensation. The implementation of existing laws should be strengthened gender-sensitive training of judges, police and health workers, the establishment or support of services to women victims, such as shelter and counselling, or the evaluation of existing measures as to their actual impact in preventing and responding to GBV.

Since the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in 2000, which introduced an individual complaints procedure for women victims of violations of the Convention, the GR 19 has further guided the development of the Committee’s jurisprudence in assessing complaints addressing violence against women. For instance, the Committee held that the lack of restraining or protection orders to protect women from violent family members (case A.T. v. Hungary) or to protect victims of sexual violence from re-victimization, following the release of perpetrators from detention (case S.V.P. v. Bulgaria) violated the Convention.

In T.P.F. v. Peru, the CEDAW Committee has addressed a complaint regarding the lack of legislation to regulate access to therapeutic abortion, resulting in hospitals arbitrarily deciding on requirements and procedures. The Committee found that Peru had violated CEDAW by failing to put in place an appropriate legal framework to enable women to exercise the right to therapeutic abortion which would guarantee them legal security, for example through providing a mechanism for rapid decision-making and a right to appeal.

Effective implementation of anti-violence legislation
As regards the implementation of existing legal frameworks, the Committee in the cases of Gökce v. Austria and Yildirim v. Austria underlined that the adoption of laws in itself is not sufficient to fulfil the obligation under the Convention: laws must be effectively applied by authorities that adhere to the standard of due diligence. In both cases,the failure of the public prosecutor’s to arrest the perpetrators, even though the authorities knew or should have known that the women concerned were in serious danger, constituted a breach of the standard of due diligence. Further, the Committee also dealt with claims of discriminatory interpretation of laws by the judiciary. For instance, in Vertido v. The Philippines, the defendant was acquitted of rape charges because the judge based her judgment on discriminatory and stereotyped myths about male and female sexuality and the behaviour expected from a “typical” victim, which led the judge to favour the credibility of the defendant over the victim (). The Committee found that the state had breached its obligations under CEDAW. A violation of the Convention was also found in Jallow v. Bulgaria: a civil court, rather than protecting the complainant and her daughter from domestic violence, issued a protection order against her in favour of her violent husband, relying exclusively on the perpetrator’s statements. Further, the criminal justice authorities failed to undertake timely and suitable investigations into the reports of domestic violence made by the complainant.

Conclusion
The CEDAW Committee’s GR 19 has brought violence against women, including domestic violence, into the scope of the Convention. As a result, violence against women has become an issue of growing importance in the Committee’s jurisprudence. Indeed, in a number of individual complaints, the Committee found violations of states parties to prevent and respond to violence against women and used the opportunity to further specify the respective obligations under the Convention. This development is particularly interesting, given the fact that the actual Convention did not mention violence; it demonstrates the dynamic nature of human rights which are not static, but evolve over time, reflecting cultural and social developments.

*This article was originally posted in a longer format here: http://www.wave-network.org/sites/default/files/Fempower23_engl_150713_WEB.pdf

Angelika Kartusch is an expert in women‘s human rights, trafficking in women and violence against women, with longstanding experience in research, training and project coordination. She has worked with several non-governmental and international organizations. In 2012, Angelika joined WAVE (Women against Violence Europe) as the manager of the project “Strengthening Health System Responses to Gender-based Violence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” implemented in partnership with UNFPA.

Cincuenta años de guerra e impunidad contra las mujeres objetivo de violencia sexual

por Patricia Guerrero, Colombia

En cincuenta años de conflicto armado nadie sabe verdaderamente cuantas víctimas de violencia sexual VS y violencia sexual basada en género GBSV ha dejado el conflicto interno armado en Colombia. Muchos de los crímenes penales internacional ni siquiera existían hace veinte años. El Estatuto de Roma de la Corte Penal Internacional refleja en su articulado, la barbarie de los crímenes de género en la lógica jurídica que reclama la convención, el estatuto,  el tratado o el protocolo, después del genocidio, la tortura, la desaparición forzada, o la violencia sexual contra las mujeres.

Aborto forzado, embarazo forzado, esclavitud sexual, prostitución forzada, violación (rape) como genocidio etc., hasta hace muy poco fueron reconocidos como crímenes penales internacionales. Colombia hace parte del Estatuto de Roma y este, como los demás tratados que reconocen y protegen los derechos humanos incluido el DIH forman parte del bloque de constitucionalidad y son de superior jerarquía que la legislación interna. En todo caso prevalecen sobre la legislación nacional.

En Colombia han sido las víctimas, las sobrevivientes, las organizaciones de mujeres, las defensoras de derechos humanos de las mujeres y otras organizaciones democráticas, quienes con el apoyo de la Bancada de Mujeres del Congreso de la República, han logrado elevar a la categoría de ley la persecución de la violencia contra la mujer[1]

La investigación, persecución y castigo para los responsables de violencia de género y la violencia sexual en razón del conflicto interno armado siguen siendo el reto para la Fiscalía General de la Nación. En más de 15 años como defensora de las víctimas de violación sexual y desplazamiento forzado[2], ni uno de los más de 130 casos que hemos denunciado ante la Fiscalía General de la Nación ha obtenido resultados. Las investigaciones han sido archivadas o suspendidas por falta de pruebas. 100% de impunidad respecto de los casos de la Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas[3].

La Corte Constitucional ha reclamado a la Fiscalía General de la Nación justicia para nuestros casos así como para cientos de casos más de mujeres desplazadas que han sido víctimas de violación sexual (Auto 092 de 2008[4]) por todos los actores armados en el conflicto: paramilitares, guerrillas y fuerza pública. Sin embargo la respuesta de la Fiscalía sigue siendo descoordinada, parcial e inconsistente y la impunidad no ha sido superada sino que por el contrario, las victimas desconfían del sistema judicial, pues sus derechos como víctimas han sido reiteradamente violados. Ellas han sido re victimizadas al ser expuestas a contar los hechos N número de veces ante diferentes funcionarios públicos, no tiene una asistencia psicológica permanente y calificada que les permita superar el trauma y el estrés post traumático sino todo lo contrario, sus versiones son puestas en tela de juicio y muchas de ellas han debido desplazarse nuevamente por el estigma social y otras, por temor a la persecución de los perpetradores en ocasiones miembros de sus propias familias.

Un reciente informe se seguimiento a estos casos denominado ‘Acceso a la Justicia para las Mujeres Víctimas de Violencia Sexual’ [5] del cual hizo parte la Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas y el Observatorio Género Democracia y Derechos Humanos, hace un extenso recorrido por los obstáculos institucionales, entre los cuales la falta de una política pública de mujer y género es evidente en la Fiscalía General de la Nación así como la falta de un tratamiento diferencial de las víctimas; la falta de garantías de acceso a la justicia destacándose la desprotección, la visión restringida de la VS en conflicto armado y los graves obstáculos en la atención en salud.

Son cincuenta años de guerra e impunidad contra las mujeres.

Patricia Guerrero, Fundadora de la Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas y del Observatorio Género Democracia y Derechos Humanos/Abogada feminista defensora de Derechos Humanos.


[1] Ley 1257, 4 de diciembre de 2008 Por la cual se dictan normas de sensibilización, prevención y sanción de formas de violencia y discriminación contra las mujeres, se reforman los Códigos Penal, de Procedimiento Penal, la Ley 294 de 1996 y se dictan otras disposiciones en respuesta a las exigencias de la CEDAW y Convención Interamericana para prevenir, sancionar y erradicar la violencia contra la mujer.

[2] Lo que entre otras cosas me ha colocado en una situación de riesgo extraordinario desde el año 2002 por lo cual la Comisión IDH me ha otorgado medidas cautelares desde el 2009.

Jaywalking the Freeway from Fear: The Rights to Safety, Love, Life and Freedom

by Bernedette Muthien, South Africa

In 1993, the year of the germinal UN conference in Vienna, the first President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, affirmed that all freedoms (and hence oppressions) are interdependent. This speaks critically to intersectionality, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression, and its intersections with privilege. Intersectionality influenced South Africa’s groundbreaking Constitutional equality clause, which guarantees the rights of all peoples.

Vienna was a groundbreaking intersectional moment too, affirming human rights as a universal standard and emphasising the indivisible, interdependent nature of human rights, specifically in response to the historic divide between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other hand.

Intersectionality shows how categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexuality and other forms of identity interact in myriad ways, contributing to systematic societal inequity. Classic conceptions of oppression in society, such as racism, sexism and homophobia interrelate, creating a web of subjugation.

While we are familiar with victims suffering violence, we often forget that witnesses suffer vicarious trauma, and that most perpetrators are themselves survivors of violence, including gender-based violence, that violence and discrimination often stems from insecurity and fear, rather than a lustful nature, no mirth intended.

Of less concern are the labels or issues we are still forced to deal with, like widespread gender-based violence that has not diminished over decades of feminist activisms and progressive legislation and policies. Of greater import are the approaches taken, the imperialist or colonial gaze, how we conceptualise issues, how these lenses shape/d activisms.

This includes the narrow LGBTQQI discourse, European letters completely ignorant of and sidestepping ancient same sex practices on all continents, including woman to woman marriage across Africa. Ifi Amadiume and the late Audre Lorde famously argued whether these women had romantic-sexual relations, Audre’s argument, or whether it was entirely about property relations and ensuring succession, Ifi’s contention. This ancient practice was almost entirely eradicated by colonial Christianity, yet it still persists, especially in rural areas, across East, Central and West Africa.

Of equal concern is the classification, led by the global North, of the rape of lesbians, ostensibly due to their sexuality, as a “hate crime”. This divorces so-called “curative” or “corrective” rape from its rootedness in gender-based violence and an analysis and challenge of Patriarchy, effectively deradicalising a revolutionary moment.

The presumption by feminist scholars and activists, especially those entrenched and aptly rewarded in euro-formed discourses, of the primordialism of patriarchy is another point of vexation to those of us from ancient indigenous societies that still remain matrilineal and women-centred, despite centuries of colonial and capitalist depredations. Matrilineal societies, still existing across the continents of the world, tend to be socially and gender egalitarian, with deep-rooted conflict resolution practices and hence less violent. The matriarchal Iroquois of North America’s precolonial Great Peace of the Haudenosee are said to have gifted the United States with the foundations of their Constitution. What can we learn from these nonviolent egalitarian peoples, their complex histories and ways of being? In as much as we study the League of Nations and the social welfarism of Scandinavia. Even as we smartly don the business suits, modern offspring of military uniforms, so necessary for our advocacy and scholarly endeavours, do we hear Audre Lorde’s admonishment of the complexities of employing the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house?

The silofication of our discourse and struggle speaks to a weakness of the global imagination. We need to indigenise our struggles. We need to use language that is familiar to local peoples the world over, so that tyrannical patriarchal leaders cannot say our practices are un-African or un-Russian, because they are indeed indigenous and we have been doing it since time began. With indigenous knowledge we can more effectively resist the flood of fundamentalist Christians from North America and Europe recolonizing our continents, aided by despots more interested in scapegoating marginalised communities than in addressing issues of socio-economic justice.

We need to note that violences are structural-cultural, and due to Patriarchy, women are at the centre of this war on our bodies and minds. While we focus on choice, autonomy, desire and pleasure, we need to remember that we need socio-economic-cultural rights to be truly free.

As the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, brutally slain by Apartheid securocrats during the 1970s said in a speech in my Mother City of Cape Town: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” And we all know Bob Marley’s song, “none but ourselves can free our minds…”

Bernedette Muthien, scholar, a poet, and an activist. She co-founded and directs Engender, an NGO which works in the intersectional areas of genders, human rights, justice and peace. Over 20 years, on all six continents, she produced 170 publications and conference presentations, some of which have been translated from English into other languages, including Dutch, Flemish, French, German, and Italian. Follow her @BerneMuthien