Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is the only Westerner still being held at Guantanamo Bay military prison; he was detained in Afghanistan at the age of 15. He’s now 23.
International law says children captured on the battlefield must be treated as victims, and not as perpetrators. Child-soldiers are supposed to be rehabilitated and given the chance to re-enter society.
Please write to President Obama at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and ask him to halt this trial, which is in violation of international law, and instead arrange for the repatriation and rehabilitation of Mr. Khadr.
Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an “honour” killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.
The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.
A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.
An informant told the police she had been killed following a family “council” meeting. The girl’s father and grandfather have been arrested and are being held for trial.
Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey. Women and girls are stoned to death, strangled, shot or buried alive. Their offenses ranged from stealing a glance at a boy to wearing a short skirt, wanting to go to the movies, being raped by a stranger or relative or having consensual sex.
In order to understand this, one must realize that in this culture honor is equated with women, women’s sexuality and the control of women. Honor is a property of women which is controlled by men. Women should passively obey the rules of conduct accepted as honorable while men have to actively make women obey these rules. As a result, ‘honor’ is usually formulated as something obliging both men and women to behave in a certain way. Women, in terms of “being careful about themselves, especially in their relations with men” and men, in terms of “having an attentive eye on their women.” -UNDP “The Dynamics of Honour Killing in Turkey.”
Recently, Turkey has tightened the punishment for attacks on women and girls in its bid to join the European Union. Persons found guilty of honor killing are sentenced to life in prison. There are well documented cases, where Turkish courts have sentenced whole families to life imprisonment for an honor killing. One result of this stricter enforcement is honor suicides. Families try to spare their men by forcing ‘disgraced’ women and girls to kill themselves. Women’s groups say that girls are often locked in a room with a rope, a pistol or rat poison until the job is done.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000.
Top Saudi Arabian religious officials have begun to endorse a clear distinction between the innocent meddling of the sexes and sinful behavior in recent weeks.
For decades, agents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, (religious police) have enforced a strict separation of the sexes in Saudi Arabia. This policy has circumscribed the lives of women and girls and in some instances has resulted in tragic deaths.
In 2002, the religious police stopped girls from leaving their burning school because they were not wearing strict Islamic dress. The police also stopped men who tried to rescue the girls, warning, “It is sinful to approach them.” Several girls died.
Now, it seems, this was all a mistake. Religious officials have declared thatprohibitions against the mixing of the sexes in public places come from conservative tribal customs not the rules of sharia.
This sort of confusion is nothing new, nor is it unique to Islam or Saudi Arabia. Religion has long been used as a way to reinforce ethnic and cultural traditions that limit the rights of women and girls, including the right to inheritance and access to education, healthcare and decent work. Religion has also been used to justify harmful cultural practices such as FGM and child marriage.
It is to be hoped that religious leaders throughout the world will continue on this path of making honest distinctions between true religious law and discriminatory practices against women and girls that have their roots in custom and tradition.
I am currently the Co-chair of the NGO Committee on UNICEF – Working Group on Girls. One of our members is conducting a study on Girls’ Rights as part of her doctoral work at the University of Galway.
“Are you a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 years who is attending the upcoming 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2010? If so, then you are eligible to participate in an exciting study on girls’ rights at CSW54!
The study is titled, “What does it mean to be a girl with ‘rights’? A conversation with UN CSW girl delegates about how they understand and experience rights in their everyday lives.” The purpose of this research is to speak with girls about what rights mean to them and to explore how having rights impacts girls’ everyday lives.
To join the study:
– You must be attending CSW54,
– Be between the ages of 12-18 years, and
– Of course, be a girl!
Each participant is expected to attend 3 research sessions during CSW54 including:
– Peer-to-peer interview (where girls in the study interview one another),
– Focus group with all the girls in the study, and
– Individual interview.
Participation is voluntary and any information collected during the sessions will be kept strictly confidential and anonymous. A maximum of ten girls will be selected for this research.
Today the United Nations marked World AIDS Day by highlighting the connection between human rights promotion and successful efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an urgent end to discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. “I urge all countries to remove punitive laws, policies and practices that hamper the AIDS response, including travel restrictions against people living with HIV,” said Mr. Ban. “Successful AIDS responses do not punish people; they protect them.”
We must ensure that AIDS responses are based on evidence, not ideology, and reach those most in need and most affected,” said the Secretary-General. “On this World AIDS Day, let us uphold the human rights of all people living with HIV, people at risk of infection, and children and families affected by the epidemic.
Progress in reversing the AIDS epidemic in some countries is outpaced by new infections on a global scale making AIDS one of the leading causes of premature death worldwide. For every two people who begin treatment, five become newly infected with HIV. Women and girls have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.
Worldwide, women constitute half of all people living with HIV/AIDS.
Globally and in every region, more adult women (15 years or older) than ever before are now living with HIV.
Women are at least twice as likely to acquire HIV from men during sexual intercourse than vice versa.
Only 20% of young women aged 15 to 24 correctly identify ways of preventing HIV transmission and reject major misconceptions about HIV transmission.
In low- and middle-income countries, only one-third of pregnant women are currently offered services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 59% of all people living with HIV/AIDS. Among young people aged 15-24, the HIV prevalence rate for young women is almost three times higher than the rate among young men.
For this reason, laws that criminalize HIV transmission, such as the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill before the Ugandan legislature, can result in disproportionate prosecution of women and girls because more women are tested as part of pre- or ante-natal medical care and therefore know their HIV status. Women’s and girl’s inability to safely negotiate condom use or disclosure to partners who might have been the source of their infection is not recognized in this bill as defenses against criminal penalties. Women who transmit HIV to their infants after birth via breast milk would also be subject to criminal prosecution.
The punitive approach of this bill is likely to make people shy away from requesting testing or treatment. Experience has shown that programs that emphasize prevention and reduce stigma are far more effective in combating HIV/AIDS and are better for women and girls.