News You May Have Missed (11-18 April, 2015)

Photo: MOhammad MOheimany  jamejamiage.irhttp://image.jamejamonline.ir/ImagePreviewSlider?nn=1869842704282503769&m=840228
Photo: MOhammad MOheimany jamejamiage.irhttp://image.jamejamonline.ir/ImagePreviewSlider?nn=1869842704282503769&m=840228

Although women in IRAN are still banned from riding a motorbike in public and are not able to get licenses, Behnaz Shafiei (the only Iranian female rider to have done professional road racing) was among the first group of women to obtain official permission to practice on off-road circuits. 

I was traveling for work during the month of March, so did not have time to do my weekly roundup of the human rights news items that I think deserve a little more attention. But I’m back now … so here we go with the news you may have missed this week!  

In the past 10 years, social campaigning by health workers and government regulations have forced the practice of female genital mutilation into the fringes in INDONESIA. But while the worst forms of female circumcision have largely fallen out of custom, the subtler practice still persists in potentially harmful ways.  Atas Habsjah, vice-chairwoman of the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (PKBI), acknowledges a transition from “scissor snipping” to “needle scratching,” but says it’s not enough. Most Indonesian girls, she says, still undergo some kind of circumcision. She argues that many clinics continue offering female circumcision because it’s “good business.” Female circumcision, like ear piercing, is charged as an optional extra to delivery. “They shouldn’t do anything at all. There is no medical indication, and it’s not in the Quran. We say don’t touch the genitals, it’s against human rights,” she says.

After determining that 10% of passengers experience unwanted sexual behavior on public transportation in London, UNITED KINGDOM but that only 1 in 10 reported it, Transport for London launched at new “Report it to stop it’” campaign.  The campaign aims to increase reporting of unwanted sexual harassment and assault on public transportation and gives specifics about how and what you need to report. 

Refugee family finds shelter in the Bili camp, just across the river from the Central African Republic.  UN Foundation/Corentin Fohlen
Refugee family finds shelter in the Bili camp, just across the river from the Central African Republic. UN Foundation/Corentin Fohlen

More than 20,000 new refugees from the CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC have arrived in northern CONGO since the end of 2014, bringing the total number here to almost 90,000. They live in spontaneous settlements near the banks of the Oubangui River, where malaria is endemic. Small medical teams have arrived to care for the refugees who left everything. They are also providing the mosquito nets they need to protect themselves.

The video Hilary Clinton used to launch her 2016 UNITED STATES presidential campaign will run in RUSSIA on TV Rain (Russia’s only remaining independent network) – but with an 18-and-over rating. A TV Rain spokesman told ABC News on Monday that the age warning was meant to avoid prosecution under the country’s ban on homosexual “propaganda” among minors.  One scene of the video shows two men holding hands and discussing their plans to get married this summer.

KENYA  has urged the UN refugee agency to remove the Dadaab camp housing more than half a million refugees from SOMALIA within three months, or it will do so itself. The request is part of a response to the recent killing of 148 people by Somali gunmen at a Kenyan university. Kenya says it is protecting national security, having in the past accused fighters of hiding out in Dadaab camp, the world’s largest refugee complex, which it now wants moved across the border to Somalia. In response, the UN refugee agency warned that forcibly repatriating the refugees (mostly Somali women and children, who have been living there for years or were born there, and have never been to Somalia) violates international law. 

Photo: Girl Up https://medium.com/@unfoundation/5-days-5-facts-educate-a-girl-change-the-world-2991193b319b
Photo: Girl Up https://medium.com/@unfoundation/5-days-5-facts-educate-a-girl-change-the-world-2991193b319b

The good news: According to the latest report on the Millennium Development Goals, “In 2012, all developing regions achieved, or were close to achieving, gender parity in primary education.”  The bad news: We still have further to go to make sure every girl can learn, especially as she advances into secondary school and beyond. Right now, more than 60 million girls are out of school. Poverty, discrimination, and conflict keep many girls from school. And in too many communities, girls are forced to marry young, drop out of school, and work in the home.

 

At the Paris Marathon last Sunday, Siabatou Sanneh of GAMBIA stood out from the other racers — in addition to her race number, she wore traditional Gambian garb and carried 45 pounds of water on her head. Sanneh, who had never left her home country before, participated in the marathon on behalf of Water for Africa to raise awareness of the difficulties African women face in accessing clean water. While she walked the race, she also wore a sign that read: “In Africa, women travel this distance everyday to get potable water. Help us shorten the distance.”

News You May Have Missed (22-28 February, 2015)

Reggae band SOJA partnered with UNICEF’s Out-of-School Children initiative to produce the video “Shadow” to draw attention to the importance of education for all of the world’s children.  Globally, an estimated 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million young adolescents are not enrolled in school.  Like the girl in this video, many of them are girls. Yet data demonstrates that reaching the most marginalized children may initially cost more but also yields greater benefits.  This video was filmed in Jigjiga, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where 3 million children remain out of school. For more on global trends regarding out-of-school children, visit the UNICEF website.   

In many parts of the world, marginalized girls must often drop out of school to get married before they are able to complete their education.  But there has been some good news recently about efforts to raise the age of marriage and eliminate child marriage:

Nabina, age 15. Her story is one of three child brides told in Camfed's film The Child Within.
Nabina, age 15. Her story is one of three Malawian child brides told in Camfed’s film       The Child Within.

 MALAWI’s National Assembly has unanimously passed a bill that raises the minimum age for consent to marriage from 16 (or 15 with parental consent) to 18 years of age.  While this will end legal child marriage in the country with one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, more work will need to be done to sure that the law is implemented.

And INDONESIA’s government is preparing a bill to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years of age.  While the legal age of marriage for females is currently 16, marriage at a younger age is legal with parental consent and judicial approval. According to data from the Health Ministry in 2010, 41.9 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were married.  (P.S. The minimum age for boys to marry is 19.)

The UNITED ARAB EMIRATES has announced that it will set up a “gender balance” council to promote equality and opportunities for women in the workforce.  Despite the fact that more Emirati women than men graduate from universities in the UAE, their participation in the workforce is limited by social and legal boundaries.

In further signs that SOMALIA is finally emerging from conflict, President Obama has nominated the first U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in 24 years. 

The government of TANZANIA is launching the One Million Solar Homes initiative to bring reliable solar-powered electricity to its citizens by the end of 2017. The initiative will affect 10% of the population and create 15,000 jobs. 

Finally, in a bit of human rights history, BBC Mundo ran a story this week about the treatment of Latin Americans (particularly Peruvians) of Japanese descent during World War II.  Japanese people began migrating to Peru in considerable numbers at the end of the 1800s, seeking opportunities to work in the mines and on sugar plantations.  By the 1940s, an estimated 25,000 people of Japanese descent lived in Peru; many were successful professionals and business owners.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government asked a dozen Latin American countries, among them Peru, to arrest its Japanese residents.  In addition to arrests, about 2,200 Japanese-Latin Americans were forcibly deported to the US.

Records from the time suggest the US authorities wanted to take them to the US and use them as bargaining chips for its nationals captured by Japanese forces in Asia.

Many Japanese-Latin Americans were taken to a camp in the Panama Canal Zone first.  Image: San Francisco History Center
Many Japanese-Latin Americans were taken to a camp in the Panama Canal Zone first. Image: San Francisco History Center

As many as 4,000 men, women and children were interned during World War Two in the Crystal City camp in Texas run by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.  Most of the detainees were of Japanese descent, although some German and Italian immigrants were also held there.

Crystal City Internment Camp was located 180 km (110 miles) south of San Antonio in Texas. Image: US National Archives
Crystal City Internment Camp was located 110 miles south of San Antonio in Texas. Image: US National Archives

Of the 2,200 Latin Americans of Japanese descent to be interned in the US, 800 were later sent to Japan as part of prisoner exchanges.  After World War Two ended, another 1,000 were deported to Japan after their Latin American home countries refused to take them back.

In 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act and apologised on behalf of the US government for the internment of Japanese-Americans. Under the act, the government paid tens of thousands of survivors of the camps $20,000each in reparation.  But Japanese-Latin Americans did not qualify for the payments because they had not been US citizens or permanent residents of the US at the time of their internment.  They filed a class-action suit and 10 years later, the US government agreed to pay them $5,000 each.

RIP Boris Nemtsov  “I am not afraid.”

Photo: Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images
Photo: Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images