Women Bear the Brunt of Human Rights Abuses

Monday, July 26 2010

From Honour Killings to Sexual Violence, Abuse Stilll Goes Unpunished

Women and girls faced "horrific" levels of abuse in 2004 worldwide, Amnesty International said in its annual human rights review published on Wednesday 25th May. The report blamed widespread rape and violence on a mix of "indifference, apathy and impunity".

From honor killings carried out by the victims' families to sexual violence used as a weapon of war, abuse frequently went unpunished and survivors were often abandoned by their own communities, the London-based group said.

Amnesty said it had sought in the past year to argue that violence against women in conflict situations was "an extreme manifestation of the discrimination and abuse they face in peacetime", notably domestic violence and sexual abuse.

"When political tensions degenerate into outright conflict, all forms of violence increase, including rape and other forms of sexual violence against women."

The annual report, covering 131 countries, noted abuse across the world but highlighted several grave examples: in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), both armed groups and UN forces are guilty of rape; in Turkey, family abuse of women is widespread; in Darfur, Sudan, gang rape is systemic; and in Eastern Europe, economic need fuels the trafficking of women.

In Darfur, where a local rebellion sparked a brutal government backlash, Khartoum-backed militias have staged mass rapes, including of schoolgirls, and "frequently abducted" local women into sexual slavery, Amnesty said.

Tens of thousands of women and girls were also subject to rape and sexual slavery in the DRC. All parties in the ongoing conflicts in the eastern DRC have committed the abuses against women, including military and police officers, and United Nations peacekeepers charged with the protection of civilians.

The two African cases were "not exceptional", Amnesty warned.

Latin America had the highest risk of all types of sexual victimization, according to UN report findings cited by Amnesty.

In Colombia, the group said, security forces, left-wing rebels and paramilitaries targeted women and girls to "sow terror, wreak revenge on adversaries and accumulate 'trophies of war'."

In Turkey, between one-third and one-half of all women are estimated to be victims of physical violence by their families -- raped, beaten, murdered or forced to commit suicide -- while the country sorely lacked shelters and legal protection for victims.

Amnesty noted some progress in Ankara, with legal reforms that recognized marital rape as a crime and did away with the possibility that a rapist's prison sentence could be reduced or annulled if he agreed to marry his victim. Still, authorities largely failed to investigate most women's complaints of abuse.

Serbia and Montenegro "remained a source, transit and destination country" for women and girls who were trafficked to the West into forced prostitution, while the problem existed throughout the poorer countries of Eastern Europe.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse/Planetwire, 25/MAY/05
 

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