Sexual violence

Equality Now Calls for Continued Action to End Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan (Safe World for Women)

12/22/2012 -- Safe World For Women -- "Equality Now Calls for Continued Action to End Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan"; On 13 December 2012, the Kyrgyz Parliament approved a bill aimed at strengthening legislation on bride kidnapping. Equality Now welcomes this development and urges President Almazbek Atambayev to sign the bill so that it can finally become law.

Morocco: Amend Penal Code to Protect Women Against Violence and Discrimination (HuffPo UK)

12/13/2012 -- Huffington Post UK -- "Morocco: Amend Penal Code to Protect Women Against Violence and Discrimination"; In solidarity with female victims of violence and discrimination, the "Spring of Dignity" coalition organised a human chain which started at the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice in Rabat and ended at the seat of the House of Representatives. Several hundred people took part.

Kyrgyz Parliament Approves Bill To Strengthen Bride Kidnapping Legislation (HuffPo UK)

12/19/2012 -- Huffington Post UK -- "Kyrgyz Parliament Approves Bill To Strengthen Bride Kidnapping Legislation" Middle East/North African Consultant Suad Abu-Dayyeh on the recently passed bill in Kyrgyzstan and the continued need for action to end bride kidnapping.

How Much Must Women Sacrifice to Serve? (HuffPo)

11/12/2012 -- Huffington Post -- "How Much Must Women Sacrifice to Serve?" New York Office Director Lauren Hersh on sexual assault in the military.

Uganda: Properly investigate and prosecute cases of sexual violence against the disabled

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Nov 12
Update Date: 
2013 Mar 19
Update: 

UPDATE 19 MARCH 2013: The remaining suspect in the case, who had run away, was found dead in early 2013. However, Equality Now is calling for DNA testing of his body at the government’s expense without delay.


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What You Can Do: 

Contact the Ugandan Government and urge them to:

  1. Conduct DNA testing on the body of the remaining suspect at the government’s expense without delay.
  2. Ensure that all relevant investigative techniques, including DNA testing, are promptly carried out in cases of sexual violence, and in particular, those concerning disabled victims.

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Action with your friends.

Letters should be addressed to:

Richard Buteera
Director of Public Prosecutions
Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)
P.O. Box 1550
Kampala, Uganda
Phone: +256-414-332-501 - 7
Fax: +256-414-251-951

Hon. Chief Justice Benjamin Joseph Odoki,
Chief Justice of Uganda
The Judiciary Courts of Judicature
High Court Building
Box 7085
Kampala, Uganda
Phone: +256-414-341-116
Email: bodoki@judicature.go.ug

Lady Justice Alice E. Mpagi-Bahigeine
Deputy Chief Justice of Uganda
The Judiciary Courts of Judicature
High Court Building
Box 7085
Kampala, Uganda
Email: ampagi@judicature.go.ug

Letters: 

Dear Mr./Hon. Chief Justice/Lady Justice

I am deeply concerned about the Ugandan government’s inaction in protecting disabled sexual violence victims and the lack of additional steps to investigate crimes against them that would ensure swift justice. A case in point is Sanyu, a 13-year-old blind, deaf and mute Ugandan girl, who was raped and became pregnant as a result but was unable to communicate the identity of her rapist due to her condition. Sanyu’s mother and Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities - Uganda (LAPD) called for DNA testing of Sanyu’s father, three brothers (the only males who had access to her) and the baby to establish paternity, but the Government Analytical Laboratory - Wandegya did not respond to  the official request and the police closed the case.

Upon learning about the case, international human rights organization Equality Now successfully raised funds for DNA testing in 2011 and with the assistance of LAPD, had the case reopened. DNA samples were taken from three of the four suspects (one brother had run away) on 24 August 2011 (four years after the rape) and sent to the Government chemist for testing, as is required for trial admissibility. The DNA testing languished for over a year and when finally received, the results showed that the baby’s father was genetically of the same paternal line, though none of the three tested were the father of Sanyu’s baby. To our knowledge no effort has been made by the police to apprehend and test the remaining suspect. Along with Equality Now and LAPD, I am seriously disturbed by the lack of a thorough investigation and the five year delay in justice for Sanyu, who is now 18. I support the call for improved legal procedures in cases of sexual violence, and for additional steps to be taken to help disabled victims.

Sexual violence is widespread in Uganda and disabled women and girls such as Sanyu are particularly vulnerable. The Constitution of Uganda and The Persons with Disabilities Act, 2006 upholds the rights of people with disabilities and provide for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and toward equal opportunities for them. However, the government does not take additional steps to facilitate justice for disabled victims of sexual violence such as Sanyu by making provision for investigative techniques that would facilitate the process and this leads to further victimization.

The Government of Uganda has ratified a number of regional and international human rights instruments that provide for the rights of persons with disabilities, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In addition, Uganda has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which in its General Recommendation No. 18 calls on States to report on special measures taken to deal with the particular situation of women with disabilities.

In order to make sure that Sanyu and girls in similar situations get justice, Uganda must live up to its domestic and international obligations and take additional steps to improve the investigation process and prosecution rate in sexual violence cases involving disabled victims. In particular I urge you to ensure that DNA testing of the remaining suspect is conducted at government expense without delay. Please ensure that all relevant investigative techniques, including DNA testing, are promptly carried out in cases of sexual violence, and in particular, those concerning disabled victims.

Thank you for your attention.
Sincerely

Equality Now & partners call for comprehensive investigation into possible "institutional sexism" at BBC

10/18/2012 -- EVAW News -- "Women's Groups write urgently to BBC re Jimmy Savile Inquiries" Equality Now and partners call on the BBC to fully investigate internal cultures and practices with regard to the Jimmy Savile sex abuse inquiry.

Military sexual assault survivors face major obstacles in accessing support services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2012
Contacts:  Equality Now: Kristen Berg, 212-586-0906, kberg@equalitynow.org
                  SWAN: Katy Otto, 240-478-9387, katy@servicewomen.org

United States: Sexual assault of women in the military must be stopped

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Oct 2
Update Date: 
2013 Feb 13
Update: 

20 AUGUST 2013 UPDATE: Recent developments indicate some Congressional and military momentum to address sexual assault in the military:

On 15 August, the US Department of Defense (DOD) gave an update on sexual assault prevention and response measures, during which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s seven new initiatives to “strengthen and standardize the department’s sexual assault prevention and response effort” were outlined. Though Equality Now welcomes the DOD’s acknowledgment of the seriousness of the issue, the initiatives do not make the structural changes needed for violence to be prevented and for victims to access justice. As our partner SWAN stated, “small-scale military sexual assault solutions will not stem the cultural tide created by years of victim blaming and retaliation." Therefore we will continue to advocate for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) which would professionalize the military justice system and bring much needed justice to victims of sexual assault. Senator Gillibrand will be calling for a full Senate floor vote on the MJIA bill following the August Congressional recess. If you are in the US, please ask your Senator to support passage of this bill.

We are also encouraged by the House of Representatives’ passage in July of two amendments in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 (HR 2397), offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), relating to the handling of sexual assault cases. This follows a recent report by the DOD Inspector General who found serious failures in the handling of military sexual assault investigations. Out of 501 investigations, 418 had “deficiencies” which compromised the victim’s chance of obtaining justice, and, overall, 399 of these cases had interview and post-interview deficiencies. Weaknesses were found in the interview process, collection of evidence, lead development and crime scene photography. The amendments address the pervasive misuse of ‘personality and adjustment disorder’ as a diagnosis of victims of sexual assault and provide additional funding to train investigators of sexual assault crimes. We hope the Senate will also show bi-partisan support for those that have suffered sexual assault in the US military by passing this bill.


24 MAY 2013 UPDATE: On 7 May, the US Department of Defense released their 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.  The report plainly showed that efforts to combat sexual assault in the military are not having the desired effect, and in fact, sexual violence and the culture of impunity are getting worse. Shockingly, the number of reported sexual assaults rose in every branch of the military with a 35% increase overall since 2010, from 19,300 service members in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012. Coming on the heels of the arrest for sexual battery of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the officer in charge of US Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, and followed by revelations that two other US Army sexual assault prevention officers were accused of sex crimes, including an allegation linking one to a prostitution ring, it is abundantly clear that current efforts to address sexual assault in the US military are not being taken seriously.

Therefore, Equality Now welcomed the 16 May introduction of the
Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a bi-partisan bill which would remove the power to prosecute sexual assault from military commanders and transfer it to professional prosecutors. Equality Now and our partner SWAN (Service Women’s Action Network) have been consistently advocating for this reform and will be following the bill closely as it moves through the legislative process to ensure that sexual assault victims have access to justice in the military.


13 FEBRUARY 2013 UPDATE: Senator Jon Tester and Representative Chellie Pingree introduced the “Ruth Moore Act of 2013.” Named in recognition of Navy veteran, military sexual assault survivor and activist Ruth Moore (subject of our Action), the bill would lower the evidentiary burden needed to prove service-related PTSD for survivors so that they can receive benefits and necessary services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The passage of this bill would fulfill one of the three objectives of Equality Now's campaign, and we will be following this process closely as it progresses.


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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Please join Equality Now and our partner SWAN in calling on:


The Secretary of Defense and the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs to:
  • Reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently reformed their military justice systems in this manner so that commanders do not wield undue (and unmonitored) influence over sexual assault cases.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
Office of the Sec. of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Tel: +1(703) 571-3343
Fax: +1(703) 571-8951
Email: chuck.hagel@osd.mil

Congressman Buck McKeon
House Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2184 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-1956
Fax: +1(202) 226-0683
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BuckMcKeon
Twitter: @BuckMcKeon

Senator Carl Levin
Senate Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
269 Russell Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-6221
Fax: +1(202) 224-1388
Facebook: www.facebook.com/carllevin
Twitter: @SenCarlLevin

The Secretary of Defense, the House & Senate Armed Services Committee Chairs, and the House & Senate Judiciary Committee Chairs to:

  • Allow survivors of sexual assault in the military to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer – the U.S. military – accountable for sexual harassment and assault.

 Send letters to:

The Honorable Chuck Hagel, Congressman Buck McKeon, Senator Carl Levin (contacts listed above)

Senator Patrick Leahy
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
437 Russell Senate Bldg
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-4242
Fax: 202-224-3479
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SenatorPatrickLeahy
Twitter: @SenatorLeahy

Congressman Lamar Smith
House Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2409 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: 202-225-4236
Fax: 202-225-8628
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LamarSmithTX21
Twitter: @LamarSmithTX21

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the House & Senate Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairs to:

  • Provide survivors suffering from PTSD stemming from their sexual assault with the services they need to recover from their trauma by lowering the unnecessarily high evidentiary burden they face in order to prove their assault and access disability benefits.

 Send letters to:

The Hon. Eric Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: +1(800) 827-1000
Email: Eric.Shinseki@va.gov

The Honorable Allison Hickey
Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: 1.800.827.1000
Email: Allison.hickey@va.gov

Congressman Jeff Miller
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2416 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-4136
Fax: +1(202) 225-3414
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RepJeffMiller

Senator Patty Murray
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. Senate
269 Russell Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-2621
Fax: +1(202) 224-0238
Twitter: @PattyMurray

Letters: 

Letter Regarding Reform of the Justice System

Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the continued impunity for service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women. Approximately 19,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year and as few as 1 out of every 100 sexual assaults results in the conviction of the perpetrator.

This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, getting a thorough and impartial investigation, and seeing their rapist/assailant face appropriate charges and punishment. I am concerned that instead of an independent party, an officer within the perpetrator’s chain-of-command is charged with investigating sexual assault complaints and is given an enormous amount of discretion, which can lead to conflicts of interest and abuse of power, especially as both the survivor and perpetrator may be under the same officer’s command. In addition, commanders have an incentive to downplay or cover-up sexual assaults happening within their chain-of-command, as these crimes reflect poorly on the unit.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military, to ensure justice for survivors, and to enable survivors to obtain justice and services violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This Convention requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.
I urge you to reform the military justice system so that professional military prosecutors – not the perpetrator’s command – are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault. Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada, have recently reformed their military justice systems in this manner so that commanders do not wield undue (and unmonitored) influence over sexual assault cases, and I urge you to consider this approach.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
Congressman Buck McKeon, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair


Letter Regarding Civil Remedies

Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the continued impunity for service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women. Approximately 19,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year and as few as 1 out of every 100 sexual assaults results in the conviction of the perpetrator.

This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, getting a thorough and impartial investigation, and seeing their rapist/assailant face appropriate charges and punishment. I am concerned that unlike civilians, military rape survivors have no way of holding their employer – the U.S. military – accountable through civil litigation for failing to protect them from sexual assault or harassment.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military and to ensure survivors are able to obtain justice violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.

I urge you to ensure that military women can pursue and obtain justice for harassment and sexual violence they endure.  I call on you to allow survivors of sexual assault in the military to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer accountable for sexual harassment and assault and can obtain the justice they deserve.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
Congressman Buck McKeon, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Patrick Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair
Congressman Lamar Smith, House Judiciary Committee, Chair


Letter to Veterans' Affairs

Eric Shinseki
Secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and the many obstacles sexual assault survivors face in accessing the services they need to recover. There are approximately 19,000 sexual assaults in the U.S. military each year. Sexual assault and harassment cause the same rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in women veterans as combat does in men.

However, sexual assault survivors face particular challenges in accessing disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as VA employees often disbelieve survivors’ accounts of assault – even when backed up by physician’s reports – and require evidence from other sources that corroborate the survivor’s account. This disbelief and failure to provide needed services serves to re-victimize those who seek assistance. Tellingly, only 32% of PTSD claims related to sexual assault are approved by the VA, while 54% of overall PTSD claims are approved. The VA must lower the evidentiary burden needed to prove service-related PTSD and accept the survivor’s testimony alone as proof that the sexual assault occurred.

The failure to protect service women from sexual assault while in the military and to enable survivors to obtain justice and services violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires States to protect fundamental human rights that are commonly violated in these cases – including equal protection of the law, the right to be free from discrimination (which includes gender-based violence), and the right to an effective remedy.

I would like to urge you to revise your policy to ensure that survivors suffering from PTSD stemming from their sexual assault are provided with the services they need without undue delays. I call on you to lower the unnecessarily high evidentiary burden they face in order to prove their assault and access disability benefits.

Yours sincerely,

cc:
The Honorable Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
Senator Patty Murray, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair
Congressman Jeff Miller, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair

Yemen: End child marriages by enacting and enforcing a minimum age of marriage law

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2012 May 21

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What You Can Do: 

Contact the Yemeni President, Minister of Justice and the Speaker of the House and ask them to:

  1. Ensure that the draft bill banning child marriage is considered and passed by parliament as soon as possible.
  2. Ensure effective enforcement of this law once passed.
  3. Take measures to protect and promote the rights of girls who have ended or escaped child marriages, including by providing access to safe accommodation, education and counseling.

Help us spread the word about this campaign by sharing this Action with your friends.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should be addressed to:

Mr. Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi
President of the Republic of Yemen
President Residence
60 Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 866
Fax: +967 1 252 803
Tel: +967 1 621 062

Judge Mursd Al-Arshani
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 138
Tel: +967 1 334 334

Mr. Yahya Ali Al Raei
Speaker of the House
Yemeni Parliament
26 September Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 091
Tel: +967 1 272 765

Letters: 

Dear _____:

I am writing to express my deep concern about the prevalence of child marriage in Yemen and the inaction shown to date by the Yemeni government to ban this practice. Yemeni women’s role in the 2011 revolution that led to the formation of your new government was key. This is a time when Yemen needs the participation and support of all its citizens. Allowing child marriage, which sees up to fifty percent of Yemeni girls married before they reach the age of 18, means that Yemen is not nurturing its future.

In addition, international organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on girls, including septic abortion, still births, death due to early pregnancy, deprivation of education, few social connections, restricted mobility, limited control over resources, little or no power in their new households and increased risk of domestic violence.

I am aware that draft legislation fixing the minimum age of marriage for girls at age 17 with penalties and punishment for violators has been pending in parliament since 2009 and passing it without delay would be a first step to helping girls escape abuse and allowing them to fulfill their potential. The absence of a law banning child marriage in Yemen means that child brides have to resort to divorce laws for women to get out of their marriages (rather than having these marriages annulled as illegal) and are required to pay-back their dower to obtain a divorce. A case in point is 11-year-old Wafa who in 2009 was married off by her father to a 40-year-old farmer who raped, beat and tried to strangle her. Wishing to escape the abuse and continue her education, Wafa ran away from her husband’s house but was unable to get out of the marriage without paying back her dower which her father had spent before passing away.

Stopping child marriage is an international obligation of the Yemeni government under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) both of which contain provisions against the practice. Please ensure that the draft child marriage bill is considered and passed by parliament as soon as possible. Also, please ensure effective enforcement of this law, once passed and punishment for those in violation. In addition, please take measures to protect and promote the rights of girls who have ended or escaped child marriages, including by providing access to security, education and counseling.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

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