Sexual violence

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

view as pdf

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

Partner WAR Lahore and Equality Now highlighted in story on incest in Pakistan (Express Tribune)

2/15/12 -- Express Tribune -- "For incest victims, the trauma never goes away" Partner WAR Lahore and Equality Now highlighted in story on incest in Pakistan.

Program Officer Mehr Qureshi on Equality Now & partners' report addressing incest in Pakistan (Trust Law)

1/25/12 -- Trust Law -- "Girl's fight for justice breaks silence on incest in Pakistan" Program Officer Mehr Qureshi on release of Equality Now and partners' ground-breaking report addressing incest in Pakistan, A Struggle for Justice: Incest Victims in Pakistan Report.

 

War Against Rape, Lahore, Nasreen Welfare Trust Legal Aid Services & Equality Now Release Ground Breaking Report on Incest in Pakistan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
24 January 2012

Contact: EQUALITY NOW (London/New York): Mehr Qureshi, mqureshi@equalitynow.org
NASREEN WELFARE TRUST (Pakistan): Hina Hafeezullah, hina.h.ishaq@gmail.com
WAR AGAINST RAPE, LAHORE (Pakistan): Sidra Humayun, sidra.humayun@hotmail.com

Report aims to prompt revisions to Pakistan’s sexual violence laws including a special provision for incest

Equality Now Issues Urgent Alert After Brother of Teenager Allegedly Gang-Raped by Police Shot Dead Outside of a Court House in Pakistan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
15 December 2011

Contact: LONDON: Anber Raz, (44) (0) 20-7839-5456, ukinfo@equalitynow.org
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, (01) 212-586-0906, media@equalitynow.org

Organization calls on Government Officials to Protect 16-year-old Uzma Ayub and her Family and to Ensure Justice in her Case

Equality Now calls on the Government of Pakistan to Protect 16 year old Gang-rape Victim Uzma Ayub and Ensure Justice in her Case

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2011 Dec 15
Update Date: 
2013 Feb 11
Update: 

UPDATE 11 February 2013: Following the remand of the case from the High Court, on 31 January the lower court acquitted the defendants, including several police officers, in the gang rape case. This was not unexpected, given the High Court's determination that there was no conclusive evidence against the accused. We are concerned for the safety of Uzma and her family after this ruling as they will no longer have state protection and they have already been targeted for bringing the case.  We are strategizing with partners about ways to protect her.


UPDATE 22 June 2012: On 19 June, the Peshawar High Court in Pakistan dismissed its December 2011 inquiry into this case. The court found that the DNA test results of Uzma’s baby did not match the men implicated in the gang-rape. In addition, it ordered Uzma to undergo multiple lie detector tests and found the results inconclusive. On 4 June, Equality Now wrote to the court expressing great concern about subjecting a rape victim to lie-detector testing which is psychologically damaging and, given the inconclusive nature of the results, highly prejudicial.

Uzma's gang-rape case and her brother's murder case are still pending at the lower court and Equality Now and our partners are strategizing on next steps.


UPDATE 29 February 2012: Pressure from human rights groups and media prompted the Pakistani government to take action in the case of Uzma Ayub. Following the Peshawar High Court's call for thorough inquiries and strict action against all perpetrators and the police officers who failed to take action in both the rape and murder cases in December 2011, 14 people have been arrested in the rape case and 29 police officers have been suspended. The alleged murderer of Uzma's brother is still at large but 15 of his alleged co-conspirators have been arrested. For Uzma’s safety, the government has relocated her and her mother to Peshawar. On 19 January, Uzma gave birth to a baby girl. DNA samples have been taken from the baby and the alleged rapists and are being tested in order to identify the child's father. The next hearing in the rape case will be held after the results of the paternity test have been released.

Please join us as we continue to call upon the Pakistani government to ensure that Uzma’s case is fully and properly investigated and that all the perpetrators involved, including those who may have obstructed justice, are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Similarly, continue to call on them to ensure that all those responsible for the murder of Uzma’s brother Alamzeb are swiftly and properly brought to justice and prosecuted.


Uzma and child
Uzma and child
What You Can Do: 

Please write urgently to the officials below calling on them to ensure Uzma and her family’s immediate safety. Ask them to make certain that her case is fully and properly investigated and that all the perpetrators involved, including those who may have obstructed justice, are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, in accordance with Pakistan’s own Constitution and international obligations. Similarly call on them to ensure that all those responsible for the murder of Uzma’s brother Alamzeb are swiftly and properly brought to justice and prosecuted. Ask that local organisations under threat are protected and any threats against them investigated and appropriately prosecuted. Request guarantees that the authorities will send clear messages that such criminal actions, particularly by those who should be upholding the law, will not be tolerated.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Mr. Amir Haider Hoti
Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Chief Minister House
Fort Road,
Peshawar Cantt
Pakistan
Tel: +92-91-9213574, +92-91- 9211719
Fax: +92-91-9210718, +92-91-9210743
Email: pskhyberpakhtoonkhwa@yahoo.com

Barrister Arshad Abdullah
Minister for Law & Parliamentary Affairs
Government of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa
Minister Block Opposite to MPA Hostel
Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa
Tel: +92-91-9210353
Fax: +92-91-9211130
 
Mr. Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani
Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
The Prime Minister’s Secretariat
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk

Mr. Moula Bakhsh Chandio
Minister for Law, Justice
and Parliamentary Affairs
Ministry of Law, Justice
and Parliamentary Affairs
Islamabad, Pakistan
E-Mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk

Letters: 

Dear _____ :

I write to you with deep concern regarding the case of gang-rape victim Uzma Ayub from Karak in the Khyber Pakhtunkha (KP) province.

I was concerned to hear about the horrific circumstances concerning 16 year old Uzma’s case and that she was held captive for almost a year during which she was repeatedly gang raped by a number of individuals including police officers resulting in a pregnancy. I was deeply dismayed to hear that Uzma and her family having already suffered such tragedy, have been further traumatized by the killing of Uzma’s brother Alamzeb Marwat outside the Karak District court allegedly by relatives of some of the police perpetrators.

Despite intense pressure and death threats, Uzma and her family are fighting for justice. This case has highlighted a shocking level of police corruption in the area and I urge you to please address this situation urgently. I respectfully urge you to ensure that Uzma’s case is fully and properly investigated and that all the perpetrators involved, including those who may have obstructed justice, are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, in accordance with Pakistan’s own Constitution, which states that “all citizens are equal before law and are entitled for equal protection of law” and that “there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone,” along-side Pakistan’s international human rights obligations to ensure justice for all. I also ask that you ensure all those responsible for the murder of Uzma’s brother Alamzeb are swiftly and properly brought to justice and prosecuted. 

It is also my understanding that local NGOs who have been supporting Uzma in her fight for justice have been threatened. I urge you to ensure that local organisations are protected and any threats against them investigated and appropriately prosecuted. 

By prosecuting the perpetrators the government of KP will send a clear message that such criminal actions, particularly by those who should be upholding the law, will not be tolerated.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

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