Violence against women

Mauritania: Protect Human Rights Defender Aminetou Mint El-Moctar

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2014 Aug 12

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What You Can Do: 

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

Please stand with Equality Now, the Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) coalition, and FEMNET in urgently calling on the authorities below to demand that:

  • Immediate measures are taken to guarantee Ms. Aminetou Mint El Moctar’s physical safety and psychological wellbeing, as well as to combat her harassers so that she can continue her human rights work.
  • Mauritanian authorities conduct a prompt, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into those threatening Ms. Mint El-Moctar, and that perpetrators are brought to justice.
  • Mauritania lives up to its domestic, regional and international obligations to protect, enforce, and uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens, and particularly those cases involving human rights defenders.

H.E. Mr. Sidi Ould Zeine
Minister of Justice
B.P. 350
Nouakchot, Mauritania
Tel: +222 525 2682
Fax: +222 525 2860
Email: szeine@justice.gov.mr

Ms. Irabiha Abdel Wedoud
Présidente Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme
B.P. 5435
Nouakchott, Mauritania
Tel: + 222-45-25-26-36
Fax: + 222-45-25-26-23
Email: irabdel@yahoo.fr

H.E. Mr. Abderahim Ould Elhadrami
Ambassador
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to the United Nations
116 East 38th Street
New York, N.Y. 10016
Tel: +1 212 252 0113/0141
Fax: +1 212 252 0175
Email: mauritania@un.int

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania
2129 Leroy Place, NW
Washington DC 20008
Phone: +1 202 232 5700
Fax: +1 202 319 2623
Email: info@mauritaniaembassy-usa.org

Embassy of Mauritania in London
Carlyle House
235-237 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 1EJ
Tel: +44 (0) 2072336158
Email: info@mauritanianembassy.org.uk

Letters: 

Dear Minister/Ambassador/President,

I am deeply concerned about the death threats issued against prominent Mauritanian human rights defender, Ms. Aminetou Mint El-Moctar, and the lack of government and police action to protect her from the actions of Mr. Yadhih Ould Dahi, self-proclaimed leader of the extremist group “Friends of the Prophet.” Mr. Ould Dahi issued a fatwa against her on 5 June 2014, stating that “whoever kills her or tears out her eyes will be rewarded by Allah.” However, when she reported it the next day, rather than filing a complaint, the police advised her to discuss it with Mr. Yadhih Ould Dahi – the same man who had issued the call for her death! Since then, Ms. Mint El-Moctar’s personal information has been widely publicized, – further putting her in danger. As the Mauritanian officials have not taken action to protect her or condemn the fatwa, she and her children are currently living in hiding.
 
Ms. Mint El-Moctar is a lifelong advocate for gender equality and human rights, renowned for her instrumental work in combating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices against women and their children. In direct violation of her constitutional rights to freedom of opinion and expression, she was targeted for speaking out publicly to demand a fair trial for Cheikh Ould Mkheitir -- a young man charged with apostasy who is awaiting trial in northern Mauritania – and her work to address sexual violence in Mauritania. 

I join Equality Now, the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition, FEMNET and others in the international human rights community in calling on Mauritanian authorities to take immediate steps to protect Ms. Aminetou Mint El Moctar and bring those threatening her to justice, so that she and her organization can continue their vital human rights work.

Mauritania must live up to its domestic, regional and international obligations to protect, enforce, and uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens, and particularly those cases involving human rights defenders.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

United States: Pass the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA)

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 Nov 21

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky has just re-introduced the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) in the House and Senate action is anticipated in the coming weeks. I-VAWA is legislation that will reinforce on-the-ground efforts around the world to reduce violence against women and girls.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Please take a moment to ask your Members of Congress to support this important bill.

Gender-based violence is a global problem, but you can play a role in making the world a safer place for women and girls. Take Action now and help support the I-VAWA. Here you will also find an activist toolkit with further resources for taking action on the I-VAWA.

Letters: 

Dear Senator/Representative [insert name]

I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) in 2013.

Gender-based violence is widely prevalent around the globe, with up to 70 percent of women and girls facing violence in some countries. Every day, women and girls around the world are forced to trade sex for food or school fees. Every day, women and girls are beaten and abused.

All too often these violent crimes are not prosecuted and, as a result, they are socially accepted and tolerated. Violence against women and girls is a global health crisis and a human rights violation that contributes to instability and insecurity throughout our world.

The American public is behind ending violence against women and girls. A 2009 poll found that 61 percent of voters across demographic and political lines think violence against women and girls should be one of the top international priorities for the U.S. government, and 82 percent supported the I-VAWA.

I am asking you, Senator/Representative [name] to stand up for women and girls and help pass the International Violence Against Women Act.

This bill supports innovative, cost-effective programs that have been shown to decrease acts of violence. Many of these programs help women and girls do things we so often take for granted:  go to school, earn an income to sustain families, collect food or water without fear of rape or harassment, and bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. The I-VAWA will also streamline and improve existing U.S. programs to end violence against women – increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our international assistance.

The I-VAWA provides the United States with a critical opportunity to make a real difference. The world’s women and girls need this legislation.

Protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls is key to global development and effective foreign policy. Please help change the lives of millions of women and girls by co-sponsoring the I-VAWA.

Yours sincerely,

Egypt: Stop sexual violence against women demanding their rights

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2013 Apr 11

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What You Can Do: 

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

Remind the authorities of Egypt’s obligations under CEDAW, the ICCPR and the ICESCR to provide equality between men and women, including freedom from gender-based violence. Please write to the Egyptian authorities listed below and urge them to:

  • Stop the sexual violence and intimidation tactics being perpetrated against women advocating for their rights
  • Properly investigate and fully prosecute any sexual assault whether occurring in public or in private
  • Develop processes for the comprehensive inclusion of women’s voices in all governmental and administrative processes

Letters should go to:

Interim President Adly Mansour
El Etahadiya Presidential Palace
Merghiny St., Heliopolis
Cairo, EGYPT
Fax & Tel.: +202 239 019 980
Twitter: @EgyPresidency

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb
Magless El Shaàb Street, Al Kasr El Einy
Cairo, EGYPT
Tel.: +202-2793-5000
Fax: +202-2795-8048
Email: pm@cabinet.gov.eg

Minister of Justice Mr. Nayer Adel-Monei Othman
Lazoghly Square, Cairo, EGYPT
Tel.: +202 279 22263
Fax: +202 279 58103
Email: mjustice@moj.gov.eg

Letters: 

Dear President, Prime Minister, Minister:

I am writing to express my support of Egyptian women who continue to demand their full- integration in all post-revolution institutions and policy frameworks as laid out in the 2011 Egyptian Women’s Charter. Egyptian women deserve to be recognized as full and equal citizens and should not be subjected to sexual violence for demanding their rights.

The increase in seemingly organized incidents of sexual violence, perpetrated in and around Tahrir Square, is alarming. I urge you to stop the sexual violence and intimidation tactics being perpetrated against women advocating for their rights. Please act swiftly and decisively to prevent such violence against women; to hold the perpetrators of any violence to account in a timely fashion; and to ensure that everyone, including women, is entitled to participate freely without intimidation or harassment in peaceful debate or demonstration about the future of the country. I understand your government has launched an “Initiative to support the Rights and Freedoms of the Egyptian Women,” which I hope will take strong action on the fundamental issue of violence against women as well as other issues of discrimination against women. I also urge you to comprehensively include women in all governmental and administrative processes.

Egypt’s international obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, require full equality between men and women and the prohibition and prevention of gender-based violence.

Such steps will ensure that Egyptian women and men’s human rights are respected and will contribute to a more secure Egypt.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Global Dir. Yasmeen Hassan on violence against women (CNC World)

3/5/2013 -- CNC World -- Global Dir. Yasmeen Hassan on violence against women (@ 3:20 – 5:29; 7:25 – 7:57; 14:40 – 15:00; 16:00 – 16:38; 16:49 – 17:24; 17:37-18:00; 18:35-19:10) [video]

The case for a Global Implementation Plan to End Violence Against Women and Girls (TrustLaw)

3/8/2013 -- TrustLaw -- "International Women's Day 2013 - Moving beyond words: The case for a Global Implementation Plan to End Violence Against Women and Girls"; This year, the theme of International Women's Day is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” In this article, Global Director, Yasmeen Hassan, states why now is the time t

Ending Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls: The Global Tipping Point (HuffPo UK)

1/9/2013 -- Huffington Post UK -- "Ending Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls: The Global Tipping Point"; London Office Director Jacqui Hunt discusses recent developments and ongoing efforts in the fight to address violence against women.

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.

Global Director Yasmeen Hassan - Adultery laws unfairly target women (IPS)

10/24/2012 -- Inter Press Service News Agency -- "Adultery Laws Unfairly Target Women, U.N. Says" Yasmeen Hassan comments on the state of adultery laws across the globe and their negative impact on women.


Excerpt:

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

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