Violence against women

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: 

10 MAY 2016 UPDATE:  On 5 May, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its 2015 Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, and the results are alarming:  Military Services received  6,083 reports of sexual assault involving service members as either victims or subjects in 2015. 4,736 service members reported being raped or sexually assaulted while in the military. However, it is almost certain that these numbers don’t represent the whole picture as sexual assaults in the military are vastly underreported. A 2014 DoD commissioned study estimated that 20,300 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in that year alone.

And victims who do report rarely see their abusers punished. Only 7% of perpetrators received courts-martial or discharge in 2015, and 2012 and 2014 studies found that 62% of service member victims of sexual assault report retaliation after reporting the crime. Another recently released study noted 91 reports of sexual assault in military service academies in 2015, underscoring the fact that attacks are not confined to war zones.

The Pentagon has always insisted that it takes a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault in the military, but this is clearly untrue. In April 2016, an Associated Press investigation shockingly found that the 
Pentagon used “inaccurate or vague information” to convince Congress not to pass a law which would give more power to civilian courts to handle military cases. It also found that the military used misleading or incomplete information in about 93 sexual assault cases.

We welcome the Department of Defense’s new Strategy to prevent retaliation associated with reporting sexual assault or harassment as an important step, but it is not enough. The 
bill in question, supported by Equality Now and our partner, the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2013 and died twice on the Senate floor. Now we are calling for it to be incorporated into this year’s upcoming National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 in order to pass.

Senator Gillibrand’s bill would provide the structural changes needed to ensure meaningful access to justice for survivors, removing the power to prosecute sexual assault from military commanders and transferring it to professional prosecutors.
 
Please join us by Taking Action today!

For more information, read our Sexual Assault in the Military Fact sheet


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. Ashton B. Carter
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: ashton.carter@osd.mil

Congressman Mac Thornberry
House Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2208 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: +1(202) 225-3706
Fax: +1(202) 225-3486
Facebook: www.facebook.com/repmacthornberry
Twitter: @MacTXPress

Senator John McCain
Senate Armed Service Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
218 Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-2235
Fax: +1(202) 228-2862
Facebook: www.facebook.com/johnmccain
Twitter: @SenJohnMcCain

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 Ashton B. Carter, Congressman Mac Thornberry, Senator John McCain (contacts listed above)

Senator Chuck Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3744
Fax: 202-224-6020
Facebook: www.facebook.com/grassley
Twitter: @ChuckGrassley

Congressman Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee Chair
U.S. House of Representatives
2309 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: 202-225-5431
Fax: 202-225-9681
Facebook: www.facebook.com/BobGoodlatte
Twitter: @RepGoodlatte

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. Robert A. McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: +1(800) 827-1000
Email:  robert.a.mcdonald@va.gov, Bob.mcdonald@va.gov

The Honorable Danny Pummill
Acting Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Tel: 1.800.827.1000
Email: Danny.pummill@va.gov

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

Senator Johnny Isakson
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chair
U.S. Senate
131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: +1(202) 224-3643
Fax: +1(202) 228-0724
Twitter: @SenatorIsakson

Letters: 

Letter Regarding Reform of the Justice System

Dear Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter:
 
I am deeply concerned about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and that service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women are doing so freely. At least 20,000 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in 2014 and as few as one out of every 100 sexual assaults results in a conviction.
 
This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, thorough and impartial investigations, and seeing rapists/assailants charged and punished. Since officers within the perpetrator’s chain-of-command are the ones investigating sexual assault complaints, conflicts of interest and abuses of power flourish, especially where  both the survivor and perpetrator are under the same officer’s command. And as these crimes reflect poorly on the unit, commanders have an incentive to downplay or cover-up sexual assaults.
 
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. 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, along the lines of reforms the United Kingdom and Canada have recently implemented.
 

 

Sincerely,
 

cc:
Congressman Mac Thornberry, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator John McCain, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair

Letter Regarding Civil Remedies

Dear Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter:
 
I am deeply concerned about the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault within the U.S. military and those service members who sexually harass and assault their fellow service women are doing so freely. At least 20,000 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in 2014 and as few as one out of every 100 sexual assaults results in a conviction.
 
This low conviction rate is due to the multitude of obstacles rape survivors face in pursuing justice, including in reporting the crime, thorough and impartial investigations, and seeing rapists/assailants charged and punished. 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 and to ensure justice for survivors violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
I strongly urge you to revise U.S. military policies so that service women can obtain justice for harassment and sexual violence.  It is vital that allow survivors are able to access civil remedies so that they, like civilians, can hold their employer accountable.

 

Sincerely,
 

cc:
Congressman Mac Thornberry, House Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator John McCain, Senate Armed Services Committee, Chair
Senator Chuck Grassley, Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair
Congressman Bob Goodlatte, House Judiciary Committee, Chair

Letter to Veterans' Affairs

Robert A. McDonald
Secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Dear Secretary McDonald:
 
I am deeply concerned 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 -- at least 20,000 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in 2014 alone!
 
Sexual assault and harassment causes the same rates of PTSD in women veterans as combat does in men, but sexual assault survivors continue to face challenges in accessing disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA often disbelieve survivors’ accounts of assault – even when backed up by a physician’s report – and require evidence from other corroborating sources. Tellingly, only 32% of sexual assault PTSD claims are approved by the VA, while 54% of overall PTSD claims are approved.
 
Servicewomen are being re-victimized by this disbelief and failure to provide much needed services. The VA must lower the evidentiary burden and accept survivor’s testimony alone as proof that a sexual assault occurred. The failure to protect service women from sexual assault and to ensure justice and services for survivors violates the United States’ international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
 
I strongly urge you to revise your policy so that survivors suffering from sexual assault-related PTSD receive the services they need without delays, and to lower the unnecessarily high evidentiary burdens they face.
 

Yours sincerely,

cc: 
The Honorable Danny Pummill, Acting Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs
Senator Johnny Isakson, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair
Congressman Jeff Miller, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Chair

Pakistan: Protect human rights defenders and ensure justice for murdered activists

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Aug 2

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What You Can Do: 

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Please join Equality Now and the End Violence against Women and Girls (EVAW/G) Alliance KP & FATA by calling on the Pakistani government to:

  • ensure that Farida Afridi’s and Zarteef Khan Afridi’s murders are immediately and fully investigated and all perpetrators prosecuted for their crimes to the full extent of the law 
  • ensure the safety of human rights defenders, particularly women, and criminalize intimidation, harassment, threats, or attacks upon persons 
  • criminalize public statements or decrees inciting actual violence against human rights defenders

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

Letters should go to:

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
Email: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk

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 Syed Masood Kausar
Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Governor House Abdul Qayum Road
Peshawar
Pakistan
Fax: +92 91 9210087

Mr. Mutahir Zeb
Political Agent Khyber Agency
Office of the Political Agent Khyber Agency Bara Road
Peshawar Cantt
Pakistan
Fax: +92 91 9211900

Letters: 

Dear Prime Minister/Chief Minister/Governor:

I am deeply concerned about the recent attacks and threats upon human rights defenders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and FATA.

In particular, I am troubled by the 4 July 2012 murder of Farida Afridi, Executive Director of women’s rights organization Sawera based in FATA, who after facing threats for her women’s rights work, was shot to death outside her home. Additionally, in December 2011, Zarteef Khan Afridi, a coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), was similarly murdered, reportedly by extremist elements in FATA. A suspect has been arrested in Farida’s murder but the perpetrators in Zarteef Khan Afridi’s case remain at large.

According to NGOs in the area, threats to the lives of human rights defenders are common in KP province and FATA. Reportedly, during a sermon on 4 May 2012, a politically influential religious cleric, Maulvi Abdul Haleem, from Kohistan district in KP province warned women NGO workers against entering Kohistan and threatened to forcibly marry violators to locals. Such statements have led to fear amongst NGO workers, particularly women. I am troubled that the provincial government has not taken any steps to protect human rights activists in the region and rights groups working in KP and FATA are losing staff whose lives and safety are threatened.

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders specifies the obligations of States to guarantee and protect the rights of human rights defenders. Pakistan also has a duty to protect all human rights established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (Article 2), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Article 2) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (Article 3). The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo have both taken note of violations against human rights defenders working on women’s rights in Pakistan and have highlighted the State’s responsibility to investigate and promptly ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. Additionally, in the June 2008 report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan, Pakistan was called upon to ‘combat impunity for attacks on human rights defenders by effectively investigating allegations and by prosecuting those responsible.’

I support the Charter of Demands drafted by the End Violence against Women and Girls (EVAW/G) Alliance KP & FATA and join them in urging you to:

  • ensure that the murders of Farida Afridi and Zarteef Khan Afridi are immediately and fully investigated and all perpetrators prosecuted for their crimes to the full extent of the law
  • ensure the safety of human rights defenders, particularly women and criminalize intimidation, harassment, threats, or attacks upon persons
  • criminalize public statements or decrees inciting actual violence against human rights defenders

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Liberia: Enact a law banning FGM as a matter of urgency

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2012 Jun 26
Update: 

27 April 2016 BREAKING: In a major setback to anti-FGM efforts in Liberia, legislators have removed the provision addressing FGM from the proposed domestic violence bill ahead of tomorrow’s debate. Though the provision had its problems, it was the first time the country had introduced legislation to ban FGM. Disturbingly, the domestic violence bill could pass without any mention of FGM, though an estimated 50% of Liberian women and girls have undergone this extreme form of violence. Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone are the only three West African countries that have yet to criminalize FGM following bans last year in Nigeria and The Gambia.

TAKE ACTION! Throughout her presidency, President Johnson-Sirleaf has strongly declared her commitment to women’s rights and to promoting the health and safety of women and girls. Please join us and our partner, the Women of Liberia Peace Network, in calling for a total ban on FGM in the bill, as required by the Maputo Protocol - the African women’s rights legal framework, which Liberia has ratified. At a time when the Africa-led momentum to end FGM is growing, we can’t go backwards. Please raise your voice today! #EndFGM #LiberiaBanFGM

TAKE ACTION NOW!


22 FEBRUARY 2016 UPDATE: President Sirleaf has taken a strong public stance on prioritizing women and children’s health and safety in Liberia, and in 2015,committed to enforcing a ban on female genital mutilation. However, her efforts to enact a strong law against FGM are proving insincere. Currently, the government is proposing to address FGM as part of a domestic violence bill that is extremely weak, has ineffective penalties for perpetrators (counselling and fines determined by the judge) and, in actuality, promotes FGM.

49.8% of women and girls are estimated to have undergone FGM in Liberia. However, the proposed bill only regards FGM as an offence in situations where it is performed on a person under the age of 18, or a person 18 years old or over, without their consent. If passed, the government would effectively negate the criminalization of FGM and provide a legal loophole for parents or legal guardians to grant consent on behalf of their minor daughters. By including consent, the bill legitimizes the practice and leaves girls under the age of 18 -- the age group with the highest risk in Liberia – unprotected.

In Liberia, the Sande female secret society promotes and carries out FGM as part of an initiation rite into womanhood. FGM is still a taboo subject and it is forbidden to talk about secret societies and their practices with non-initiated people. Punishment for violations includes physical abuse, forceful initiation (for non-initiates), and in some cases, death threats. Ruth Berry Peal, who was forcibly-mutilated in 2010, continues to wait for justice. In the three years since the perpetrators in her case were sentenced,  they are yet to be arrested and imprisoned, though the government of Liberia ratified the African Protocol on Women’s Rights, which specifically directs states parties to: ‘prohibit, through legislative measures backed by sanctions, of all forms of female genital mutilation, scarification, medicalisation and para-medicalisation of  female genital mutilation and all other practices in order to eradicate them” and‘protection of women who are at risk of being subjected to harmful practices or all other forms of violence, abuse and intolerance” among others.


25 MARCH 2015 UPDATE: In the two years since the Liberian High Court upheld the decision against the members of the Sande secret society who had forcibly-mutilated Ruth Berry Peal, the assailants have yet to be arrested and imprisoned. Instead, they are residing and working freely in Monrovia and Bomi (Bomi is the same county where Ruth and her family live). Ruth, meanwhile, still suffers from the trauma and continues to receive verbal and physical abuse from her community who are tormenting her for exposing the secrets of their culture. Our partner, Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET), has raised the failures in the case with Liberia’s Ministry of Justice but no action has been taken.

On a positive note, as a result of an indefinite government ban on Sande School operations to help curb the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease, FGM has reportedly been reduced in Liberia. During a February meeting with WOLPNET, the Traditional Council adopted a resolution pledging to only initiate girls at the age of consent and stopping forceful FGM initiations. However, this still does not go far enough; FGM is a human rights violation that should not be performed on any women or girl regardless of their age or granting of consent. Equality Now continues to advocate for zero tolerance for FGM and system to ban it in Liberia.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf also continues to speak out on the issue of violence in Liberia, including FGM. At an international event on gender equality this month, she publicly stated, "too many of our countries have yet to muster the courage to ban the irreparable harm inflicted by genital mutilation on young girls in traditional societies." The Liberian Minister for Gender also spoke on the topic during a radio interview, stating "we are working with our traditional people to see how they can learn from what people have done in other countries that practice similar rituals so that they can now see how they can empower themselves to move away from FGM."

We are hopeful that these types of declarations from the highest levels of the Liberian government will finally result in a law banning FGM. Equality Now and our partners are engaging with policy makers to fulfill on their pledges to adopt a law and to ensure that survivors of FGM such as Ruth are able to access justice and health services. Please renew the call for justice and security for Ruth and her family, and for a law against FGM in Liberia.


 

MARCH 12, 2013 UPDATE: On 17 January 2013, Ruth Berry Peal's lawyer, Deddeh Wilson, informed Equality Now that she had filed a motion requesting the court to dismiss the defendant’s appeal of their jail sentence for failure to complete the appeal process. On 24 January 2013, the court dismissed the appeal case on grounds that 'the defendants did not file an approved bill of exceptions or did not secure the approval of the trial judge on the purported bill of exceptions.' On 26 February, the court issued a letter commanding the Sheriff of Montserrado to arrest the defendants.

Although Ruth has finally gotten justice for being forcibly mutilated, it has not been easy for her, as she continues to receive threats.  Mrs Speare, director of Women NGO Secretariat Liberia (WONGOSOL), stated that social and cultural circumstances in Liberia do not allow girls and women to oppose FGM or to escape, though girls sometimes resort to running away and hiding due to the lack of laws to protect them from the practice.  Ruth has been advised by the gender ministry to relocate to Monrovia but is reluctant to do so because her husband and children still live in Bomi, Liberia. Therefore, we are calling on the Liberian government to support and protect Ruth, as well as to build on indications made by the Minister for Internal Affairs in 2011 to enact and enforce a law banning FGM as a matter of urgency.


 

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What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! Please join Equality Now and our Liberian partners, Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) and Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), in calling on Liberian authorities to:

  • Ensure that Ruth Berry Peal’s case is swiftly and justly concluded
  • Ensure the enforcement of  the government’s suspension of Sande FGM activities
  • Honor Liberia’s international and regional human rights commitments by enacting and enforcing comprehensive legislation against FGM, as well as supporting educational outreach to relevant communities and local chiefs on the harms of FGM

Letters should go to:

H.E. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf    
P.O. Box 9001
Capitol Hill, Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 644 4696 
Email: ebfasama@emansion.gov.lr
etoles@emansion.gov.lr

Hon. Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh
Minister of Justice
P.O. Box  0123
Ashmun Street   
Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 669 7205
Email: sannohb@aol.com

Hon Julia Duncan Cassell
Minister for Gender and Development
P.O. Box 10-1375
110 UN Drive & Gurley Street
1000 Monrovia 10
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 651 6434  
Email: libgenderminister@gmail.com

Hon Dr. Henrique Tokpah
Minister of Internal Affairs
Executive Mansion Ground
Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel: +231 651 3358 
http://www.mia.gov.lr

Hon. Alex J. Tyler
Speaker
House of Representatives
Email: nwliberia@yahoo.com
Cell: +231-886-511-688

Senator Armah Zolu Jallah
President-Pro-Tempore
House of Senate
Email: zoluthesis@gmail.com
Cell: +231-886-518-595

With a copy to: Special Assistant Mr. Jefferson F. Cooper
Email: nfcooper68@gmail.com
http://www.mia.gov.lr

Letters: 

Dear [   ]

I am deeply concerned by Liberia’s failure to address FGM in the proposed 2016 Domestic Violence Bill. FGM is an extreme form of physical and psychological abuse that can even result in death. Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone are the only three West African countries that have yet to criminalize FGM.

Liberia has ratified several regional and international human rights instruments that call for states to ban FGM through strong legislation, awareness raising and support for its victims. President Sirleaf has also repeatedly pledged to introduce a law banning the practice before the end of her tenure. I therefore urge you to enact legislation that protects the human rights of women and girls from FGM regardless of consent, and that places strong penalties on perpetrators. The legislation should also ensure that survivors, such as Ruth Berry Peal, who was kidnapped and forcibly subjected to FGM in Bomi County, are able to access justice and health services. I thank you for your attention.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Sudan: Stop the stoning of Intisar Sharif Abdalla

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2012 Jun 6
Update Date: 
2012 Jul 3
Update: 

UPDATE 3 July 2012: On 22 June, an appellate court vacated Intisar Sharif Abdalla’s sentence and ordered a new trial based on defects in the original trial. On 3 July, the trial court found no evidence to proceed with the trial and dismissed the charges. Intisar has been freed from prison. Thank you for taking action.

view pdf

What You Can Do: 

Please write to Sudanese officials to call for:

  • the immediate and unconditional release of Intisar Sharif Abdalla;
  • the establishment of a moratorium on death by stoning;
  • the commutation of all sentences of death by stoning;
  • the prohibition by law of all cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, such as torture, flogging and stoning in accordance with Sudan’s obligations under the African Charter and the ICCPR;
  • a comprehensive review of the provisions of the Criminal Act of Sudan, 1991, in particular Article 146, and the removal of all provisions that discriminate against, or have a discriminatory impact on, women, including those regarding adultery and fornication, in accordance with Sudan’s own constitutional provision on the right to equality and non-discrimination based on sex. 

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Please send your letters to:

President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
Office of the President
People’s Palace
PO Box 281
Khartoum, Sudan
Email: info@sudan.gov.sd

Mohammed Bushara Dousa
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Towers
Gamhoria Street
PO Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan

Dr. Moaz Tango
Advisory Committee on Human Rights
Ministry of Justice
Justice Towers
Gamhoria Street
PO Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan

Jalal al-Din Mohammed Osman
Chief Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Towers
Gamhoria Street
P.O Box 302
Khartoum, Sudan

Letters: 

Dear ______:

I write to you with grave concern over the 13 May 2012 sentencing of Intisar Sharif Abdalla, a mother of three, to death by stoning for adultery under Article 146 of the Sudanese Penal Code.

The prescribed punishment of death by stoning violates Sudan’s International legal obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that clearly prohibit all forms of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and treatment. In addition, the death penalty for the crime of adultery does not fall within internationally accepted concept of ‘most serious offences’ warranting a death penalty as reiterated by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (currently the Human Rights Council) and Human Rights Committee.

Moreover, it appears that Intisar’s trial did not meet the standards of fair trial under Sudanese or international law. It is particularly concerning that her sentence was imposed based on a coerced admission after she was tortured by her brother. Confessions extracted under torture and duress should not be admissible in Court and cannot form the basis of a death sentence. Moreover, I believe that Intisar was denied the right to legal representation despite the guarantee under Article 34 (6) of the Interim National Constitution that “Any accused person has the right to defend himself/herself in person or through a lawyer of his/her own choice and to have legal aid assigned to him/her by the State where he/she is unable to defend himself/herself in serious offences.” In addition, Intisar was apparently not able to understand the proceedings against her that were conducted in Arabic, not her native language. The execution of persons after a trial that does not meet international fair trial standards amounts to a violation of the right to life.

I respectfully urge you to immediately and unconditionally release Intisar Sharif Abdalla, declare a moratorium on death by stoning, commute all sentences of death by stoning and prohibit all cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, such as torture, flogging and stoning, in accordance with Sudan’s obligations under the African Charter and the ICCPR.

I further urge you to conduct a comprehensive review of the provisions of the Criminal Act of Sudan, 1991, and in particular Article 146 with a view to removing all provisions that discriminate against, or have a discriminatory impact on, women including those regarding adultery and fornication, in accordance with Sudan’s Constitutional provisions on the right to equality and non-discrimination based on sex.

Respectfully yours,

Sidra Humayun

Confronting Sexual Violence Head On in Pakistan
Sidra Humayun

1. Can you describe the hurdles that female victims of sexual violence typically face in seeking justice and help in Pakistan?

Liberian Jury Delivers "Guilty" Verdict on Ruth Berry Peal's Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11 July 2011
Contact: NAIROBI: Mary Ciugu, (254) 20 271-9832/913, equalitynownairobi@equalitynow.org
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, (01) 212-586-0906, media@equalitynow.org

Liberia: Ensure justice in the case of Ruth Berry Peal who was forcibly subjected to FGM

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2011 Mar 24
Update Date: 
2011 Jul 8
Update: 

Following a month of deliberation, a guilty verdict was announced on July 8, 2011 by the jury in Ruth Berry Peal’s case on charges of kidnapping, felonious restraint and theft.  The sentencing of the two women will take place this week by the judge, who in closing made references to the Liberian Constitution and Article 4(1) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol), which states: “Every woman shall be entitled to respect for her life and the integrity and security of her person. All forms of exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.”

Equality Now and its Liberian partners, the Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) and Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), welcome the jury’s decision and are eagerly awaiting the sentencing of the perpetrators.  We are also continuing to urge the government of Liberia to take expeditious action to protect girls and women from female genital mutilation, and, to this end, calling on the Liberian government to stop issuing permits to the FGM practitioners, to initiate the process towards enactment of a law criminalizing FGM and to invest in public education against the practice.

We are grateful to you for your steadfast advocacy for the rights of women and girls. Together we can make a difference, and a better world. Please continue to write to the Liberian government to enact a law against FGM and to stop issuing permits to FGM practitioners.  We will keep you informed of future developments.

Ruth Berry Peal
What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Liberian authorities noted below urging them to honor Liberia’s international and regional human rights commitments by enacting and enforcing comprehensive legislation against FGM as well as supporting educational outreach to relevant communities and local chiefs on the harms of FGM. Furthermore, urge the Minister of Internal Affairs to immediately cease the practice of issuing permits to schools where FGM is conducted. Also ask them to ensure that Ruth Peal obtains justice and remedy for the abuse she suffered. Because Ruth is threatened by members of the secret society and traditional heads who support the secret society, please request that the government provide her with immediate protection.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

H.E. Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
P.O. Box 9001
Capitol Hill, Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel:             +231 644 4696     
Email: info@emansion.gov.lr

Dr. Christiana Tah
Minister of Justice
P.O. Box 0123
Ashmun Street
Monrovia, Republic of Liberia
Tel:            + 231 669 7205     
Email: info@moj.gov.lr
ctah@aol.com

H.E. Vabah K. Gayflor
Minister for Gender and Development
P.O. Box 10-1375
110 UN Drive & Gurley Street
1000 Monrovia 10
Republic of Liberia
Tel:             +231 651 6434     
Email: veegayflor@yahoo.com

H.E. Harrison Kahnweah
Minister of Internal Affairs
Executive Mansion Ground
Monrovia
Republic of Liberia
Tel:             +231 651 3358     
Email: hkarnwea@yahoo.com
http://www.mia.gov.lr

Letters: 

Dear [Your Excellency/Minister]:

I am writing to express my deep concern over the high incidence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia. It is estimated that Over 58 percent of Liberian women have undergone the practice of FGM, which is carried out through a politically influential female secret society known as the Sande society, as part of an initiation rite into womanhood. Many girls are subjected to FGM at traditional schools for the Sande society.  I am concerned to learn that Liberian Ministry of Internal Affairs issues permits to women who run these schools and carry out FGM on the girls in attendance.  

Women from non-FGM practicing communities may also be subjected to FGM in Liberia either through marriage into practicing groups or by force as was the case with Ruth Berry Peal, who was subjected to this practice in 2010 due to an order issued by a Gola chief presiding over her dispute with two women from an FGM practicing community.  Ruth was abducted from her home by the women and was taken to the ‘bush’ where she was forcefully genitally mutilated. She has filed a suit against the two women who mutilated her   and, as a result, has been receiving threats from the community to drop the case.

Despite the Liberian constitution which guarantees the rights of life, liberty and security of person to all Liberians and your ratification of various international and regional human rights treaties that mandate the protection of women and girls from the practice of FGM, (including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Women’s Protocol), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and of the Convention on the Rights of the Child), the Liberian government has failed to provide protection to the women and girls from being subjected to FGM.

Significantly, I note that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the treaty body that monitors compliance with CEDAW, in examining your country’s report in 2009, urged you to “enact without delay . . . legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation and to ensure that offenders are prosecuted and punished in accordance with the severity of this violation” and to “immediately stop issuing permits to practitioners as currently being done by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.” It encouraged Liberia to “extend and accelerate implementation of programmes designed to sensitize and provide alternate sources of income for those who perform female genital mutilation” and to “strengthen its awareness-raising and educational efforts, targeted at both women and men, including government officials at all levels, chiefs and other traditional and community leaders, . . to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation and its underlying cultural justification.”

I urge you to take immediate action, as is your obligation under Article 5 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and under other international human rights treaties, and enact and enforce a law prohibiting FGM; to immediately cease the practice of issuing permits to FGM practitioners; and to institute other protective mechanisms that will guarantee protection to all women and girls in Liberia from undergoing FGM. I also respectfully request that you do all in your power to ensure that Ruth Berry Peal receives justice and protection. 

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

 

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