Category Archives: Accountability

Southern Africa: Gender violence still hinders women’s freedom

GenderLinks

It seems incongruous that we celebrate Women's Month, yet stories of conflict and gender based violence (GBV) flood today's headlines. Whether it is the abduction of girls in Nigeria, the unending trial of Oscar Pistorius or the young woman raped and murdered last over the weekend because of her sexuality- the horrific immediacy of violence is all too apparent. Yet the majority of cases go unreported, unnoticed and justice is not served. It is also evident in conflict and post-conflict situations where rape is often used as a weapon of war. While everyone is vulnerable to violence, women and girls remain disproportionately affected.

 

While we honour the women who marched against the Apartheid pass laws in 1956 and the efforts of many individuals who have toiled towards improving the status of women, we also need to take a moment to reflect as we take stock of what we have achieved. This is particularly important at this time as we fast approach the 2015 deadline for the SADC Gender Protocol on Gender and Development target of halving GBV. We need to face up to the reality that twenty years into democracy, South Africa and the entire Southern African region remain a far cry from this ‘dream.'

 

GBV no doubt weakens the efforts toward all goals set out in the SADC Gender Protocol Studies by Gender Links in six countries of the SADC region reveal that GBV is pervasive, with the highest prevalence reported in Zambia, where 89% of women from the Kasama, Kitwe, Mansa and Mazubuka experienced violence in their lifetime. Meanwhile 86% of women in Lesotho, 68% of women in Zimbabwe, 67% of women in Botswana, 50% of women in South Africa (Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal) and 24% of women in Mauritius have experienced GBV.

 

Men on the other hand are affirming their hand in this violence: from 73% men in Zambia to 22% men in Mauritius reported perpetration of violence at least once in their life time. The studies further show that there is serious under-reporting of violence across the region, and the scourge thrives in this culture of silence and denial.

 

Studies also show that GBV is inextricably linked to gender inequalities. In the SADC region it is embedded in the patriarchal social system which perpetuates the subordination of women. According to a GL attitudes survey, while both men and women claim to believe in equal treatment between women and men, it is shocking and rather infuriating to learn that on average more than three quarters of men believe that a woman should obey her husband.

 

More saddening is the fact that equal proportions of women affirm this assertion.

 

Women and girls are expected to subservient at all stages of their life cycle and this comes with a hefty price tag- unequal access to all rights whether in the economy, in education and in the health sector- to name just a few. A study undertaken by Swedish International Development corporation Agency (SIDA) Zimbabwe revealed that responding to GBV costs about $2 billion in that country alone. That money could invested in more productive areas, such as infrastructure, business development, or education. The higher productivity that would result, from building a school rather than a jail, for instance, cannot be overemphasised. This underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift to a more preventive approach. Although SADC generally enjoys peace, acts of conflict and related violence have been reported especially during elections and amid the widespread scramble for resources such as land water and jobs.

 

Thirteen SADC Heads of State signed a Protocol committing their countries to integrating gender firmly into their agendas, repealing and reforming all laws and changing social practices which subject women to discrimination. Linked to this is the obligation that all laws on violence against women (VAW) provide for the comprehensive testing, treatment and care of survivors of sexual offences which shall include emergency contraception, access to post exposure prophylaxis at all health facilities to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and preventing the onset of sexually transmitted infections. In line with international and continental instruments, the Protocol also commits member states during times of armed and other forms of conflict to take necessary steps to prevent and eliminate incidences of human rights abuses, especially of women and children, and ensure that the perpetrators of such abuses are brought to justice.

 

However, it is most unlikely that the target of enacting such legislative measures will be met by 2015, let alone that of halving GBV. One major shortfall in the current Protocol targets is the lack of specific indicators to measure governments' progress. Countries need to ensure that interventions designed to combat violence are based on accurate empirical data. This requires not just the compilation of accurate information, but also of indicators that make the data accessible for non-specialist decision makers and allow public scrutiny of interventions. There is a glaring policy gap in regards to the magnitude of sexual violence in conflict settings. Women in peace and security decision making are relatively few while crimes perpetrated during conflict are seldom viewed with a gender lens yet women often bear the brunt of political instability.

 

To date, 13 SADC countries have enacted laws on domestic violence and on sexual harassment. Eleven have laws on sexual assault and specific laws on human trafficking. While this is relatively commendable, a consistent pattern observed in many settings in Africa is that of robust policy formulation coupled by weak patterns of implementation, resulting in relatively weak knowledge of and use of services. It is one thing formulating and readjusting legislature and another for the legislature to effectively bring positive change in the lives of the beneficiaries. Studies undertaken in different settings globally have recorded that knowledge of VAW laws is generally low, more so among the women, the intended beneficiaries.

 

There has been a positive shift towards a victim empowerment approach with several governments and NGOs up-scaling support towards survivors of GBV. Fourteen countries now offer accessible, affordable and specialised services including legal aid to survivors of GBV. Thirteen countries offer places of safety to the survivors. However, the number of available structures in the region is outnumbered by the survivors. Places of safety and legal aid, where available, continue to be mainly offered through local NGOs. Generally governments have not committed sufficient resources towards these services.

 

Now is the time for all to take a step back and re-strategise regarding tackling GBV in the region. We need to put our heads together and work towards strengthening the post-2015 agenda as far as eliminating GBV is concerned. The existing targets need strengthening and we also need to review and add other relevant realistic targets accompanied by indicators that cover all forms of GBV including female genital mutilations and hate crimes towards the minority groups. Governments need to spearhead these efforts rather than leave it to NGOs.

 

Linda Musariri Chipatiso is Gender Link's Senior Researcher and Advocacy Officer. This Article is part of the Gender Links News Service Women's Month Special series, offering fresh views on everyday news.

 

By Linda Musariri Chipatiso

22 August 2014

Source: http://www.genderlinks.org.za/article/southern-africa-gender-violence-still-hinders-womens-freedom-2014-08-22

African Union to immediately deploy joint military and civil mission against Ebola

Directorate of Information and Communication

 

Press Release NO. 184/ 2014

 

African Union to immediately deploy joint military and civil mission against Ebola

 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia–21 August 2014: The Peace and Security Council of the African Union on Tuesday invoked Article 6(f) relating to its mandate with regard to humanitarian action and disaster management at its 450th meeting.  The Council authorised the immediate deployment of a joint AU-led military and civilian humanitarian mission to tackle the emergency situation caused by the Ebola outbreak.

 

“Using the infrastructure of the Peace Support Operations, the African Union Commission is finalising the planning of the joint military and civilian mission code named Operation ASEOWA that could start deployment by the end of August 2014,” Said Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission.

 

The African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak (Operation ASEOWA) is expected to deploy civilian and military volunteers from across the continent to ensure that Ebola is put under control. The mission will comprise medical doctors, nurses and other medical and paramedical personnel. The operation is expected to run for six months with monthly rotation of volunteers. The operation will cost more than USD25 million and the US government and partners have pledged to support the African Union with a substantial part of this amount.

 

The operation aims at filling the existing gap in international efforts and will work with WHO, OCHA, US CDC, EU CDC and others agencies already on the ground.

 

For more information, visit http://www.africa-union.org

 

For further information contact

 

Wynne Musabayana | Deputy Head of Division | Information and Communication Directorate | African Union Commission | Tel: (251) 11 551 77 00 | Fax: (251) 11 551 78 44 | E-mail: MusabayanaW@africa-union.org | Web: www.au.int|Addis Ababa | Ethiopia

 

Tawanda Chisango | Social Affairs | African Union Commission |Tel: +251115182029 | E-mail: Chisangot@africa-union.org | Web:www.au.int |Addis Ababa | Ethiopia

 

About the African Union

 

The African Union spearheads Africa’s development and integration in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens.  AU Vision:to accelerate progress towards an integrated, prosperous and inclusive Africa, at peacewith itself, playing a dynamic role in the continental and global arena, effectively driven by an accountable,efficient and responsive Commission. Learn more at: http://www.au.int/en/

500 days and counting: Progress for girls and women means progress for all

August 18 marks 500 days remaining before the Millennium Development Goals expire at the end of 2015. Some countries are on track to meet those goals and some are not, and central to the difference is their relative levels of investment in women and girls.

The MDGs emerged from an historic summit of world leaders to mark the new millennium nearly 15 years ago. Since then, countries that worked to boost girls’ education, women’s rights and comprehensive maternal, sexual and reproductive health care saw benefits not just for gender equality and longer lives for women and children but in other areas as well — against poverty and hunger, against diseases including HIV and AIDS, and toward a more sustainable environment. Investment in girls and women turned out to be the most cost-effective way to advance on all the goals.

Women Deliver was organized to point out this connection. At three global conferences of activists and decision-makers from around the world — in London in 2007, in Washington, D.C. in 2010 and in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 — it provided statistics and case studies that proved the truth of its slogan, “Invest in women — it pays!” Every year brought more proof and better examples of investments in girls and women in which everybody won. So today, as the international community begins final MDG assessments and considers future plans, we are proud to announce that the next triennial Women Deliver conference will be held on May 17-19, 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Like the previous three gatherings, this one will bring together advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers and leaders of the private sector and civil society to showcase what it means and how it works when women and girls become the focus of development efforts. It will document the great results around the world where investment in women rose.

The Women Deliver 2016 Conference will also be the first major global conference after the post-2015 development framework, so far called the Sustainable Development Goals, is decided. It will be a first chance for strategizing on ways to turn the MDG spurs for growth into the plowshares of a livable planet, to make startup programs sustainable over the long term, to bring pilot programs to national scale — in short, to firm up long-term support, ensure that girls and women are kept at the center of the new development plans from the beginning, and include them in operations and evaluations at every stage into the future.

Copenhagen was chosen because Denmark is a leader and champion for progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Danish International Development Agency has already launched a new Strategic Framework for Gender Equality, Rights and Diversity to assist women and girls in seizing opportunities and resources to take full control over their own lives. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark is fully in support of Women Deliver’s call for additional global commitment on behalf of girls and women.

The post-2015 development framework is being developed as we write, and Women Deliver is working  to ensure that decision makers prioritize maternal, sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially in countries where inequality prevails and where it would help development most.

Closing the gender gap in agriculture alone, for example, could lift up to 150 million people out of hunger. Investing $8.1 billion a year in voluntary family planning would reduce pregnancy-related deaths by 79,000 and newborn deaths by 1.1 million every year. Increasing girls’ school attendance by only 10 percent raises a country’s GDP by 3 percent. And eliminating barriers to employment for girls and women could raise labor productivity in some countries by 25 percent.

These are the facts of life in the 21st century. Imagine a world where no woman dies giving life, where no baby is born with HIV, where every girl can attend school and get a quality education, and where everybody has a chance to fulfill their potential. The post-2015 process can move us closer to that day — if it prioritizes the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women.

In these last 500 days, Women Deliver will build on the momentum generated by our previous gatherings to see that it happens. We will insist that adolescents and young people, who predominate in most developing areas, should get special focus. We will make sure that women are present at the tables where decisions are made. And we will continue playing a critical role in fueling the global movement for maternal, sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We will see you all in Copenhagen!

Aug. 18, 2014, marks the 500-day milestone until the target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Join Devex, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, to raise awareness of the progress made through the MDGs and to rally to continue the momentum. Check out our Storify page and tweet us using #MDGmomentum.

By Jill Sheffield and Katja Iversen

18 August 2014

Source: https://www.devex.com/news/500-days-and-counting-progress-for-girls-and-women-means-progress-for-all-84064

Boko Haram kidnaps 100, Chad frees most captives

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's Boko Haram militant group kidnapped 100 people earlier this month but most were freed by security forces from neighbouring Chad, a Nigerian security official and a local self-defence member said Friday.

 

The abductions took place on Aug. 10 in Doron Baga in the Kukawa area near the border with Chad, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

 

He said the terrorists were stopped as they crossed the Chad border by Chadian soldiers who killed most of them and set free most of the captives.

 

Muhammed Gava, a member of the anti-Boko Haram vigilante movement, said 20 females and about 70 young men had been forced to board speed boats in Lake Chad, which lies on the border between Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

 

Nigeria's fight against the extremist group began in 2009 but hit the international spotlight in mid-April, when the militants kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls. The girls have still not been freed.

 

Boko Haram wants to enforce an Islamic state in Nigeria, whose population of more than 170 million people is almost evenly divided between a mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south.

 

The group has intensified its violent campaign this year and is increasingly targeting civilians. More than 4,000 people — mostly civilians — have been killed this year alone by all sides in the conflict, which include Nigerian security forces, Amnesty International said on Aug. 5. This compares to an estimated 3,600 people killed in the first four years of the Islamic insurgency.

 

While the group's attacks are mostly in northeast Nigeria, Boko Haram has detonated bombs as far away as Lagos, the commercial capital in Nigeria's southwest.

 

16 August 2014

By Haruna Umar

Source: http://news.msn.com/world/boko-haram-kidnaps-100-chad-frees-most-captives

The Evidence Is In: Decriminalizing Sex Work Is Critical to Public Health

During the 2014 International AIDS conference, The Lancet medical journal released a series of articles focused exclusively on HIV and sex work. One study by Kate Shannon et al., demonstrates that decriminalization of sex work could reduce HIV infections by 33 to 46 percent over the next decade. Shannon’s team showed that “multi-pronged structural and community-led interventions” are essential to promoting the human rights of sex workers, as well as improving their access to HIV prevention and treatment. Dr. Chris Beyrer, the researcher who coordinated this Lancet series, told AIDS conference participants that“[e]fforts to improve HIV prevention and treatment by and for people who sell sex can no longer be seen as peripheral to the achievement of universal access to HIV services and to eventual control of the pandemic,” drawing an irrefutable line between the social, legal, and economic injustices sex workers face and their subsequent vulnerability to HIV.

 

The Lancet series authors join many other prominent public health voices in identifying the decriminalization of sex work as vital to preventing the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). For two decades, sex workers rights’ activists throughout the world have pushed human rights, public health, and HIV and AIDS response leaders to recognize that they, along with people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men, are “key populations” without whom an effective HIV and AIDS response is impossible. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that “all countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers.” In South Africa (with the largest population of people living with HIV in the world), the National AIDS Council is urging its government to decriminalize sex work—a demand that advocates and health policy professionals are making in dozens of other countries as well. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law all endorse this position. The latter points out “the impossibility of governments stigmatizing people on one hand, while simultaneously actually helping to reduce their risk of HIV transmission or exposure on the other.”

 

Sex work has been decriminalized in New Zealand and one province (New South Wales) in Australia leaving sex work businesses subject to standard occupational health and safety regulations. Law enforcement treats the sale of sex as it does any other business, without any intrusion or interruption unless existing laws are being violated.

 

Decriminalization has resulted in higher rates of condom use and enables sex workers to organize community-based health practices that demonstrably improve health and reduce HIV risk. It also makes it possible for sex workers to report and for the police to address illegal acts as they occur, such as assault, theft of services, employment of minors, or client coercion. In this decriminalized setting, sex workers can be strong allies in the fight against trafficking, intimate partner violence, and child abuse since they can report incidents to the police and social service agencies without putting themselves at risk of arrest.

 

So, why is the HIV-AIDS field only just beginning to recognize the connection between the decriminalization of sex work and HIV? And why is the trend toward criminalizing populations involved in the sex trades increasing in the United States—moving in the opposite direction from other countries? The following are three contributing factors.

 

Conflating Sex Work With Trafficking

 

Public debate around sex work in the United States increasingly focuses on people who have been trafficked or otherwise coerced into the sex trade. Anti-trafficking advocates conflate sex work (people choosing to sell sexual services from among employment options available to them) with trafficking (people being forced into the sex industry against their will). Laws that criminalize all people selling sex (voluntarily or involuntarily) violate the rights of the former and undermine efforts to identify and assist the latter. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law states unequivocally that, “Sex work and sex trafficking are not the same. The difference is that the former is consensual, whereas the latter is coercive.”

 

A commentary by Steen et al. in the recent Lancet series notes that “repressive and counterproductive police action,” including the arrest and incarceration of trafficking victims for the purposes of “rescue,” has overtaken far more effective responses in several countries. The understandable, but destructively over-simplified, mandate to “rescue and restore” sex workers is also being imposed in public health settings where providers are now charged with identifying and intervening with potential victims of trafficking in the sex trade. Certainly, health-care providers have a duty to watch for and help patients in abusive situations of all kinds. They also have a duty to understand the complexities of human experience, respond to patient-identified needs, and maintain that patients are experts of their own lives, whatever that may look like.

 

Lack of Access to Health Care for Sex Workers

 

Providing access to health-care services targeted to consumers’ needs is a vital part of any country’s HIV response. Without it, those most in need of prevention, care, and treatment are least likely to get it.

 

In a 2010 survey, 53 percent of medical students said they were not adequately trained to address their patients’ sexual issues comfortably. Far fewer professional medical curricula explicitly prepare students to understand that they will encounter sex workers as patients who, like all other patients, are individuals with a wide range of experiences, backgrounds, and needs that can best be treated with patient-centered care.

 

When sex workers receive demeaning and unprofessional treatment in health-care settings, they see health-care providers as an extension of the larger system that criminalizes them. A survey by the New York City-based Persist Health Project found that few sex workers disclosed their occupation to their health-care provider; only one study participant reported a positive experience after doing so. As one respondent explained, “I think for security reasons, I don’t usually disclose. Mainly because I don’t trust doctors … I sort of treat them like law enforcement.” Another noted that most health-care providers “have no clue who you are, no clue about your background, you can’t read them or know that they’re not going to try to lecture you or give you a stink-eye.”

 

St. James Infirmary, a peer-based occupational safety and health clinic for sex workers in San Francisco, corroborates these findings. Of their incoming patients, 70 percent had never previously disclosed their occupation to a medical provider for feared of bad treatment. Providing sex-worker friendly health care requires training health-care workers appropriately and supporting services designed specifically with and for the communities they serve.

 

Violence Risk Exacerbated by Criminalization

 

People usually envision a sex worker as someone soliciting on the street, but only about 20 percent of U.S. sex workers are street-based. The vast majority see clients in other venues including massage parlors, brothels, apartments they share with other sex workers, or a client’s hotel room. Many connect with clients online.

 

HIV risk is high among street-based sex workers who experience high levels of violence at the hands of clients and abusive law enforcement personnel. One important way they reduce this risk is assessing a potential client before getting into his car—looking for signals that he might be violent and relaying his license number to a colleague in case the worker disappears. This assessment time is also used to negotiate price and condom use. Law enforcement crack-downs compel sex workers to complete their negotiations quickly (in order to avoid arrest), depriving them of the time needed for assessment and negotiation.

 

Street-based sex workers have little or no protection if a client becomes violent or refuses to use a condom. Of the street-based workers surveyed in The Lancet study by Shannon et al., 25 percent reported being pressured by clients to have sex without a condom. Those working in remote areas (such as industrial parks) to escape local policing were three times more likely to report being pressured into having sex without a condom than the study population overall. The recent Lancet series data also shows that, in some countries, up to one-third of sex workers do not carry an adequate supply of condoms due to “condoms as evidence” policies that allow police to seize a sex worker’s condom supply and use it as evidence of their intent to engaged in sex work—a widely-used policy in several U.S. cities. 

 

Getting From Here to There 

 

Punitive laws against sex work are in place in 116 countries, including the United States, creating, according to the Open Society Foundations, “a state-sanctioned culture of stigma, discrimination, exploitation, and police and client violence against sex workers.”

 

Decriminalizing sex work in the United States is a long and challenging process, but there is a path to follow. The 1988 ban on federal funding for syringe exchange remained in place for 20 years and, after briefly lifting it in 2009, the Obama administration agreed to its reinstatement in 2011 at Congress’ insistence. Advocacy pressure to overturn it continues.

 

Thanks to the efforts of dedicated researchers and activists during the two decades between 1988-2009, public health professionals, medical institutions and virtually everyone working in the HIV-AIDS field learned why harm reduction practices are essential. Services to people who use drugs began to improve, although they are still inadequate, primarily because they are grossly under-funded. Progress has been made.

 

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a consensus statement that addressed the need for syringe exchange but also observed that “[p]rograms targeting sex workers have been highly efficacious in other countries, but [in the U.S., programs] will encounter cultural and political barriers.” The public silence maintained on this issue for the last 17 years is emblematic of those barriers.

 

But sex workers’ rights organizations in most U.S. cities, though heavily marginalized, have not been silent. They are struggling to end “condoms as evidence” practices, train health-care providers, find or establish sex worker-friendly health-care services, and demand their rightful place as invaluable allies in ending human trafficking and preventing the spread of HIV. Like the harm reductionists who set up the first syringe exchange sites in the United States, they need the support of mainstream sexual and reproductive health advocates willing to learn from them and join them. Like the early harm reductionists, they need the rest of us to bring our money, skills, and political support this human rights struggle.

 

We can’t stop HIV in the United States without sustainable and long-term solutions to end the arrest, detention, and incarceration of sex workers in the United States, as well as end the violations against sex workers within the correctional system. A meta-analysis of more than 800 other studies and reports, published in the recent Lancet series, listed abuse experienced by sex workers as including “homicide; physical and sexual violence, from law enforcement, clients, and intimate partners; unlawful arrest and detention; discrimination in accessing health services; and forced HIV testing.” It added “protection of sex workers is essential to respect, protect, and meet their human rights, and to improve their health and well-being.”

 

Expert voices in support of community-led, sex worker-centered health care in the fight against HIV are becoming more and more numerous. When will the mainstream HIV and AIDS organizations and women’s health advocacy communities join loudly in this demand?

 

by Anna Forbes and Sarah Elspeth Patterson

13 August 2014

Source: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/08/13/evidence-decriminalizing-sex-work-critical-public-health/

Young people demand sexual and reproductive health rights

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The first time Alfred went to a HIV voluntary testing centre, the healthcare provider did not treat him well. As a gay man, his story is not so rare.

“He [healthcare worker] asked me are you a man or a woman? I answered I am a man. Then he asked me about my parents,” said Alfred, who lives on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.

“He just looked at me and treated me as if I was a disgrace to my parents. I decided not to go to the health centre after that. Because I do not want to go to a place where I am judged based on my sexual orientation. I am gay and I have sex. So what? ”

Challenges for youth to accessing sexual and reproductive health

Key populations in the HIV epidemic, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people, have the same sexual and reproductive health rights as anyone else— the right to have sexual relations free from coercion, to have children and to protect themselves from infection.

Last week’s International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia was an opportunity for young people, especially youth from key populations, including young people living with HIV, to discuss the barriers and challenges they face in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.

During a session moderated by the Athena Network and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, one young panelist Violet Lindiwe, 23, from Malawi, said: “In my community, when you attend HIV testing and family planning, healthcare professionals are likely to judge you because they think you misbehaved and that’s why you are there.”

Myo Minn Htet, a young man from Indonesia, added: “Culture and religious beliefs make it very difficult to talk about sex and to go to sexual and reproductive health services. Moreover discrimination against young key populations make their access to these services more difficult.”

The legal age to attend health centres is also one of the barriers identified by young people. Annie Zamina from Malawi said: “In my country though the legal age to have sex is 16, you cannot go a clinic and ask for contraceptive pills without your parents’ approval. It seems that while the law says you’re old enough to have sex, you are still too young to use contraception or to protect yourself from HIV.”

young-people_inpost

Young people vulnerable to HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies

According to the UN, globally young people account for 40% of all new HIV infections. Each day, more than 2,400 young people become infected with HIV, and some 5 million young people aged 15–24 live with HIV.

Apart from HIV infection, poor access to sexual and reproductive health and sex education opens the door to many other consequences, such as unintended pregnancies and dropping out of school.

Violet said: “When you listen to me, you may think I have a PhD but in fact, I stopped school when I became pregnant. I have to care for me and my son now. And this is what happens to young women in my community when they get pregnant when still students.”

Integrated services

According to the World Health Organization, linking sexual and reproductive health with HIV services is an approach that has the potential to increase universal access to prevention, treatment, and care services.

This is what Link Up— a programme to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people—is trying to achieve. The project works with young people living with and affected by HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Uganda and is implemented by a consortium of organisations, including the International HIV/Aids Alliance, Global Youth Coalition against Aids, and the Athena Network.

Sexual and reproductive health rights

Reproductive rights only become tangible when reproductive health services that offer a high quality of care are made widely available. Availability includes both affordability and easy access, which also implies a range of services under one roof.

Like Alfred, Rebeccah, a young woman living with HIV from Zimbabwe, was also treated badly the first time she went to a clinic to receive counselling about contraception. She said: “The nurse said she was surprised I was still having sex considering my ‘condition’. And she told me I should abstain from sex since I am HIV positive. I cried a lot in her office and decided not to go to that clinic anymore.”

But Rebeccah, like many other young people, is now getting to grips with her rights. “As a young woman living with HIV, I am sexually active and I have the right to go a clinic for family planning services,” she said. “My status should not be an argument to be denied this service. And I really hope people should not use our status, our sexual orientation or sex work as argument to deny access to healthcare because we need, no, we demand access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.”

Nina Benedicte Kouassi is a member of the Key Correspondents network, which focuses on marginalised groups affected by HIV to report the health and human rights stories that matter to them. The network is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Feature image credit: Sheikh Rajibul Islam/International HIV/AIDS Alliance

In-post image credit: Julie Mellin/GYCA

By Nina B. Kouassi

30 July 2014

Source: http://stayingalivefoundation.org/blog/2014/07/young-people-demand-their-sexual-and-reproductive-health-rights/

Uganda: Anti-Gay Petition – Court Rules Today

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The Constitutional court is today expected to rule whether to strike down or uphold the Anti-Homosexuality Act, derided by the West but hugely popular in Uganda.

 

The petitioners include Prof Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, Andrew Mujuni Mwenda, Prof Morris Ogenga Latigo, Dr Paul Nsubuga Semugooma, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onzimema, Frank Mugisha and the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum. In their March 2014 petition, they claim the anti-homosexuality law, passed by Parliament on December 20, 2013, is "draconian" and "unconstitutional."

 

On Wednesday, the petition came up for hearing before Justices Steven Kavuma, Solomy Balungi Bossa, Augustine Nshimye, Eldad Mwangusya, and Rubby Opio Aweri.

 

No quorum?

Nicholas Opiyo, one of the petitioners' lawyers, said the law was illegal because Parliament passed it without quorum. He argued that passing a law without quorum contravened rule 23 of the parliamentary rules of procedure, and Articles 2(1) & (2), 88 and 94(1) of the Constitution.

 

Opiyo said on the day the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi warned Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga about the lack of quorum.

 

"The rules of Parliament provide that once it's brought to the attention of the speaker that there is no quorum, he/she should stand over the session such that a count is done and if it's found that indeed there's no quorum the session is adjourned. But the speaker did none of the above," he said.

 

Caleb Alaka, another lawyer for the petitioners, said on the day the law was passed, Hatwib Katoto, the Katerera MP, asked Mbabazi why he was opposing the law's passage yet many laws had been passed without quorum.

 

"My lord, here is a member of Parliament saying that it's normal for the Parliament of Uganda to pass laws illegally. The Hansard will bear us out on this one," Alaka said.

 

No evidence:

In reply, Principal State Attorney Patricia Mutesi asked court to dismiss the petition. Mutesi contended that the petitioners had failed to adduce evidence that there was no quorum when the act was passed."It's very clear that this is a matter of fact; so, it requires evidence. When an allegation of fact is made, it requires evidence to support it, which has not been done," she said. Mutesi agreed with petitioners that Kadaga did not ascertain if there was quorum but she insisted that it could not be a ground to nullify the act.

 

"In the circumstances, it would be unfair for this honourable court to find that there was no quorum since it has not been proved that there was no quorum. What has been produced is just a Hansard which doesn't show how many MPs were in the session that day…They should have produced a register," she said.

 

Mutesi contended that the court could not interpret Articles 21, 22, 88 and 94, as requested by the petitioners, in the absence of evidence to prove the alleged lack of quorum.

 

"We conclude that, for this court to come to the conclusion that there was no quorum, it would be speculation. Even failure to ascertain whether there was no quorum cannot imply that there was no quorum," she concluded.

 

However, Alaka maintained that the act should be nullified since Kadaga flouted rule 23 of parliamentary rules and procedure. The rule requires that before the speaker puts an issue to a vote, she must first ascertain whether there's quorum or not.

 

When President Museveni assented to the act in February, angry donors withdrew their aid, citing a violation of individuals' rights.

 

By Derrick Kiyonga

1 August 2014

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201408010223.html

Africa: Can the New African Court Truly Deliver Justice for Serious Crimes?

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As atrocities continue to be committed across Africa, the continent's leaders seem more concerned with their own fate before international courts than a rigorous pursuit of justice for these crimes.

It is hard to fathom that in 2014, commitments to end impunity are under threat by African leaders even though the continent has been ravaged by serious crimes for decades and the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) rejects impunity.

In adopting the draft protocol of the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights (African Court) at the recent AU Summit in Equatorial Guinea, African leaders have signed off on the establishment of a new court that will provide immunity from prosecution to serving heads of state and senior government officials for a range of serious crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide ('international crimes').

The adopted amendment to Article 46A of the protocol now reads, 'No charges shall be commenced or continued before the Court against any serving African Union Head of State or Government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such a capacity, or other senior states officials based on their function, during their tenure of office.'

The decision to entrench immunity for heads of state and senior officials was agreed to despite African and international civil society cautioning against it. African leaders had previously taken the immunity debate to the international level during the 12th Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in November 2013.

African states parties to the ICC tabled a proposal on behalf of the AU for the Rome Statute to be amended to exclude sitting heads of state from prosecution for international crimes.

The ASP rejected this proposal, although indications are that the same proposal is likely to be tabled again at the December 2014 ASP. This determination to exempt serving heads of state from prosecution for the gravest crimes known to mankind is highly concerning for supporters of international justice.

Discussions in Africa relating to immunity for heads of state who are wanted for international crimes began in 2006, when France and Spain issued arrest warrants against high-ranking Rwandan government officials, which provoked strong protests from Rwanda and the AU.

The cases at the ICC of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, have reignited the debate. These concerns no doubt informed the AU's decision to mandate its Commission in 2009 to consider the possibility of expanding the jurisdiction of the yet-to-be-established African Court to also try international crimes.

It is against this backdrop that the new African Court protocol must be viewed.

Another problem with the immunity provision in the protocol is that it extends beyond heads of state to include 'senior government officials.' Who exactly qualifies as a senior government official would be decided based on their functions during their tenure, on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with international law.

This definition is imprecise and potentially offers immunity from prosecution to a wide range of officials.

The potential threat that this spells for the protection of human rights in Africa cannot be overstated. Granting immunity offers free rein to senior officials and heads of state to perpetrate such crimes, and is likely to motivate them to cling to their official positions to avoid prosecution.

Even more worrisome is that this has taken place at a time when atrocities continue in countries such as South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The immunity provision flouts international law and is contrary to the national laws of African states like Kenya and South Africa. It goes against the very essence of promoting human rights, peace and stability, and presents a major setback to advancing democracy and the rule of law.

Africa has extensive accountability mechanisms at the national and regional levels, and many countries have acceded to international legal treaties that promote accountability. An African Court that can try serious crimes is another positive step for the continent. However, the protocol that was adopted at the AU summit in Malabo provides a protective veil that denies justice for victims, and is detrimental to accountability.

Can the African Court truly protect Africans against grave crimes and human rights abuses while it provides such immunity? Considering the progress made in bringing those responsible for gross crimes to justice, African states are urged to reconsider the proposed amendments before ratifying the protocol.

For the African Court to begin its work, the protocol must be ratified by 15 AU states, which means there is still an opportunity for governments to reconsider. To echo the words of the president of Botswana, heads of state need to ask themselves whether they want to be on the wrong side of history by opposing the arrest of prominent persons accused of serious crimes.

African leaders have the moral authority and responsibility to ensure that neither they nor any other person who perpetuates such crimes goes unpunished. In this way, they will demonstrate their commitment towards ensuring accountability through African solutions, including a reformed regional tribunal that serves justice for all Africans.

By Jemima Njeri Kariri

8 July 2014

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201407101017.html?viewall=1

Urban population boom poses massive challenges for Africa and Asia

The UN predicts that two-thirds of the world will live in cities by 2050, with 90% of growth taking place in the global south

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Two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, posing unique infrastructural challenges for African and Asian countries, where 90% of the growth is predicted to take place.

The planet's urban population – which overtook the number of rural residents in 2010 – is likely to rise by about 2.5 billion to more than 6 billion people in less than 40 years, according to a UN report. Africa and Asia "will face numerous challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, including for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and healthcare", it adds.

Future development targets should focus on creating inclusive cities with adequate infrastructure and services for all residents, said John Wilmoth, director of the UN's population division. "Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century," he said. "Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda."

The report says rapid urbanisation will bring opportunities for governments to improve access to important services. "Providing public transportation, as well as housing, electricity, water and sanitation for a densely settled population is typically cheaper and less environmentally damaging than providing a similar level of services to a predominantly rural household," it says.

Africa is projected to experience a 16% rise in its urban population by 2050 – making it the most rapidly urbanising region on the planet – as the number of people living in its cities soars to 56%.

The report predicts there will be more than 40 megacities worldwide by 2050,each with a population of at least 10 million. Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo are predicted to remain the world's most populous cities in 2030, when each is projected to be home to more than 30 million people.

"Several decades ago most of the world's largest urban agglomerations were found in the more developed regions, but today's large cities are concentrated in the global south," the UN says. "The fastest growing urban agglomerations are medium-sized cities and cities with fewer than 1 million inhabitants, located in Asia and Africa."

The world's 3.4 billion-strong rural population will start to decline as urbanisation becomes more common, the report says. The UN projects that rural populations will increase in only a third of countries between 2014 and 2050, as states with large rural communities will take longer to urbanise. "In general, the pace of urbanisation tends to slow down as a population becomes more urbanised," the report says.

The UN cautions that sustainable urbanisation requires cities to generate better income and employment opportunities, and "expand the necessary infrastructure for water and sanitation, energy, transportation, information and communications; ensure equal access to services; reduce the number of people living in slums; and preserve the natural assets within the city and surrounding areas".

Urbanisation has historically taken place in wealthy countries, but such expansion is now happening most rapidly in upper-middle-income countries, where gross national income per capita is between $1,046 and $4,125.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/global-develop​ment/2014/jul/10/urban-population-growth-africa-asia-united-nations

Post-2015 Agenda: Organized Chaos or Hot Mess?

Sexual and Reproductive Health in Trouble as Goals Move Forward 

UN flag on Crumpled paper texture

The latest version of the zero draft report from the Open Working Group developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hit the internet late Monday evening. This is the final draft that member states will have a chance to respond to before the final report is produced and shared with the Secretary General prior to the United Nations General Assembly in September. It is fairly similar to the last draft in that it still has the same 17 goals, with small semantic differences. Overall, there are fewer targets, but both the targets and the process are becoming increasingly convoluted.

 

This draft misses the integration, aspiration, transformation and sustainability that were meant to drive the post-2015 agenda.  We see important targets missing in this lengthy draft, but we have yet to really see the difficult trade-offs that a final set of implementable goals would require.

 

How have sexual and reproductive health and rights fared?

 

Sexual and reproductive health has disappeared from the Health Goal. While a target on sexual and reproductive health was previously included under both the Health and Gender goals, it now only appears under the Gender goal as “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the ICPD and the Beijing Platform for Action.” This is problematic for two reasons:

 

1.    Without SRH under the health goal, family planning is in jeopardy of not being recognized in this new development framework. SRHR is a major component of overall health not only for women and girls, but also for men and boys. It is therefore critical to be included within a discussion of health.

 

2.    The qualifier of ICPD and Beijing is unnecessary and weakens the human rights frame of the target. Nowhere else in the Open Working Group’s draft document is such a caveat introduced. As such, it undermines the principle of arriving at a forward-looking set of SDGs. There is no need to qualify universal access to sexual and reproductive health or reproductive rights. With a reference to ICPD and Beijing already in the introduction, we hope to see this qualifier removed.

 

What are other notable points?

 

  • It is good to see that in proposed Goal 6  (Ensure availability and sustainable use of water and sanitation for all), the following target remained: “By 2030, achieve adequate sanitation and hygiene for all, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls.” This is critical to mainstreamed access to reproductive health.
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  • Comprehensive sexuality education also remains absent from the latest document and should be inserted, ideally under the education goal.
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  • Equity has been and will continue to be a prevailing narrative in the post-2015 agenda.

 

What’s next?

 

In New York for the Open Working Group session last week, you could see will, desire, and investment on the faces of delegates, civil society, co-chairs. But you could also see the fatigue. This has been a long and intensive exercise that has lasted nearly two years already. Now is the time point to put words down on paper and respond to drafts in order to rescue the jumbled mess that the draft goals have become.

 

The final round of informal discussions by the Open Working Group takes place July 14 to 18. The co-chairs (from Kenya and Hungary) will incorporate this final feedback from member states into a final report submitted to the Secretary General in August. A report will simultaneously be submitted by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. The Secretary General will then take these inputs, among others, and produce his own report, and full negotiations are expected to start in January 2015. The co-chairs of the post-2015 summit (September 21 to 23) are Denmark and Papua New Guinea.

 

By A. Tianna Scozzaro, Population and Climate Associate - 

3 July 2014

Source: http://www.populationaction.org/blog/2014/07/03/post-2015-agenda-organized-chaos-or-hot-mess/#sthash.VKfcdhBU.dpuf