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India court recognises transgender people as third gender.

India women AIDS Accountability International Transgender

India's Supreme Court has recognised transgender people as a third gender, in a landmark ruling.

"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.

According to one estimate, India has about two million transgender people.

In India, a common term used to describe transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs and transvestites is hijra.

Campaigners say they live on the fringes of society, often in poverty, ostracised because of their gender identity. Most make a living by singing and dancing or by begging and prostitution.

 

Rights groups say they often face huge discrimination and that sometimes hospitals refuse to admit them.

They have been forced to choose either male or female as their gender in most public spheres.

'Proud Indian'

"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," Justice KS Radhakrishnan, who headed the two-judge Supreme Court bench, said in his ruling on Tuesday.

"Transgenders are also citizens of India" and they must be "provided equal opportunity to grow", the court said.

"The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender."

The judges asked the government to treat them in line with other minorities officially categorised as "socially and economically backward", to enable them to get quotas in jobs and education.

"We are quite thrilled by the judgement," Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC.

"The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets," she said.

Prominent transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, who was among the petitioners in the case, welcomed the judgement, saying the community had long suffered from discrimination and ignorance in the traditionally conservative country, reports the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian," Ms Tripathi told reporters outside the court in Delhi.

In 2009, India's Election Commission took a first step by allowing transgenders to choose their gender as "other" on ballot forms.

But India is not the first country to recognise a third gender. Nepal recognised a third gender as early as in 2007 when the Supreme Court ordered the government to scrap all laws that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And last year, Bangladesh also recognised a third gender.

Tuesday's ruling comes after the Supreme Court's decision in December which criminalised gay sex by reversing a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts.

According to a 153-year-old colonial-era law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code – a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Legal experts say Tuesday's judgement puts transgender people in a strange situation: on the one hand, they are now legally recognised and protected under the Constitution, but on the other hand they may be breaking the law if they have consensual gay sex.

By Yogita Limaye

15 April 2014

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-27031180

Memorandum on Human Rights Priorities for the European Union-Africa Summit.

Introduction

The European Union (EU)-Africa summit provides an important opportunity to highlight crucial human rights developments in both Africa and Europe. Progress is being made on many human rights issues in an array of countries, but daunting challenges remain. The summit agenda includes both democracy and governance and peace and security, two broad topics that include a range of human rights concerns.

Human Rights Watch is concerned by some of the negative trends, particularly in Africa regarding the respect for human rights defenders and violations of the rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly, and in the EU in relation to the rights of migrant and asylum seekers, and discrimination and intolerance towards migrants and minorities.

This memorandum summarizes key thematic concerns, provides links to specific country information where relevant, and urges African and European member states to implement recommendations that would help address ongoing human rights violations that threaten the lives and well-being of citizens across the continent, as well as the sustainable development of numerous countries.

I. Democracy and Good Governance

Threats to Freedom of Expression, Association, and Peaceful Assembly in Africa

The proliferation of a wide range of nongovernmental organizations and independent media has been among the most important positive developments across Africa in the past two decades. Independent media, civil society activists, and nongovernmental organizations play essential roles in any democratic society, whether through investigating and reporting on government policy, exposing corruption and human rights violations, advocating for the rights of minorities and vulnerable communities, or providing health, education, and other social services.

Human rights defenders—whether individuals, groups, lawyers, or journalists—are fundamental to ensuring the ability of all people to know, understand, and enjoy their rights. They also play a key role in exposing as well as assisting those seeking redress for human rights violations. A vibrant civil society and independent media is also critical for the conduct of free and fair elections in line with international standards. Furthermore, recent events in North Africa and the Arab world demonstrate how public access to communications and Internet technology and the increasing use of social media have amplified both the appetite for information as well as the ability of individuals from all segments of society to organize and respond to developments that affect their lives and interests.

Yet these exciting trends have also provoked a backlash in a number of countries, particularly those governed by longstanding, often authoritarian leaders and ruling parties who fear and suppress independent criticism, political opposition, and peaceful public dissent. As briefly described below, the backlash has assumed a number of forms including: threats, harassment, arbitrary detention, and prosecution of human rights defenders; censorship of independent media and nongovernmental voices; the promulgation and use of laws that violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association; and unlawful state efforts to undermine, bar, or crack down on peaceful protests.

Harassment and Prosecution of Human Rights Defenders
Harassment, threats, arbitrary detentions, and politically motivated prosecutions of human rights defenders, including journalists, human rights activists, anti-corruption campaigners, and others have become an alarming, regular feature of too many countries in Africa.

Eritrea presents an extreme case where no independent civil society or media is permitted to operate, but other countries have shown an increasingly repressive tendency or created a hostile environment in which activists and media self-censor due to fear of heavy-handed repercussions.

In countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, journalists and human rights defenders have been the target of threats and physical attacks from state agents. In others, such as in Kenya and Somalia, unidentified assailants who may or may not be affiliated with the state are responsible for numerous acts of violence, including killings. In other countries, such as Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan, abuses usually take the form of harassment, arbitrary detentions, and prosecutions.

Many countries have used a combination of direct threats and oppressive laws and state policies to undermine human rights defenders. Rwanda’s domestic human rights movement has been almost destroyed by state intimidation, personal threats, infiltration, and administrative obstacles. In Burundithe government has often responded to the work of human rights activists and journalists by labeling them mouthpieces of the opposition. Ethiopia’s independent human rights groups have been forced to either stop working on human rights issues or dramatically curtail their activities due to increasingly repressive laws on association and restrictions on foreign funding. Equatorial Guinea also imposes excessive restrictions on the registration and operation of nongovernmental groups, and has no legally registered independent human rights groups. Sudan has shut down human rights and democracy organizations without cause, imposed burdensome registration requirements, and has used its repressive national security apparatus to monitor civil society groups and target individual activists for arrest and detention.

Harassment and arrests of human rights defenders by state security forces frequently increases in the lead-up or aftermath of national elections, as occurred in Zimbabwe in 2013. In Uganda, threats to civil society activists and the media have been linked to reporting on sensitive issues like corruption, oil, land or President Yoweri Museveni’s eventual succession. The Ugandan government’s raids on theDaily Monitor, a leading newspaper, and other media in May 2013 was a clear example of the severity of politically motivated attacks against the media. Uganda’s ruling party uses a wide range of tactics to stifle critical reporting, from occasional physical violence to threats, harassment, bureaucratic interference, and trumped-up criminal charges against journalists. This was particularly apparent during political unrest in September 2009 and prior to the February 2011 elections.

In certain countries, such as Cameroonand Uganda, activists working on the rights of vulnerable minorities—such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)—have had workshops shut down and faced particular threats. In Zambia, an HIV/AIDS activist is currently on trial simply for suggesting in a TV interview that decriminalizing same-sex conduct would help facilitate HIV outreach to sexual minorities. Recent laws criminalizing homosexuality in Nigeria and Uganda present a worrying trend that could also have significant impact on human rights activism and advocacy more broadly given the wide latitude of the legislation. In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law on January 7, 2014, the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill. It is a sweeping and dangerous piece of legislation that criminalizes public displays of affection between same-sex couples and restricts the work of organizations defending gay people and their rights. The law could lead to imprisonment solely for a person’s actual or imputed sexual orientation. People could face charges for consensual adult sexual relations in private; advocacy of LGBT rights; or public expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The terms “same-sex marriage” and “civil union” are so broadly defined in the law that they include virtually any form of same-sex cohabitation.

Mainstream human rights organizations in Nigeria could be threatened for opposing the law, and have said they fear speaking out about it. Funders or supporters of LGBT rights and related work in Nigeria could also face increased scrutiny under the law. The law will hinder public health efforts to work on HIV and could criminalize programs funded by major donors that provide education on HIV prevention and health for men who have sex with men.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law on February 24, 2014. The new law not only increases the penalty for same-sex conduct to up to life imprisonment, but creates a raft of new and vague criminal offenses that violate the rights to freedom of expression and association among others. The “attempt to commit homosexuality” now incurs a penalty of seven years as does “aiding and abetting” homosexuality. A person who “keeps a house, room, set of rooms, or place of any kind for purposes of homosexuality” also faces seven years’ imprisonment. Because the law also criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality, a person could now go to prison simply for expressing a peaceful opinion. Local and international nongovernmental organizations doing legitimate human rights advocacy could now be at risk of criminal sentencing of up to seven years. Public health promotion and prevention efforts targeting “at risk” groups might have to be curtailed, and health educators and healthcare providers could face criminal prosecution under the same provision.

Human Rights Watch urges African and EU representatives participating in the summit to call for and support:
• Thorough investigations of any cases of harassment, threats, or violence against human rights defenders and other civil society activists, and violations of their rights to free expression, association and assembly. Those responsible for such abuses should be held accountable, regardless of position or rank.
• Uganda and Nigeria to take immediate steps to suspend implementation and repeal discriminatory legislation and take substantive steps to ensure all laws comply with their international human rights obligations.
• Thorough reviews of the impact of the Ugandan and Nigerian laws on all EU-supported development projects and programs, particularly taking time to ensure that objectives can be met without a) exposing implementing partners, project employees or beneficiaries to possible criminal prosecution under the laws, and b) discrimination or discriminatory provision of services.

Abusive Laws Regulating the Media and Civil Society
Journalists in Africa are frequently arrested and prosecuted under a variety of laws for doing their work as reporters in violation of international protections for free expression and media freedom. Ethiopia’s prosecution of at least 13 journalists under its counterterrorism law has been a particularly sinister misuse of domestic legislation. More often, countries seeking to limit the independent media introduce specific media legislation. A media law adopted in Burundi in June 2013 undermines the protection of sources, limits subjects on which journalists may report, imposes new fines for media found in violation of the law, and requires journalists to have a minimum level of education and professional experience. Following a legal challenge by the Burundian Union of Journalists, the Constitutional Court ruled in January 2014 that certain articles of the media law were unconstitutional. This provides an opportunity for the Burundian government to not only modify those articles, but ensure that the law as a whole respects journalistic freedom and protects Burundi’s vibrant independent media. Kenya is currently considering legislation that could give authorities a broad remit to censor media and limit foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations.

In Rwanda, where journalists have faced years of intimidation, media laws adopted in 2013 appeared to increase the scope for independent journalism, but a range of other laws have been used to silence media criticism. After several journalists were arrested and convicted in connection with their articles, most Rwandan journalists do not dare investigate or report on human rights abuses by the state or comment on politically sensitive issues.

Criminal defamation laws remain a concern across a number of African countries, particularly Angola, where the country’s most prominent anti-corruption campaigner, Rafael Marques de Morais, has been subjected to nine defamation lawsuits in the last year. Yet civil defamation laws can also be problematic. For example, by allowing damage awards in defamation cases that are far beyond the ability of most Liberian newspapers to pay—and mandating imprisonment for non-payment—Liberian law makes imprisonment the likely outcome of many civil defamation cases, which creates a serious chilling effect on journalism.

Public order and information laws are also frequently used to curtail independent media and civil society activities and public demonstrations on governance issues. For instance the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order Security Act in Zimbabweand the recently passed Public Order Management Bill in Ugandahave been or may be used in this way. Even South Africa, widely considered to be one of the most liberal media environments on the continent, has passed a controversial Protection of State Information Bill, known as the “Secrecy Bill,” which could limit protection for journalists and whistleblowers seeking to report information that is in the public interest.

Yet the picture is not entirely bleak. A growing number of African countries, such as Sierra Leone, have passed or are in the process of passing freedom of information laws that could play a crucial role in improving government transparency, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
Human Rights Watch urges African and EU representatives participating in the summit to:
• Call for the repeal or amendment of legislation that restricts freedom of expression and association, including provisions that limit foreign funding, impose arbitrary or intrusive requirements on the ability of nongovernmental organizations to function, or limit the types of lawful activity that organizations can undertake.
• Support legislation, such as freedom of information laws and other legislation that promotes the rights to freedom of information, expression and association.

Crackdowns on Peaceful Protests
Restrictions on freedom of expression and association are often coupled with crackdowns on public protests. Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Angola, to name a few, have seen public demonstrations in the past few years on a variety of issues, often linked to public concerns over corruption, accountability or state failure to respect human rights and account for violations.

The situation in Burundi is becoming increasingly tense, with repeated confrontations between opposition party members, on the one hand, and the police and the government on the other. Government and police have obstructed opposition party meetings and disrupted demonstrations and other activities. In February, the government attempted to impose pro-ruling party leaders on the opposition party UPRONA, prompting the resignation of all three UPRONA ministers and effectively splitting the party into two. In March, violent clashes between the police and members of the MSD opposition party led to arrests, injuries, and a suspension of the MSD. In March, 69 MSD members were charged in connection with their alleged role in a confrontation with the police. After a summary trial that lasted just one day, and with no time to prepare their defense, 21 were sentenced to life imprisonment, and 34 to various other prison terms.

Sudan’s violent repression of protests in Khartoum and other cities and towns in September 2013 resulted in 170 deaths of protesters and the detention of hundreds. Sudanese security forces arbitrarily detained and tortured peaceful protesters in 2011 and 2012. The Angolan government has responded to periodic protests by a youth movement and war veterans with regular arbitrary detentions and the use of unnecessary or excessive force by security forces. In a similar fashion, the Zimbabwe security forces have quashed peaceful protests with excessive force and arbitrary arrests and detention. Protests by members of the Muslim community in Ethiopia have been met with excessive force, beatings, and detentions, a pattern replicated in Uganda, which has seen several protest movements quashed by abusive police and other security forces.

The EU-Africa summit should:
• Stress that the right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental right embodied in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights law.
• Condemn the unnecessary or excessive use of force by security forces in response to protests.
• Call on the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights to investigate serious situations in which state security forces have used excessive force against protesters, including most recently in Sudan.

II. Peace and Security

The rapid escalation of conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan over the past several months demonstrates the unintended consequences of decades of repression, weak institutions, corruption, and the legacy of impunity in some African countries.

In South Sudan, conflict erupted in December 2013 between pro-government and opposition forces, and has included massive abuses against civilians. The violence has taken on dangerous ethnic overtones across the country and reflects South Sudan’s legacy of impunity for mass crimes during years of civil war. Human Rights Watch has urged both parties to end abuses and ensure justice for crimes against civilians as a key step toward lasting peace.

The African Union (AU) responded in late December by establishing a Commission of Inquiry into the human rights violations and abuses committed. The Commission is set to begin work in April. Human Rights Watch and other international and South Sudanese groups have called on the AU to ensure the Commission be effective, credible, impartial, and independent, that it be staffed with relevant forensic investigators and human rights experts, and that it make public its findings. The EU, which has also pledged to support accountability, should extend support to the AU’s Commission.

With regard to the CAR, to their credit, both the EU and AU responded by pledging or deploying troops in a very insecure and dangerous situation. Those responses have been much appreciated by residents of CAR and the humanitarian actors working to address the massive crisis there.

Human Rights Watch has been documenting abuses in the CAR for the past year and has observed that the presence of the peacekeepers has deterred some violence. In other cases, however, we have seen troops abandon their neutrality and get drawn into the conflict between the Seleka and anti-balaka forces. In some instances, Chadian peacekeeping troops have facilitated the movement of armed Seleka leaders—complicit in grave abuses—to areas where the Seleka can regroup. We have urged the AU to rein in these rogue forces and prevent them from allowing the Seleka to prey on civilians.

Human Rights Watch has also repeatedly called for the augmentation of African and European peacekeeping in CAR, particularly with the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force that can help stabilize the divided nation, prevent further abuses, and help rebuild tattered institutions. Until that force is on the ground, the AU peacekeeping force, known as MISCA, and the French Sangaris need to take immediate additional measures to provide greater security, including actively patrolling areas vulnerable to violence, especially those where minority Muslim populations remain. In the wake of the Seleka collapse, thousands of Muslim residents have fled to the neighboring countries of Chad,Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Remaining Muslim residents are at extreme risk of violence, either in their homes or on the streets, in Bangui or in more remote locations, such as the south western region. There is an urgent need for more peacekeepers and more resources to contend with this human rights and humanitarian catastrophe.

African and EU representatives at the summit should:
• Call on all the warring parties in South Sudan to protect civilians and civilian property;
• Ensure that the South Sudan Commission of Inquiry is effective, credible, impartial, and independent, that it is staffed with competent forensic investigators and human rights experts, and that it makes its findings public.
• Urgently support the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in the CAR and expedite the deployment of EU forces in the interim.

Africa and International Justice

In 2014, the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide acts as a sober reminder that ensuring accountability for international crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide remains one of the most urgent issues on the continent. The EU-Africa summit comes at a time of intense challenges for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Africa. The election of ICC suspects Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as Kenya’s president and deputy president has generated renewed backlash to the ICC from the AU and some African leaders. The EU-Africa summit is an important moment for African ICC member states to affirm support for the court.

The ICC has its flaws, but it is a crucial court of last resort. Its reach should be expanded, not hindered. Ideally, domestic courts will have the capacity and willingness to ensure justice when serious crimes in violation of international law are committed, but in many cases the judiciary in countries where such crimes are perpetrated is weak. Regional courts have also faced difficulty in their judgments being respected or continuing to operate after taking independent decisions.

There are double standards in the application of international justice: some powerful countries have not joined the ICC and the Security Council has used its power to refer situations to the ICC inconsistently. But justice should not be denied where it is possible because it is not yet possible everywhere. African governments should press for justice wherever the worst crimes are committed, such as in Syria, but not hinder the prospects for justice in Africa. As has been shown in countries such as Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya, impunity tends to foster renewed crimes.

A 2013 AU summit decision calls for immunity for sitting officials before international courts. This is contrary to the very core of the ICC’s Rome Statute, which considers the official capacity of those responsible for grave crimes to be irrelevant. This has been a cornerstone of international law since the post-World War II trials at Nuremberg, and is included in the statutes of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The EU-Africa summit should:
• Reaffirm the importance of the ICC in bringing to justice those responsible for the gravest international crimes that cannot be prosecuted in domestic courts.

The Rights of Asylum Seekers and Migrants in the EU

The approach of the EU and its member states to migration and asylum is too often characterized by an emphasis on migration control and border enforcement at the expense of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, including the right to seek asylum.

Deaths at Sea
The death of over 500 people in October 2013 in two shipwrecks off the Italian island of Lampedusa rightly focused the EU’s attention on boat migration in the Mediterranean. That same month Italy launched an ongoing naval search and rescue operation called Mare Nostrum that has rescued over 14,000 people by mid-March 2014. In December 2013, the Council of the EU endorsed recommendations developed by a specially created task force on short and medium-term measures to limit the loss of life of migrants and asylum seekers at sea.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that many of the EU’s proposed policy responses, though framed in terms of saving lives, reflect the EU’s preoccupation with border enforcement through an emphasis on preventing departure and barring entry. This can be seen in the focus on increased border surveillance—primarily through the launch of EUROSUR, a platform for information sharing among EU countries for the purpose of detecting irregular migratory movements—cooperation with countries of origin and of transit, including joint naval patrols, and a crackdown on people smuggling. The debate has revived longstanding disputes among EU member states about responsibilities for rescue operations, for determining where those rescued should be disembarked, and for processing migrants and asylum seekers.

Enhanced efforts to save lives at sea should go hand-in-hand with respect for other fundamental rights, such as the right to seek asylum and protection against torture and ill-treatment. Human Rights Watch recommends the EU to take the following steps:
• Ensure that increased surveillance of the Mediterranean, including through implementation of EUROSUR, is focused on the paramount duty of rescue at sea, on the basis of a broad definition of distress and a presumption that all intercepted or rescued persons will be taken to the closest safe port of call in an EU country;
• Adopt binding rules to avoid disputes about disembarkation points to ensure that migrants are taken promptly to a safe port of call and given access to asylum, including in situations where the rescue is conducted by private vessels;
• Develop orderly and legal entry mechanisms for asylum seekers; and
• Ensure that immigration cooperation with sending and transit countries is subject to clear and enforceable human rights safeguards.

Access to Asylum
While the EU has moved towards harmonization of asylum procedures and reception standards across the Union, including with the adoption in June 2013 of an asylum package, asylum seekers face gaps in protection in a number of member states. Despite reforms in Greece, asylum seekers there continue to encounter serious obstacles accessing the asylum system, a large backlog in processing cases, and inadequate reception conditions or prolonged detention in sometimes abusive conditions. Asylum seekers in Bulgaria also face poor reception and detention conditions, as well as summary returns to Turkey without proper procedures and excessive use of force by border police. Italy has largely failed to implement a long-term approach for asylum seekers and refugees, adopting instead short-lived “emergency plans” that do not guarantee consistent, adequate standards of treatment, conditions, and access to asylum.

Summary expulsions from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco are also a problem, raising concerns that persons in need of international protection are being denied access to asylum procedures and other protections, and that both asylum seekers and irregular migrants are returned without due process to the risk of abuse at the hands of Moroccan security forces. Fifteen migrants drowned on February 6, 2014, while swimming to Ceuta amid serious concerns that the actions of the Spanish Guardia Civil, including firing rubber bullets and teargas at the water, contributed to the deaths.

Recent reform of EU directives brought certain improvements to common EU standards, but the common rules provide broad grounds for detention of asylum seekers, do not obligate member states to provide free legal assistance at first instance, and fail to exempt especially vulnerable asylum seekers, including torture survivors and unaccompanied children, from accelerated procedures. Maltahas a virtually automatic detention policy for up to 18 months, while asylum seekers in Greece may also be held in detention for up to 18 months if they apply for asylum after being detained for irregular migration.

Accelerated procedures at borders, including asylum hearings, are inherently unsuitable for complex cases, and make it difficult for individuals to present medical or other evidence of their need for international protection. Human Rights Watch has documented how such procedures put unaccompanied children at risk of expedited removal from France and fast-track women victims of sexual violence in the United Kingdom into detention and denial of protection.

Asylum seekers as well as unaccompanied children also face transfers between EU countries under the Dublin regulation or bilateral agreements. The Dublin regulation requires as a general rule that the first EU country of entry be responsible for assessing asylum claims, and allows member states to return anyone to the first EU country they entered even if that first country lacks a fully functioning asylum system and adequate reception conditions, or otherwise offers less protection. Recent reforms to the regulation have improved safeguards, including by requiring member states to assess the risk of inhuman or degrading treatment before transfer to another EU country. Concerns remain that theDublin system does not properly weigh the variety of factors that might connect an asylum seeker to one state over another, including wider family relations, community ties, language, as well as personal preference of the applicant. Human Rights Watch has also documented how Italy bypasses the Dublin regulation entirely through summary returns to Greece of adult asylum seekers and unaccompanied children who stow away on ferries from Greece to Italy.

We urge the EU-Africa summit to reaffirm the importance of access to fair and effective asylum procedures and decent reception conditions. EU institutions should monitor and enforce, including through infringement proceedings, full compliance with EU asylum regulations. EU member states should consider further reforming the Dublin regulation. Detention of asylum seekers should be used only as a last resort and for the shortest time possible, and EU countries should not detain unaccompanied children and families with children, but rather provide them with safe reception accommodation.

Discrimination and Intolerance in the EU

Discrimination and intolerance against minorities, including Muslims and Roma, and migrants is a serious concern across the EU. Comprehensive data compiled by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, judgments by the European Court of Human Rights, assessments by UN treaty bodies and experts, as well as numerous NGO reports, including by Human Rights Watch, all point to persistent hostility and discrimination against certain groups.

Despite binding international and regional norms on combating hate crimes, numerous EU countries lack robust legislation and machinery to adequately address violence based on ethnic or racial prejudice. Human Rights Watch has documented the failure of police and the judiciary in ItalyandGreece to investigate, prosecute, and punish appropriately xenophobic attacks against migrants and minorities, and the inadequacy of state response to hate crimes in Germany.

The use of unlawful ethnic profiling by law enforcement affects minorities and migrants in EU countries. In France, overly broad grounds for police stops and the lack of clear guidelines leads to repeated and abusive identity checks targeting blacks and Arabs, violating anti-discrimination norms and undermining police-community relations. In Greece, Athens police conduct abusive stops and searches based on ethnic profiling and have detained tens of thousands of people, including many legal migrants, in an ongoing police operation to crack down on irregular migration.

While Muslims in the EU face discrimination in a variety of spheres, Muslim women have been particularly singled out by measures aimed at curbing the wearing of the Muslim headscarf and the full-face veil. Some countries, including France and Germany (in eight out of sixteen states), prohibit civil servants, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols. Franceand Belgium have adopted laws prohibiting the concealment of one’s face in public. In all these cases, parliamentary debates have made it clear that Muslim religious dress is the principal target of such bans. Comparable nationwide bans have been proposed in a variety of other countries, including Italy, the United Kingdom, and Denmark, while a number of municipalities in Spain and Italy already have, or are contemplating, local bans.

The situation for Roma, Europe’s largest ethnic minority, is particularly alarming. The EU collectively recognizes that the persistent discrimination and marginalization require intervention, and has developed a strategy and funding to that end. But in practice Roma migrants from Eastern Europe face forced eviction and expulsion in Franceand Italy. Further east, in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, the situation is even more alarming, with little progress toward ending forced evictions and housing and school segregation (also a problem in Greece), despite hundreds of millions of euros in EU funding and binding rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

We encourage participants in the EU-Africa summit to engage in a frank discussion about discrimination and intolerance in the EU. EU member states and institutions should take steps to ensure robust response to hate crimes, to prohibit explicitly the use of ethnic profiling by law enforcement, and implement fully strategies to address deep and widespread discrimination against Roma. EU institutions should affirm the fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of religion, and the right to autonomy of Muslim women.

Human Rights Enforcement in the EU

The Treaty on European Union states that the EU is founded on respect for human rights. As outlined in the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy—adopted by the Council of the EU in June 2012—this means both ensuring that the Union’s relations with other countries are founded on respect for human rights, and ensuring rights for everyone are respected within the Union itself. Yet EU institutions have failed to respond adequately to some of the most pressing human rights concerns inside the EU, including abusive laws and practices by some member states.

The European Commission has the power to bring infringement proceedings against member states when they fail to apply correctly and adequately EU law, including in relation to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is binding on EU member states when they are applying EU law. Ultimately such proceedings can lead to judgments by the European Court of Justice and sanctions. While the Commission has sought to use infringement proceedings in some cases involving human rights, it is has been reluctant to use human rights as the basis. Its decision-making and criteria have been opaque, and it has sometimes accepted cosmetic changes as sufficient to halt proceedings. The Commission has also been hesitant to confront member states on their human rights records in its annual report.

The European Parliament has been more outspoken on occasion and has played an important role in scrutinizing EU legislation and challenging EU policy on human rights. But political and national allegiances have sometimes blunted the Parliament’s effectiveness.

The response of the Council of the EU has been particularly disappointing. It has established a Working Party on Fundamental Rights and Free Movement of Persons (FREMP), where member state officials can discuss human rights challenges and possible EU action in response to violations by member states. But the work of FREMP has in fact been largely confined to negotiating EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and no meaningful engagement with civil society has been established. Faced with systematic efforts by the Hungarian government to undermine the rule of law and human rights, for example, and the failure of member states to respect their obligation to investigate complicity in acts of torture and enforced disappearances in the context of the CIA rendition program, the Council has been silent.

The Council acknowledged for the first time, in June 2013, the need to do more to address human rights violations within the EU, and called on the Commission to “take forward the debate … on the possible need for and shape of a collaborative and systematic method to tackle these issues.”
In March 2014, the European Commission announced a new “rule of law mechanism” that would allow it to challenge member states over “systematic threats to the rule of law” that nonetheless fall short of the threshold for action under article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the EU’s most powerful (but never used) enforcement tool. Though a welcome signal of the Commission’s pledge to act when fundamental values come under threat, concerns remain that the new mechanism does little to overcome the lack of political will that obstructs genuine human rights enforcement in the EU.

Human Rights Watch calls on the EU to heed the detailed recommendations of the Human Rights and Democracy Network, a platform of 48 organizations of which Human Rights Watch is a coordinating member, to improve scrutiny of and accountability for human rights violations within EU borders. These recommendations were set out in an August 2013 statement. The EU should define a more comprehensive internal human rights strategy that mirrors its external strategic framework, and devise a corresponding action plan to guide collective EU action. All EU institutions, including the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council should embrace an ambitious mandate to deploy effectively existing institutional arrangements to promote and protect the full range of rights within the EU, including a willingness to hold individual member states to account when they violate human rights.

Children and Armed Conflict

In the majority of countries with armed conflicts around the world, national armed forces or armed groups have used schools for military purposes, with devastating consequences for the safety and well-being of children and their right to education.

Across Africa, schools have been used for military purposes in at least nine countries since 2005: Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan. For example, in Congo, armed forces occupied and used schools in Katanga and North and South Kivu in 2013. In South Sudan in 2012, troops used at least 18 schools, affecting approximately 13,000 children. The cost to repair damage cause by such use was around US$67,000 per school.

Good policies and practices have emerged in both Africa and Europe to protect schools from military use. In South Sudan, a 2012 order of the army deputy chief of staff “unconditionally prohibited” forces from “occupying schools, interfering with or disrupting school classes or activities, or using school facilities for any purpose.” In Cote d’Ivoire, nongovernmental organizations shared information on military use of schools with UN peacekeepers, who then advocated with state and non-state actors to leave occupied schools. In Ireland, the Defence Act states that military manoeuvers and encampments cannot interfere with schools or school grounds. In the United Kingdom, the Manual on the Law of Armed Conflict prohibits the use of education institutions for purposes likely to expose it to damage, unless there is no feasible alternative.

As of March 2014, the following AU and EU member states have expressed their support for the process of finalizing the Draft Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, which urge armed forces to refrain from using schools and provide six guidelines for good practice: Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Lithuania, Portugal, Senegal, Slovenia, South Sudan, and Sweden.

The EU-Africa summit should:
• Urge efforts to reduce the harm to children and schools during armed conflict, and support the process of the Draft Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

Women’s Human Rights

Human Rights Watch has documented a range of human rights abuses against women and girls in both the EU, for example in Hungaryand Belgium, and in Africa, such as in Somaliaand Kenya. Cooperation between the EU and Africa is particularly important and useful in three areas: ending child marriage, protecting rights of domestic workers, and ending gender-based violence in conflict.

Child Marriage
Human Rights Watch has documented the myriad of human rights abusesaround the practice of child, early and forced marriage in a number of countries, including in South Sudan. The chair of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has unequivocally statedthat “We must do away with child marriage.” The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child states that child marriage and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited and effective action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify the minimum age of marriage to be 18 years and make registration of all marriages in an official registry compulsory. The EU is currently developing a large campaign and strategy to end child marriage.

Human Rights Watch urges Africa and the EU to cooperate and to include the following recommendations in any effort to end early, child and forced marriages:
• Set and enforce the legal minimum age of marriage at 18.
• Require verification of age and the full and free consent of both spouses.
• Establish and enforce compulsory marriage registers.
• Provide sufficient training to law enforcement officials on gender discrimination, violence against women, and early, child and forced marriage specifically.
• Recognize marital rape as a criminal offense.
• Increase access to education for girls—including married girls, access to reproductive and obstetric health care for all girls and women.

Domestic Workers’ Rights
An estimated 50 to 100 million people, a vast majority of them women and girls, are employed in private homes as domestic workers. Human Rights Watch has documented abuses against domestic workers around the world, including in Moroccoand Guinea. Abuses include being grossly underpaid, extremely long work hours, no freedom of movement, and physical, sexual and psychological abuse. In July 2011, members of the International Labour Organization—governments, trade unions, and employers’ associations—voted overwhelmingly to adopt the ILO Convention No. 189 Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which established the first global standards for the millions of domestic workers worldwide.

In Africa, good examples are starting to emerge. Both South Africa and Mauritius have ratified the convention. Zambia and Tanzania have raised the minimum wage for domestic workers. A landmark court ruling in Kenya in December 2012 placed domestic workers under the protection of the labor law, extending to them the national minimum wage and social security benefits.

The Council of the EU, the European Commission, and the European Parliament have called on EU countries to ratify the convention. To date, only Italy and Germany have done so, while Ireland and Belgium have pledged their intent to ratify. Spain has issued a royal decree that ensures domestic workers the minimum wage, maximum working week of 40 hours, and minimum daily rest periods.

Human Rights Watch urges the EU and Africa to encourage ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention and act to ensure all member countries implement the convention’s terms.

Gender-Based Violence during Armed Conflict
Human Rights Watch has documented gender-based violence in conflict in Democratic Republic of CongoCote d’IvoireSudan, and Guinea, and earlier in Bosnia and Kosovo.Most recently, Human Rights Watch has been conducting research in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, where sexual violence is pervasive, including by government soldiers and allied militia. This is due in large part to failed or non-existent state structures to protect women, particularly vulnerable groups such as internally displaced women and girls, and to ensure justice for abuses and tackle the social and economic vulnerability of women and girls. Women interviewed by Human Rights Watch described a paralyzing climate of fear, where no place was safe, and many women are vulnerable to attack, and where perpetrators attacked with impunity.

The EU has developed and adopted a comprehensive approachto the EU implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security. Individual European countries have developed their own initiatives, most notably the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative of the United Kingdom. Similarly, the AU adopted resolution 1325 unanimously in the AU Security Council in 2000. Human Rights Watch has learned that the AU is currently in the process of developing a code of conduct for its troops on sexual violence and harassment, a particularly welcome step given recent events in Somalia.

In order to curtail gender-based violence in situations of conflict, Human Rights Watch urges the EU and Africa to:
• Comprehensively address prevention, access to services, access to justice, legal reform and the overall promotion of women’s participation, equality and empowerment.
• Support the UN special representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
• Implement the full Security Council resolution 1325 agenda, including subsequent Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1890, and 1960.
• Where lacking, adopt a clear code of conduct on sexual violence and harassment for security forces and peacekeeping personnel, and ensure that regional efforts are done in coordination with already existing mechanisms to combat gender based violence.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)—adopted by a majority of African and EU countries as well as the EU itself—explicitly recognizes the importance of international cooperation in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities. Making human rights integral to development—and the post-2015 development framework in particular—would contribute to more just and inclusive development outcomes, would encourage a focus on the poorest and most marginalized communities, such as people with disabilities, and would draw attention to the underlying and systemic reasons why people with disabilities often do not receive services, resources or economic opportunities, and prompt action to address them.

With respect to legislative reform, a number of countries within the EU and Africa, including Ghana, Ireland, and Zambia, have completed or are currently engaged in mental health law reform to comply with their obligations under the CRPD. It is important to ensure that this legislation fully respects the right to legal capacity, freedom from arbitrary detention, including involuntary institutionalization, and free and informed consent.

In the case of Ghana, for example, the 2012 Mental Health Law falls short of its obligations under the CRPD and its implementation has been slow, marked by the lack of community-based mental health services and delays in setting up much-needed oversight mechanisms. People with mental disabilitiesin Ghana face serious abuses in hospitals and spiritual healing centers—so-called prayer camps—including involuntary admission and arbitrary and prolonged detention; inadequate conditions, including overcrowding and poor hygiene; forced seclusion, lack of shelter, physical and verbal abuse, and involuntary treatment, including electroconvulsive therapy. In prayer camps, people with mental disabilities are chained—sometimes outdoors—and denied food and medication and adequate shelter. Of particular concern is a March 2014 announcement that the Ghana Mental Health Authority will launch a “clean the streets operation,” designed to round up people with mental disabilities on the streets and force them into confinement in psychiatric hospitals. This amounts to the arbitrary detention of people with mental health problems for no reason other then their disability status. We are concerned that this operation may be funded through development assistance from DFID.

Human Rights Watch urges Africa and the EU to:
• Align in promoting a disability-inclusive approach to development, particularly in the post-2015 development agenda, on the basis of the CRPD principles of non-discrimination, equality, participation, and accountability.
• Pledge that development assistance will not be used to fund programs that violate the fundamental rights of people with disabilities.
• Share good practices in implementing the rights of persons with mental disabilities as articulated by the CRPD, and to promote regular and adequate oversight of both formal and informal mental health service providers.
• Pledge to reach out to disabled persons’ organizations on the national and local level, to seek their advice on disability-inclusive policies and practices.
• Review all legislation with the aim of harmonization in line with the CRPD, in consultation with the disabled persons’ organizations in each country. Those countries that have not yet ratified the CRPD and its Optional Protocol should do so as a matter of priority.

By Human Rights Wtach

31 March 2014

http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/31/memorandum-human-rights-priorities-european-union-africa-summit

Kenyan women unite to increase access to maternal and child health.

AAI Kenyan women

More than 100 leaders and representatives of women’s rights organizations from across Kenya came together on 24 March in Nairobi to discuss ways to stop new HIV infections among children by 2015 and improve the health of mothers in the country.  


The women’s rights leaders meeting was co-organized by UNAIDS, UNDP, the National AIDS Control Council, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme and  the Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust. The event aimed to accelerate the momentum started by the First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta through the Beyond Zero campaign—an initiative to end mother-to-child transmission and AIDS-related maternal deaths in Kenya.


Speaking at the meeting, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle applauded the First Lady’s personal commitment and stressed that for UNAIDS, gender equality and human rights—including sexual and reproductive health rights—are non-negotiable elements to ensure effective HIV and health responses.


Government figures show that in Kenya AIDS-related illnesses account for one in five maternal deaths and 100 000 children under the age of 5 years died from preventable causes in 2012. According to WHO figures, Kenya currently dedicates 6% of its national budget—less than half of the 15% Abuja Declaration target—to the health sector. 


Quotes


“We need to leverage synergies across movements, bringing together the capacity and innovation of the AIDS response with movements to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls."
Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director


“Our involvement as the women’s movement is a game changer and will catalyse actions needed to bring the necessary changes and accelerate the achievement of the Beyond Zero campaign goals.”
Daisy Amdany, CRAWN Trust Executive Director


By UNAIDS
26 March 2014

http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2014/march/20140326kenyadxd/ 

Women want governments to act on reproductive rights

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Few things, it seems, still make members of the international community more nervous and squeamish than discussions about sexual and reproductive health, particularly when it involves young people and especially when it concerns adolescent girls.

But if any progress is to be made when it comes to crafting the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now under discussion, diplomats, NGOs and any other actors involved will just have to get over it, according to members of the High-Level Task Force for the International Conference on Population and Development.  

In international forums, “The issues that are often bracketed are the gender issues and, among them, the most bracketed are adolescent sexual health and rights—not among boys, but among girls,” said Dr Nafis Sadik, an obstetrician-gynecologist, veteran diplomat and special adviser on policy to the executive director ofUNAIDS, the UN agency dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Sadik spoke on a panel called “Fulfilling the Promise of Gender Equality: Women, Girls and the Post-2015 Agenda” at a side event of the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) this week.

“It always makes me wonder why policy makers don’t want girls and women to make decisions about their own bodies,” said Sadik.  “If we really want to eradicate these preventable deaths, women and girls must be able to make choices for themselves,” she said, referring to maternal mortality – 800 women per day – as a result of lack of healthcare and access to modern contraception.

“These are issues the international community needs to address squarely and not sweep under the carpet” due to cultural squeamishness, she said.

She noted that the right to reproductive health was dropped from the last set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Had that not happened, she said, “I think we’d have a different world today.”

Today’s world has an historically high number of young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights concerns also were left out of the last MDGs, said panellist Amina Doherty, a youth advocate and member of the board of the Global Fund for Women.

That must change in the new set of SDGs, she said. “Even though we’re mobilizing, we’re here, we were invited, we see our issues are not on the agenda. We’re tired of lip service.  We’re tired of ‘youth’ being a buzzword.”

That voice is crucial for the future, said Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, a member of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD, an independent body established in 2012 to advocate for gender equality, the empowerment of women and young people and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all.

Acknowledging that “sexual and reproductive health and rights remain a highly controversial issue,” she noted that 16 million adolescent girls in developing countries die annually as a result of complications of pregnancy and childbirth, often as the result of early or forced marriage.  One-third of girls report that their first sexual encounter was forced on them.

“For me, it’s clear that gender equality should be a standalone goal,” said the Crown Princess on the panel.

The needs of adolescent girls were also on the mind of Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

He pointed out that 24 percent of young girls globally don’t know how HIV/AIDS is transmitted.  As a result, in South Africa for example, the infection rate among young men between the ages of 19 and 20 is 1 percent, compared with 16 percent for girls in the same age group.

“We will not end this epidemic if we don’t have the courage to focus on who has been left behind – women and girls,” Sidibé said.

The question, the panellists said, is whether governments have the will to make the changes that will promote gender equality and save the lives of women and girls.

“Since we know what works and what we need to do, we must just do it,” said Sadik.  “Ideology and false value systems should not stand in the way of doing the right thing.”

By Lisa Anderson

13 March 2014

Source: http://www.trust.org/item/20140313124546-9qwa1/?source=dpagehead

Africa: Women – Experts Call for Engaging Men and Boys As Allies in Fight for Gender Equality

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Gender equality is not just a concern for women and girls, a panel of experts gathered at the United Nations in New York stressed today, highlighting the need to engage men and boys as allies and agents of change in this global struggle.

 

"Gender equality isn't just a women's issue. It is an issue for all. It is a rights issue because women's rights are human rights," declared Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), as she kicked off an event on the margins of the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

 

"Working with men and boys, transforming masculinity and traditional perceptions of manhood must be part of the gender equality agenda," she added.

 

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted a new campaign launched by UN Women last week on the occasion of International Women's Day called #HeforShe, in which men all over the world are being encouraged to speak out against the inequalities faced by women and girls.

 

Speaking directly to men and boys during the launch, she called on them to take a stand, to speak out and take action for their sisters, mothers, daughters and partners. "Because silence and inaction of good men conspire against women," she stated.

 

Today's event, organized by Switzerland and Brazil, focused particularly on engaging men and boys to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which call for the reduction of extreme poverty and other global ills by 2015 – for women and girls. MDG 3 is specifically targeted to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

 

"Persistent gender inequalities and discrimination of women and girls are a major obstacle to sustainable development, including poverty eradication and economic growth," said Benno Bättig, Secretary-General of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and moderator of the discussion.

 

MDG 3 gave women's issues some visibility, he noted, however it is silent on several key gender issues, such as violence against women and women's unequal participation in decision-making. To address not only the symptoms but the very root causes of discrimination against women and girls, Switzerland supported a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women's empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda.

 

"To overcome structural impediments to full gender equality, gender roles and relations must be transformed," said Mr. Bättig. "And this transformation not only concerns women and girls, it requires the active involvement of men and boys."

 

He added that while the engagement of men as allies has received little attention so far, it can have significant benefits for women and children, as well as for men themselves in contributing to the full achievement of all the MDGs.

 

The Swiss Government supports a project called "the part-time man" that promotes flexible working hours and conditions that allow men to spend more time with the family and giving women more time for their careers.

 

"Furthermore, our experience has shown that in societies where social norms and family honour are prevailing factors, a positive change in women's social status is only possible when men's attitudes change," Mr. Bättig stated. "We thus have to work with men and boys as strategic allies and partners to achieve gender equality."

 

Bafana Khumalo, of the South Africa-based gender equality organization Sonke Gender Justice, highlighted the engagement of men and boys as a means to try to limit the spread of HIV and promote women's empowerment.

 

He highlighted Sonke's flagship campaign, known as "One Man Can," which has proven to be an effective way to change the HIV and gender-related behaviours and attitudes of men and women. It also contributes to the decrease in the use of violence by men against women, reduces the number of sexual partners, and increases their use of condoms, testing and services.

 

Sonke's framework for engaging men and boys emphasizes three critical perspectives, he noted. These are involving men and boys as agents of change; engaging men and boys as equal partners; and treating men and boys as clients, so they can access and utilize services relating to their sexual and reproductive health rights.

 

Also highlighting the need to view men and boys as agents of change was Oswaldo Montoya from Nicaragua, the Global Coordinator for MenEngage, who also stressed the importance of offering men and boys opportunities to help them "step out of the masculinity box" and providing them with safe spaces to do so.

 

"I would like to propose to men and boys: forget about masculinity, embrace your humanity," he stated.

 

Mr. Montoya also encouraged UN Women to appoint a focal point to advance the important work being done with men and boys and to engage more of them in the pursuit of gender equality.

 

Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil's Ambassador to the UN, said that gender should be taken to refer to both women and girls, and men and boys. "When we discuss gender, we generally miss the reality of men and boys, their potential contribution to the empowerment of women and girls and their own gender-related specificities and vulnerabilities.

 

"Fully addressing all dimensions of gender inequality is a task that each and every one of us has to take very seriously – rich and poor, North and South, government and non-governmental organizations, government and private sector, men and women."

 

A "sobering reminder" of the comparatively unfavourable situation of women in the world, he pointed out, is that out of the 193 Member States of the UN, only 8 have women serving as President and 13 as Head of Government.

 

"I am convinced that it is truly revolutionary to bring men and boys on board on the discussions on overcoming gender inequality," Mr. Patriota said. "As we acknowledge that mainstream and rigid concepts of masculinity and femininity reinforce unequal and vertical power relations between men and women, we also help to accelerate progress on gender equality…

 

"It is time for men to join forces and enhance their role in helping to achieve a more egalitarian society. This is a win for women, a win for men and a win for our common humanity."

 

12 March 2014

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201403131528.html?viewall=1

Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Law Challenged – Petitioners Say Law Violates Constitution, International Law.

PRESS RELEASE

Museveni_Uganda_president_3

Nairobi — A diverse group of Ugandan individuals and nongovernmental organizations filed a constitutional challenge to the Anti-Homosexuality Act on March 11, 2014. President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law on February 24.

 

"Uganda's constitution explicitly protects basic human rights for all," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher. "The anti-homosexuality law completely defies Uganda's constitution and its legal obligations under international law, so this challenge is a crucial step to ensure that the law is removed from the books."

 

The challenge argues that the new law is overly broad and unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including by violating Ugandans' rights to equality before the law without discrimination, as well as their rights to privacy, freedom of expression, thought, assembly, association, and civic participation. The petitioners contend that the law encourages homophobia and stigmatization and contravenes the government's obligations to respect the rights guaranteed under international human rights treaties that Uganda has ratified. Furthermore, the petitioners request an injunction against enforcement of the law while the challenge is pending.

 

Uganda's penal code already criminalizes "carnal knowledge against the order of nature," but the new law goes much farther, criminalizing various forms of same-sex conduct, including "touching with the intent to commit homosexuality." It also criminalizes keeping "a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind for purposes of homosexuality" and engaging in the undefined "promotion of homosexuality." Human Rights Watch has urged the government to repeal the law. It has urged donors to carefully review their support to Uganda to assess any potentially negative impact as a result of the law given its sweeping criminalization of all forms of "promotion of homosexuality," which threatens legitimate human rights and public health work.

 

The petitioners include several prominent Ugandans, including a law professor, one current and one former member of parliament, a journalist, a medical doctor, three LGBTI activists, and two nongovernmental organizations, one working on a range of human rights issues and one focused on the right to health.

 

Given that hearings before the Constitutional Court can be delayed for several years, the court should schedule the case for hearing expeditiously.

 

By Human Rights Watch

11 March 2014

http://allafrica.com/stories/201403111473.html

Quiet diplomacy faulted for Africa’s anti-gay laws

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Last month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met in his office with a team of U.S.-based rights activists concerned about legislation that would impose life sentences for some homosexual acts. South African retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined them by phone, pointing out similarities between Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill and racist laws enforced under South Africa's former apartheid government.

 

Museveni made clear he had no plans to sign the bill, said Santiago Canton of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, who attended the Jan. 18 meeting. "He specifically said this bill is a fascist bill," Canton recalled. "Those were the first words that came out of his mouth."

 

One month later, however, Museveni appears to have changed his mind, saying through a spokesman last week that he would sign the bill "to protect Ugandans from social deviants." Coming one month after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law his country's harsh anti-gay bill, which criminalizes same-sex marriage and activism, Museveni's new position highlights Western governments' apparent inability to temper governmental discrimination against gays in Africa.

 

The anti-gay bills are overwhelmingly supported by the general public in both Uganda and Nigeria, providing opportunities to win political points for two presidents eyeing re-election.

 

But international gay rights activists also blame donor countries, including the United States, which favor behind-the-scenes diplomacy intended to avoid a backlash that might come from more forceful engagement.

 

"Quiet diplomacy up to the final moment clearly has failed," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.

 

"We need a better strategy," said Julie Dorf, senior adviser at the Council for Global Equality. "We do believe that our government here in the U.S. needs to ramp up the potential consequences that countries might face for these regressive anti-human rights measures. I have no doubt that President Museveni watched very carefully what happened after President Jonathan signed the Nigeria bill. And the truth is, there wasn't much of a reaction."

 

Several human rights groups are urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to recall his ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria. The Human Rights Campaign, America's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, said Wednesday that Kerry should recall the ambassadors because urgent consultation is required before regular diplomacy can resume.

 

"The Ugandan and Nigerian governments' decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries," said Chad Griffin, president of the group.

 

Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Center have also called on the State Department to temporarily recall its ambassador to Uganda for consultations.

 

Dorf said the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, who recently went on a radio program to explain in Nigerian Pidgin English that Washington won't be cutting aid because of the new anti-gay law, should also be brought back for talks.

 

Other suggested actions include suspending visa privileges for officials behind the new laws; suspending bilateral delegations or exchanges in areas of interest to both countries; reviewing and potentially revoking both Uganda's and Nigeria's participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act; and revoking invitations for Museveni and Jonathan to a U.S.-Africa summit planned for August.

 

These moves, though, could further jeopardize local activists who are already facing mounting vigilantism that seems to have been tacitly condoned if not openly supported by security forces, say activists. Last week a mob armed with wooden clubs and iron bars dragged 14 young men from their beds and assaulted them in Nigeria's capital, the latest in a series of attacks that has Nigerian gays fearing for their lives.

 

In Uganda, Cleo Kambugu of Transgender Support Initiatives Uganda said transgender women — who often have a hard time blending in to avoid anti-gay hostility — have borne the brunt of a rise in violence that followed parliament's passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in December.

 

Though her organization does not have the resources for comprehensive monitoring, it has been made aware of up to 40 recent incidents involving mob violence, police harassment or both, Kambugu said.

 

She said the imposition of punishment by Western countries over anti-gay legislation could be harmful.

 

"That's going to make people hate (sexual minorities) more in Uganda. They'll say, 'You see? Our economic suffering is because of you guys,'" she said. "By doing that, you'd actually be strengthening these beliefs that this minority group is responsible for your problems."

 

It's a "tough dilemma," agreed Dorf of the Council for Global Equality.

 

"The truth is that most of the local activists in these countries are scared out of their minds right now. They're fearful of things getting even worse for them," she said. "They don't want the backlash which is inevitable when governments put more pressure, but not putting more pressure is making things even worse. We're really in a bind."

 

The State Department seems to be reacting more swiftly to recent incidents of anti-gay violence and hate speech in Africa. The U.S. ambassador to Ivory Coast was first to condemn an attack on the headquarters of that country's most prominent gay rights group last month. On Wednesday, Kerry responded quickly to the latest anti-gay rhetoric from Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who said homosexuals were "vermin" and that LGBT stands for "leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis." Kerry said Wednesday that "the United States is deeply troubled by the hateful rhetoric used by President Jammeh … All people are created equal and should be able to live free from discrimination, and that includes discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation."

 

After Uganda's Museveni said he would sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which allegedly was largely influenced by the work of American evangelicals in Uganda, U.S. officials including President Barack Obama have issued statements of protest.

 

Uganda's position has not wavered. In a series of Twitter posts after announcing Museveni would sign, government spokesman Ofwono Opondo slammed the international outcry, saying the U.S. is a "bully" and that "poor people have rights." He said those opposed to the bill should challenge it in court after it is signed into law.

 

Burnett said the bill's language against the "promotion" of homosexuality fits a broader pattern of Museveni's government undermining human rights by threatening nongovernment organizations, shutting down media outlets and attacking protesters.

 

Museveni hopes to get support from a controversial report by a team of Ugandan doctors that says homosexuality is a risk to public health that needs to be regulated "to protect the vulnerable."

 

"It is on the strength of that (report) I am going to sign the bill," he told ruling party lawmakers last week. "I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this, but I will tell them what our scientists have to say."

 

On Monday Opondo said on Twitter: "When the rant of gay activists is done over this bill, the world will move on."

 

Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda.

By ROBBIE COREY-BOULET and RODNEY MUHUMUZA

February 20, 2014

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/quiet-diplomacy-faulted-africa-39-anti-gay-laws-092526333.html

Namibia: Sex Workers Denounce Apartheid Era Laws

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SEX workers in Namibia have urged the government to repeal laws that criminalise their trade to help fight against HIV-AIDS.

 

Speaking during the commemoration of the International Sex Workers Day, which was celebrated under the theme "Sex Workers' Rights are Human Rights" in Windhoek on Monday, Nicodemus Aoxamub, the executive director of Rights not Rescue organisation said some apartheid era laws of 1959 and 1980 make the fight against HIV-AIDS among sex workers very difficult.

 

"Sex workers plan to work towards zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths which UNAIDS calls for but despite global partnership, such goals will not be achieved due to discriminatory apartheid laws," Aoxamub said at the commemoration attended by dozens of sex workers from all over Namibia.

 

"How can our government still have such barbaric apartheid era laws in an independent Namibia?" Aoxamub asked. Aoxamub praised Namibia's founding president Sam Nujoma for his call on implementation of programmes to eradicate HIV-AIDS during his tenure.

 

Aoxamub said programmes have been implemented where sex workers serve on the technical committees and key population working groups which are headed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

 

"These are the programmes that Nujoma spoke about and sex-workers are happy to be part of them," he said.

 

Beside the government initiatives, national and international organisations such as UNAIDS, UNFPA and donors' involvement in the fight against HIV-AIDS was also praised.

 

Rachel Gawises, the director of Voice of Hope Trust (VHT), said disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbaric acts which have outraged mankind. VHT is an organisation for sex workers based at the coast.

 

Gawises said sex workers do not have the right to equal protection under the law because authorities are preoccupied with criminalising the "world's oldest trade", and that this is a violation of the rights of all Namibians.

 

Gawises, who says sex work is a profession that feeds thousands of families, revealed that she started when she was 12 years old when growing up in a plastic shack at a rubbish dump at Walvis Bay.

 

The International Sex Workers Rights Day started in 2001 when 25 000 sex workers gathered in Calcutta, India for a sex workers' festival.

 

"It was their dream that sex workers own the day and celebrate it in their respective countries as their own," Deyonce Naris, director of Khaibasen Community Project from Keetmanshoop said.

 

Naris, a sex worker herself, said her community is also involved in the fight against HIV-AIDS contrary to beliefs that sex workers are only there to spread it.

 

All the sex workers' organisations said they give out free lubricants and condoms to sex workers as well as advice on HIV-AIDS-related issues and the importance of protection.

 

Beside the challenges of HIV, sex workers also face police brutality, transphobia, sexism, poverty and discrimination.

 

During the commemoration, sex workers shared personal experiences and also lit candles in honour of their colleagues who were brutally murdered in Namibia.

 

By Clemans Miyanicwe

4 March 2014

http://allafrica.com/stories/201403040802.html?viewall=1

Malawi develops civil society charter to tackle HIV and TB.

Malawi 3

On 13 February, civil society organisations and partners met in Malawi met to develop a civil society priorities charter in the response to HIV and TB.

 

Aids Accountability International convened the workshop in the capital Lilongwe, which included representatives from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

 

Victor Chayamba, executive director of Malawi Global Fund Coordinating Commitee (MGFCC), said: “Civil society is an integral part of the Global Fund grant architecture. However, over the years, there has been little or no opportunity for the sector to come together and define a set of interventions to advocate for inclusion in funding proposals.”

 

Limited access to funding

 

Civil society organisations (CSO) often feel they are not being consulted in the process of defining programmes to be included in Global Fund proposals. As a result they often fail to properly position themselves to receive grants.

 

In the past only a few well-established and city-based civil society organisations were involved in the process. Chayamba said: “At best, they would manage to fight for inclusion of just a fraction of the sector’s requirement and at worst they would advance their own agendas to the detriment of the common good.”

 

According to Chayamba this effectively meant some sections of society were denied access to services which would otherwise be provided by these CSOs.

 

“This put the MGFCC in an awkward position as explanations were always sought on why there was inadequate input from the sector. All that will now be a thing of the past with the development of the Civil Society Priorities Charter,” said Chayamba.

 

Civil society priorities

 

Through the charter, civil society will have an opportunity to speak with one voice to express priorities to be included in applications via the Global Fund’s New Funding Model.

 

The process enables civil society to think strategically about what can and should be supported bearing in mind the sector’s comparative advantage. It also enhances a shared responsibility towards service delivery for the benefit of local people.

 

Malawi is the third country to develop a civil society priorities charter at this critical time in the process for developing its response to HIV and TB.

 

A vote by Civil Society Organizations present during the workshop showed that changing people’s behaviour, for example in the use of condoms, and focusing on key populations, such as injecting drug users, men who have sex with men and sex workers, are their top priorities.

 

Read more about HIV and the key players

 

Image: In Malawi, where AIDS remains the leading cause of death, the Alliance has been supporting a pioneering programme where volunteers refer people in their community to formal health services and community based organizations for support.
© International HIV/AIDS Alliance

 

By Owen Nyaka

25 February 2014

Source: http://www.keycorrespondents.org/2014/02/25/malawi-develops-civil-society-charter-to-tackle-hiv-and-tb/

Ethiopian Minister Slams Uganda for Passing Anti-Gay Law.

2014-02-25-ZenebuTadesse.jpg

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Zenebu Tadesse, Ethiopia's Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs has taken to twitter criticizing the passing of Uganda's anti-gay law, on Monday.

Tadesse tweeted: "There is no place for hate, discrimination in my beloved Africa. It's not Governments' business to make dress code or anti-gay laws #Uganda."

The tweet came shortly after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a harsh anti-gay law that punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.

Tadesse's African voice joins a worldwide condemnation of Uganda's new anti-gay law.

On Sunday, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Nobel Peace Prize winning Desmond Tutu has compared Uganda's new anti-gay law to Nazi and Apartheid discrimination.

Reacting to the news, Ugandan LGBT rights advocate, Frank Mugisha, told me that he very much welcomed Tadesse's statement.

He said: "this will help. We need as many possible African voices speaking against this law."

While activist Melanie Nathan, a native of South African commented: "This is hugely significant statement coming from an accomplished and respected African Minister.

"I believe that many more Africans of noble esteem probably believe that which she has had the courage to speak," asking others to show equal courage and follow her lead.

Nathan added that she is "especially disappointed that we have yet to hear officially from South Africa's President Zuma, from the only country in Africa where there is a fully equal constitution."

She said he should follow Nelson Mandela's legacy and Tadesse's lead.

Ethiopia has already a harsh anti-gay law which punish same-sex acts with up to 15 years imprisonment.

In addition, under its anti-terrorism law anyone who states what the government deems terrorism (which can include human rights criticism) can be imprisoned for 20 years, without a warrant.

Ethiopia's anti-advocacy law bars charities and nongovernmental organizations that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad from participating in activities that advance human rights and the promotion of equality.

Essentially these three laws taken in total make it impossible for any health-services, charity, advocacy or even clubs or bars to openly support or cater for Ethiopia's LGBT population.

Like in Uganda a strong Evangelical lobby along with other religious leaders have been campaigning for an even tougher capital punishment against LGBT Ethiopians.

Mercy (pseudonym to protect his identity), director of the underground Rainbow Ethiopia, a health and support group for Ethiopian LGBT people, told me he welcomed Tadesse's statement, which he called "progressive."

He also stated: "But I'd like to ask her thought about the draconian anti-homosexuality law, the lack/denial of health and social services and harassment/torture of LGBT Human rights defenders in Ethiopia."

By Dan Littauer

25 February 2014

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dan-littauer/uganda-anti-gay-law_b_4851882.html