19 May 2020 – NPWJ News Digest on FGM and Women's Rights

Articles

Liberia: Spotlight Initiative Empowers Chiefs to Enforce FGM Moratorium
AllAfrica, 18 May 2020

"We hope the closure of the bush schools will pave the way for the elimination of all harmful practices against women and girls in Liberia," says Marie Goreth Nizigama, UN Women Country Representative for Liberia. Spotlight Initiative, a non-governmental group that is involved in advocacy against Female Genital Mutilation and gender-based violence against women and girls, has turned over several motorbikes to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Council of Chiefs and Elders to enable them monitoring the implementation of the Ganta Declaration which calls for a one-year suspension of all Sande society activities; and to raise awareness among communities on measures to prevent the spread of corona virus and respond to sexual and gender based violence. 

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Iraq's stalled domestic violence bill may be revived by new government
Reuters, 18 May 2020

Fears of increased domestic violence during Iraq’s coronavirus lockdown will spur the new government to push through long-stalled legislation to protect victims, the head of the cabinet’s women’s rights department said on Monday.Campaigners and U.N. agencies have stepped up demands for the law to be passed following the highly publicised case of Malak Al-Zubaidi, who died from being set alight last month after an alleged attack by her husband. It is not clear if she was murdered, or if she set herself on fire. “The spread of domestic violence has served as a warning to many people, including parliamentarians, about the necessity of passing a law,” Ibtisam Ali, the cabinet official, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

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Huge FGM rise recorded in Somalia during coronavirus lockdown
The Guardian, 18 May 2020

Somalia’s coronavirus lockdown has led to a huge increase in female genital mutilation (FGM), with circumcisers going door to door offering to cut girls stuck at home during the pandemic, according to Plan International. The crisis is undermining efforts to eradicate the practice in Somalia, which has the world’s highest FGM rate, with about 98% of women having been cut, the charity warned. “We’ve seen a massive increase in recent weeks,” said Sadia Allin, Plan International’s head of mission in Somalia. “We want the government to ensure FGM is included in all Covid responses.” She said nurses across the country had also reported a surge in requests from parents wanting them to carry out FGM on their daughters while they were off school because of the lockdown. 

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Girls at risk of child marriage as half of local authorities fail to keep records
The Guardian, 18 May 2020

Girls at risk of child marriage are falling under the radar of authorities in England and Wales because of a lack of record-keeping by more than half of the departments responsible for children’s social care, a charity has warned. IKWRO women’s rights organisation says it is preparing for a spike in cases following the easing of lockdown and is urging social workers to be ready to respond. It has written to local authorities amid concerns that some social workers were not fully trained or aware of the complexities around “honour”-based abuse including child marriage. Responses collected under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that between 2018 and 2019, the latest data available, there were 165 children in England and Wales at risk of child marriage. 

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Nepal Failing to Protect Women from Online Abuse
Human Rights Watch, 18 May 2020

Imagine discovering private – and perhaps intimate – photos of yourself online. Strangers are posting humiliating comments, with personal details, making you identifiable to the world.This is increasingly a reality for women and girls in Nepal – with little response from the government.The Kathmandu Post recently alleged that some social media groups were specifically targeting Nepali women and girls for abuse. The newspaper article claimed that group members circulate and discuss images, often obtained from victims’ social media accounts and shared without consent, but also through hacking, coercion, or blackmail. The article alleged that groups have hosted abusive images, including child sexual abuse material and depictions of sexual violence. One notorious group has 4,500 members. 

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Saudi Arabia: ‘Heartbreaking’ anniversary marks two-year detention of women human rights defenders
Amnesty International, 14 May 2020

Amnesty International is calling on King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to release several notable women’s rights defenders, two years after they were detained. On 15 May 2018, a number of prominent Saudi women’s human rights activists were arrested. They had been peacefully advocating for years for the right of women in the kingdom to drive, as well as broader reforms related to the repressive male guardianship system. In the days and weeks that followed, more of their fellow peaceful activists were detained as part of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown and smear campaign. 

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