Sunday, July 5, 2009

5 July 2009


· Darfur, Sudan = Two foreign aid workers, Hilda Kawuki from Uganda and Sharon Commins from Ireland, were abducted Friday from their compound in Kutum, northern Darfur. Six armed men allegedly took them hostage. They have not been heard from since. (AJ, BBC)

o Almost as newsworthy as this clip, is the fact that Sudanese women are often abducted, kidnapped, held hostage … and it doesn’t make international news to nearly this effect … but maybe I’m just a cynic.

  • Gambia = YAY! Twenty-four districts in Gambia’s Upper River Region have signed a public declaration abandoning female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). These communities are all from the Mandinka or Fula ethnic groups – because this region has the country’s highest FGM/C rates, with 90 percent of women and girls being cut. FGM/C poses many health risks, including birth complications, maternal death, infertility, and urinary incontinence, including fistula. (IRIN Africa, UNICEF, Tostan)

· Namibia = Two HIV-positive Namibian women allege that they were sterilized, without their knowing consent and against their will, in local public hospitals. The International Community for Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) has been hearing accounts of this type of abuse through its regular forums for HIV-positive young women. The ICW has now partnered with the Legal Assistance Centre, to bring these two cases before a judge. (IRIN)

o Deciding to take legal action is an incredibly difficult step. Many victims are reluctant to come forward due to fears that both their HIV status and their inability to bear children will be made public, both of which are causes of shame. (IRIN)

· Zimbabwe = BOO! This is yet another reason why you should never buy a diamond. Children as young as 13 years old have provided testimony to Human Rights Watch regarding their forced labor in diamond mines. The report is entitled Diamonds in the Rough and also suggests that some of the money from these diamond operations has funded military actions. (HRW)


  • Iran = The head of the Majlis’ (Iranian parliament) judiciary commission has changed some legal penalties, deeming them unnecessary. So, hopefully, we can say goodbye to stoning and the cutting off of hands. (AWID)
    • The Guardian Council holds final approval for these changes. If you speak Persian, I encourage you to be an advocate on this issue.
  • Israel = BOO! When one makes a mistake … the best action is usually to correct said mistake. Israel seems not to agree. After forcibly boarding a ship on a humanitarian mission to Gaza, the Israeli Navy detained all of the passengers, and “illegally took them to Israel against their will.” Some of these activists are still imprisoned. (AJ, DN)
    • How do we know this was a mistake? That group of “suspicious” activists includes Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and US Congressperson Cynthia McKinney. You can watch Mairead Maguire on video here. (AJ, DN)
      • It’s time to correct this mistake and let these activists advocate. I would imagine that Israel’s actions have significantly strengthened their desire to help Gaza, too. Nice.


  • Afghanistan = The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has acceded to Additional Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. These Additional Protocols address the protection of victims of armed conflicts. Accession to these Protocols does not mean that they are legally binding in Afghanistan – first they must be incorporated into Afghan domestic law, a step which may or may not follow. Let’s keep our eye on that, noting that the US is notoriously bad about incorporating international human rights standards into our own domestic law. (ICRC)


  • United States = YAY! President Obama has created a new White House position: Advisor on Violence Against Women. Lynn Rosenthal has been appointed to this position which will focus on domestic violence and sexual assault issues. Vice President Biden, an author of the Violence Against Women Act, announced the appointment. (AWID)


  • Sweet! IPS News has launched a new gender-focused portal, online at The website “intends to provide a knowledge center (for those) working for gender equality.” (AWID)