This week's mass murder in California has shone the light on misogyny and violence against women.
Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by family
The following interview is with Pollyanne Pena, the Centre Coordinator for Shakti Ethnic Women's Refuge, and runs the Wellington Young Feminists who starts off by discussing the Twitter hashtag on misogyny, #YesAllWomen, which trended worldwide after the killing spree by Elliot Rodger in California this week.
The worst cases of violence against women have occured in the Indian subcontinent, but are not the only cases.
The western media calls Vladimir Putin "Hitler" it is largely silent about Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah keeping his daughters under lock and key and denying them food and water. Couldn't be about oil could it? - or the fact that the west loves to do business with the medieval kingdom?
Perhaps we had better not let the media frenzy about Putin denying gay rights that we saw before Sochi (conveniently forgotten by the way, after events in Ukraine) - while Qatar (about to host the football World Cup) punishes gays and ten countries punish gays with death.
Just in case we decide to judge other countries, let us not forget our own "Roastbusters" case in New Zealand where teenagers boasted of their sexual exploits online. The police were "unable" to take action and the whole case has been forgotten.
27 May, 2014
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A pregnant woman was stoned to death Tuesday by her own family outside a courthouse in the Pakistani city of Lahore for marrying the man she loved.
The woman was killed while on her way to court to contest an abduction case her family had filed against her husband. Her father was promptly arrested on murder charges, police investigator Rana Mujahid said, adding that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in this "heinous crime."
Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and hundreds of women are murdered every year in so-called honor killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behavior.
Stonings in public settings, however, are extremely rare. Tuesday's attack took place in front of a crowd of onlookers in broad daylight. The courthouse is located on a main downtown thoroughfare.
A police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal, 45, against her family's wishes after being engaged to him for years.
Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, said her lawyer, Mustafa Kharal. He said she was three months pregnant.
Nearly 20 members of Parveen's extended family, including her father and brothers, had waited outside the building that houses the high court of Lahore. As the couple walked up to the main gate, the relatives fired shots in the air and tried to snatch her from Iqbal, her lawyer said.
When she resisted, her father, brothers and other relatives started beating her, eventually pelting her with bricks from a nearby construction site, according to Mujahid and Iqbal, the slain woman's husband.
Iqbal said he started seeing Parveen after the death of his first wife, with whom he had five children.
"We were in love," he told The Associated Press. He alleged that the woman's family wanted to fleece money from him before marrying her off.
"I simply took her to court and registered a marriage," infuriating the family, he said.
Parveen's father surrendered after the attack and called his daughter's murder an "honor killing," Butt said.
"I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it," Mujahid, the police investigator, quoted the father as saying.
Mujahid said the woman's body was handed over to her husband for burial.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in honor killings in 2013.
But even Pakistanis who have tracked violence against women expressed shock at the brutal and public nature of Tuesday's slaying.
"I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed outside a courthouse," said Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.
He said Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions.
"Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don't properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers, or they are acquitted," he said.
Three arrested after girls are gang-raped and left hanging from tree in India
30 May, 2014
A police officer and two other people have been arrested after two teenage girls were gang-raped and left hanging from the branches of a mango tree in a northern Indian village, authorities said Friday.
The shocking attack on the girls -- two cousins aged 14 and 16 -- sparked outrage in the village of Katra Sadatganj and beyond.
Angry villagers protested around the bodies, preventing police from taking them down from the tree for about 15 hours Wednesday, the day after the attack, said Mukesh Saxena, a local police official.
A photo from the village, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, showed the body of one girl, dressed in a green tunic and pants, hanging from the tree. A large group of people, many of them young children, were gathered around the grisly scene.
Police said an autopsy confirmed the girls had been raped and strangled. The cremation of their remains took place late Wednesday night in line with Hindu customs, Saxena said.
Armed police officers have been deployed in the village to prevent any further unrest, he added.
Alleged gang rape, hanging of 2 girls in India sparks global outrage
Police under scrutiny
The girls' families accused three brothers of carrying out the rape and killing. Two of the brothers are now in custody, said R.K.S. Rathore, a deputy-inspector general of police. One was arrested Thursday night, he said.
Police are still searching for the third brother.
The families of the victims have accused local police of initially failing to respond and siding with the suspects when the parents went to report the case. The allegations have fueled anger among the villagers.
Saxena said three police officers have been temporarily suspended for negligence of duty, and one has been arrested.
He said the girls had gone out into the orchard to relieve themselves Tuesday night when they were grabbed by the attackers.
Some people saw the abduction but were unable to stop it, he said, citing eyewitnesses.
The horrific gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi in late 2012 shook India, focusing sharp attention on violent crimes against women in the country, the world's second most populous after China.
The case prompted protests in many cities, soul-searching in the media and changes to the law. But shocking instances of sexual violence continue to come to light with grim regularity.
"Laws can only do so much when you have to end something which is as endemic and as entrenched as violence against women," said Divya Iyer, a senior researcher for Amnesty International in Bangalore, India.
The country's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has said he wants to take steps to make sure woman are safe, particularly in rural India. But women's rights groups have criticized what they say is a lack of specific proposals to tackle the problem, suggesting gender inequality doesn't appear to be high on his list of priorities.
"There is a lot more to do," Iyer told CNN. "That political leadership is unfortunately missing."
Four men convicted over gang rape of photojournalist in Mumbai
An opinion article in The Times of India, a prominent daily newspaper, linked the attack this week to rising crime and a crisis of authority in Uttar Pradesh, which it said was sliding into "medieval lawlessness."
It wasn't immediately clear whether India's entrenched caste system, which continues to cause prejudice and persecution in some rural areas, played a role in the attack. Rathore, the police official, said that the victims and the suspects belonged to different low caste groups.
Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International, pointed out that "violence against women is a global issue," not limited to developing countries.
But Salbi told CNN that in many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, "the concept of women as property is still a common thing," meaning they don't get treated as equal human beings.This is a case that has NOT got into most of the media, presumably because it involves the King of Saudia Arabia with whom the elite loves to do business.
'We have no water, running out of food:' Saudi princesses kept hostages by king in their own palace
5 May, 2014
The Saudi princesses who have been locked up by their father - the king of Saudi Arabia - for about 13 years for speaking out against the country's oppression of women, told RT they are on survival mode in their own palace.
“We are running out of food and out of water. We are on survival mode. We are eating some expired food. All that we can find,” Sahar and Jawaher Al Saud, the daughters of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, told RT.
The sisters are being kept, as they say, against their will in two mansions inside a royal compound in the city of Jeddah along with their two other sisters - Maha and Hala. They are between the ages of 38 and 42, with at least one said to be suffering from psychological problems.
“We’d like to know what we are being charged with. We’d like to know that. ... This is called captivity and captivity is illegal anywhere in the world. This is abuse,” Sahar and Jawaher added.
The sisters say they are waiting for international bodies to react to their situation.
“We are waiting to hear from some so-called international community, everyone who is defending human rights and obviously call human rights organizations to come out and actually hold the king and his sons to account,” Sahar and Jawaher told RT.
Earlier, in rare interviews to media outlets, the sisters said they don’t have any passports or ID and the king has also forbidden any man to seek his daughters’ hands in marriage.
In the interview to the New York Post in April, the sisters said they were suffering from dehydration and their rooms were full with bugs. Water and electricity were shut off at random, sometimes for days or even weeks, they added.
According to their mother, Alanoud Al-Fayez, who married king Abdullah back in 1970s when she was only 15, “her daughters’ case is a tip of the iceberg.”
“They speak about driving. It’s funny… women in Saudi Arabia need more than driving, they need their rights first,” Al-Fayez, a descendant of a well-to-do Jordanian family, told RT.
“My daughters were mistreated psychologically, some are physically abused, sometimes by their brothers, father, yes my daughters’ plight is highlighting this,” she added.
Abdullah who has had over 30 wives, and has fathered more than 40 children, divorced AlFayez in the 1980s. In 2001 she left for London.
In 2002, less than one year after Al-Fayez escaped, Abdullah began tormenting his daughters. The girls told their mother that he drugged their food and water to keep them docile when the sisters openly spoke in opposition to women being illegally detained and placed in mental wards.
In March, Al-Fayez asked Barack Obama, who visited Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to help release her daughters.
“They need to be saved and released immediately. Mr Obama should take this opportunity to address these grave violations committed against my daughters,” she said, reported AFP.
The Saudi Arabia authorities, however, rejected the allegations, saying the princesses are allowed to freely move about Jeddah, as long as they are accompanied by bodyguards.
Meanwhile, in April Sahar urged there should be a popular revolution against her father in her video message.
“Greetings to martyrs and to free men in jail! It is an honor for me to learn the meaning of freedom, rights and dignity from you revolutionary people … God’s hand will be above us,” she said.
Women in SA can’t go to school, travel, open any business or get medical treatment without male permission. It is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving.
Attempts to resist the rules are few and rarely successful. The latest protest against the ban on woman driving in October 2013 saw some 60 activists taking to the wheel At least 16 women were stopped by police during this protest; they were fined and forced to obey state laws. Many Saudi clerics condemned the act.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
'No real reform in Saudi Arabia'
According to Naseer Alomari, writer and political commentator, “the crescendo of the criticism” towards SA has increased judging from social media.
“The legal system in Saudi Arabia is not even written down. There is no real reform going on in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis understand this more than at any time in their history,” Alomari told RT.
Alomari added that the Obama administration “turned a blind eye” to these human rights violations that have gone on for so long in the country.
“You can never have an American official on record as saying that ‘we do not accept human rights violations.’ … Arabs in the Middle East can see the hypocrisy and the double talk when it comes to human violations in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world,” he added.
In March, during Obama’s visit to the kingdom, the subject on the new controversial anti-terrorist law wasn’t raised, according to a US official despite mounting concern over human rights abuses in the country. Earlier, human rights groups urged Obama to mention a controversial new anti-terror law in the Saudi kingdom that any act that undermines the security of the state may be treated as an act of terrorism.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have been extremely vocal in their demands that Saudi Arabia soften its clampdown on human rights activists in the country.
And lest we think that this is just happening 'out there' here is a case in New Zealand. There has been nothing more happen as a result of this case and the media has been pretty silent.
Police criticised over Roast Busters communication
Police mishandling of the Roast Busters case in the media has "seriously undermined" the trust the public and sexual abuse victims had in police, a lawyer says.
22 May, 2014
The comments come after a review of police handling of publicity around the Roast Busters found police misled the public, but not intentionally.
The Roast Busters were a group of West Auckland men, understood to be aged 17 and 18, who boasted online about their sexual exploits with drunk and underage females.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) this morning published its report on police handling of media inquiries after the story broke in November last year.
Auckland lawyer Catriona MacLennan said that during the past decade the public had become aware of a history of police mishandling sexual abuse cases.
While police claimed to have "changed", cases like the Roast Busters saga added to the cumulative picture that police had not improved their handling of sexual abuse cases, she said.
The IPCA found that due to a "collective breakdown in communication", owing to "other commitments and time pressure", no individual officer could be blamed for the inaccurate information provided to the public.
"When the story first broke, the media approached police for comment about their knowledge of this group and details of the police investigation," the report said.
"It became apparent over the following days that the information originally provided by police to the media was incorrect."
Initial statements claimed that despite a "full and thorough" investigation, prosecution was not possible without a formal complaint from a victim.
It later emerged four girls came forward over incidents involving the group between 2011 and 2012. One of those girls, aged 13, had gone through the formal complaint process.
MacLennan said she was "very shocked" when Detective Inspector Bruce Scott said none of the girls had been "brave enough" to come forwards to make a formal complaint in the Roast Busters case.
That was an "appalling" statement, which again put the onus on the victim, she said.
"It's a concerning indication of ongoing police attitude in that area," the lawyer said.
The IPCA report said the false information would have had an impact on all of the young women who had had some contact with police, in particular the woman who gave the video evidence.
"Understandably she was confused and upset by the information being provided by police as she had in fact made a formal statement to police," it said.
MacLennan said it was "very concerning" police comments at the time gave the public and other sexual abuse victims and survivors the impression that police could only lay charges if a formal complaint was made.
Police Minister Anne Tolley said she welcomed the report's findings.
"The report confirms that there was a communication breakdown within police," she said.
"Although not deliberate, this was disappointing and the commissioner personally apologised to me at the time for this mistake."
It was "vital" both the public and victims of crime had trust and confidence in the police, "which is why they must do everything they can to provide accurate information".
Tolley disagreed with the report claims that the error was "systemic".
"This is an isolated case and in most cases, the police deal with hundreds of thousands of victims every year and in those cases they get it right," she said.
"In this case, they go it wrong. It's a good opportunity for them to learn, and they are serious about becoming more victim-focused."
Tolley said she was awaiting the outcome of the IPCA's review of the criminal investigation, and acknowledged it couldn't be released until Operation Clover had been concluded.
IPCA chairman, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said maintaining public trust and confidence should be "top priority" for police.
He said that although no police employee made a deliberate decision to mislead, time should have been taken to obtain the correct details from police files in response to questions from the media.
"The provision of inaccurate information was compounded by the fact that the police did not identify or rectify the mistake themselves, despite the opportunity to do so, and instead had to admit mistakes publicly only when contradictory information was ascertained and published by the media," he said.
"This resulted in a consequent negative effect on the credibility of police."
Labour police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said Tolley was right to apologise, but wrong to say the problem wasn't systemic.
"Unlike the minister I wouldn't agree with her statement there weren't systemic issues at play here and in fact, IPCA have made it very clear there was a systemic breakdown in communication," she said.
"There's no excuse for what happened, but when you cut $40 million out of a police budget, mistakes start happening."
In a statement today police responded to the report by saying it had been a "learning situation for all staff involved".
Public relations expert Carrick Graham said the excuse of time pressures and other commitments was an "old political line", and at some stage people needed to see some accountability.
"The buck has to stop somewhere," he said.
AUT public relations senior lecturer Averill Gordon said time pressures and other commitments were no longer a valid excuse for communications mistakes or for providing inaccurate information to the media or the public, adding there was growing pressure on organisations to have transparent communications.