Girls Should be Students, not Brides

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Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

By Naureen Shameem, Amnesty USA Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

What is it that enables you to make your life your own? Could you meaningfully choose your own life if your sphere of opportunity had been cut off as a child?

Globally, at least 25,000 children are married every day. 1 in 9 marry before the age of 15. Although the prevalence of child marriage worldwide has received more coverage in recent years, the rates remain staggering.

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How Toilets Can Make Schools Safer

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This photo is of the Kobito / Kombito  2 settlement water source which shows there is household rubbish in it.  People drink the dirty water because the other option is to walk two kilometers to the next water source which is a broken pipe that has not been repaired by the Sol Is Water Authority (SIWA) for years.

Safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, collectively known as WASH, aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind for women’s rights advocates and activists, least of all during 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Yet they are undoubtedly huge barriers to safety, equality and education for women and girls worldwide.

One of the most insidious impacts of lack of WASH is on girls’ educational access, success, and sense of safety. One in three people worldwide doesn’t have access to a decent toilet. In low-income countries it is estimated that nearly half of all schools don’t have safe drinking water, decent toilets or hygiene facilities on the premises.

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Every Girl Deserves an Education—Make Sure She Can Get One!

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Anonymous school children, all girls, in front of a blackboard at an unidentified school somewhere in Sierra Leone.

Anonymous school children, all girls, in front of a blackboard at an unidentified school somewhere in Sierra Leone.

Education is a human right. It is both a right in itself and also a pathway to the enjoyment of other rights. Education is also an inalienable right for every child, and every child deserves the opportunity to receive one.

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Gender-Based Violence and the Arms Trade Treaty

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FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

By: Alice Dahle, Co-chair, Women’s Human Rights Thematic Specialist

On December 24, the first ever international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) regulating the sale of conventional arms and ammunition will go into effect. The treaty will require that before authorizing a sale of arms and ammunition across international borders, governments must assess the risk that the weapons will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, undermine peace and security, or engage in transnational organized crime.  If an exporting country knows there is an “overriding” risk that the arms will be used for these purposes, the sale is prohibited.

In another break-through, the ATT is also the first legally binding international agreement that makes the connection between the international arms trade and gender-based violence (GBV). Only recently has the gendered aspect of armed violence been recognized.  During the drafting of the treaty, Amnesty International joined with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Women’s Network of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), and Oxfam to enlist the support of both governments and civil society for inclusion of a gender dimension in the treaty.  As a result of these efforts, Article 7(4) of the ATT makes it mandatory for arms exporting countries to assess the risk that their weapons will be used in the commission of GBV and deny authorization of any sales that present an “overriding” risk.   SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Discriminatory and Dangerous Law that is Killing Women and Girls in El Salvador

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Accused and charged with having an abortion after a miscarriage at 18 years old.

Accused and charged with having an abortion after a miscarriage at 18 years old.

By Chloe Horsma, Amnesty International USA youth activist 

Probably the greatest obstacle I’ve ever faced around my sexual and reproductive rights was a borderline-uncomfortable conversation with my mom when I wanted to look into birth control for the first time.  Many of my friends had similar experiences.  It seemed to me that this was how it was supposed to be–people making decisions about their own health and reproductive rights without hindrance or fear–and for a while, it escaped my notice that not everyone was so lucky. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Stop Shaming Gender-Based Violence Survivors

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mbmrBy Heather Schultz, Activist

When a woman or girl survives gender-based violence, you would think that she could expect justice. If she survives a rape, for example, you would think she could expect that the perpetrator would be prosecuted for his crime… not that he could marry her to avoid prosecution if she is under 18. Yet, this is exactly the law in Algeria and Tunisia. And in Morocco, the severity of punishment of the rapist depends not on his crime, but on whether the survivor was a virgin or not! SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why Birth and Death are Simultaneous for Women in South Africa

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Young mother with child, Ermole

Poor infrastructure, lack of privacy and limited access to health services are only a few of the factors contributing to the devastating maternal mortality rate in South Africa.

There is a rural area in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa where the maternal mortality rate more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. Why are women so at risk for dying during childbirth in this province? The reasons are complex and inter-related but many factors can be addressed by the provincial Minister of Health. And we are demanding that he does. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Tunisia is Taking Big Steps Towards Ending Sexual Violence

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VAWTunisia

By: Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty International USA, Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

This past week I traveled to Tunisia to watch my colleagues from Amnesty Tunisia hand deliver over 198,000 signed petitions from Amnesty International members worldwide, calling on the Tunisian authorities to end discrimination against women and girl survivors of sexual violence. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

It’s Never Too Late for Justice: Standing with the Women of Indonesia

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Indonesian laws need to be reformed to help overcome discriminatory practices © Amnesty International

For many of us, Indonesia may seem to be a country recovered. We may recall the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and Timor-Leste in the late 1990s, or even the violence that ravaged the country in 1965. We may think of it as a country split asunder into more peaceful parts, a region struck by a tsunami that showed its strength to recover, or the former temporary residence of President Barack Obama.

For many of us, Indonesia is a country on the other side of the planet, whose human rights challenges perhaps don’t make us sit up and take notice compared to the acute and current crises we hear flit through our TV news.

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Violence Against Women in Post-Conflict

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Today we conclude our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence blog series. Over the campaign, we’ve explored militarism and gender violence as related to such issues as small arms proliferation; women’s human rights defenders; and the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. It is fitting that we close the campaign with a look at some of the enduring elements of gender violence that continue after peace is officially declared, as we look toward a new year that will hopefully bring peace, equality and justice for all to a world rocked by revolution and social change.

We have explored the brutal effects of war when it comes to violence against women in countries in active conflict such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan and Iraq.  War brings with it a culture of violence that now claims more civilian victims than combatants, the majority of those women and children. Yet to assume that with the declaration of peace comes an immediate cessation of violence would be incorrect; for women, the militarization of gender relations that accompanies war often results in higher incidence of violence after conflict.

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