Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Bride Kidnapping - Kyrgyzstan

Bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan

Bride Kidnapping is the term given to marriage that results from kidnapping women. This is a practice in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry, so the woman is enslaved by her abductor, raped and taken as his wife. Bride kidnapping has been practiced around the world and throughout prehistory and history, and it continues to occur in countries in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazahstan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, among people as diverse as the Hmong in Southest Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, the Romani in Europe, and the tribes in amazon jungle in South America.
In most nations, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime rather than a valid form of marriage.

In Kyrgyzstan, half of the Kyrgyz ethnic women are married after being kidnapped and raped by the men who becomes their husband, even though this practice is illegal since 1994.

Countries where marriages are arranged and forced: (see the map below)

[Black] Ordinary forced marriage (which may involve kidnapping); [Carmine] Predominant child marriage; [Red] Predominant arranged marriage (not inbreeding); [Ocher] Arranged marriage (mainly between cousins); [Yellow] About 20% of marriages are consaguineous.

Places that practice these acts: Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, India, Ethiopia, Kzakhstan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tzeltal in Mexico, Georgia, Rwanda, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, China, Japan, Ireland, England, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Tajikistan, Slovakia and Malta. Most occur in poor regions.

How does it happen?

Kyrgyzstan kidnapped woman being prepared for the forced wedding
A group of men meet, looking for women with who they want to marry, and as soon as they spot one, the woman is literally dragged off the street, into a car and she is taken directly to the man's house. There, his family usually already started making preparations for the wedding. Then, she's taken to a room, where she's kept until the relatives of the man, usually older women, try to convince her to wear a married woman's scarf as a sign of acceptance to get married, even if the woman resists persuasion and mantains her desire to return home. However, when a woman enters her kidnapper's house, she is already considered a woman without purity, making the situation shameful for her and her family, which normally makes her give up on returning her own home, so they stay with the kidnapper. In addition, they can be seen as stubborn and belligerent if they resist marriage, and are considered "less attractive" because of it. After the kidnapping, these women are no longer seen as virgin, so sometimes the victim is raped by the fiancé in order to lose their virginity.

In Kyrgyzstan, about 84% of abducted women end up agreeing to the nuptials. In the country, forced marriages represent 57% of the total. It is not surprising that even though almost 90% of abducted women end up marrying their kidnapper, 60% of those marriages end up leading to divorce. Some divorced women admitted that after returning to their parents' house, they no longer had a voice in family matters and reduced their status. Some are even beaten and threatened by the parents themselves.

Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy mural in Bishkek
Although Kyrgyzstan banned kidnapping of brides in 2013 and child marriage in 2016, about 12,000 young people are kidnapped for marriage each year, according to the Kyrgyzstan Women's Support Center. In the first half of 2019 alone, Kyrgyzstan had 118 cases of bride abduction. There are 94 cases of kidnapping of girls with the aim of marrying, 12 for coercion into marriage. Most of these kidnappings ended up in court.

Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy, a Kyrgyzstan woman, was brutally stabbed to death by a man who had abducted her hours earlier. The man,Mars Bodoshev, was convicted of the kidnapping of the bride and sentenced to 20 years in a high security penal colony with confiscation of property for murder and kidnapping in order to force her to marry. In late 2018, a mural portrait of Burulai appeared in Bishkek, the city where she was abducted, at the medical university where she was studying.

Also, women who are kidnapped and forced into marriage are more likely to commit suicide, even in cases where they manage to escape and return home, because of the social/familiar pressure and psychological issues developed by trauma. 
Kasymbay Urus, 19 years old, was kidnapped by a 34 year-old man and although she was taken home two days later by her family, she hanged herself in her backyard the next day. She had a boyfriend, whom she wanted to marry.

It's important to understand that bride kidnapping is a situation in which the Human Rights of these women are completely violated and, in addition to the physical violence that many suffer during forced marriages, the psychological trauma caused by this practice and the consequences of the vision society has on these women is enormous.

If you want to understand better what's the reality of bride kidnapping, check this video:

Article written by:
Adriana Santos


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Racism: a world issue

George Floyd, 2016
On May 25, in the United States of America, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Floyd bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. During the arrest, Derek Chauvin, one of the police officers that were sent to the scene, knelt on his neck and back for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Seeing the excessive use of police force, since George Floyd was collaborating with the detention and posed no threat, several people joined in asking the police to get off of him, mainly because Floyd complained several times about being hurt and constantly said "I can't breathe". As time went by, videos made by witnesses display Floyd showing no signs of life, and neither Chauvin moved away or his colleagues tried to stop him; officer Derek Chauvin only removed his knee from George's neck when the paramedics arrived at the scene and told him to, although it was too late - George Floyd died from asphyxiation. 

The official autopsy found Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by subdual and restraint, but a second autopsy, commissioned by Floyd's family found that the evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause of death, with neck compression restricting blood flow to the brain, and back compression restricting breathing. Chauvin and the three other officers were fired from their jobs. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman initially charged Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter, but Minnesota's attorney general added an upgraded charge of second-degree murder against him, and charged the other three in the death of George Floyd, with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. 

(Left to right): Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and
 Tou Thao face charges in the death of George Floyd

As the videos of Floyd's death became viral, protests took place in more than 75 U.S cities and around the world against police brutality, police racism and lack of police accountability. Petitions and movements were created, like the "Black Lives Matter" movement, to change the reality of police brutality towards the black community in the USA. 

State civil rights action

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights opened an investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department, and on June 5, the Minneapolis City Council authorized the mayor to enter into a restraining order with the State of Minnesota banning chokeholds and neck restraints, requiring police officers to intervene against the use of excessive force by other officers, and requiring authorization from the police chief or other designate before use crowd control weapons such as chemical agents and rubber bullets. On June 8, 2020, the reforms to the Minneapolis Police Department were approved by the Hennepin County Court.

Memorials and protests

Parisians held signs demanding justice and paid homage to
 Adama Traore, a black Frenchman who died in similar circumstances
The area around the location at which Floyd was killed became a memorial throughout May 26, with many placards paying tribute to him and referencing the Black Lives Matter movement. As the day continued, more people showed up to pay tribute and the crowd, estimated to be in the hundreds of people, then marched to the 3rd Precinct of the Minneapolis Police. Participants used posters and slogans with phrases such as "Justice for George", "I can't breathe", and "Black Lives Matter". As protests spread all across the United States of America, the world hasn't been able to remain quiet in the face of such a huge, yet common, problem as police violence, especially towards the black community in the United Stated. Thousands of people took the streets of Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, London, Lisbon in support of the movement, adding to tens of thousands who rallied in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and other European countries, as the strained situation in the U.S. has brought the issue of racism and discrimination into focus globally.

Protesters gather around Winston Churchill statue
 in Parliament Square during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson issued a statement urging Black Lives Matter protesters in the U.K. to "work peacefully, lawfully" following days of unrest that saw the statue of wartime leader Winston Churchill twice defaced.

A top European Union agency told the European Union Observer on Monday, June 8, "highlight that discrimination and violence against black people is not only a problem of one country - it is a commonplace". 

Why is it so important to fight against racism?

Racism exists since the colonial era, when white people were given legally or socially sanctioned privileges and rights while these same rights were denied to other races and minorities. In that time, white people enjoyed exclusive privileges in matters of education, immigration, voting rights, citizenship, land acquisition, and criminal procedure throughout history. It causes harm to those who are suffering from it, not only hurting individuals, but also communities and our society at large.

Levels of racism
Studies show that experiencing racism has deep effects on people's health and welfare, as it can cause feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, it can affect people's freedom and dignity, as those who endure racism can be made to feel they have less freedom, or are second-class citizens, not being able to have access to the same kind of opportunities as white people, and it is shown they are more likely to suffer from discrimination and abuse by authority forces, because of systemic racism. This type of racism persists in our schools, offices, court system, police departments, and elsewhere, as a result of white people occupying most positions of decision-making power, while people of color have a difficult time getting a fair shake, let alone getting ahead. 

Since the election of President of the United States, Donald Trump, hate crimes have been on the rise, and white supremacists have been emboldened, anti-immigrants rhetoric has intensified,as a result of the President's beliefs and values. Nevertheless, racism isn't just a Black people's problem, it's everyone's problem, because it erodes the fabric of society. Leaders at every level must use their power, platforms, and resources to help employees and communities overcome these challenges and build an inclusive world.

Article written by:
Adriana Santos
Millena Ferraz


Friday, May 29, 2020

Celebrating the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

United Nations Peacekeeping Operation with Nigerian troops

On May 29, the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is celebrated.
Usually known as "Blue Berets" or "Blue Helmets", Peacekeepers are civilian, police and military men and women who come from different backgrounds and cultures, but work together in order to protect the ones who are exposed to any kind of threats and provide support to countries in transition from conflict to peace. They can supervise cease-fires to protect civilians and monitor peace processes in post-conflict areas, protect human rights, support free and fair elections, disarm ex-combatants, promote the rule of law, economic and social development, minimize the risk of land-mines, and more.

United Nations peacekeeping was initially developed during the Cold War in 1948, starting with United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) operations, with the intent of resolving conflicts between states by deploying unarmed or lightly armed military personnel from some countries to areas where warring parties were in need of a neutral party to observe the peace process. The peacekeeping operations were held by the United Nations Office of Special Political Affairs until the late 1980s, and in 1992 the official Department of Peace Operations was created, which is the department that now coordinates the peacekeeping missions. These kinds of operations are authorized by the Security Council, once the United Nations Charter give them the power and responsibility to take action to maintain international peace and security. The operations are settled and fulfilled by the UN itself, with troops serving under its control. In these cases, peacekeepers remains members of their armed forces, not constituting an independent "United Nations army", because it doesn't have such a force. In cases where direct UN involvement is not considered fitting or beneficial, the Council authorizes regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Economic Community of West African States, or alliances of willing countries to guarantee peacekeeping or peace-enforcement tasks.

How does United Nations Peacekeeping help countries torn by conflict create conditions for peace?

Peacekeeping has proven to be one of the most effective tools available to the UN to assist countries torn by conflict to achieve a peaceful environment. Peacekeepers provide security and political and peacebuilding support in order to make the transition from conflict to peace way easier, by using strenghts as legitimacy and the ability to deploy and sustain troops and police from around the globe, for example, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers, but success is never guaranteed, because UN Peacekeeping almost by definition goes to the most physically and politically difficult environments. UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles:
  • Consent of the parties;
  • Impartiality;
  • Non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate.

What kind of Blue Helmets are needed?

The most common sort of UN peacekeeper is the infantry soldier, however, UN needs specialized personnel who are called as "enablers" - they are skilled soldiers, including engineers, who for example were able to help with the post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti or the building of new roads in South Sudan. It is also needed helicopters and their crews, as they enable United Nations to extend their area of influence and be much more visible. Other specialist enablers include transport companies, communicators and medical personnel.

Women and their role in peacekeeping operations

Security Council Resolution 1325 urges equal participation of women at all sectors of peacekeeping operations, including the military. This is also reinforced in the policy on gender equality by the Departments of Peace Operations and Operational Support and the guidelines for integrating gender perspective into the works of the UN Military (2010). Women peacekeepers have proven that they can perform the same roles as men, from command to frontline roles, while bringing an added value to military operations. Female soldiers provide an invaluable perspective in planning operations and in making key decisions, especially those affecting civilians, particularly women and girls.

Women as Peacekeepers on an operation in Congo
The deployment of female peacekeepers to peace operations contributes to achieving sustainable peace and the improved wellbeing of women and girls in conflict-affected regions. A female soldiers' visibility can empower women and girls and increase women's participation in the security sector. Some unique tactical skills female military personnel bring to this field include screening of female civilians and conducting of house searches in areas where it is not culturally appropriate for men to ender private space. Local populations in host countries often feel more comfortable liaising and sharing information with military troops that include women alongside men. By obtaining better information, they can better protect these communities.

In 1993, women made up 1% of deployed uniformed personnel. In 2019, out of approximately 95,000 peacekeepers, women constitute 4.7% of military contingents and 10.8% of formed police units in UN Peacekeeping missions. While the UN encourages and advocates for the deployment of women to uniformed functions, the responsibility for deployment of women in the police and military lies with Member States. UN Police Division launched "the Global Effort" to recruit more female police officers into national police services into UN police operations around the world. The 2028 target for women serving in military contingents is 15% and 25% for military observers and staff officers. The 2028 target for women serving in formed police units is 20% and 30% for individual police officers. 

Why is it important to have women peacekeepers?

More women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping. Women peacekeepers improve overall peacekeeping performance, have greater access to communities, help in promoting human rights and the protection of civilians, and encourage women to become a meaningful part of peace and political processes.
Improved operations and performance: Greater diversity and a broadened skillset means improved decision‐making, planning and results, leading to greater operational effectiveness and performance.
Better access: Women peacekeepers can better access the population, including women and children - for example, by interviewing and supporting survivors of gender-based violence and violence against children - thereby generating critical information that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
Reflecting the communities we serve: Diversity in United Nations peacekeepers allows engagement with all members of the communities we are there to protect.
 Building trust and confidence: Women peacekeepers are essential enablers to build trust and confidence with local communities and help improving access and support for local women, for example, by interacting with women in societies where women are prohibited from speaking to men.
  Help prevent and reduce conflict and confrontation: Diversity in peacekeeping helps to address the disproportionately negative effect that conflict has on the livelihood of women and bring new perspectives and solutions to the table by effectively addressing the needs of women in conflict and post-conflict settings, including those of women ex-combatants and child soldiers during the process of demobilizing and reintegration into civilian life.
Inspiring and creating role models: Women peacekeepers serve as powerful mentors and role models for women and girls in post-conflict settings in the host community, setting examples for them to advocate for their own rights and pursue non‐traditional careers.

Major Suman Gawani (left), Commander Carla Araujo (right)
In 2016, it was created the United Nations Military Gender Advocate award and, on May 25, 2020, for the first, it has been awarded to two UN Peacekeepers: Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a brazilian Naval Officer, and Major Suman Gawani, of the Indian Army 
Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo serves as the military Gender and Protection Advisor in the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic. Major Gawani - the first Indian peacekeeper to win the award - is a Military Observer, formerly deployed to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.


Peacekeepers on an operation in Africa
There have been several reports during UN peacekeeping missions of human rights abuse by UN soldiers, notably in Central African Republic in 2015. Also, reporters witnessed a rapid increase in prostitution in Cambodia and Mozambique after UN peacekeeping forces moved in. In the 1996 UN stude "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children", former first lady of Mozambique Graça Machel documented: "In 6 out of 12 country studies on sexual exploitation of children in situations of armed conflict prepared for the present report, the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution". 
Gita Sahgal spoke out in 2004 with regard to the fact that prostitution and sex abuse crops up wherever humanitarian intervention efforts are set up. She observed: "The issue with the UN is that peacekeeping operations unfortunately seem to be doing the same thing that other militaries do. Even the guardians have to be guarded."

However, there is strong evidence that the presence of peacekeepers significantly reduces the risk of renewed warfare, because the more peacekeepers, the fewer battlefield and civilian deaths. Also, the promise to deploy peacekeeping troops can help international organizations in bringing combatants to the negotiation table and increase the likelihood that they will agree to a cease-fire and, perhaps, that will help to achieve peace. But it's believed that this positive effect is a "short-term success", as it's observed that is lessened over time, so, the longer the peacekeepers remain in a country, the greater the likelihood that peace will maintain.

Click on the link below if you want to see how peacekeepers work:

Article written by:
Adriana Santos