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East Africa: The status of women remains unequal at all levels of society

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For over two decades, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) has been fighting for gender equality, empowerment of women and improvement of women’s rights in Kenya and broadly in East Africa. Established in 1999, CREAW has used bold, innovative and holistic interventions for the realization of women’s rights. Most of its programs have focused on challenging practices that undermine equity, equality and constitutionalism, promoting women’s participation in decision making and deepening the ideology and philosophy of women’s empowerment.

In this interview, Mercy Jelimo, an Executive Program Officer at the Nairobi-based Center for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW) discusses the current situation about gender issues, landmarked achievements, existing challenges and the way forward. Here are the interview excerpts:

In your estimation and from your research, how is the situation with gender inequality, specifically in Kenya, and generally in East Africa?

MJ: This survey was commissioned by our partners Women Deliver and Focus 2030 with over 17,000 respondents covering 17 countries on six continents. The survey findings indicated that over 60% of respondents believed that Gender Equality had progressed. However, on average 57% of respondents also felt that the fight for gender equality is not over particularly because we see key aspects of gender inequality persist including:  unequal distribution of unpaid care, domestic work and parental responsibilities between men and women (the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the burden women bear as caregivers) different employment opportunities with religion and culture continuing to entrench discrimination against women.

Whereas in East Africa, the survey only covered Kenya, the results are shared across. In particular, the Kenyan respondents indicated that there has been notable progress in regards to Gender equality particularly when it comes to the legal and policy frameworks to guard against discrimination on whichever basis be it sex, religion, class or race.

Over the last quarter century, the country has promulgated a new Constitution and a raft of subsidiary legislations and policies that are critical to Gender equality. Some of these laws include but not limited to: the Sexual Offences Act 2006, the Children’s Act 2001, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, the Marriage Act 2014, the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 2015, the Victim Protection Act 2014, the Witness Protection Act 2008, the National Policy for Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence 2014, the National Guidelines on the Management of Sexual Violence 2015, the Multi-sector Standard Operating Procedures for Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence, and the National Policy on the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 2019.

Kenya has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, among other instruments. However, even with this robust legal framework, accountability and the implementation of these laws have lagged behind.

The status of women and girls as compared to men and boys still remains unequal at all levels of society both public and private. This imbalance manifests itself as normalized negative social norms and ‘cultural’ practices with brutal violations against women and girls continuing to be perpetrated, women being excluded from leadership and decision making  positions, limited in their political participation and women and girls being denied access to economic opportunities.

Undeniably, women and girls continue to be victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) including rape, domestic violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. In fact, as of March 2020, according to statistics from Kenya’s Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), 45% of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women with girls accounting for 90% of gender-based violence (SGBV) cases reported. Harmful practices such as FGM and child marriage are still prevalent, with the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (2014) reporting a national FGM prevalence rate of 21% for women and girls aged 15-49 years of age. The prevalence rate differs from one practicing community to the other, with communities such Somali (96%) Samburu (86%) and The Maasai (78%) having significantly higher prevalence. 

Sadly, this is the story across all the other countries in East Africa where we have progressive legal and Policy framework but with zero accountability mechanisms. It is worth noting that in 2018, the East Africa Community Council of Ministers approved the EAC Gender policy which is key to ensuring that gender equality and empowerment of women are not only integrated into every aspect of its work but provides an outline of key priority areas for partner states. The EAC has also instituted other gender mainstreaming efforts including the EAC Social Development framework (2013), the EAC child policy (2016) the EAC Youth policy (2013), a Gender Mainstreaming Strategy for EAC Organs and Institutions, (2013) amongst others.

By the way, what are your research findings that you presented in report on Jan 28? Are there any similarities and differences about gender studies in other East Africa countries?

MJ: The key findings from Kenya can generally be used to paint a picture of the situation in the EAC region. Apparent Gender disparities in the region remain in a number of areas such as in political representation, access to education and training, access to quality and affordable healthcare, high unemployment rates of women, rampant sexual and gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, inadequate financing for gender needs and programs. 

Firstly, when asked about the status of Gender Equality, the majority of respondents identified Gender Equality as an important issue (96%) and that government should do more (invest) to promote gender equality.

Secondly, the role of religion and culture; how boys and girls are socialized and unequal representation were identified as obstacles to gender equality. This finding indicates the work that still remains to be done for Gender equality actors in Kenya and other partner states in the EAC. The most important step to achieving gender equality is dismantling systems and structures that promote and protect inequalities. whereas the country has made tremendous progress in having relevant legal and policy frameworks, there is still lack of implementation of these laws – this finding answers the why question– because institutions, people and structures are still very patriarchal. Furthermore, the lack of representation of women (also cited by Kenyan respondents as an obstacle) might explain the failures in implementation of the laws and policies.

Thirdly, the respondents identified corruption as the most important issue facing the country. This finding is also supported by the 2019 Global Corruption Barometer – Africa survey that showed that more than half of citizens in the continent think graft is getting worse and that governments were doing very little to curb the vice.  The impact that corruption has on service delivery cannot be overemphasized especially on public goods such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation. More specifically, is the resulting lack of public financing to programs and interventions that address gender needs & promote gender equality.

A recent Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Report by Transparency International indicated that all the countries in East Africa with the exception of Rwanda scored below the global average rate of 43 out of 100. More importantly is that the report noted that countries that perform well on the CPI have strong enforcement of campaign finance regulations as this correlates with the dismal performance of women in politics who often than not do not have the requisite political funding to mount effective political campaigns and outcompete their male counterparts.

What would you say about discrimination or representation of women in politics in the region? Do you feel that women are not strongly encouraged in this political sphere?

MJ: There has been significant progress when it comes to women’s political representation and participation with a majority of the countries in the EAC region adopting constitutional quotas and other remedies to promote representation. All the countries in the East Africa Community have achieved the 30% critical mass with the exception of Kenya (21%) and South Sudan (28%). More women occupy ministerial portfolios that were perceived to be the preserve of men such as defense, foreign affairs, manufacturing, trade, public service and so forth. Not to miss that the leading country globally – Rwanda is from the region (63%).

However, most institutions including parliaments are still male dominated and women in the region still face a number of challenges including violence against women in politics, religious and cultural beliefs and norms that limit women role, lack of support from political parties, lack of campaign financing and unregulated campaign financing environment with the progressive legal and policy frameworks yet to be fully implemented. These challenges continue to limit the representation and participation of women in public and  political sphere. The region is yet to have a woman as a president just to illustrate the glass ceilings that remain.

Tell us about how women are perceived (public opinion) in the society there? How is the state or government committed to change this situation, most probably by enacting policies?

MJ: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I ‘ll tell you what you value” This quote by President Joe Biden aptly captures the state of affairs in the region in relation to gender equality. The countries in the region have continued to enact and reform legal and policy frameworks but have largely remain unimplemented. The primary reasons being lack of financial and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these programs and policies are actualized. For us to reach to the conclusion that governments are committed to promoting gender equality and women empowerment, we need to see a shift from lip service to prioritization and adequate resourcing of programs that advance gender equality.

What platforms are there for improving gender equality, for ending gender-based violence and for discussing forms of discrimination there? Do you suggest governments have to act now to accelerate issues and progress on gender equality in East Africa?

MJ: As Deliver for Good Campaign partners in Kenya together with other gender equality advocates, the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa Agenda 2063 provide important blueprints to developing our society economically, socially and politically. The Deliver for Good campaign is an evidence-based advocacy campaigns that call for better policies, programming and financial investments in girls and women. Most importantly, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) is an important mobilization moment to ask governments and private sector to accelerate progress not just in East Africa but globally. Specifically, we will be using this moment to call on governments, not only make bigger and bolder commitments but also, to ensure that they match these commitments with financing and accountability mechanisms.

As the Deliver for Good campaign partners in Kenya, we have a particular interest on one of the GEF Action Coalitions – Gender Based Violence – to leverage on the Kenyan government leadership and the political will to end traditional practices that are harmful to women and girls such as Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage. Particularly and in line with the survey findings, we will be calling for: increased accountability for physical and sexual crimes against women; increased investment on prevention and protection programs while calling for inclusive efforts and programs that leave no woman behind in Kenya and East Africa.

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Reform of mental health services: An urgent need and a human rights imperative

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Already in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was warning that substantial investment in mental health services was necessary to avert a mental health crisis. The evidence for the devastating impact of the pandemic on mental health is now overwhelming. The reasons for this are clear: the pandemic caused fear and anxiety for everyone, and many of us had to face illness, grief over lost family members, insecurity and loss of income. In addition to this extraordinary burden placed on our mental health, we were cut off from our usual support networks, friends and families, while the pandemic was also disrupting the delivery of existing mental health services themselves.

Not everyone has been affected in the same way by the pandemic, and mental health is no exception here. Among others, the mental health of certain demographics such as older persons, children and adolescents, and women, as well as that of disadvantaged groups such as persons with disabilities, LGBTI people and migrants has been affected more compared to the general population. For example, in a statement I co-signed with the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and numerous other human rights experts, we alerted states to increasing mental health problems for LGBTI people, in particular youth, notably as a result of having to shelter with family members who were unsupportive of or hostile towards their LGBTI identity.

I recently published an Issue Paper entitled “Protecting the right to health through inclusive and resilient health care for all” in which I set out twelve recommendations. These include universal health coverage (of which mental health services are an essential component), more equality and dignity for patients, more participation and empowerment in relevant decision-making, the promotion of transparency and accountability throughout policy cycles, and better health communication policies. Since the right to health is defined as the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, these recommendations naturally apply to mental health care as well. Some recommendations, however, are more specific to mental health, such as those related to the need to ensure that mental health services are accessible to all when needed, of appropriate quality and affordable, to transition from an institutional to a community-based model and to eliminate coercive practices in mental health services.

Mental health systems: a longstanding source of human rights violations

While the additional strain generated by the pandemic is new, the mental health situation and lack of services has been a neglected human rights crisis in Europe for a long time. Despite the suffering and economic burden caused by mental health problems, mental health spending in the WHO European region was estimated to amount to only 1% of total health expenditure in 2019, and the majority of that expenditure was channelled towards mental health hospitals. In a very important report in 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health was already raising the alarm over the fact that “the arbitrary division of physical and mental health and the subsequent isolation and abandonment of mental health has contributed to an untenable situation of unmet needs and human rights violations”.

In my Issue Paper on health, I called on governments to pay attention to the essential social determinants of health in order to rebuild more inclusive and resilient health care systems, notably social protection, living conditions, working environment and education. These are all the more relevant for mental health, since mental well-being is determined not only by individual attributes but also by the social environment which can prevent, cause or aggravate mental health problems. In recent decades, a human rights-based, holistic and psychosocial understanding of mental health has been emerging, but this approach still faces a lot of resistance in many of our member states, where a reductionist, biomedical paradigm remains prevalent. Further problems identified in the aforementioned report of the Special Rapporteur are power asymmetries in mental health policies and services, and the biased use of evidence in mental health. In combination, these reinforce a vicious cycle of stigmatisation, disempowerment, social exclusion and coercion.

In order to rise to the challenge posed by the pandemic for mental health services, it is essential to reform them, as well as relevant laws and policies, urgently and from the ground up. As with health policy generally, the imperative to prevent human rights violations must be the guiding principle behind these reforms.

The human rights of persons with mental health problems or psychosocial disabilities (i.e. disabilities arising from the interaction between a person with a mental health condition and their environment) are routinely violated in two significant ways. Firstly, their human rights continue to be violated by mental health services themselves, notably because they often display a tendency towards paternalism, coercion and institutionalisation. Secondly, affected patients may not have access to the care they need to achieve the highest attainable standard of health. In this connection, we should bear in mind that this right depends on the realisation of many other human rights, notably those enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Coercion: a persistent source of human rights violations

In a recent report on its visit to Bulgaria, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) documented how patients in psychiatric hospitals were subjected to widespread and systematic ill-treatment at the hands of staff: they were slapped, pushed, punched, kicked, beaten with sticks, chained to beds and medicated without consent. While this example is particularly horrific, we should not forget that similar institutions, and the underlying approach taking coercion for granted, are still common in the majority of our member states, as demonstrated, for example, in recent exposés on the situation of psychiatric hospitals in Malta. My own Office has addressed human rights violations caused by such institutions in a large number of member states, including in an intervention before the European Court of Human Rights.

Why is this still accepted in 2021? Historically, fear, rejection and isolation have been our default response to persons with mental health problems. The ingrained fear and stigma of mental illness is still very strong, fuelling prejudice and the narrative that persons with mental health problems pose a danger to themselves and to society, against all available statistical evidence to the contrary – persons with mental health problems are in fact far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Mental health laws that normalise closed institutions and forced treatment confirm and reinforce these prejudices. Furthermore, while there is ample evidence that coercive treatment may lead to substantial trauma and that fear of coercion can actually deter persons experiencing mental ill-health from seeking help, there appears to be little scientific evidence to substantiate the supposed benefits of forced treatment.

In 2019, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted a groundbreaking Resolution calling on member states to end coercion in mental health, pointing to the fact that the number of persons subjected to coercion was still growing in Europe. It noted that so-called safeguards to prevent excessive use of coercion had not reduced but, on the contrary, seemed to have increased coercion, for example in France following a reform in 2011: what is defined as last resort in legislation often becomes the default approach, especially when resources are scarce. The corresponding report presented to the Parliamentary Assembly also reflects my observations concerning the marked differences in the level of involuntary placements between countries, but also between different regions of the same country or even from one hospital to another, suggesting that the main cause of coercion is not the inherent dangerousness of persons or therapeutic necessity, but an institutional culture that confines more out of prejudice or habit. This interpretation is supported by research.

In my address to the Parliamentary Assembly prior to the adoption of this Resolution, I drew attention to how my own country work allowed me to see first-hand the vicious circles caused by a mental health approach based on coercion, which perpetuates the isolation of the very persons who need the support of their community the most, fuelling more stigma and irrational fear. The lack of community-based, voluntary mental health services also results in even more coercion and deprivation of liberty.

I have also shared my observation that safeguards supposed to protect persons from arbitrariness and ill-treatment are reduced to mere formalities because they operate in a legal system where persons with mental health problems do not even have a chance to have their voices heard, owing to the profound power asymmetry between the patient and physician in most mental health settings. Judges almost invariably follow the opinion of the psychiatrist over the wishes of the patient, when the law provides for such a possibility. At their worst, such safeguards do little more than ease the conscience of those who are in fact taking part in human rights violations.

My position on coercion in psychiatry and the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly should be seen against the background of a growing consensus within the international community to consider involuntary measures without the informed consent of persons with mental health problems as human rights violations, or even as possibly amounting to torture. This is in large part due to the paradigm shift operated by the CRPD when it entered into force in 2008, and the efforts of civil society, in particular of persons with lived experience of mental health problems and psychosocial disabilities, to have their say in policy-making. As a result, a growing number of relevant international and national human rights bodies are now calling for an end to coercion and its replacement by community-based treatment options based on consent. This approach is slowly making headway in the medical community as well, as can be seen in the growing body of WHO guidance to states to reduce coercion, establish community-based alternatives and integrate mental health into primary care. Similarly, the World Psychiatric Association issued a position statement on the need to reduce coercion in October 2020.

This revolution is rooted in the CRPD and it would be a mistake to cling to older Council of Europe standards that place the bar lower. In this context, it is regrettable that work is still continuing in the Council of Europe on a draft Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention that reflects an outdated, biomedicine-driven approach reducing mental health to mental disorders and empowering physicians to forcibly confine and treat persons without consent, with virtually no limit being set on the duration of this placement or the treatments to be used. The vagueness of the definitions in this text and the trust in the judgement of a single physician, which appears misplaced given the human rights violations we are still witnessing on a daily basis, could easily give the impression of sanctioning even the worst kinds of human rights abuses in psychiatry. The opposition of the Parliamentary Assembly, several UN bodies including the treaty body of the CRPD, the unanimous protests of representative organisations of persons with psychosocial disabilities and my own opposition to this initiative have so far been ignored.

I call on member states to stop supporting such initiatives at international level, which may create confusion and become a stumbling block to necessary progress in advancing the human rights agenda when it comes to mental health. If new international standards do not nurture the paradigm shift from institutional to community-based care, and from coercive to consent-based care, they should at least do no harm by muddying the waters.

The way forward

A number of member states have started reviewing their mental health legislation in the light of these considerations, for example in Ireland and in the UK. What I found particularly positive with these two examples is the commitment to engage with civil society, and in particular users and providers of mental health services. Initiatives by representative organisations of persons with psychosocial disabilities to promote more inclusive policy-making, for example in the ongoing trialogue in Germany, are also to be commended. The active participation of persons with lived experience of using mental health services in defining policies, in particular, is a sine qua non condition of successful mental health reform, as their exclusion from the debate so far has allowed human rights violations to continue unchecked for as long as they have. This is also a general obligation under Article 4(3) of the CRPD.

The realisation of the right to full enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of mental health depends on the realisation of many other crucial human rights. In particular, member states need to conduct the necessary reforms of their mental health legislation in parallel with reforms in two crucial areas affecting core rights enshrined in the CRPD: legal capacity (Article 12) and the right to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19). Mental health care that truly respects the autonomy, dignity, will and preferences of service users is simply not possible so long as legal systems continue to tolerate substituted decision-making or segregation in institutions. Ongoing legal capacity reforms in our member states are very important in this respect. States must ensure that persons with mental health problems or psychosocial disabilities, including children, never lose their say on decisions involving their health, if necessary by providing the appropriate supports for decision-making, in order to ensure that mental health care is provided on the basis of free and informed consent. For as long as involuntary measures remain a reality, it is also crucial to ensure full access to justice to challenge any decision, an area where there are also some good practices, for example in the Netherlands.

As for institutions, I refer to the longstanding recommendations of my Office to put an end to their use, starting with immediate moratoria on future placements. Experience shows the crucial importance of closing large psychiatric hospitals where persons are involuntarily placed. To take one example, Italy was a pioneer in this respect by initiating a process of gradual closure of psychiatric hospitals from 1978, replacing them with alternatives closer to the community. While Italy is also facing a number of problems regarding the use of coercive measures in psychiatric establishments that still need to be addressed, it should be thought-provoking that the rate of involuntary placements in Italy today appear to be lower, by orders of magnitude, than in neighbouring states.

Reduction of coercive practices in psychiatric services, including the use of restraints and forced medication, and their progressive elimination should be another immediate priority. As mentioned above, the institutional culture and habits largely determine the prevalence of such measures. For example, my predecessor recommended to Denmark in 2013 that recourse to coercion in psychiatry be drastically reduced, and I was happy to note that a psychiatric centre in Ballerup had managed to put an end to the use of restraints as a first in the country, by training staff on conflict management and increasing physical activity for residents, without augmenting medication, for the benefit of both patients and staff.

The ultimate goal must be to replace institutions and a coercion-based mental health system by a recovery- and community-based model, which promotes social inclusion and offers a range of rights-based treatments and psychosocial support options. These can take many different forms and many models exist including, for example, support provided by peers or a support network, patient advocates/personal ombudspersons, advanced planning, community crisis resolution or open dialogue. It is also crucial to deconstruct the lingering stigma associated with seeking help for mental health problems, whether this is done in the school environment, at the workplace or in primary healthcare centres, through targeted awareness-raising and outreach. Only then can mental health services, as an integral part of primary care, be universally available to individuals throughout the entire life cycle. Once more, true involvement of persons with lived experience in the design, implementation, delivery and monitoring of these services is crucial.

Member states can take inspiration from several compilations of promising practices at the European and global levels, as well as ongoing projects and research conducted into community-based delivery of recovery-oriented mental health services, such as the RECOVER-E project running in Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania. I am also conscious of the potential impact of new technologies on mental health care, which represent both opportunities and serious risks for human rights, and I refer to my general recommendations concerning human rights and artificial intelligence.

In this context, I encourage states to pay special attention to the mental health of children and adolescents, not least because of the extraordinary strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on them. Lockdown measures and prolonged school closures have deprived them, more than other groups, of their usual routines, while exposing them to isolation and an increase in violence and abuse. We should not forget that childhood and adolescence are crucial periods for life-long mental health. Mental ill-health experienced in the formative years of one’s life, for example as a result of adversities or trauma, affects brain development and the ability to form healthy relationships and life skills. Children and adolescents therefore need non-bureaucratic access to mental health support, as early as necessary and as least invasively as possible, without any shame attached. Institutionalisation of children, on the other hand, has a devastating impact on childhood development. We also need to bear in mind that suicide was one of the leading causes of death among adolescents in the European region even before the pandemic, which makes recent evidence of a marked increase in anxiety levels, depression and self-harm among young people particularly alarming. In order to prevent future burdens on mental health systems, it is crucial to expand our capacities for early psychosocial interventions for children by building on innovative and community-based child mental health services, rather than pursuing the worrying trend of ever-increasing use of psychotropic medication on children.

Mental health reform is an extremely challenging task for all our member states, given the complexity of the issues and the huge gap between agreed international standards and the reality on the ground. This, however, makes it all the more urgent. Let us turn the current challenge of the pandemic into an opportunity, by thoroughly transforming mental health services in Europe, with human rights as our guide and compass.

Council of Europe

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Drawing the Line: Dark Side of Higher Education

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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

Educational institutions are places for intellectuals to develop a mindset and criticize things that are contrary to the norms. Higher education is a place where students develop literacy and soft skills development, which is essentially a safe space for every student, including a safe place for women from all kinds of threats such as sexual assault.

However, it turns out sexual assault on campuses still exist around the world. In fact, those cases often occur in universities and are a public secret that most of the parties in it have deliberately forgotten. Not many victims dare to report because the stigma towards victims is still exceedingly strong which particularly did by parties who have more power and authority in educational institution. In addition, the absence of policies and even sanctions imposed on perpetrators has impacted to a low number of offender who dare to report.

The sexual assault definition involves crimes where offenders subject victims to any unwanted or offensive sexual contact. According to a 2019 Association of American Universities (AAU) survey on sexual assault and misconduct, there is a 13% rate of non- consensual sexual contact in colleges. In line with the fact, direct complaints to National Commission on Violence Against Women of Indonesia between 2015 till August 2020 show that the educational environment is not a free space from sexual assault.

Moreover,  the  Student  Executive  Board  of  the  Faculty  of  Law,  Universitas Indonesia (UI) reveals a survey of 177 UI students in 2018. The results stated that 21 (twenty one) people had experienced sexual assault on campus, 39 (thirty nine) people were known about those cases. Sadly, only 11 (eleven) people of them who dare to report. This is kind of heartbreaking phenomenon because 79% of respondents stated that they did not know where they could report sexual assault cases.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 defined sexual assault on campus is happen when 1) submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic work; or 2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for

employment or academic decisions affecting such individual; or 3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating   an   intimidating,   hostile   or   sexually   offensive   working   or   academic environment. So, would you tolerate a place to pursue dreams tainted by sexual assault?

Philosophy of Campuses

In order to describe the role of an ideal university, The Father of Education in Indonesia, Ki Hadjar Dewantoro, stated motto for an educator that still relevant today. There are Ing ngarso sung tulodo, Ing madyo ambangun karso, and Tut wuri handayani. In general, Ing ngarso sung tulodo contains that an educator must exemplify good and correct measures verbal or non-verbally, because students tend to imitate what the educator is doing. Then, Ing madyo ambangun karso is in the midst of students, an educator must be able to provide motivation, encourages enthusiasm in achieving their goals, and Tut wuri handayani means an educator are behind the students who must be able to provide atmosphere in encouraging the enthusiasm of students, so that students feeling confident to take all steps in their life.

Within this atmosphere there is a very harmonious, synergic and responsible relationship between educators and students, so that the essence of education can be realized. Philosophically, an educator is the role as a father, as a teacher, as a parent, as a friend and as a student environment in an educational environment. Educators and students are elements or components that are interrelated and exist in a system called the education system. In a system, elements are interconnected and interrelated, so that they  move  in  balance,  synergistically,  harmoniously.  This  condition  is  a  supporting factor for the achievement of educational goals. If one of elements does not run well, the results of education system are not maximal as we expected. Therefore, that is why education is a system which is united and interrelated with each other which trying to achieve goals.

What should campuses do?

The American Council on Education Sexual Harassment Guidelines states that an effective campus program on sexual harassment has at least five elements:

1.   A basic definition of sexual harassment;

2.   A strong policy that clearly states that sexual harassment will not be tolerated;

3.   Effective   communication   to   inform   students,   faculty,   staff,   and   campus administrators of policies against sexual harassment;

4.   Educational programs designed to help all community members recognize and prevent sexual harassment; and

5.   An accessible, effective and timely complaint procedure.

Sadly, several universities took a various of preventive and repressive measures to deal with the sexual assault after various cases of sexual assault surfaced in various media, such as making a rector’s regulation related to prevention and handling of sexual assault on campus, establishing a reporting and complaint mechanism, forming a sexual assault handling team, to legal assistance. It means that campuses have not seen sexual assault as terrible issues that must be prevented, and it is the responsibility of every university in order to create a safe and conducive atmosphere for students. Moreover, the law of Sexual Assault Abolishing (RUU PKS) in Indonesia has not been passed even excluded from priority national legislation programs when high cases of sexual assault occur.

Government  must  create  a  regulation  that  obligated  campus  to  build  various sexual assault prevention components by create Ministerial Regulation by Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection also by Ministry of Education and Culture. Furthermore, campus must build those components which are create Rector Regulation concerning to sexual assault, establish report center, having a particular psychologist and counselor,  establish legal aid, making policies based on gender oriented, having a good control system, having supportive infrastructure as well. And the most crucial thing is, campus must build a clear complaint mechanism with regard to the rights of victim and the principle of confidentiality.

Through this article, writer want to emphasize that sexual assault on campus is a matter issues to consider by law maker. Campus issues are not always about bureaucracy, corruption, or conflict of interest, and so on, but also sexual assault. We are not obligated to remain in situation that makes we feel as vulnerable meanwhile we just need to pursue our careers or studies without being sexually harassed. How can you remain in situation that deemed you as sexual object? Please, make sure your voice is heard.

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Comparative Status of Women in Pakistan and Bangladesh

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March 8 marks a day of recognition that women around the world are still fighting for basic rights and equality. In Asia two Bangladesh and Pakistan – two countries that till 1971 were one nation are at diametrically opposite ends when it comes to the status of women.

For years, women in Pakistan have been severely disadvantaged anddiscriminated against. They have been denied the enjoyment of a wholerange of rights – economic, social, civil, and political rights and oftendeprivation in one of these areas has entailed discrimination in another.Much of Pakistani society lives under the patriarchal, outdated code of so-called “honour” that systemizes the oppression of women by preventing them from, for example, choosing their own husband or working outside the home.

On the other hand, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the last 50 years since its liberation in improving the lives of women and girls.  Maternal mortality rates are falling, fertility rate is declining, and there is greater gender parity in school enrolment.  Problems of gender-based violence, child marriage the government in Bangladesh is committed to addressing many of the challenges facing women. Women’s participation in the workforce has been continuously rising.  Three million Bangladeshi women are employed in the lucrative ready-made garment sector, which is Bangladesh’s largest export industry.  Increasing numbers of women are involved in small and medium enterprises.

The Denial of Basic Rights for Women in Pakistan

The current legal status of women in Pakistan was shaped largely by the military regime of Zia ul-Haq, which began in 1977 and lasted until 1987. Under his regime a series of repressive and regressive laws were passed, which dealt specifically with the treatment of women-attempting to strengthen imaginary distinctions between the public and private spheres.

These laws represented a diversion from the past commitment of the Pakistani state to “secular values.” They included the Hudood Ordinance, which applies selected conservative interpretations of Islamic law in order to decide issues in the sphere of “family law” and sexual practices. Violence against women and girls—including rape, so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage—remains a serious problem.

There are an estimated 1,000 honor killings[1] each year in Pakistan, according to a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch. The murder of 19-year-old Mahwish Arshad in 2018 Faisalabad district, Punjab, for refusing a marriage proposal gained national attention. But there are no official statistics around them, as they often go unreported or are logged as a suicide or natural death by family members. The passage of the 2016 bill, by which hono killings now carry a life sentence has made little difference. According to the Pakistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), “Antiquated — and lethal — notions that ‘honor’ resides in women’s bodies and actions still prevail across Pakistan, and it will take far more than laws to effect a change when perpetrators of ‘honor’ crimes continue to act with impunity.”

Women from religious minority communities remain particularly vulnerable to abuse. A report by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan found that at least 1,000 girls belonging to Christian and Hindu communities are forced to marry Muslim men every year. The government has done little to stop such forced marriages.Early marriage remains a serious problem, with 21 percent of girls in Pakistan marrying before the age of 18, and 3 percent marrying before age 15.

The Taliban and affiliated armed groups continued to attack schools and use children in suicide bombings in 2018. In August, militants attacked and burned down at least 12 schools in Diamer district of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region. At least half were girls’ schools. Pakistan has not banned the use of schools for military purposes, or endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration as recommended by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2017.

The Harassment of Female Journalists in Pakistan

“For women in Pakistan, there is no safe space,” contends Gharidah Farooqi, a popular current affairs talk show host on NewsOne,

Over the years, Pakistan has earned a reputation of being a hard country for female journalists. While attacks on male journalists, the nature of the attacks on women journalists, amplified by the ingrained misogyny of a patriarchal social structure, is very different. On Aug 12, 2020 a group of women journalists issued a statement against government-affiliated social media accounts and supporters. “Vicious attacks through social media are being directed at women journalists and commentators in Pakistan, making it incredibly difficult for us to carry out our professional duties,” the statement said, adding: “In what is certainly a well-defined and coordinated campaign, personal details of women journalists and analysts have been made public. To further discredit, frighten and intimidate us, we are referred to as peddlers of ‘fake news’, ‘enemy of the people’ and accused of taking bribes (often termed as ‘paid’ journalists or lifafas).”

Many women journalists alledge that whenever they write a political story or even tweet an opinion deemed unfavourable to the PTI or the other parties, the security establishment or the corporate sector, they are mercilessly trolled.

Following the deadly attack on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand, there were reports that the killer had earlier travelled to Pakistan. When Gharidah Farooqi tweeted a CNN story about this, a storm of abuse rained down on her, calling her traitor and demanding she be tried for treason. she was the first female journalist in Pakistan to file a complaint of cybercrime with the FIA. accounts associated with PTI ran troll campaign against her.

An independent journalist and documentary filmmaker, Sabin Agha has been at the receiving end of threats from non-state actors due to her reporting in Balochistan. She and her fixers are both on the agencies’ radar.

Ailia Zehra, a Lahore-based journalist and managing editor of Naya Daur, a web-based news portal, opines that the likelihood of online physical and sexual threats translating into real-time events is very high for female reporters.

Pakistani women – Marching in March

Pakistani women have chosen International Women’s Day in Pakistan to reclaim their space in society, speak up for their rights, and demand justice from the system that has failed them because of patriarchal structures.  Pakistan’s Aurat March (“aurat” means “women” in Urdu) saw its debut on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018. Every year on March 8 women across cities in Pakistan come out in large numbers to protest against and demand for more accountability for violence against women, and to support for women who experience violence and harassment at the hands of security forces, in public spaces, at home, and at the workplace. These protests across Pakistan, have taken the form of marches, public art displays and performances highlighting challenges faced by women. And the shame is that every year radical Islamists pelt stones, shoes and sticks at the Aurat March participants. This year, the Aurat March (Women’s March) protests also focused on the damage caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in Pakistan. Calling it a “Pandemic of Patriarchy,” the protesters demanded the government increase the health budget to 5 per cent of GDP so that women may get better healthcare. Among the issues the protests drew attention to was the significant increase in domestic violence and child abuse as families were confined to their homes during the pandemic.

Women’s awareness of their rights, thanks to manifold efforts by Pakistani women’s rights groups, along with women’s greater participation in the workforce and attendant exposure to the rights movement, appears to have somewhat increased which ironically itself may have contributed to the increasingly violent backlash they are exposed to.

Bangladeshi Feminist movements

While protest marches marked International Women’s Day in Pakistan, breaking glass ceilings and paving a new path, a transgender started her journey as a news anchor in Bangladesh on the same day. Tashnuva Anan Shishir debuted on air on March 8, presenting all with late afternoon news bulletin for a private news channel. What marks women’s movement inBangladesh is their diverse and vibrant nature. Feministactivists and women’s rights organizations, despitetheir smaller numbers, have made their presencefelt through their engagements in various socialmovements, development activities, and protests againstfundamentalism, violence against women and staterepressions during Pakistani authoritarian rule. Undeniably, the women’s movement actors in Bangladeshhave gained significant advantages in attaining gender justice by challenging gender discrimination in political,social and economic spheres. The demands for changehas led to significant shift in state policies.

Progressionof Women’s Rights inBangladesh:

Since achieving independence in 1971, the Bangladesh government while tirelessly working to develop economically, it has also been fighting another battle for women’s rights in Bangladesh.Despite a patriarchal social framework, Bengali women have held the right to vote since 1947, and the country elected its first female Prime Minister in 1991. Women fought for their country in Bangladesh’s Liberation War, and the constitution that the country subsequently adopted promised equal opportunities for women in all areas.The government has enacted numerous policies over the past decade focused on women’s rights in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has increased allowances for widows, eased the burden on lactating mothers in urban areas and provided job training in fields such as agriculture and electronics. The National Women Development Policy of 2011 aimed to establish equal rights for men and women but also included specific goals such as assistance for female entrepreneurs. To oversee the implementation of the development policy, the government formed a 50-member National Women and Child Development Council chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Hasina has also vocally supported women’s empowerment in global forums such as the UN.

In Bangladesh, many women occupy real leadership roles.  The majority society In Bangladesh supports women’s political and civic participation, cultivating women’s leadership roles in areas such elections and political processes.  The number of women winning seats in mainstream party leadership committees is in hundreds. The proportion of women in parliament has continued to rise over the past decade and women hold seats in 12,000 local political offices. The country is setting an example in encouraging women workers to engage and create a stronger social network, advocating for their rights in local communities and connecting them to resources through community groups.

Recognizing the significant potential of women-owned businesses to accelerate economic growth in Bangladesh, government has helped organize women’s business forums across the country to expand loan opportunities. These efforts resulted in commitments from the Bangladesh Bank and several commercial banks to provide collateral-free loans for women entrepreneurs at concessional interestrates. In other sectors too women the number of women workers are gradually rising. Young female graduates are increasingly joining Bangladesh’s media industry. Wahida Zaman, for example, recently joined United News of Bangladesh (UNB), an independent wire service, as an apprentice sub-editor.

During the past decades, Bangladesh has improved its education policies; and the access of girls to education has increased and since the 1990s, girls’ enrolment in primary school has increased rapidly.

In 2010, Bangladesh enacted the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010 and resultantly violence towards women, committed by men, has decreased significantly and is considerably low compared to south Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India.

The country is internationally recognized for its good progress on a number of gender indicators. These include gender parity in primary and secondary education and maternal mortality that has declined by 66 per cent over last few decades, estimated at a rate of 5.5 per cent every year. Bangladesh ranks highest in the Gender Gap Index in South Asia achieving 47th among 144 countries in the world.


[1] ‘Honour’ killings are killings of people, predominantly girls and women who are considered to have shamed the women’s families by aspects of their behaviour; they are most often perpetrated by male members of the women’s families and are intended to restore their ‘honour’

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