6-5-20 FGM: Egyptian father 'used coronavirus lie to trick daughters' into procedure
A man in Egypt who allegedly had female genital mutilation (FGM) carried out on his three daughters after tricking them, has been charged along with the doctor who performed the procedure. The doctor went to the girls' house after their father told them they would receive a coronavirus "vaccination", Egypt's prosecutor-general said. The girls, aged under 18, were drugged and the doctor cut their genitals. FGM was made illegal in 2008 in Egypt but remains prevalent. A coronavirus vaccine currently does not exist although global trials to develop one are under way. The girls told their mother, who is divorced from their father, about the procedure and she notified authorities. "They lost consciousness and when they woke up they were shocked to find their legs bound together and a sensation of pain in their genitals," the prosecutor said in a statement. Performing FGM was made a criminal act in Egypt in 2016, and doctors can be jailed for up to seven years if found guilty of carrying out the procedure. Anyone who requests it can face up to three years in prison. But so far no-one has been successfully prosecuted under the law. Women's rights groups say judges and police do not take the legislation seriously enough. "It's really shocking that authorities such as judges and the police continue to treat FGM cases with extreme leniency here," Reda el-Danbouki, executive director of the Cairo-based Women's Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness, told AFP news agency. In January, 14-year-old Nada Abdel Maqsood bled to death after forcibly undergoing FGM, sparking fury online. Her parents and the doctor were referred to a criminal court, but Mr Danbouki says it is now unclear whether a trial will go ahead. Despite being outlawed in many parts of the world, the ritual is still practised globally. The procedures alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons, and often involve the removal or cutting of the labia and clitoris. The UN estimates that 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone some form of genital mutilation. (Webmaster's comment: The men involved should be arrested, tried, convicted and TOTALLY CASTRATED!)
6-4-20 Sudan banned FGM - what happens next?
Sudan's new government has banned FGM - female genital mutilation - but this does not mean the practice will disappear overnight. It is deeply embedded in Sudanese culture and is also difficult to talk about. The BBC's Insaf Abbas discusses some of the long-term work that will need to happen now to ensure the new law can be enforced successfully.
5-27-20 Romina Ashrafi: Outrage in Iran over 'honour killing' of girl
Police in northern Iran have arrested a man accused of murdering his 14-year-old daughter in an "honour killing" that has sparked widespread outrage. Romina Ashrafi ran away from home in Gilan province with her 35-year-old boyfriend after her father objected to their marriage, local media said. The pair were found by police and Romina was sent home despite reportedly telling them she feared for her life. Last Thursday night, she was allegedly attacked by her father in her bedroom. News outlet Gilkhabar.ir reported that Romina was "decapitated" with a sickle, and that afterwards the father walked outside the house "with the sickle in his hand and confessed". On Wednesday, a number of national newspapers highlighted Romina's story on their front pages. "Insecure paternal home", read the headline in the pro-reform Ebtekar, which lamented the failure of existing legislation to protect women and girls. Meanwhile, the Persian hashtag #Romina_Ashrafi has been used more than 50,000 times on Twitter, with most users condemning the killing and the patriarchal nature of Iranian society in general. Shahindokht Molaverdi, a former vice-president for women and family affairs and the current secretary of Iran's Society for Protecting Women's Rights, wrote: "Romina is neither the first nor will she be the last victim of honour killings." She added that such murders would continue "as long as the law and dominant cultures in local and global communities are not deterring enough" Iran's Islamic penal code reduces punitive measures for fathers and other family members who are convicted of murder or physically harming children in domestic violence or "honour killings". If a man is found guilty of murdering his daughter, the punishment is between three and 10 years in prison, rather than the normal death sentence or payment of diyeh (blood money) for murder cases.
5-17-20 One every eight minutes: India's missing children
It is estimated that a child goes missing in India every eight minutes. Many are trafficked as part of a nationwide trade which is separating children from their families. Millions end up in forced labour, domestic slavery and sex work, in what’s become a lucrative industry. But despite this, it rarely dominates headlines, there’s little public outrage, or political will to end it. (Webmaster's comment: India has 4 times the population of the United States, but in the United States over 1 child goes missing every minute.)
5-15-20 Afghan maternity ward attackers 'came to kill the mothers'
The cold-blooded murders of 24 women, children and babies at a hospital in the Afghan capital were horrific enough But as Frederic Bonnot made his way through the bullet-riddled maternity unit, he realised something more. The attackers had walked straight past a number of other wards, all closer to the entrance of Kabul's Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, and made straight for the maternity unit. To him, it meant one thing: this was no mistake. "What I saw in the maternity demonstrates it was a systematic shooting of the mothers," Bonnot, Head of Programmes for Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Afghanistan, said. "They went through the rooms in the maternity, shooting women in their beds. It was methodical. "They came to kill the mothers." Amina was just two hours old when the attack started. The little girl was the third child for Bibi Nazia and her husband, Rafiullah. Back at home, they already had a girl and a boy. Nazia had gone to the hospital with her mother, and Amina was born at 08:00. It should have been a day of celebration for Rafiullah. But at 10:00, the attack began. Explosions were heard by people outside the hospital complex. Those with family and friends inside rushed to the scene - including Rafiullah. "He ran from side to side. But he couldn't do anything: no one allowed him to go inside," his cousin Hamidullah Hamidi told BBC Pashto. Inside the walls of the hospital, three gunmen were moving through the 55-bed maternity unit, which has been run by MSF since 2014. A total of 26 mothers and mothers-to-be were inside at the time. Ten managed to flee to safe rooms; the other 16 - including Bibi Nazia and Amina - were not so lucky. Three of the 16 mothers were shot and killed in the delivery room, along with their unborn babies. Bibi Nazia was among the other eight mothers killed; little Amina was shot in the legs. Five more were wounded. Two young boys were also killed in the carnage, along with a midwife. One woman, named only as Khadija, told Reuters news agency how one of the gunmen had pointed his weapon at her, before turning it on two other people.
5-14-20 US church sues after bible study 'Zoombombed' by child abuse
A California church is suing video chat company Zoom after a hacker allegedly hijacked a virtual Bible study class to post graphic images of child abuse. A hacker took over users' computers and played "sick and disturbing videos", according to the lawsuit filed by Saint Paulus Lutheran Church. The San Francisco church's leaders contacted Zoom for help, but the company "did nothing", the suit says. In a statement, a Zoom spokesperson condemned the "horrific event". "Our hearts go out to those impacted," the company said, "On the same day we learned of this incident, we identified the offender, took action to block their access to the platform and reported them to the relevant authorities." The company pointed to its "recently updated security features", adding that Zoom users should not widely share meeting access and passwords "as appeared to be the case" with the church group. The popularity of the Zoom video chat app has soared in recent months for work and leisure as virus lockdown measures have kept millions at home. The inflated use has come with heightened scrutiny over its security and privacy measures, with reports of so-called "Zoombombing" - where uninvited guests hack into meetings, sometimes posting racist, abusive or explicit content. Saint Paulus Church - one of the oldest churches in San Francisco - said in the suit, filed to a federal court in San Jose on Wednesday, that its 6 May bible study class was hacked by a "known offender - one who has been reported to the authorities multiple times". The eight Bible study students, mostly pensioners, had their computers' control systems disabled while the hacker played pornographic videos. "The footages were sick and sickening - portraying adults engaging in sex acts with each other and performing sex acts on infants and children, in addition to physically abusing them," the suit alleges. When the students tried to end the video session and start again, the hacker attacked again, the suit says.
5-7-20 Cardinal Pell 'knew of' clergy abuse, says Australian royal commission
Cardinal George Pell knew of child sexual abuse by priests in Australia as early as the 1970s but failed to take action, a landmark inquiry found. The findings on Cardinal Pell - an ex-Vatican treasurer - come from Australia's royal commission into child sexual abuse, which ended in 2017. Details were only revealed on Thursday. A court had previously redacted the report because the cleric was facing child abuse charges at the time. The cardinal has denied the findings. He said he was "surprised" by the inquiry's report, adding: "These views are not supported by evidence." Cardinal Pell was convicted of child abuse in 2018, but last month was released from jail after Australia's top court overturned his conviction. In over 100 pages concerning Pell's actions, the commissioners found the cardinal knew of paedophile priests both early in his career, and as he progressed. In particular, the commissioners dismissed the cleric's long-stated defence that he didn't know about the actions of his former colleague Gerald Ridsdale. in the Victorian city of Ballarat. Ridsdale is in jail for hundreds of child abuse offences - and is considered Australia's worst convicted paedophile priest. "We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps," the commissioners said in the report. "We are also satisfied that by 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy, but he also considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it," the commission said. Pell was involved in the decision to transfer Ridsdale, as well other suspected abusers, to different parishes, the inquiry said. Since the 1990s, the cardinal has been criticised in Australia for his response to priest abuse within the Church.
5-5-20 Bois Locker Room: Indian teens' lewd Instagram group causes outrage
Indian police have taken a 15-year-old boy into custody for participating in an Instagram group chat that shared images of underage girls and made lewd comments about them. The group, "Bois Locker Room", is believed to comprise young schoolboys in the capital, Delhi. Screenshots of chats on the group have been shared widely on social media. The incident has caused outrage in Delhi, which is already seen as one of India's most unsafe cities for women. The 2012 rape and murder of a medical student in the city led to a global outcry and the passage of more stringent laws against rape and sexual assault. However, there has been little indication that the situation has improved since then. Several Instagram users who had been made aware of its existence began posting about the group and calling out members for their behaviour. It turned out that members were sharing images of their classmates and other underage girls without their knowledge or consent along with crude comments ranging from body shaming to jokes on sexual assault and rape. The screenshots began to be widely shared on WhatsApp as well as Twitter and other social media platforms. But Shubham Singh, a cyber expert who works closely with law enforcement and was one of the first people to begin investigating the group, has cautioned that many of these screenshots look edited. He added that there appeared to be a mix of images from this group and some similar groups that exist on other social media platforms like Snapchat. He said he started looking into the group after some Instagram users got in touch with him and sent him screenshots. "I tried to investigate it properly but no-one was coming forward to file a complaint. So we tried to find out who was behind the group. They had deleted their Instagram accounts but through the screenshots and some tools, I was able to trace them," he said.
5-1-20 Sudan criminalises female genital mutilation (FGM)
Sudan has criminalised carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM), making it punishable by three years in jail. Some 87% of Sudanese women aged between 14 and 49 have undergone some form of FGM, according to the UN. In Sudan it is common for women to get the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, removed. FGM can result in urinary tract infections, uterine infections, kidney infections, cysts, reproductive issues and pain during sex. Girls get cut because of a widespread cultural belief that it is essential for girls' reputations and future marriage prospects. But there has been a global trend towards banning the practice. However, according to a Unicef report carried out in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, the practice is still being widely carried out, despite the fact that at least 24 of these countries have legislation or some form of decrees against FGM. BBC Sudan analyst Mohaned Hashim notes that there have been previous attempts to ban FGM in Sudan but parliament under long-time leader Omar al-Bashir rejected the recommendations. Women were at the forefront of the movement that toppled Mr Bashir in April 2019. Campaigners accused the former government of discriminating against women in various ways - including preventing women from wearing trousers. In November Sudan repealed a restrictive public order law that controlled how women acted and dressed in public. The FGM amendment to the criminal law was approved on 22 April, Reuters news agency reports. Under the amendment, anyone who performs FGM either inside a medical establishment or elsewhere faces three years' imprisonment and a fine. This feels like a momentous day for Sudanese women, although many are treating it with caution for fear that FGM could be driven underground. Maybe that will change with this news. I'm hoping that if anything, it shakes the taboo and gets more women and girls in Sudan talking about FGM.
4-9-20 La Luz del Mundo sex crimes case dropped by US court
Sex crime charges against the leader of an international religious organisation must be dismissed over procedural errors, a US appeals court has ruled. The La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World) church's Naasón Joaquín García faced a number of charges, including child rape and human trafficking. Mr García was arrested in California last year and denies the allegations. The judges ruled the case should be dropped over a delay in granting him a hearing after new charges were added. The appeals court determined on Tuesday that Mr García should have been given a hearing within 10 days of the new charges, including child pornography, being filed, AFP reported, but there were delays in the case. This ruling is not considered final for another 30 days, and prosecutors are reviewing the decision. The Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo church responded, saying in a statement that it was a decision in favour of justice as "the case should never have been brought" A fundamentalist Christian organisation, La Luz del Mundo was founded in 1926 by Mr García's grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González. Mr García is known as "the Apostle" to his followers. La Luz del Mundo says it has over five million followers globally, and over a million in Mexico. The church's influence has spread in recent years to parts of California that have large Hispanic populations. Mr García, a Mexican national, and three female co-defendants also affiliated with the church, are accused of committing 26 felonies in southern California between 2015 and 2018. These included human trafficking, production of child sex abuse images, and forcible rape of a minor. Court documents alleged Mr García lectured several underage victims about "a king having mistresses and stated that an apostle of god can never be judged for his actions".
4-7-20 George Pell: Court quashes cardinal's sexual abuse conviction
Cardinal George Pell has been freed from jail after Australia's highest court overturned his conviction for child sexual abuse. The former Vatican treasurer, 78, was the most senior Catholic figure ever jailed for such crimes. In 2018, a jury found he abused two boys in Melbourne in the 1990s. But the High Court of Australia quashed that verdict on Tuesday, bringing an immediate end to Cardinal Pell's six-year jail sentence. The Australian cleric had maintained his innocence since he was charged by police in June 2017. His case rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been one of the Pope's most senior advisers. A full bench of seven judges ruled unanimously in Cardinal Pell's favour, finding the jury had not properly considered all the evidence presented at the trial. It was the cardinal's final legal challenge, after his conviction was upheld by a lower court last year. "I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice," Cardinal Pell said in a statement after the decision. He had served more than 400 days of his sentence and cannot be retried on the charges. He was released from Victoria's Barwon Prison shortly after midday local time (02:00 GMT) and driven to a Carmelite Monastery in Melbourne, local media said. In December 2018, a jury found him guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choir boys in private rooms of St Patrick's Cathedral in the mid-90s - when the cleric was Archbishop of Melbourne. The convictions included one count of sexual penetration and four counts of committing indecent acts. The trial heard testimony from a man alleged to be the sole surviving victim. Dozens of other witnesses provided alibis and other evidence. Cardinal Pell appealed against the verdict in Victoria's Court of Appeal last year, but three judges upheld the decision by a 2-1 majority.
4-5-20 Somali outrage at rape of girls aged three and four
The government in Somalia has condemned the abduction and rape of two girls aged just three and four. The doctor in charge of the hospital where they are being treated says they need major surgery. An official said several arrests had been made following the attack which happened on Wednesday. The parents say that the two cousins were walking home from school in Afgoye, close to the capital, Mogadishu. They were seized by men who took them away and sexually assaulted them. Their parents desperately searched the neighbourhood and found them alone the following day. BBC World Service Africa editor Will Ross says the fact that the girls are aged just three and four has added to the shock in Somalia where reports of rape have increased in recent years. It is thought that such horrific crimes have long been taking place but people are now more aware of the need to publicise the incidents in order to bring about change, he says.