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Colombian Journalist Jineth Bedoya Honoured with Anna Politkovskaya Award for Tackling Taboos on Wartime Rape

Bedoya never made it to the interview but instead was kidnapped, gang-raped, tortured and left on the side of a road

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FILE - Jineth Bedoya, a journalist working for El Espectador, takes notes under the watch of a bodyguard as she prepares to leave the newspaper's building in Bogota in an armored car, Friday, Dec. 22, 2000. Bedoya was kidnapped, beaten and raped in April and since then she has used an armored car escorted by two bodyguards. VOA

When journalist Jineth Bedoya went to Bogota’s maximum-security prison 16 years ago to interview an infamous paramilitary warlord, little did she know the visit would mark her life and convert her into a leading rights activist.

Bedoya never made it to the interview but instead was kidnapped, gang-raped, tortured and left on the side of a road.

She kept quiet for years but in 2009 broke her silence and began campaigning against the taboos and stigma suffered by victims of sexual violence, which was used as a weapon by all sides in Colombia’s 52-year-war.

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For her activism, Bedoya was awarded on Thursday the annual Reach All Women in WAR (RAW in WAR) Anna Politkovskaya Award.

“To defend the truth is one of the most difficult missions anyone could undertake, and its price can even be that person’s life,” Bedoya said in a statement. The award is named for a Russian investigative reporter shot dead in 2006.

FILE - Jineth Bedoya, left, and Juan Carlos Villamizar, victims of the Colombian armed conflict, smile during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 2, 2014. VOA
FILE – Jineth Bedoya, left, and Juan Carlos Villamizar, victims of the Colombian armed conflict, smile during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 2, 2014. VOA

“For her, and for thousands and thousands of women who gave their last breath for their work, we cannot fail. We cannot falter,” said Bedoya, 42, who is deputy editor at Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper.

Bedoya has become the public face for women in Colombia seeking justice in cases of sexual violence crimes. Nearly 16,300 Colombians, most of them women and girls, have been victims of rape and sexual violence, government data shows.

‘Embodiment of bravery’

“Jineth is the embodiment of bravery. As a reporter, she suffered a brutal attack and abduction for exposing atrocities committed by paramilitaries,” said Jimena Sanchez-Garzoli, Colombia rights advocate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

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“She then transformed her personal pain into a beacon of light for all women who have suffered abuse at the hands of illegal armed groups,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Despite receiving death threats, Bedoya started a campaign “It’s not time to be silent” on behalf of women and girls raped during Colombia’s conflict.

A peace accord to end the conflict, signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is in limbo after being narrowly rejected by voters as too lenient on the rebels in a referendum Sunday.

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Under the accord, both sides had pledged to ensure perpetrators of sexual violence would not be eligible for amnesty.

About 98 percent of rapes have gone unpunished, according to Bedoya.

But in a rare conviction this year, two paramilitary fighters were sentenced for Bedoya’s kidnapping, torture and rape.

RAW in WAR

The award marks the tenth anniversary of the killing of Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter who uncovered state corruption and rights abuses, especially in Chechnya.

She was killed in the lobby of her Moscow apartment block on Oct. 7, 2006, at age 48.

“The bullets that took her life are the same that ended the life of over 200,000 Colombians. The business of war has not only contaminated the souls of those who profit from it, but it has also made our society hardened and intolerant,” Bedoya said.

RAW in WAR, a London-based non-governmental organization supporting women human rights defenders and victims of war, also honored Russian rights activist Valentina Cherevatenko, who provides legal and psychological help to civilians affected by violence in the North Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. (VOA)

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Reasons Why Marital Rape Should Be Recognised as a Criminal Offence

Debate on marital rape continues as it fails to get regarded as a punishable offense

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Marital Rape
Recognition of marital rape as a crime. Pixabay
  • The grievous danger caused by marital rape is unable to gain recognition
  • Women should be granted rights to handle situations of marital rape
  • Illiteracy, poverty and religious beliefs are not an excuse for committing marital rape

July 25, 2017: Most of the countries have regarded marital rape as a criminal offense but India has still not taken this action and due to this, the debate about marital rape continues.

The future for women and their rights in India seems bleak as the grievous danger caused by marital rape is unable to gain recognition.

But what exactly is marital rape? It occurs when a man imposes sexual right on his wife by use of force, without taking her consent, or threat of force. In a country where domestic violence is a punishable offense, why isn’t domestic sexual abuse a crime? Just as domestic violence destroys and hurts the body, marital rape destroys and harms the soul. Rape is rape no matter who commits it. It could be your boyfriend, your uncle, your husband or a stranger. Any force experienced to indulge in sexual activity should be made a punishable act regardless of the relationship with the rapist.

Also Read: Women should not Silently Face Atrocities and must Speak up about Issues like Marital Rape, says Actress Katrina Kaif

Maneka Gandhi, The Union Minister for Women and Child Development, says that “marital rape”  is inapplicable in a country like India since illiteracy, social customs, religious beliefs, poverty is widespread here.
This implies that it is acceptable for a man to force his wife into sexual activity because he is poor or illiterate.

Many of us often see our domestic help with a black eye, and when asked, she would say, husbands, are allowed to hit their wives as it’s the norm. The same norm permits husbands to rape their wives, without protection, whenever they come home drunk.

An Indian Marriage is more like a sexual contract as it provides the husband a right over his wife’s body and gives him ownership rights over the wife. This implies that a married woman has no right over her own body. Refusing to recognize marital rape as a criminal offense is equivalent to spreading the belief that it is acceptable for women to be raped as long as the rapist is her husband. If we want to develop our country and spread literacy, we need to grant women the control of their lives where it is her right to say no to her husband for sexual intercourse or pregnancy without being penalized or punished for it and commence help for abused women. It is necessary for the myth of “wifely duty” to end because sexual activity must take place with mutual consent and pleasure.

Marital Rape
Marriage is no excuse for rape. Wikimedia

A few years back, newspapers carried a tale of a woman aged 26 who came back with severe injuries from her Bangkok honeymoon as her husband had violent sex with her. In order to achieve equality between men and women, it is essential to grant rights to women over their bodies, recognition of forced sexual activity in her marriage, and raising their voices against it. The government must provide help for abused women.

A Statistical report of the study conducted by The International Centre for Women (ICRW) in eight States: Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh covered 3,158 number of women and 9,205 number of men aged between 18-49. The sample represented various castes, income groups and religions. The NFHS report revealed that the majority of rape that women reported was within the marriage and only 2.3 per cent of rape reported by women to the interviewers of NFHS was by other men.

Not criminalizing marital rape is either to degrade the real bonds and affections that keep marriages held together in spite of differences and disagreements or to believe that marital rape and sexual abuse in marriages is a common affair. A positive step in this direction will give women a sense of security and a redressal mechanism in situations of marital rape.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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India’s Textile and Fashion Heritage now part of Google project

Google's project 'We Wear Culture' is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

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we wear culture
Google's new art project 'We wear Culture' digitizes fashion, Wikimedia
  • Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India
  • It intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures
  • Its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

June 15, 2017: To a certain extent, a culture is defined by what is worn by its people. In a country as diverse as India, vast and varied spectrum of cultures and clothes is one of the specialties. Google’s latest virtual exhibition project now provides us the opportunity to explore and know more about it.

Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago, from the ancient Silk Road to the unmatched elegance of the Indian Saree,  from the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the Victorian ballgowns with intricate thread work.

According to Amit Sood, director of Google Arts and Culture,”We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your Saree, jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”

Culture is defined by what is worn by its people. Click To Tweet

The company also mentioned that noteworthy collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees will be included in the online project, as it intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures.

ALSO READ: New Google Project Digitizes World’s Top Fashion Archives.

According to PTI reports, the world fashion exhibit also includes designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis. it will showcase the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women as well.

As a part of the exhibit, Sewa Hansiba Museum has brought the unique colorful and rich embroidery arts, applique and mirror work from different communities such as the Ahir, Rabari, Chaudhury Patel and many others from the western part of India online.

The exhibition conducted by Salar Jung Museum brings to light the Sherwani and its journey of becoming the royal fashion statement of the Nizams from 19th century Hyderabad. Fashion and textiles enthusiasts can revisit Colonial Indian attires with Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Over 400 online exhibitions and stories sharing a total of 50,000 photos, videos and other documents on world fashion are open to exploration as well.

The ‘We wear Culture’ initiative highlights significant events in the growth of the world fashion industry; the icons, the movements, the game changers and the trendsetters like Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Audrey Hepburn and many more.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang