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Eastern European And Central Asian Countries Urged To Change Laws Regarding Sexual Violence

Dekanosidze said legal changes were a vital part of wider measures needed to tackle sexual violence.

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Sexual Violence
A woman protests underage marriages in Lagos, Nigeria, July 20, 2013. Underage marriage is a problem around the world. Activists are calling on former Soviet countries to overhaul laws against sexual violence and child marriage. VOA

Eastern European and Central Asian countries must overhaul Soviet-era laws on sexual violence that let rapists off the hook and encourage child marriage and bride-kidnapping, legal experts said Thursday.

Flawed legislation combined with sexist attitudes across the region mean girls and women are often blamed for provoking sexual violence and may be pressured to reconcile with their attackers or even marry them.

“Many of these laws deny justice to survivors of sexual violence rather than bringing their attackers to justice,” said Tamar Dekanosidze, a human rights lawyer in Georgia. “It’s important that countries fix these laws and end widespread impunity.”

 

Sexual Violence
Protest against sexual violence in India. Image source: www.bbc.co.uk

 

No requirement to investigate

In 10 of the 15 former Soviet Union countries there is no automatic requirement for the authorities to investigate and prosecute sexual violence, according to a study by Equality Now, meaning the burden of pursuing justice lies with the victim.

Police often deter victims from initiating cases, Dekanosidze said. Victims also frequently face pressure from the perpetrator, his family or even their own family to drop claims.

Nine of the countries — Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia — allow reconciliation for sexual violence crimes, according to the study published Thursday.

In some cases a perpetrator may persuade a victim to reconcile by paying her money or promising to marry her to avoid social stigma, said Dekanosidze, the report’s co-author.

 

Sexual Violence
A woman covers her mouth with a tape that reads “My sexuality is not your conjugal right” during a demonstration to support International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 25, 2016. VOA

 

Modernize rape laws

Equality Now, which will be writing to ministers across the region, also urged countries to amend laws that define rape as sex with violence or the threat of violence.

The report comes a week after Ukraine became the first country in the region to change its law to define rape as sex without consent, following in the footsteps of countries like Sweden and Iceland.

There is no reliable data on the prevalence of sexual violence in the region, but U.N. data suggests a third of women worldwide have suffered sexual or physical violence.

The report also said sexual violence usually went unpunished in bride kidnappings and child marriages, which still happen in some Eurasian countries.

Sexual Violence
FILE – Indian youth hold candles during a protest against sexual violence in New Delhi. VOA

Marriage after rape

Child marriages are illegal in all 15 countries, but may be encouraged if a girl is raped to prevent public shame.

Rape is not investigated in such situations, meaning the forced marriage effectively exonerates the rape, the study said.

Dekanosidze cited the case of a 15-year-old girl in Georgia who was raped by two men. When the teenager reported the attacks, her family forced her to marry one of her rapists.

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In bride kidnappings, rape is often used as a tool to force the girl into marriage.

Dekanosidze said legal changes were a vital part of wider measures needed to tackle sexual violence.

“Laws can change public attitudes,” she said. “Amending these laws would send a strong message that sexual violence won’t be tolerated.” (VOA)

Next Story

Countries Approved Projects Worth $1 Billion for Environment, Climate Change

The 56th GEF Council meeting passed its biggest ever work programme

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Countries, Projects, Environment
The new projects range from an ambitious $232 million integrated programme aimed at a "transformational shift in the agriculture and land use systems that are major drivers of environmental degradation around the world". Pixabay

Countries have approved programmes and projects worth almost $1 billion to tackle growing threats to the environment and to help some of the earth’s most vulnerable people adapt to climate change at two consecutive Global Environment Facility (GEF) meetings in Washington this week, it was announced on Saturday.

India, among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, is both a donor and a recipient of GEF funds, an international partnership of 183 countries.

The new projects range from an ambitious $232 million integrated programme aimed at a “transformational shift in the agriculture and land use systems that are major drivers of environmental degradation around the world”, to helping fishing people in Timor-Leste, improving the management of soils in Caribbean islands, and tackling the illegal world wildlife trade.

The 56th GEF Council meeting passed its biggest ever work programme, totalling $865.9 million from its Trust Fund.

Countries, Projects, Environment
Countries have approved programmes and projects worth almost $1 billion to tackle growing threats to the environment. Pixabay

It was then followed by a meeting of two smaller GEF funds — the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) — which approved work programmes adding up to a further $101.57 million.

The GEF was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle the planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

In remarks at the end of the meetings, GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii said the new work programmes pursue a new approach being pioneered by the GEF, and signify “a new way of doing business”, adding that it was “a new phase for GEF’s strategy and implementation.”

“We at the GEF have been evolving our strategy over the past few years,” Ishii said earlier in the week.

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“The GEF 2020 strategy adopted by the Council in 2014 shifted our focus from symptoms to causes or drivers of environmental degradation. Transformation, or systems change, is a centrepiece of our efforts to maximize impacts, and integration as an effective way of delivery.”

This approach lies at the heart of the GEF’s $4.1 billion seventh funding cycle, GEF-7, which started in June 2018.

It is particularly exemplified in the new GEF Trust Fund work programme — which will benefit 91 countries – by four new Impact Programsme, which bring together governments and the private sector to work jointly on common environmental challenges to have direct effects at regional and global scales on ecology, economics and societies.

Besides the Impact Programmes, another project will develop local economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America to provide alternative sources of income and thus counter the illegal wildlife trade which is having devastating effects on impacts on the populations of many species.

Countries, Projects, Environment
India, among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. Pixabay

Yet another will be the first global inter-agency program of its kind to focus primarily on increasing electric mobility in developing countries.

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And a third will work in 27 Small Island States (SIDS) around the globe to prevent the build-up of harmful chemicals in the environment and to manage and dispose of existing stockpiles of them. (IANS)