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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.

Also Read: People Hope to Get Transparency in System With #MeToo Movement

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

Girls Find Cinematography A Good Tool To Express, Gives Freedom, Confidence To The Budding Talent

Their feminist minds already racing towards telling stories of change, initiatives like these manage to catch them young while building in them skill-sets that would lend meaning and direction to their future lives.

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short films
What is remarkable is that this one-minute-short - which questions popular stereotypes and highlights the challenges that working women face - is created by 13-year-old Anuradha who studies in the seventh standard at the local Government Girls Senior Secondary School in Delhi's working-class periphery. Pixabay

In a packed auditorium, a short film begins with the opening scene of a young woman worried about attending a meeting with her injured foot. Her friend cautions her that if she does not wear high heels she wont be able to make a good impression. The woman heeds the advice but even before she can make it to the meeting, she stumbles and her heels fall off.

She picks them up and marches into the meeting anyway. She realises her success does not depend on her heels and the film “Parwaaz” – which translates to flight – ends with the shot of the young actor triumphantly flinging away her heels as the audience applauds.

What is remarkable is that this one-minute-short – which questions popular stereotypes and highlights the challenges that working women face – is created by 13-year-old Anuradha who studies in the seventh standard at the local Government Girls Senior Secondary School in Delhi’s working-class periphery.

“Women might not be explicitly instructed to wear heels, but the notion of looking good and confident, and doing it because everyone is doing it… these are big factors in what choices we make for ourselves, even if the choices are not the most comfortable,” Anuradha, the budding filmmaker, told IANS.

It was not just Anuradha but around 40 girls aged 11-13 years who came together for a rare workshop earlier this month and made some unique films on what freedom meant to them. The brief ‘Little Directors’ workshop included sessions on film language, conceptualising, interpreting, shooting and communicating via visuals.

The workshop sought to promote media literacy among these children, many of whom are born to unskilled and semi-skilled workers and daily-wage earners like plumbers and rickshaw-pullers. Now equipped with film-making skills, these young first-time filmmakers chose to tell remarkable stories translating the theme ‘aazadi’ (freedom) to choice for women in offices, schools and in society at large. Many ideas stemmed from what they see and challenges they face in real life.

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The brief ‘Little Directors’ workshop included sessions on film language, conceptualising, interpreting, shooting and communicating via visuals. Pixabay

Reshma, an 11-year old participant, chose a non-narrative format for her film which clubbed the voice-over of a poem with visuals of girls studying or working on domestic chores. The first few lines of the poem ask: “Why aren’t women allowed to go out freely? Why aren’t they allowed to study as much as they want?”

“In villages, it is common to marry off girls at a young age and dismiss their study plans for their marriage. In my village near Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), I have seen girls pleading to study more but their parents decide otherwise,” young filmmaker Kajal Kumari, whose film transports one to a land of her imagination, said.

In the short film, a girl’s parents are seen announcing her marriage while she is a student. Crestfallen, the girl wishes for an alternative reality. Soon, a fairy godmother comes to her rescue and asks her to accompany her to a land of books.

Documentary filmmaker Samina Mishra, who facilitated the workshop along with actor Nina Sabnani, said that in most cases for these girls, freedom interestingly translated to choice. For others, it meant overt questioning of those unsaid societal norms that women are subjected to.

Sabnani and Mishra were involved in the creative exercises and production in the two-day workshop, which was a part of the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi in early March. The intention of the exercise was to familiarize the young participants with the basics of filmmaking so they could tell their stories with confidence, while also giving people an opportunity to hear fresh voices that hitherto resided in young minds, the organisers shared.

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In the workshop, the girls acted, handled the camera, learned framing, editing and making a coherent film with a message. Pixabay

Kajal, studying in VIII class, said that she always had a penchant for storytelling and that filmmaking was a good tool since “everyone grows up watching television, films and now videos on their mobiles”.

Another group, hoping to send a message about freedom of choosing clothes, brought in costumes like shorts and crop-tops to add nuance to their film.

Yet another group, while experimenting with film formats, chose to shoot an interview around the word ‘freedom’, and ultimately concluded with the idea that freedom is a state of mind.

In the workshop, the girls acted, handled the camera, learned framing, editing and making a coherent film with a message. Many now desire to learn more about acting and cinematography, even as a career choice.

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An attempt at gender mainstreaming, ‘Little Directors’ not just equipped these adolescent girls with the necessary skills for storytelling, but encouraged their line of thinking about freedom of women in their own communities and society.

Their feminist minds already racing towards telling stories of change, initiatives like these manage to catch them young while building in them skill-sets that would lend meaning and direction to their future lives. (IANS)