GW in JA: Gender Violence

From Amnesty International

(New York) -- Deficient national legislation and deeply entrenched social and cultural attitudes in Jamaica encourage gender discrimination and violence against women, said Amnesty International in a report released today. The organization said that Jamaican authorities should fully implement recommendations developed by women's organizations and amend public policy to address the problem.

"Determination, political will and decisive action can put an end to gender-based violence in Jamaica," said Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "It isn't an impossible task to end violence against women in Jamaica, and authorities must demonstrate their commitment to upholding and protecting the dignity of all people."

The 39-page report, Sexual violence against women and girls in Jamaica: 'just a little sex,' finds that gender violence persists because the state is failing to tackle discrimination against women, allowing social and cultural attitudes which encourage discrimination and violence.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said on International Women's Day of 2006 that she will be "demanding justice and gender justice too." Amnesty International welcomes Miller's statement and hopes that the Jamaican government will implement recommendations from women's organizations and Amnesty International's new report as soon as possible.

Amnesty International calls on Jamaican authorities to fully implement a 15-point Action Plan developed by Jamaican women's and non-profit organizations, entitled the Women's Manifesto (2002), to fight discrimination and sexual violence against women and girls.

The Women's Manifesto includes recommendations such as the development of a public education program aimed at preventing rape and sexual crimes, the introduction of a national campaign against discrimination and sexual violence, and the establishment of more shelters to provide support and refuge for victims of sexual violence.

According to Amnesty International's findings, widespread discrimination against women in Jamaica makes them targets of sexual violence and exposes them to serious health risks -- including sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Girls are particular targets of sexual violence; according to one study published by UNICEF, in 2004 alone, 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults were against girls.

Women also face strong barriers and discrimination when they decide to report sexual violence. The sexual assault investigations unit in Jamaica estimates that only 25 percent of sexual violence is reported.

"I didn't tell anyone for six months; then I told my parents. I asked dad not to do anything about it; that's one thing I insisted on. I didn't want anyone to know because even at that age I knew they would say it was my fault [and] I thought no one would believe me. I blamed myself and I thought I was foolish and so naive," said Mary (not her real name), who was raped when she was 13 years old.

Sadly, women have good reason to think that they will not be believed, the report finds. Juries, the police, families and sometimes women themselves often believe that they are partially responsible for the attacks on them.

Bringing cases of sexual violence to court is extremely difficult. Witnesses or victims are often threatened or even killed. Enid Gordon was 15 years old when she was raped by two men. She and her family filed a complaint against the men, who were arrested, charged and released on bail. On October 12, 2005, one week before she was due to testify against the two men in court, Enid was found dead in the same place that she had been raped a year earlier. She had been strangled with her school tie. Results of the investigation are pending.

Amnesty International also found that the Jamaican government has consistently failed to deal with the issue effectively.

Amnesty International calls for legislative reforms -- particularly to the Offenses Against the Person Act, the Sexual Harassment Bill, and the Incest (Punishment) Act -- for improvement of investigation techniques and for the establishment of gender-based training for police and judicial officials dealing with cases of sexual violence against women and girls.

"Jamaican society as a whole is paying the price of discrimination against women and girls. They pay a high price when their mothers, sisters and friends are injured, when diseases such as HIV/AIDS are spread and when poverty increases," said Michael Kuelker, AIUSA's Country Specialist on Jamaica. "The new prime minister seems to have the determination and respect for the human rights of women needed to complete the task of ending violence against women in Jamaica. Let's see her administration take action."


Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi!

On Monday 19th June Aung San Suu Kyi will spend her 61st birthday in detention. On that day she will have spent a total of 10 years and 238 days (3888 days) in detention. She is isolated, allowed no visitors, her phone line has been cut, and her post is intercepted. She is being denied access to regular medical care.

Protests demanding that the international community take action to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi will take place in more than 25 countries worldwide. Campaigners are calling on the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma, and the restoration of democracy to the country. The United States government recently announced it would push for the Council to pass a resolution on Burma.

"Aung San Suu Kyi could spend the rest of her life in detention if the Security Council continues to avoid its responsibility to tackle the situation in Burma," said Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. "She has been praised by world leaders, but most have ignored her requests for practical international support. On her 60th birthday last year we saw a chorus of calls for her release, but this wasn¹t followed by any concrete steps by the UN or governments to secure her release."

The regime in Burma has consistently defied the United Nations, ignoring over a dozen calls for Aung San Suu Kyi¹s release by the Secretary General, and 28 resolutions by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Commission.

Demands for UN Security Council intervention increased following the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003. The campaign was given fresh momentum following publication in September 2005 of a report ­ A Threat to the Peace - commissioned by Bishop Desmond Tutu and former Czech President Vaclav Havel from global law firm DLA Piper. The report found that Burma does fit the criteria for UNSC intervention. The Security Council held its first discussion on Burma in December 2005, and a second in May 2006, but on both occasions failed to take any concrete action.

Aung San Suu Kyi¹s current period of detention began on May 30th 2003 when a convoy she was travelling in was attacked by a regime run militia, the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA). USDA thugs beat around 100 National League for Democracy supporters to death in a failed assassination attempt against Aung San Suu Kyi.


Campaigners are sending birthday cards to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Friday 16th June Edinburgh: Launch of newly commissioned portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi commissioned by Edinburgh City Council. For more information
contact murray.forgie@educ.edin.gov.uk
Saturday 17th June 5-10pm: London. Burmese community in UK holding a party with traditional Burmese food and dancing. Media welcome. Call for details.
Monday 19th June 12.30-1.30pm: London. Jo Brand, & John Bercow MP join
protest outside Burmese Embassy in London. 19a Charles St. London, nearest
tube Green Park.
Monday 19th June 3.30-4.30pm: London All Party Parliamentary Group forDemocracy in Burma to hold a meeting on Aung San Suu Kyi in the House of
Commons. The meeting will be addressed by two Burmese MPs and Yvette Mahon,
Director of the Burma Campaign UK.

Monday 19th June: Vienna Birthday party with Austrian singer plus
Innsbruck: Lecture on Aung San Suu Kyi. For more information on these events
contact Margot Pires on 43 (0) 699 10007645

Monday 19th June, Brussels: Birthday cards will be distributed to the
employees of banks and investment funds which invest in companies operating
in Burma.

June. Birthday wish campaign. Democracy activists in Canada are working with democracy activists inside Burma to write pro-democracy and Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi messages on Burmese currency. For more information contact Tin Maung Htoo on 519 860 4745, cfob@cfob.org

Saturday 17th June Prague "Arrest yourself" protest. Supporters will stay at home for 24 hours. For more information contact info@burma-center.org
Monday 19th June 4-6pm Prague Red Rose for the Unfree, Protests at the embassies of United Nations Security Council members calling for action. For more information contact Marie Peoniva, People In Need, + 420 2262004672.
Monday 19th June Prague: Evening Public screening of documentary on Burma.
For more information contact Marie Peoniva, People In Need, +420 2262004672.
Monday 19th June Prague, Burma Center Prague and Czech Buddhists will hold a
meditation session in Prague dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of
Burma. For more information contact info@burma-center.org

Birthday cards being sent to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Sunday 18th June Dublin: Speech at Speakers Corner, Temple-Bar
Monday 19th June, Dublin: Photo exhibition opens

Postcard action campaign to Italian foreign ministry calling for action.

Monday 19th June: 1,000 special birthday cards will be given to a
representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Bot. A petition
calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners will
also be handed over. 61 yellow balloons carrying birthday cards will also be
released. For more information contact + 31-20-671 6952, bcn@xs4all.nl

Monday June 19:
Bergen: Seminar at the Rafto Foundation:"Burma - a country behind bars".
Contact tormod@raftohuset.no
Stavanger: The Stavanger Chin Organization (SCO), an organization of the
Chin Community in Norway, NLD (liberated area) and other democracy forces
will be holding a Campaign / Demonstration in front of Stavanger Culture
House/National Library.
Sørumsand: The Burmese community in Sørumsand will arrange an open meeting
about the political situation in Burma.
For more information about these events contact the Norwegian Burma
Committee (NBC) on Tel: + 47 - 22 47 92 37

Warsaw: Aung San Suu Kyi focus at a festival on human rights.

Saturday 17th June 35 American states. "Arrest Yourself" 24 hour protests.
For more information contact Jeremy Woodrum, US Campaign For Burma on 1 202 223 0300.

ARREST YOURSELF protests will also take place in Canada, Australia, Costa Rica, France, India, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and United Kingdom.


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