In a promising step to support forced marriage victims, UK government no longer requires them to pay for rescue

Perpetrators of forced marriages will now be required to bear the financial cost associated with the victims return

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At the beginning of January, an investigation by The Times revealed that young British women who are forced into marriages abroad are often charged for their return to the UK when assisted by the Forced Marriage Unit. These women, predominately South Asian in origin, are usually made to pay for their flights back to the UK as well as basic food and shelter, which can add up to hundreds of pounds in total. For women who are unable to pay, the Foreign Office makes them take out an emergency loan that has to be paid back within six months, or else is increased by 10%. The passports of these women are withheld from them until they have paid their debts.

For women, already under immense stress in the face of a traumatic event like a forced marriage, these strict requirements to ensure their basic freedom (and often, safety) appear unjust. Many MPs have condemned the loans as ‘astonishing’ and ‘immoral.’

However, following careful consideration of the matter, the Foreign Office announced on the 9th of January that it would reverse this policy. Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the Foreign Office would regard these women as “exceptionally vulnerable people” and impose Forced Marriage Protection Orders on the families who were responsible for arranging the forced marriage instead. This puts the financial burden of the rescue on the perpetrators of the act rather than the victims.

This is a promising step in the right direction. The United Kingdom criminalised forced marriage in 2014 to hold families accountable for their actions. A successful conviction could result in a jail term of up to seven years. While this was an important turning point, it is clear that forced marriage convictions are not a common occurrence. In 2018, only two such convictions took place. While the Home Office publishes a Forced Marriage Unit Statistics Report each year that details the number of women and men supported by the unit, the report fails to mention statistics regarding forced marriage convictions. Perhaps one reason for the lack of formal convictions is that victims often have trouble taking their parents to court as they do not wish to see them jailed. The Foreign Office’s new policy, then, in putting financial obligation on the families for the rescue of their children, creates another way for the government to hold these families accountable and makes it clear that forced marriages will not be tolerated.

It is important to dispel the common misconception that forced marriages are a cultural phenomenon particular to certain communities, and thus do not require the intervention of the government. Forced marriages are different from arranged marriages as they are finalised without the consent of one or both parties. Forced marriages are often imposed using threats, such as physical threats of violence as well as emotional blackmail. No particular faith sanctions forced marriages in any way either – freely-given consent is an important prerequisite of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh marriages. Forced marriages are a real threat to the freedom and rights of women and there is no cultural or religious justification for them.

Between 2016 and 2017, the UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit rescued 82 women and it has been promising to see the government continue such important work in a more compassionate and just manner for the well-being of these young British women. In addition to holding perpetrators accountable, this new policy strengthens the culture of supporting victims, a culture that charities like JAN Trust have been working hard to foster at the grassroots level. It is our hope that providing victims of forced marriages with proper support will enable more to feel safe to speak up about their problems and get help on time.

If you are facing a forced marriage or know of anyone who is, do not hesitate to contact the Forced Marriage Unit:

Telephone: 020 7008 0151 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)

From overseas: +44 (0) 20 7008 0151

Out of hours: 020 7008 1500 (ask for the Global Response Centre)

To learn more about JAN Trust’s work to support women and BAMER communities in the UK, visit www.jantrust.org

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Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, Crime, Education, Ethnic Minorities, forced marriage, Forced Marriages, girls, International, marriage, Politics, Sexual Violence, Society, South Asian, The Times, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust’s 2018 journey!

At the start of New Year, it is natural to reflect on and consider how the year has been. Needless to say 2018 has been an incredible and busy year for us at JAN Trust! We’ve had some amazing highs, including working on vital social change projects and celebrating the achievements of our women! However , 2018 hasn’t been without some low points. As a small grassroots charity, it’s important to celebrate successes but also not to ignore the struggles that have been faced along the way. We’ve mapped out some of our highs and lows of 2018 below so you can follow our story, the issues we have been dealing with and how far we’ve come! We are positive and looking forward to what 2019 will bring including supporting more women and delivering more exciting projects!

Highs

Another Way Forward

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In 2018 we developed and carried out one of our most innovative and exciting projects yet – Another Way Forward; Empowering Young Women Against Extremism. This project  was supported by The ISD and Google.org to galvanise and empower young women between the ages of 16-25 years old to tackle extremism and hatred in society. Through intimate and candid workshops, we educated these Young Ambassadors on the issue of extremism and also how to get their voices heard and enact change online via social media campaigning. This culminated with the students coming up with ideas for and filming their own campaign videos with a professional film maker! This has been such an exciting project and we were so impressed with the passion and creativity of our Young Ambassadors! We can’t wait to see their campaign videos – definitely a highlight of 2018!

SAFE Sessions

In 2018, we continued delivering our counter-extremism SAFE workshops across multiple London schools and colleges. With the support from ISD and Google.org, we were able to deliver more than ever before which was definitely a real highpoint. Educating young people on such a sensitive issue is vital work and hearing some of the amazing feedback and witnessing the engagement and curiosity of the students made it so worthwhile and fulfilling. Here are some quotes from teachers about some of our 2018 sessions.

‘The presentation was extremely well-pitched and student feedback was positive.’

‘That was a difficult topic but the facilitators handled it well’

One student even left us a thank you note, which was particularly memorable and a great feeling for the JAN Trust team!

7

Certificate Ceremony

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In December, we held a Certificate Ceremony at our centre to celebrate our beneficiaries and their amazing achievements our skills based classes including English, IT and Fashion and Design, which we provide from our centre in North London. It was a really special day, with women who use our services from all different cultures and religions coming together to celebrate their hard work and successes.

Many dignitaries were also in attendance, and we would like to thank our MP Catherine West , the Mayor of Haringey Cllr Gina Adamou, Deputy Mayor Cllr Sheila Peacock, Haringey Council, Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, Cllr Liz Morris and the Borough Commander Helen Millichap. We really appreciated all their kind and supportive words to our users and to us at JAN Trust. It’s hard to believe that we have been encouraging, educating and empowering women in our community for 30 years now – and still going strong! Congratulations to all our lovely users for their awards/certificates, your hard work has paid off – well deserved and what a fabulous way to round off 2018!

European Diversity Awards 2018

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This year, JAN Trust and our CEO Sajda Mughal OBE were nominated at the Heathrow Airport’s European Diversity Awards 2018 in the categories of ‘Community Project of the Year’ and ‘Campaigner of the Year’ respectfully. This renowned awards ceremony aims to celebrate diversity across Europe and honour various individuals, campaigners, organisations and charities that champion diversity and are making a difference.

Out of 60,000 nominations, our CEO Sajda won Campaigner of the Year 2018, and JAN Trust were Highly Commended in our category. This was a real highpoint of 2018 as it cemented for us that all our hard work was paying off and that it was being seen, heard and valued by more people than we could have ever anticipated. A huge thank you to the JAN Trust Team and to the EDA’s for recognising the work of this small NGO!

LOWS

Although these high points really do show what an incredible year of achievements JAN Trust has had, 2018 also brought with it some lows for us as a small, grassroots charity.

 

Home Office withdrawing funding for Web Guardians™

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Motivated by her own experience surviving the 7/7 bombings and demand from the community, In 2010 our CEO Sajda Mughal developed the Web Guardians™ programme. This programme works with mothers and women, providing them with the skills, education and confidence to prevent online extremism in their families and community. This award-winning programme became renowned as a pioneering and unique initiative, focusing on the importance of women in countering-extremism.

Despite this acclaim, in June 2018, the Home Office decided to unceremoniously withdraw funding for the project, after months of false promises that funding would continue. This was a huge blow to our team and our community as we had worked so hard on this programme and could see how important it was for the women involved in so many ways. Knowing that we have an amazing project that works, but not having the financial backing to deliver it, especially being a small non-profit, is extremely disheartening.

If you would like to help support us and keep our vital services available, find out how you can help here. 

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Women as agents of peace – the important role of women during the conflict and peacebuilding moment

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You have probably heard by now about Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, the winners of this year’s prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. They are being recognised for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. This exceptional news is highly welcomed, as it will help to raise awareness and put an end to the horrific situation that many women and girls in conflicts have to go through. For years, women’s bodies have constituted part of the terrain of conflict, and sexual violence has been used as a deliberate military strategy aiming at damaging the social cohesion of the enemy’s community. A well-known case was the rape of more than 20,000 Muslim women and girls in Bosnia since the start of the fighting in 1992.

The use of sexual violence as a sexual weapon has been banned by International Law, both in the Rome Statute of 1998 and in the UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008). It is a cruel and unacceptable practice and much effort is needed to end with the impunity surrounding this issue. However, when talking about women in conflict scenarios, much attention is paid to their condition as victims, and less common are the articles about the active and vital role that women play in such settings. In fact, when we talk about peace negotiations and peacebuilding, the image of conferences full of men signing treaties is the one that usually comes to our heads. But women have played decisive roles in many conflict and peacebuilding settings, and their importance needs to be recognised.

Among the many examples, significant is the case of Liberia, where women created a strong grassroots movement to pressure the fighting forces to end the conflict and ended up being crucial for the signature of the peace agreements of 2003. Likewise, in Kashmir women from different ideological positions have joined forces in a platform rejecting violence to find peaceful solutions to the conflict their society faces. Afghanistan is also a significant case where women have been instrumental in providing health and education to children under the Taliban rule and in refugee camps.

This list could keep going on for a while, since the participation of women as active agents of conflict and peacebuilding is undeniable. However, women continue to be excluded from the negotiation tables and formal peacebuilding institutions, even though their participation in these processes has proven to be decisive for the construction of a lasting peace. Julia Bacha has stated that nonviolent campaigns are 100 percent more likely to succeed than violent ones – and women are heading these peaceful campaigns. In sight of this, we believe that a bigger effort should be taken by the international community to promote the role of women and their inclusion at the main peacebuilding organs, assuring their participation at all stages of the conflict resolution and state reconstruction processes.

At JAN Trust, we acknowledge the importance of promoting women’s roles and their inclusion in the public sphere, encouraging their active participation at the decision-making level. That is why we work to empower marginalised women, as we recognise that they have the same rights as men to be active citizens in their communities and fully participate in the public debates of the society. With that goal in mind, our organisation provides free English classes and other services to BAMER women to encourage their personal development and integration in society.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

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25th November 2018 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

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25th November 2018 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations of our time. That is why every 25th November we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day is an opportunity for governments, international organisations and NGOs to raise public awareness about the levels of violence women suffer and to try to implement new measures to eradicate it. This year, the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign has chosen the global advocacy theme to be “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”. While orange has been the colour used the past years to unify all activities taking place on this day, the theme makes reference to the internationally popular #MeToo movement, a women’s initiative to end sexual harassment and sexual assault worldwide.

Violence against women and girls takes many forms, including physical and emotional abuse, rape, forced marriage, female genital cutting, trafficking and deprivation of resources and rights. It is estimated that one in three women in the world have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, while two thirds have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Moreover, according to the UN Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, in 2012 almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to only 6% of male victims. In England and Wales, in the year to March 2017, 1.2 million women suffered from domestic abuse, with around 2 women killed every week.

These horrifying  numbers show the imperative need to keep working to eradicate violence against women and the necessity to dedicate an International Day to raise awareness on the issue, which has been celebrated on the 25th of November since 2000, after the UN General Assembly designated it on December 1999. However, this day was previously marked by activists in 1981, in homage to the sisters Patria Mercedes Mirabal, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal, three political activists who were murdered in 1960 in the Dominican Republic on the orders of dictator Rafael Trujillo. The date was chosen by women’s rights activists to pay tribute to the sisters’ lives and to all women fighting to end oppression and violence.

Violence against women and girls is strictly prohibited by international law. Women’s right to live a life free of violence is upheld by numerous treaties, including the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). There also exist various regional treaties covering this topic, such as the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of Women in Africa, and the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

In spite of this international framework, violence against women and girls is ubiquitous and much more needs to be done to end this problem. Women are still socially seen as inferior to men and this, for some, gives grounds for sexist behaviours and practices towards them that are contrary to human rights. A pan cultural shift of attitudes and beliefs surrounding gender roles and relations is a momentous task, but it is needed in order to tackle this issue. Addressing violent and toxic ideas of masculinity and hierarchical gender dynamics is a must in order to shift these oppressive viewpoints.

It is well known that violence has devastating and long-term consequences for women, but also for their families and communities. Likewise, research has shown that gender equality helps to prevent conflict, and that high rates of violence against women correlates with outbreaks of conflict. However, ending violence against women has not been given the importance that it requires, both at the international and national levels, which is why women still face intolerable levels of abuse. Greater efforts and more effective measures are needed, starting by addressing the funding shortfall in this area, designating sufficient resources for initiatives to prevent and end violence against women.

Although the official response has not been effective enough, international feminist movements are getting stronger and stronger, with women’s movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc and many others, being on the rise in the past few years. Women everywhere are raising their voices against violence and oppression and it is clear now how strong these initiatives truly are.

At JAN Trust, we condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and work to eradicate it worldwide. At our centre, we provide a safe space for women to feel free of sexist violence and to become empowered and independent members of society.

If you want to know more about the work we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

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Working for inclusion – Women’s voices in interreligious dialogue

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We are living in a moment in history where people, economies and governments are connected on an unprecedented global scale; what is popularly understood as globalisation. Although these global connections were at first experienced with enthusiasm and optimism, the last few years have brought a rise of extremist ideas and movements that threaten the peaceful coexistence among different cultures. Political leaders have arrived, such as Donald Trump and Marine le Pen, who defend old ideas of nationalism and promote a xenophobic discourse based on the strengthening of national frontiers. In the UK, since the Brexit campaign in 2016, far-right groups have been growing and hate crime has been experiencing a rising trend, with 94,098 crimes recorded in 2017/18.

Given this disturbing sequence of events, we need to promote movements and actions that can improve cooperation between different cultures and religions. The interreligious dialogue, that is; all constructive interactions between people of different spiritual beliefs, plays a vital role nowadays to encourage a greater understanding between the different faiths, helping to prevent extremism and intolerance. Interfaith cooperation has existed since the founding moments of religions themselves, with examples of cooperation and mutual understanding between faiths being common throughout history.  

However, if interreligious dialogue is to have a profound impact in society, one huge gap needs to be addressed: the enormous underrepresentation of women within its formal levels. It is a fact that very few women are found in leadership positions within their respective faith. However, women have contributed enormously to this dialogue at the grassroots level, and have emerged as leaders in many local conflict resolution and mediation processes. One main example was during the Holocaust in Germany, where many Christian and Jewish women started creating religious support networks to help those who were most in need.

Interfaith women’s groups have been very common worldwide, representing an empowering space for religious women to share their experiences of oppression and resistance, and at the same time contribute to a deeper understanding of each other’s beliefs. These groups have on many occasions been of great importance in conflict-settings; building peace through dialogue. Such was the case in Liberia, where Muslim and Christian women were decisive actors in ending conflict and bringing forward a new peaceful country.

Given this experience and success within the interreligious dialogue, it was about time that women started being included at the formal and institutional levels. One of the principal spaces of reunion for interreligious practitioners is the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which was first held in 1893 to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities. However, it was not until 2015 that the Parliament focused on gender equality in the interfaith movement. That year, a Women Task Force was created to advocate for greater representation of women within the global interreligious dialogue and to encourage the empowerment of women within the different faiths. Although this task force was recognised as an important starting point for women’s inclusion, there is still so much work to be done to amplify grassroots leaders and formalise their voices within established institutions.

At JAN Trust, we believe that respect and mutual understanding are key values to encourage peaceful environments for different cultures to live together. That is why we encourage interreligious conversations and have supported local interfaith initiatives, such as the Faith and Future project, that brought together women from the Abrahamic faiths to discuss their religions, beliefs and shared values. JAN Trust recognises faith as a supportive social force that has the potential of improving social cohesion and inclusion.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.        

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Modern slavery in the form of domestic work

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Every year, thousands of immigrant women come to the UK to work as domestic workers for wealthy families. Every year, thousands of them are subjected to abusive situations, where they are subjected to physical and psychological abuse by their employers. According to Home Office’s data, there are approximately 18,000 Overseas Domestic Worker Visas (ODWV) issued every year. A staggering 85% of domestic workers under that visa reported psychological abuse, while 33% of them received no wages at all. It is clear that modern slavery is a huge problem in the UK in a variety of forms and domestic workers are one of the most vulnerable groups to be exposed to this human rights violation.

This cruel situation cannot be tolerated and action must be taken to end modern slavery in the UK and the rest of the world. In 2012, as a result of the introduction of new visa rules, Overseas Domestic Workers were no longer allowed to change their employer, renew their visas or settle in the UK after five years of active work, all rights they had before. This led to a situation where domestic workers did not have any rights to leave exploitative employers, which encouraged abuse and mistreatment to happen without any repercussions. Four years later in 2016, the UK demonstrated some concern by softening some of the restrictive regulations of the ODWV. They decided to allow domestic workers to switch their employers within the six-month term of their visas, however, their right to renew visas was not reinstated.

Even though these changes were in the right direction, in reality, there hasn’t been a substantial difference. Most of the women coming to the UK to work as domestic workers do not have a good knowledge of English and are unaware of their rights and their ability to change employers. But even when they are aware of it, without the right to renew their visas, many domestic workers decide to stay with exploitative employers and send money back home instead of using that limited time to look for a new employer.

Moreover, many of the domestic workers coming to the UK have no choice but to stay after the six-month period of their visas due to economic reasons. This leaves them in an unprotected situation, forced to work shrouded in a veil of secrecy and exposed to high levels of mistreatment. It was at the beginning of this year when the appalling news arrived of a domestic worker who died of pneumonia as she was too scared to go to the doctor. Due to the data-sharing agreement between NHS and the Home Office, the immigration status of the patients has to be reported, which results in many of them not getting the health care they need out of fear.

The abusive and enslaving conditions suffered by Overseas Domestic Workers need to be taken seriously and strong measures are needed in order to end this horrible situation. We cannot continue to allow modern slavery to happen around us without doing everything we can to stop it. We at JAN Trust stand against modern slavery and condemn the awful conditions that many domestic workers are forced to live with. At our centre we work to empower vulnerable women, providing a secure space for those who seek advice and guidance, so they can become independent and active members of our society.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org

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The hidden burden of economic cuts – a feminist perspective on austerity programmes

The UK has been going through some years of continuous economic cuts. Since the 2010 campaign of budget cutting by the current government, a wave of austerity has spread through the country, with continuous reductions in social welfare programmes, especially in social care. We have seen how less and less money has been spent in unemployment, housing and social exclusion projects. This trend has produced terrible effects on the population. But sadly, as all too often is the case, women have again been the most affected.

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Public policies are not usually thought of in terms of women and men. But these policies are not neutral, they have a gendered impact that make women more vulnerable to their effects. One main example of this is the case of cuts to welfare. Cuts to welfare, as a result of austerity, has meant that women have been required to prioritise care responsibilities, such as care for the young, elderly or disabled, which can prevent them from entering employment, or facing in work poverty as they are only able to undertake part-time, low paid jobs. Changes to Universal Credit, and other benefit changes will only further enhance this issue for women.

However, policy makers rarely, if ever adopt a feminist perspective to try to correct this issue. And this has been no different in the past few years in the UK or, at least, the effort to support women has not been strong enough. As a recent study proves, women are holding 86% of the burden of the austerity measures approved by the current government. By 2020, predictions show that tax and benefit changes since 2010 will have hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men. And, as always, less affluent women are expected to be the worst affected.

A significant case where economic cuts have had devastating effects on women has been in programmes directed to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Between 2010 and 2012, local authorities reduced 31% of the funding in the sector, from £7.8m to £5.4m. Many local organisations dedicated to provide assistance to women and girls suffering from violence have been forced to close many of their refuges due to economic constraints. As a result, they have been forced to deny assistance to many women in vulnerable positions, leaving them in dangerous situations and fearing for their lives.

But among all women, those from minority ethnic groups have been the ones experiencing the greatest loss during the years of austerity. BAME women from all income groups have been the hardest hit by these measures, and they are expected to lose another 11.5% of their incomes by 2020, a study says. In the last few years, these women have experienced a double discrimination when trying to get a job in the labour market. While already being marginalised for belonging to minority communities, cuts made in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding has further impeded their full integration in society and their chances of getting paid employment.

Women from minority communities are the most vulnerable of all and are therefore in need of greater protection from the state. Politicians and policy makers should be reminded of this if they want to prevent women’s marginalisation from the economy and from society, which would result in incredible loses for the country as a whole.

At JAN Trust, we believe that women and men should have equal opportunities in society. We support the idea that a feminist approach should be taken when treating important issues concerning the population, such as when designing public policies, so that women’s discrimination is not further entrenched. At our women’s centre, we provide free services for the most vulnerable women, including English, ICT and numeracy classes. With these, we try to help them increase their chances of having a better life and becoming active and empowered citizens.

If you want to know more about the work we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

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Honour-based violence: in need of a stronger institutional response

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Did you know that 5,000 individuals are killed around the world every year in honour killings? Honour-based violence (HBV) is a persistent international issue defined as a crime or incident committed to protect the so-called honour of the family or community. The concept of ‘honour’ has an important meaning for certain communities, and when a woman does not behave as expected she is accused of bringing shame to the family by her immoral acts. However, killing in the name of honour is just the most severe form of HBV, but this practice can be suffered in a lot of different ways, including forced marriages, kidnappings, assaults, and imprisonments. Most of the victims of HBV are women and girls, being those aged  25 or under at further risk.

While this practice is most common in South Asia and the Middle East, there is evidence that HBV is also a major problem in the UK. Official statistics show that around 12 people are killed each year as a result of HBV in the UK, with around 11,000 honour crimes recorded between 2010 and 2014. Although this data is already terrifying and unacceptable, the real scale of the problem may be underestimated in the official records. This is because many women suffering from HBV do not report these crimes due to fear, threats, or emotional and economic dependency on the aggressor. Moreover, the criminal justice system and other institutions, such as the police, do not make it easier for the victims due to a lack of preparation and knowledge on the issue.    

One case of bad institutional handling of HBV that may ring a bell with  you is the one that led to the murder of Banaz Mahmod in January 2006. Mahmod was an Iraqi Kurdish woman who moved to England at the age of 10. She was murdered by her family for escaping a forced marriage to a man who abused her and for later being with a partner of her choice. What is scandalous about this case is not only her brutal murder, but that Banaz did report to the police on several times fearing for her life, but her testimony was not taken seriously and was dismissed as fantasy.

Although the case of Mahmod was supposed to set a precedent in the handling of HBV violence by the authorities, honour killings have continued in the UK and formal institutions are still unprepared to understand and deal with HBV. In fact, although there are numerous reports to the police of HBV violence every year in the UK, only a minority of these reported incidents results in charges. It is imperative that measures are taken in order to protect the victims of HBV and to prevent these practices from happening.   

Honour killings and HBV are atrocious acts, contrary to British law, that must be introduced in the political debate to take strong actions against its persistence. JAN Trust has been working on this issue for almost 30 years, involved at the grassroots level with local communities to raise awareness against this phenomenon and its awful consequences, as well as providing advice and guidance to women suffering from HBV. We also provide training on HBV for agencies across London and the UK. If you wish to arrange a training session please contact us on info@jantrust.org.  

If you want to know more about the work we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org

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Women against the extreme right in Brazil – the importance of global feminist movements

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On the 29th of September, tens of thousands of women gathered in what has been recognised as the biggest women’s demonstration of Brazil’s history. These women took the streets under the slogan #EleNão (#NotHim) to protest against Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right presidential candidate known for his sexist, racist and homophobic comments. Protests took place in 70 Brazilian cities and about ten foreign localities, encouraging between 100,000 and almost a million participants in São Paulo and between 50,000 and 500,000 in Rio de Janeiro to participate (estimates vary depending on sources).

This Sunday, Jair Bolsonaro, far-right candidate of Brazil’s Social Liberal Party, is facing Fernando Haddad on the decisive second round of Brazil presidential elections. He won the first round on the 7th of October with a 47% of the votes, and all the polls are pointing at him as a winner for the second round as well. Bolsonaro has stated numerous misogynist, homophobic and racist statements, comparing same-sex marriage to paedophilia and calling all immigrants “scum”. He also once told Congresswoman Mario do Rosario that she “did not deserve” to be raped because she was ugly, and has stated that he is not against women receiving lower salaries than men for the same job if they become pregnant.

Tension and violent acts started to increase in Brazil even before the first round elections were held. Numerous physical and verbal attacks, inspired by the candidate’s hate speech were reported to the authorities in the months previous to the elections. Among them, particularly notable and terrifying was the case of a woman assaulted for wearing an “Ele Não” t-shirt, by three men who drew a swastika in her stomach with a knife.

Fear about the spread of these kind of actions and an increase of crimes motivated by prejudices, together with the need to stand for women and minorities’ rights, were the reasons that encouraged Brazilian women to get together and organise against the far-right candidate in the Women United Against Bolsonaro Movement. It all started with a Facebook page, created on August 30th, with the aim of uniting Brazilian women against sexism, racism and other types of prejudices represented by Bolsonaro. The page has now more than four million members and was the principal tool to prepare the massive protests held during the last months in the country against the candidate and the antidemocratic ideas that he represents.  

Even though this movement has proved that Brazilian women are strong, empowered and highly organised, what is really new about it is that it has been amplified through social media, as Brazilian women have been organising and fighting for their rights for decades. In fact, this movement draws on years of Brazilian women’s mobilisation, fighting for social causes and human rights in the country. Black women in Brazil have continuously worked and campaigned for the right to land and decent working and living conditions for their families and communities. It is a reality, then, that even though sexism, racism and prejudice might win Brazil’s 2018 elections this Sunday, the strength and power of the Brazilian feminist movement cannot be stopped.

Brazil is just one among the many examples of feminist causes that have caught the international attention and support from feminist movements around the world. Very notorious was also the recent case of Brett Kavanaugh, allegedly accused of sexual misconduct, which gathered women around the world standing together against sexual violence. These feminist movements have been growing in the past few years, creating a strong international network of women fighting together against sexism, whose importance in the international sphere has proved to be fundamental for the progression towards women’s rights. 

At JAN Trust, we stand against discourses that promote prejudices and stereotypes and harm minority communities. Our organisation wants to highlight the importance of having political leaders that encourage respect and tolerance as key values to our societies. As a women’s charity, we stand in solidarity with women and minorities in Brazil and around the world and we campaign against the spread of hate speech and violent acts based on prejudices.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

Posted in Campaign, Campaigning, International, International Affairs, JAN Trust, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hate crime under review – why misandry should not be included under the hate crime legislation

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‘Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.’

 – Margaret Atwood

Last month, a campaign was started to include misogyny, that is, prejudice against women, as a form of hate crime. The petition was initiated by MP Stella Creasy, who argued that the levels of harassment women and girls suffer on a daily basis called for the inclusion of such acts under the hate crime legislation. This led to the announcement, later that month, of a wide-ranging review to be taken by the Law Commission, which would analyse comprehensively the legislation surrounding hate crimes. The review will consider introducing misogyny as a form of hate crime but, to the surprise of many, the Commission has also accepted considering the inclusion of misandry, that is, prejudice against men, under such legislation.

Officials have stated that the request to consider whether offences driven by misandry should be treated as hate crimes comes in response to what the public wants, in order to “not prioritise one area over another”. However, equating acts of misogyny to those suffered because of hostility towards men presents a number of problems. First of all, it means forgetting that gender relations operate in a hierarchical way, one that situates one group, men, at the top, and the other, women, at the bottom. While women have been suffering for centuries due to this injustice, men cannot say the same thing. All this means that violence and hostility towards women operates within a well-documented historical and systematic context, while misandry does not; is not an issue of systematic oppression and does not impede the daily lives of men. Making misandry a hate crime doesn’t address an imbalance, because we live in a patriarchal society where men have the majority of the power.

An argument frequently used by the supporters of treating misandry as a hate crime is that violence should always be condemned because abuse has no gender. However, it appears that the numbers disagree with such a statement, and they show that abuse is, indeed, deeply gendered. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Crime Survey for England and Wales, in the year to March 2017, 78% of the perpetrators of violent crime were men. Moreover, the ONS shows how the majority of the victims of sexual offences are women, while the vast majority of perpetrators are men. This data proves that the level of harassment and violence suffered by women cannot be compared to that experienced by men. That is not to say that attacks suffered by men should not be equally condemned, but that they are not motivated by the fact they are men.

It is important when discussing hate crime to consider the motivation of such offenses, but also the consequences of those acts in the long term. Hate crimes are considered aggravating offences by law and, as such, they attract higher prison sentences than crimes not motivated by hate. One important reason to explain this is that hate crimes do not only affect the individual victim, but they also spread fear among the whole community to which the victim belongs. Since we are born, women are told not to talk to strangers, not to walk alone at night, or drink too much to avoid being attacked by men. These acts influence the whole way we socialise and live our lives; for example, when a woman in our neighbourhood is attacked, we develop different strategies and precautions as a result of fear from that happening to us too. When a man is attacked because of hostility towards his gender, he might feel angry or embarrassed, but there is not a movement of men taking precautions because of fear of misandry.

Men can get assaulted, harassed in public and violently attacked, and these actions should be condemned and persecuted. That said, attacks are overwhelmingly perpetrated by other men, and this can never be equated to the violence and harassment women as a group have been suffering for centuries as a result of oppressing social hierarchies and the perception of women as inferior and/or sexual objects. The same measures should not be applied to “protect” a privileged group in the same way as an oppressed group. Misogyny should be considered a hate crime because of the high volumes of sexual assaults, street harassment and sexist discrimination women face, which happen because they are women, and which can have  deeply disturbing consequences throughout their lives. Misandry, on the other hand, should not be treated as a form of hate crime because, as opposed to women, men and boys are not systematically oppressed because of their gender.

At JAN Trust, we believe that strong actions need to be taken to end the excessively high levels of violence, assault and harassment that women suffer on a daily basis just because they are women. As such, we welcome the introduction of misogyny as a form of hate crime as a way to reduce the offences motivated by hostility towards women. At our centre, we work to empower marginalised women through the development of different skills, in order to increase their self-confidence and become independent and integrated members of society. If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, Campaigning, child marriage, discrimination, Diversity, girls, JAN Trust, National Hate Crime Awareness Week, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,