Becker Sentenced to Life for Cutting off Penis

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:24 PM EDT, 27 June 2014

B is for Blood, Photo by KlmLOS ANGELES, California -- In August 2011, Catherine Kieu Becker, a Vietnam-born woman also known as Que Anh Tran, brutally attacked her husband severing his penis. At that time they resided in Grove Garden, California. Today, nearly three years later, Becker has been convicted and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after seven years.

Now 50, the infamous ex-wife has supplanted Lorena Bobbitt as the new face of women who castrate their husbands. Unlike, Lorena, Catherine Kieu, had not been abused, but instead appears to have been driven to violence by jealousy.

Kieu and her then husband married in December 2009, but in May 2011 he filed for divorce, which was granted in August 2011, according to Orange County court records. Despite the fact that she and her ex-husband had no children, it seemed that Kieu was not ready to relinquish the relationship.

According to other reports, shortly before the incident, the couple argued over a friend staying with them. Apparently, her husband thought little about the incident, or at least he didn't fear for his safety because he and Kieu enjoyed a dinner together.

It was during this meal that according to prosecutors, "Kieu laced her husband's dinner with the sleep medication Ambien, and once he fell asleep, Kieu tied his legs and arms to the four corners of the bed. She waited until he awoke before pulling down his pants  and cutting off his penis with a knife."

Once again the similarities between Bobbitt and Kieu are striking, but in the case of Lorena, she drove off in her car and threw her husband's severed penis out the window. She later led the authorities to the general area where she had thrown out 'his member,' whereupon it was located and later surgically reattached.

In Kieu's case, she seemed intent on her husband never being able to perform as a man again, as she threw his severed penis into the garbage disposal, turned it on and mangled it. After this vicious assault, Kieu called 911 to say that her husband was bleeding and required attention. Upon the paramedic's arrival they saw the severity of his injuries and immediately took him to the hospital for emergency surgery.

The victim is a battered man, and if not for his physical castration people may have scoffed at his predicament. But, the abuse perpetrated against him by Kieu cannot be healed with psychotherapy. Her ex-husband, 60, according to the prosecutor's office, described the trauma in an impact statement during Friday's sentencing.

'The convicted (person) viciously deprived me of part of my life and identity," the ex-husband told the court. "Then, as is routine in cases of violence that involve something sexual, the victim must endure, at the hands of the defense, a second attack. This was a cruel and calculated violation of a person's body and mind. I now struggle with what is before me. She has torn off my identity as a man. She has caused doubt in my belief in good. She has betrayed my trust in people." Source: CNN

Kieu's defense team's strategy seemed to rely on the success of the outcome of Bobbitt's acquittal on the grounds of temporary insanity. However, despite their claim that Kieu suffered from mental health issues, including depression, it was a stretch to claim that she was a victim of the battered woman's syndrome or acted in defense of her life.

Her claims do an injustice to the many women in this country and around the world who are abused physically and mentally by their partners until they break and either harm themselves or their victimizer. Fortunately, for women's rights, the jury didn't buy into Kieu's defense and today, she was sentenced to life in accordance with the April 29th jury verdict of one felony count of torture, one felony count of aggravated mayhem, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a knife.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Pregnant Pakistani Stoned in "Honor Killing" Outside High Court

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LAHORE, Pakistan -- Islam does not allow for "honor killings." And yet, a 25-year-old pregnant Pakistani woman is the latest victim of murder at the hands of her family. The couple had been engaged for several years, and were only recently married.

Farzana Parveen was beaten and stoned to death earlier today, 27 May 2014, outside of a high court in Lahore. Parveen and her newlywed husband Mohammad Iqbal had traveled to the court earlier today to debunk claims that Iqbal had abducted Parveen. The bride's family had reported the false claims to police in order to regain custody of the woman.

Before the couple had a chance to testify their mutual love, they were surrounded by a group in excess of 20. According to police, someone in the crowd shot a handgun into the air as the mob attempted to kidnap Parveen. Their efforts were ineffective, and at this point the assemblage struck Parveen with sticks and stoned her with bricks from an adjacent construction site. The brutal public display is continuing to draw disapproval by officials and the community.

The attackers included her father and several brothers. So far, only her father, Mohammad Azeem, has been detained. Officials are now searching for the brothers and other family members that conspired in the brutal murder.

Conservative communities in Pakistan practice arranged marriage. Through matrimony, many Pakistani families seek to associate with another family of like class, wealth and ethnicity. Today, marriage outside of this tradition is performed more often, but the stigma against an unendorsed marriage is strong.

According to Amnesty International, 960 "honor killings" were recorded in Pakistan in 2010. That number could likely be higher, as crimes against women are often unpunished and underreported in the region. Most follow a similar equation--males execute a female family member, in order to redeem the family name for the alleged immorality of the female relative.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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Sudan: Pregnant Woman Condemned to Death or Religious Conversion

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Olivia Elswick, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:13 a.m. DST, 16 May 2014

Atsbi village, Tigray, Christian Woman, Photo by Evgeni ZotovKHARTOUM, Sudan - Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, has until Thursday to either denounce her Christian faith or face a death sentence.

When Ibrahim’s father, a Sudanese Muslim, abandoned her at age six, her mother, an Ethiopian Orthodox, raised her as a Christian. Ibrahim identifies herself as a Christian, but despite this she is considered by the courts to be a Muslim, as her father was.

She was reported by a family member in August 2013 and was arrested on charges of adultery. Ibrahim has been convicted by a Khartuom court for abandoning her Muslim faith in favor of Christianity, an action that, under Sharia law, indicates that she committed adultery with her husband, a non-Muslim.

Because the law considers her a Muslim, her marriage to a Christian man is considered void and adulterous. Marriage to a non-Muslim man is prohibited for Muslim women. Ibrahim and her husband have a 20-month-old son and she is expected to give birth to her second child sometime next month.

In past cases involving pregnant women, the Sudanese government has waited until the woman gave birth before executing a sentence. If sentenced to death she will likely be flogged with 100 lashes then hanged.

The blatant disrespect for freedom of religion and interference in the personal life of Sudanese citizens is outraging people in Sudan and abroad. Authorities have closed Khartuom University indefinitely after Sudanese students there mounted a protest begging for the end to human rights violations, more freedom, and better social and economic conditions.

In Khartuom, foreign embassies are urging the government to rethink its decision. A joint statement issued from the embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands says, “We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one's right to change one's faith or beliefs, a right which is enshrined in international human rights law as well as in Sudan's own 2005 Interim Constitution.

We further urge Sudanese legal authorities to approach Ms. Meriam's case with justice and compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people,” the joint statement read.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @OCElswick

Honor Killings: When Bloodline and Bloodshed Intersect

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Michael Ransom, Senior CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:49 a.m. DST, 2 April 2014

Santhal Tribal Lady, Photo by Ravi PratapANDHRA PRADESH, India - Pachala Deepthi tried her best to gain the blessing of her parents before marrying her sweetheart, Anantagiri Kiran Kumar. For over two years, Deepthi's appeals fell on deaf ears. The man she intended to marry was an unacceptable choice, and P. Hari Babu and Samrajyam refused to hear otherwise. Although Kiran Kumar worked at the same technology company as Deepthi, his position in the caste system spoke volumes to the concerned parents.

After years of failed lobbying, the longtime couple decided to marry without the approval of Hari Babu and Samrajyam. Even so, friends and coworkers celebrated the inter-caste wedding with a rite that took place in their Hyderabad office building. Deepthi told her parents of the plan prior to the February 21st ceremony, but Hari Babu and Samrajyam refused to attend. What followed was a family feud no less tragic than a Shakespeare classic.

Unlike the forlorn lovers in Romeo & Juliet, Deepthi would die at the hands of her own parents. While the initial anger of her kin was marked, Deepthi was contacted by her parents with the promise to make amends and sanctify the marriage in an official ritual. To say their request was disingenuous is a critical understatement. Hari Babu and Samrajyam used this opportunity to levy supposed justice against their daughter.

Their posturing proved effective. The middle-aged couple strangled their daughter, hanging her inside the family home in Andhra Pradesh. Police received a call from the bridegroom's friend, who had suspicions about the duo's real intentions. The man stayed near Deepthi's home, and witnessed her parents leaving the property without the young woman. Authorities can thank his reconnaissance efforts for the seizure of the two murderers, who had already made inroads in their escape from the southern state. The tip brought police to the scene quickly and sparked a manhunt for the couple, who were soon captured.

Not long ago, the couple could have avoided any prosecution, depending on their local court and the caste interests that it served. But the 2011 Supreme Court decision will keep perpetrators of so-called "honor killings" running from the law. Before that decisive ruling, those who participated in such killings faced a varying degree of punishment, depending on the local government. Historically, more conservative communities administered little punishment, if any at all. The result? A mild judicial response codified time-honored notions of caste and decorum. The recent verdict from India's highest court changes that. It establishes a zero-tolerance policy for these local agendas.

Now, Hari Babu and Samrajyam could face the death penalty, which before had been used only sparingly in the world's largest democracy. The expanded application of capital punishment is perhaps the biggest legacy of the Supreme Court's resolution. Although statistics show that the possibility of death does little to discourage lethal criminals, the new precedent sends a powerful message to the people who are willing to prop up tradition through vigilante violence. Similarly, it signals the limitations of the modern caste system.

The recent murder is only one of the high profile crimes against women in India. A few weeks ago, a Bollywood cosmetic designer attacked his girlfriend, lighting her on fire and killing her in Mumbai. In the beginning of 2014, a man beheaded an elderly woman who allegedly stole timber from him. And last year in New Delhi, the fatal gang rape of a young woman stirred international outrage.

The incident vaulted India's lenient rape penalties into the global conversation. Legislators responded to the atrocity with a law increasing victim rights and implementing harsher punishments for rapists. As a result, section 376A of the Indian Penal Code includes death penalty provisions where the victim is killed. Surely this action is a step in the right direction, but these baseline clauses are far from comprehensive.

There is never one single prescription to combat a social problem, but recent studies help illuminate the breadth of this issue. As a financially-independent woman with a budding career, Deepthi was already at a greater risk of domestic abuse and sexual assault, according to the research of Abigail Weitzman. Her study shows that successful women are targeted by predators at a significantly higher rate in India. Weitzman is a graduate student and researcher at New York University.

The progressive Supreme Court decision and new anti-rape laws are a multipronged plan to combat violence against women. That said, women in India must often follow a procession of apathy on their march to justice. Between the victims who are fearful to come forward, police under-reporting, and flaws in the current legal system, the true extent of abuses remain undisclosed. Sadly, in both India and the collective global community, the same is true: the number of actual assaults is exponentially higher than the statistics that reach the newsstand.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @MAndrewRansom

National Geographic Live! : Too Young to Wed

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:33 AM EDT, 10 July 2012

Many of the post that we feature deal with human rights abuses and in particular women’s rights abuses, as in the case of yesterday’s report of the Afghan woman who was executed. There is no justification for what happened to Najiba; however, to every story there is a back story, and though most people are unable to get beyond the emotional outrage of the act, including me, we often miss the underlying sociological constraints that actuate these reprehensible events.

That is why we have chosen to present this National Geographic video which highlights the work of photographer Stephanie Sinclair and writer Cynthia Gorney who together investigated the world of prearranged child marriage, where girls as young as five who live in remote regions of India, Ethiopia and Yemen among other places, are forced to wed and bear children.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c_zppPutQw&feature=related]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 “Born in 1973, Sinclair is an American photojournalist known for gaining unique access to the most sensitive gender and human rights issues around the world. Sinclair was recently awarded the Alexia Foundation Professional Grant, UNICEF's Photo of the Year and the Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism Freelens Award for her extensive work on the issue of child marriage. She contributes regularly to National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Newsweek, Stern, German Geo and Marie Claire among others, and is based in Brooklyn, NY.” (Source: Stephanie Sinclair)

Though we would like to rush in like lions, we have seen time and again this approach is as effective as waving a proverbial magic wand and casting a spell to make the whole situation disappear. We all know this is not possible, but the video above provides compelling insight into why efforts to change abhorrent cultural practices via external pressure has ubiquitously failed.

Death by Marriage | Rape Victim Amina Filali

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:31 PM EDT, 18 March 2012

Mukhtar Mai

MOROCCO – On Saturday, 17 March 2012, thousands of people around the world awoke to the horror of the suicide of a young girl who had been forced to marry her rapist.

Her rapist was given the option of marrying the girl under Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code. This antiquated law allows for a rapist to marry his victim to escape prosecution. It is a law that has been used to justify a traditional practice of ‘preserving’ the honor of the woman's family by making the victim marry her victimizer or face certain death.

Amina Al Filali, 16, swallowed rat poison yesterday in protest of her marriage to the man who raped her a year earlier. Rape victims face numerous challenges in seeking justice and healing, but in cultures where the ‘honor’ of the family outweighs the rights of its ‘less valued’ members, a rape victim can be placed in an untenable predicament.

Moroccan families of rape victims, who have availed themselves of this resolution, admit that they coerce the victims into marrying their rapists out of fear that she won’t be able to find a husband if the community finds out that she has been raped.

In many societies throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, the loss of a woman's virginity prior to marriage, not only reduces her ‘value,’ but causes a great scandal which ‘injures’ the entire family. The rape victim is thereby sacrificed so that the males who did not protect her can absolve themselves of further responsibility.

In the photo above, a Pakistani woman, Mukhtar Mai, was gang-raped in 2002 on orders of a traditional village council as punishment for acts allegedly committed by her younger brother. Rather than retreat into silence or commit suicide (the expected response when dishonor is brought to a family), Mukhtar Mai testified against the perpetrators. She used the compensation money she later received to build schools and a shelter for abused women.

As in the States, the burden of proof of rape rest solely on the victim’s ability to prove she was attacked and that she didn’t ‘ask’ for it by putting herself in a compromising situation. In countries where ‘honor’ killings are prevalent, a woman risks being prosecuted for debauchery if she is unable to prove that she was raped.

In the case of Amina, according to her father, Lahcen Filali, the court pushed the marriage, even though the perpetrator initially refused. He only consented when faced with a potential 5 to 10 years in prison, which is the penalty under Moroccan law for rape. However, because Amina was a minor when she was raped, her attacker would have faced 10 to 20 years if he chose to go to court.

Immediately after the marriage, Amina complained to her mother that her husband was beating her repeatedly with increasing ferocity during the five short months of their marriage. Her mother as much a victim of societal pressure and expectations as her daughter, counseled patience.

Amina was subjected first to rape, then to a child-marriage, and finally to repeated physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her rapist. In a society where she had no voice, she chose the only option available to her, to take her own life.

Ironically, it may be this act of desperation that is giving voice to the countless others who are stuck in similar nightmares. Though Morocco updated its family code in 2004, Fouzia Assouli, a women’s rights activists and president of Democratic League for Women's Rights, says there remains a long road to achieve equality.

'It is unfortunately a recurring phenomenon,' she said. 'We have been asking for years for the cancellation of Article 475 of the penal code which allows the rapist to escape justice. In Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual and legislation outlawing all forms of violence against women, including rape within marriage, has been stuck in the government since 2006.’

In recent years, reports of young women who have been raped, and then sentenced to death by stoning, have been reported from Nigeria to Iran.

Last year the plight of rape victims in Afghanistan was featured in an European Union (EU) commissioned documentary about Afghan woman serving prison time for so-called “moral crimes.” The EU blocked the film’s release – saying it would endanger the women involved in the film. (Source: Aljazeera)

In an unfathomable abuse of justice, Gulnaz, 21, who was brutally raped by her husband’s cousin, was serving a 12-year sentence for adultery. While in prison, she was raising her infant daughter, who is the offspring of her attacker. By contrast, her rapist only received a 7-year sentence.

President Hamid Karzai, under immense international pressure finally agreed to pardon Gulnaz with ‘no conditions.’ Initial petitions for her freedom required that she marry her attacker, a stipulation which she categorically rejected.

Perhaps it was because of Amina’s youth, her parent’s pressure or unrelenting physical abuse, but unlike Gulnaz, Amina was not strong enough to hold onto hope or life. A Facebook page called 'We are all Amina Filali has been formed and an online petition calling for Morocco to end the practice of marrying rapists and their victims has already gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

With Extreme Prejudice | Castration

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:03 PM EDT, 13 July 2011

Bloody KnifeCALIFORNIA - Catherine Kieu Becker who lives in Grove Garden, California, called 911 Emergency Services after she cut off her husband's penis and mangled it in a garbage disposal.  This is not the first time that an American wife has cut off her husband's penis.

In 1984, Lorena Bobbitt severed the penis of her husband, John Bobbitt after he returned home and raped her following a night of heavy drinking.  Unlike Catherine who mangled her husband's penis in the garbage disposal, Lorena left with the severed penis, drove a short while, then rolled down the car window and threw the penis into a field.

She subsequently stopped and called 911 and after an exhaustive search, the penis was located, packed in ice, and taken to the hospital where John Bobbitt was being treated. The penis was re-attached by Drs. James T. Sehn and David Berman during a nine-and-a-half-hour operation.[Wikipedia]

At this time, the reason for Catherine's assault are unknown. By contrast, Lorena Bobbitt revealed during her trial the volatile nature of her relationship with her husband. She told a packed courtroom that her husband sexually, physically, and emotionally abused her during their marriage and that John Bobbitt flaunted his infidelities, and had forced her to have an abortion. [Wikipedia]

What makes the cases against Catherine and Lorena so sensational is the visceral response men have to this crime.  Their penises are a potent symbol of their manhood, are the instrument by which they can procreate or rape, and one of the most sensitive areas of their bodies.  Because the perpetrators of these crimes are women, who in most societies are by and large viewed as passive victims, the only explanation offered is that they must be 'crazy.'

When a woman castrates a man, the action is tantamount to an insurrection by the 'weaker sex' and in any other country but America the offender would have been summarily executed. This was the case with a woman, known as Zarmina, executed by the Taliban at the Ghazi Sports Stadium, Kabul, November 16, 1999. She was a mother of seven children who killed her husband after he severely beat her.

Castration has been used as an instrument of war for thousands of years.  After battles in some cases, winners castrated their captives or the corpses of the defeated to symbolize their victory and "seize" their power.  The amount of media attention devoted to the rare incidents of male castration by females is inordinate compared to the global scourge of female genital mutilation.

Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) also known as Female Genital Cutting (FCC) or Female Circumcision has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as all non-surgically necessary procedures performed on girls and women to mutilate their genitalia.  The damage wrought to these women's vaginas is heinous and equivalent to male castration but media attention to these crimes pale by comparison.

Although surgeons can reattach a man's penis there may be reduced performance, a female victim of FMG suffers life-long health issues.  These include urinary and reproductive tract infections, caused by obstructed flow of urine and menstrual blood, various forms of scarring and infertility.

This is not an argument in support of what Catherine Kieu Becker and Lorena Bobbitt did to their husbands, but rather an indictment of societies that continue to support misogynistic practices that go unnoticed and unpunished around the world and in many North African countries explicitly required to preserve the 'sanctity' of a woman's chastity.

In the American justice system we are judged by a jury of our peers.  In 1984 this judicial system declared Lorena not guilty due to insanity.  The verdict is still out on Catherine Kieu Becker  but it will be interesting to follow her case.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias