Egyptian Policeman Receives Life Sentence for Raping Disabled Girl in Police Station

egyptian trial, photo by middle east voices

egyptian trial, photo by middle east voices

CAIRO, Egypt - According to the activist Engy Ghozlan of the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR), nearly 200,000 rapes occur annually in Egypt. This figure was presented in response to a 2008 U.N. report which quoted Egypt's Interior Ministry's figure which was significantly less. (Source: ECWR).

As in many countries rapes in Egypt are one of the most under-reported crimes, and until recently, many perpetrators weren't brought to trial because of lack of interests or cultural biases which blamed the woman for allowing herself to be raped.

In August 2014, a 17-year-old mentally disabled teenage girl walked into the Imbaba Police Station in Cairo's low-income neighbourhood of Imbaba to report her abduction by two men earlier that day. Instead of receiving just consideration of her charges, or even for the police to initiate an investigation, Khaled Abdel-Rahman Mohamed, the policeman on duty, inexplicably locked the teenager a cell.

Other female prisoners confirmed the testimony of the girl in which she stated that she was subsequently taken forcibly from the cell by Mohamed ostensibly for further questioning. It is alleged that he dragged her by her hair and raped her in the corner of the station. Two women in an adjacent jail cell watched the assault through a crack in the cell door. A camera also bore silent witness to the girl's ordeal and was crucial to proving the guilt of the officer.

Egyptian law permits rapists to be sentenced to death for the rape of any female under the age of 18; however, on 7 June 2015 the court sentenced Mohamed to life in prison.

Saudi Arabia Grapples with Women's Right to Drive Within Existing Restrictions

SAUDI ARABIA - A common Western activity such as driving has been an issue for women in Saudi Arabia for ages. Although women over thirty have been allowed to drive, this right has been curtailed by the stringent restriction to which they are forced to adhere.

Currently, "Saudi Arabian laws" limit their freedom to drive outside of a proscribed schedule which prohibits them driving after 8:00 p.m. Also, an additional restrictive and seemingly punitive issue is that women who are driving are forbidden to wear make-up while operating the vehicle. One would presumably understand the restriction against distracted drivers using cell phones and other communication devices thus taking their attention away from the road, but the wearing of make-up does not seem to fall into this category as women are allowed to wear it in all other instances.

This matter came to the attention of the world because the consul of Saudi Arabia has put on the table for discussion the possibility of removing the time constraints, and also considering the option of allowing women older than 30-years-old to operate a vehicle during restricted hours. Though, these discussion are not open to the public, it seems that this is a growing necessity for a society that is increasingly mobile and where the use of a vehicle would greatly enhance the performance of such mundane duties such as grocery shopping, picking up children from school, etc.

Although the decision to reassess the restrictions imposed on women drivers seems precipitous, in fact women have been actively campaigning for this basic right to drive for years. The consul stated that there is the necessity to create a “female traffic department" in order to bring precise control over the matter, in case a car suffers some damage while being utilized by a woman. There are also restrictions when it comes to women interacting with men while driving. Though these discussion seem to be a recognition of the need for equal rights for women in terms of driving, the additional restriction makes us wonder if this response is a ploy to seemingly comply with women's rights group while in fact devaluing the struggle in which many women defied the laws, boldly driven their cars, and consequently suffered punishment.

Additionally, the existing restriction have resulted in a culture of families hiring drivers to transport women. But, what happens when the traditional family does not have the economic resources to hire someone? Women then are directly dependent of spouses, siblings, parents and even their children in order to accomplish their daily activities, and such restriction are unduly punitive for women who are in the lower classes. Thus, the current debate is considering the possibility that under certain conditions women might drive more days of the week during the hours between 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Restrictions regarding wearing make-up and interacting with men during the driving are not up for discussion and will likely remain in place.

According to The Associated Press, "There have been small, but increasingly bold protests by women who took to their cars in open defiance....over the past year despite the restrictions. The driving ban, which is unique in the world, was imposed because the kingdom's ultraconservative Muslim clerics say "licentiousness" will spread if women drive.”

A protest occurred last October when Saudi women drove around their neighborhoods and recorded themselves on videos which they then posted on social networks such as YouTube as a means to publicize their plight and reinforce their belief in the right to protest this unjust situation. Although there isn't a written law that limits schedules or outlines formal details on restrictions imposed on women driver, these unwritten cultural restrictions have been ubiquitously enforced, and punishments have varied between jail time or other sanctions.

In 2011 forty women protested against the driving ban and as a consequence one of them was sentenced to 10 lashes; however this barbaric punishment was subsequently overturned by the king. The revocation of this sentence can be viewed as an improvement since the situation has been discussed for years over what type of judgement should be meted out for women who break the de facto "driving ban" laws, and corporal punishment of women who are considered disobedient is actively practiced in other traditional cultures.

Since the consuls' discussion are private and there has been no indication of when an announcement of their decision will be made, women who have been demanding their right to drive continue to peacefully protest by driving despite these anachronistic traditions.

Mauritius & the Case of the Stolen Island

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 18:40 p.m. DST, 6 March 2014

British Flag, Photo by Daniel S. HagyPORT LOUIS, Mauritius - If someone asked you to point out Mauritius on a map, would you be able to? Most would likely say they had no idea where the tiny island is located. Beyond that, most people also wouldn’t know that Mauritius is entangled in a decades-long battle with the United Kingdom and United States over an archipelago, particularly one of its smallest islands: Diego Garcia.

The dispute began when the Chagos Archipelago was given up by Mauritius during independence negotiations in 1965, coinciding with the height of the Cold War. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time, wanted control over the area in order to make a deal with the United States who during this tense era was looking for a military base in the Indian Ocean.

In return for letting the United States put a military base on Diego Garcia, the UK in return earned improved ties and a substantial financial contribution to their Polaris submarine program. Cold War priorities were clearly at the forefront of everyone’s agendas at the time, so the UK had no inhibitions in forcefully removing Chagos’ citizens in order to make room for the US military.

Fast forward a few decades and in 2010, the UK further overstepped their boundaries and established the world’s largest Marine Protected Area around the archipelago, reportedly in order to prevent former residents from returning. This was clearly a strategic move made in order to set the stage for the 2016 expiration date of the US lease on Diego Garcia. The lease allows for a 20 year extension if renewed, so if Mauritius wants to regain sovereignty over the islands, they have to move swiftly and effectively.

Mauritius vigorously wants to regain control over the territory for means of economic growth and development. The location serves as a gateway to the ever-expanding markets in mainland Africa, and having governmental control over the region gives Mauritius a seat at the table concerning ocean economy, development, trade, and security. The tiny country has even made vast strides in recent months to create an extensive Ocean Economy Roadmap that aims to reach Mauritius’ potential as an ocean state within the next 10 years. However, the success of this roadmap hinges on uniting Diego Garcia back under Mauritius’ territory boundaries.

In the short term, their plans include becoming a major hub for petroleum products, container shipment, port services, and seafood processing. Additionally, they aim to expand on their tourism industry and develop more commerce around ocean-based leisure. Mauritius’ fish export volume has almost doubled since 2005, so the coupling of actively pursuing their ocean economic potential with regaining access to Diego Garcia would have immense benefits on their economy.

Beyond the next few years, the government of Mauritius aims to work on renewable energy, value-added services, exploration of hydrocarbon and mineral resources, and their expanding ocean economy. The island is also striving to become a center of excellence for Ocean Knowledge by 2025. Of course, these lofty goals will be hard to obtain if Mauritius is blocked from regaining sovereignty of Diego Garcia by the self-interests of the UK and US. Discussions regarding the issue will likely occur throughout 2014, so be on the lookout to see how this battle plays out.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Mugabe, A Comparison of Current African Elections

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:50 a.m. DST, 21 August 2013

President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe, Photo by Abayomi Azikiwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Despite optimistic reviews and marks of approval from neighboring countries and multilateral institutions, democratic elections in modern day Africa still leave a lot left to be desired in several categories. A prime example of this can be seen with the current post-election situation in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe, who is 89 years old and has been the head of state since 1987, just received another electoral "win" after the country's elections that took place on July 31st.

International watchdogs held their breath as the voting process and results took place as the last Zimbabwean national election in 2008 ended in violence as opponent Morgan Tsvangirai's supporters were attacked. This forced Tsvangirai to back out of the race to avoid further damage to his supporters, but it didn't keep him from running again in this election.

Although the results announced Mugabe as the winner with the vast majority of the votes, post-election details are emerging that there may have been election rigging completed by his ZANU political party.

For example, there are some constituencies listed that have more recorded voters than actual residents which resulted in over 800,000 duplicated names on voter lists. This is a gross human rights violation as it rips citizens of their right to vote and have a voice in their government.

Having the nation's governing political party violate its duty to be transparent and accountable will no doubt leave a national feeling of resentment and anger with the governing coalition that will persist until there are truly fair elections.

However, Mugabe and his ZANU party are not the only ones to blame, and it is suggested that some foreign investors may also be behind the election scheme. Foreign organizations that have certain obligations and interests like European and Chinese investors, diamond mining firms, and neighboring countries may have also played a part behind the scenes in making sure that Mugabe could stay in power and continue to pursue their goals.

Although Zimbabwe is a staunch reminder of where elections and political systems in Africa need to improve upon, there are some glimmers of hopes in other countries on the continent. In the Mali elections that concluded in the past few days, the ex-Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse conceded to the Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Keita after the runoff. Originally, Cisse had some complaints about potential fraud in the electoral process, but he soon after made the decision to peacefully concede and even congratulate Keita on his victory. This peaceful example of transition is impressive as it required no violence or force in order to decide on a winner.

Because the elections were settled in a peaceful, smooth, and fair process, there has been a general national sentiment of the citizens being happy with how the election went and that the country is making steps towards a more stable and prosperous state of affairs. A European Union observe even said that from a democratic point of view, the election was a success. This brings hope to the country that Mali can create a new trajectory for itself after months of instability where rebels in the North seized parts of the country and eventually forced French troops to intervene. After several tumultuous and devastating months, the elections in Mali have thus far served as a beacon of hope and building block for a strong future.

In the coming years, it will be vital for African countries to institute and follow through with truly free and fair elections so that its citizens will be content and able to trust the government. Elections can prove to be a turning point in a country's history, and the trajectory of Zimbabwe and Mali from their current elections onward could prove to be a telling comparison on how elections and political transition are vital to a healthy country.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

India Enacts Tougher New Anti-Rape Laws

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 18:25 p.m. DST, 29 March 2013

India's Aam Aadmi Party Protest Rape EpidemicINDIA - In response to the 2012 Delhi rape gang case, the government in India set up a panel called the Justice Verma Committee headed by a retired judge to recommend legal reform and other ways to reduce sexual violence, reports BBC.

A bill containing harsher punishments for violence against women passed in early March, and Karuna Nundy, a leading Indian Supreme Court lawyer, explained to BBC how the laws work.

Nundy says that the new laws consist of a combination of thinking about gender and existing patriarchal attitudes, and those ingrained in the colonial Indian Penal Code of 1860.

The bill defined several actions as crimes: stalking, intimidating, murder, acid violence, disrobing, and voyeurism. Additionally, the bill clarifies that in rape; the absence of a physical struggle does not indicate that the actions were consensual.

One of the major reasons why crimes against women aren’t reported is because police would refuse to register the complaints, says Nundy. The bill would give compulsory jail time to those who fail to register complaints.

Healthcare providers must provide survivors of sexual violence or acid attacks free and immediate medical care.

There are increased jail terms and the potentiality for the death penalty in a repeat offense or rape that causes coma. If evidence demonstrates that the death penalty is not a deterrent for committing crimes as Nundy claims, then what is the alternative punishment?

Nundy is further concerned with the lack of expansion of the criminal justice system. Speedy trials are supposed to be the best in prosecuting crimes against women, Nundy says, and it is unclear how fast these trials will be. Offenders may attempt to drag on the trial process for a long time, which would cause the victim much hardship. Additionally, Nundy says “there’s also a concern that if sentences are thought of as too harsh by judges, the already high acquittal rate in cases of sexual violence will rise further.”

Under this bill, consensual intercourse between teenagers aged 16-18 is considered rape. The boy involved can be sentenced to up to three-years in prison, and labeled as a rapist.

The new laws fail to protect men and transgender from rape. The cultural attitudes in India can help explain this failure to protect transgender.

According to the Taipei Times and the Global Post, transgender face heavy discrimination. The Taipei Times reports that homosexuality is accepted, however, straying from cultural perceptions of femininity or masculinity leads to prosecution. The transgender communities in India, known as hjaris, have been prevented from obtaining decent education and jobs and housing, reports the Global Post.

Marital rape is still legal. According to the India RealTime, in Indian culture, the husband has the right to intercourse whenever he pleases. Activists have called for laws that would allow women to press charges against their husbands, but this has yet to be addressed.

Armed forces in “disturbed areas” are still effectively immune from the prosecution of rape and sexual assault. The Hindustan Times reports that in many instances, an offender from the armed forces will try to take their trial to civilian courts because the trial can take years. In contrast, in military courts, prosecution can come swiftly and the punishment can be much more severe.

Though the laws fail to address several important areas, the laws represent an important step in the change in laws and attitudes in India.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

The Demise of China's Inhuman One Child Policy?

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Sam Hargadine, ContributorLast Modified: 16:04 p.m. DST, 19 March 2013

China One Child Policy PropagandaCHINA - As incomes rise, the fertility rate falls – or so says demographic trends. Unique to China though, this trend did not evolve naturally, it was mandated by the government.

China’s one child policy was instituted in 1979 and has underdone modest reforms in the three decades since. However during this month’s National People’s Congress, China’s legislature approved a radical reshuffle over the bureaucratic office in charge of the policy. A sign the rule may soon be scrapped.

On 10 March, it was announced that the family planning office would be merged with the health ministry to create a new super agency, the Health and Family Planning Commission. By routing decisions through the health ministry, the effect is likely to curb the influence of one-child bureaucrats on the national level.

According to Zuo Xuejin of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the combining of the two offices will weaken the family planning wing because health ministry officials are far more competent. As the two agencies combine, health officials will likely crowd out once all-powerful bureaucrats from the family planning office.

This change is gradual and behind the scenes, indicating a trend in itself for the new Presidency of Xi Jinping. The President understands that the Communist Party’s rule is partly owed to a perception of stability and indefatigability. Radical changes, such as a quick scrapping of the one child policy, could unleash a call for even greater reforms in areas more sensitive to one party rule. An outcome Mr. Xi hopes to avoid.

In actuality only 35.9 percent of China’s population is subject to one-child restrictions. These Chinese are largely urban and therefore more likely to be middle class. Ethnic minorities, rural households, and households where both parents are only children are allowed more than one child. Specific to China’s largest and wealthiest city, Shanghai, the fertility rate has dipped to 0.7 births/woman, one of the lowest rates in the world.

In South Korea and Japan the fertility rates are well below replacement, at 1.21 and 1.27 respectively. Hong Kong and Macau round out the bottom of league tables at 0.97 and 0.91. This suggests that the average urban Mainland home will follow this demographic trend. Thus asserts Mr. Zuo, the policy is simply not needed anymore.

The likely course of action will be a gradual relaxation of enforcement rather than outright repeal. Already provincial level governments largely enforce the policy, further reducing the influence of family planning mandarins in Beijing.

As is often the case in China, change comes slowly. Because demographic trends will likely make one-child homes a preferred choice on the mainland as it has with China’s neighbors, a radical shift does the government little good. Slow and steady wins the race – at least so thinks Mr. Xi.

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Gina Rinehart's Delusion of Class Envy

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:25 PM EDT, 25 September 2012

Gina Rinehart (Cropped), Photo by Panorama MercantilIn the United States 2012 Presidential election one of the candidates has been labeled as out of touch plutocrat, a perception reinforced by his numerous faux pas, gaffes, and seeming inability to connect with voters.

The perception held by the public and the media is that Mitt Romney desires to become president for the sole purpose of advancing tax policies and legislation that will benefit the rich to the detriment of the middle class.

These assertions have been vigorously denounced by other wealthy Americans who have subsequently accused the public of class envy.

Though they claim to be beneficent and caring about the lower and middle classes, this proclaimed sentiment belies what many believe to be the truth. This feeling was evidenced in a statement made by Mitt Romney in May 2012 to wealthy donors attending a $50,000 a plate fund raising event.

Unbeknownst to Romney, he was caught on video expounding upon his view that 47% of working and lower class Americans were in their predicament because they lacked both drive and a sound work ethic.

This, despite the fact that he and other wealthy individuals like him inherited their wealth. Lest global citizens think that Mr. Romney is an aberrant case of an extremely wealthy individual who can’t or won’t sympathize with those who were not born with the same privileges and advantages, Gina Rinehart proves this assumption wrong.

Ms. Rinehart is an Australian mining tycoon who inherited a fortune which is now worth $19 billion and is considered the world’s richest woman. She also claims class envy as the reason why commoners dislike her. However, public derision of Rinehart stems from her 30 August 2012 statement to Amy Coopes, a reporter for AFP in which she advised people of lesser means on how to become one of the uber-wealthy.

"If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain," she said in a magazine piece. "Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socializing, and more time working."

Today, speaking at the Sydney Mining Club, Rinehart reiterated her opinion about those less fortunate than her. In her speech she asserted that the mining industry in Australia cannot compete with nations that are willing to pay workers less than $2 a day for their sweat and labor, and therefore, Australian businesses should be allowed to lower employee salaries to match or beat this amount.

Rinehart has been urging Australian lawmakers to cut the minimum wage, ostensibly to prevent these jobs from being outsourced, but in reality it is because she doesn’t want to pay a living wage or benefits afforded most employees in industrialized nations, preferring to use the labor of immigrants from nations with emerging economies.

Like the American public, the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard didn't buy Rinehart’s specious and self-serving argument. The truth of her position is much like other rapacious plutocrats, corporate raiders, and venture capitalists who believe that the poor should be grateful for any job even if they are paid little or nothing.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias