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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘rape’

Israeli Activist Promotes Women’s Rights in South Sudan

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Ophelie Namiech, South Sudan country director of the Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAID, is working in South Sudan to promote gender equality, women’s rights and helping local activists address gender-based violence.

Ophelie Namiech, a former French national, has made Aliyah to Israel and is presently serving as the South Sudan country director for IsraAID.  The humanitarian organization provides emergency relief and development assistance to different countries across the globe. In South Sudan, IsraAID is involved in development assistance for the emerging nation. 

“I made Aliyah in order to help build Israel’s future”

Namiech’s ultimate professional goal was to build a career that combined her love for the State of Israel with assisting the South Sudanese people. “I made Aliyah in order to build Israel’s future. I wanted to make a difference. I felt I needed to be part of Israel on the inside,” she stated. “It is such a pride to say that I am Israeli. It’s a reason to make Aliyah. Israel was founded based on humanitarian values.” She believes that by working to build relations between Israel and South Sudan and by accompanying the new state in in its efforts to build strong economic and social foundations, she is strengthening the role of Israel in international development and humanitarian action (Tikkun Olam). According to her, Israel has the opportunity – and the duty – to assist other friendly nations that struggled for their independence – like South Sudan – to build themselves.

Gender Issues in South Sudan

Presently, South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, has a humanitarian crisis in the border regions of the country as well as an internal conflict. According to Namiech, “South Sudan was fifty years in war. […] Sexual violence was used as a weapon of war, like is common in East Africa. It was not only used as weapon of war but it is also traumatized the nation.” She continued, “There are not studies on this, but at least two thirds of the women have faced gender based violence, rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, etc.” Namiech claimed that the international community focused almost exclusively on helping out the border regions, and did not have the capital city Juba as a priority.

Nevertheless, “Juba faced rapid urbanization with the massive absorption of refugees, displaced people, and migrants seeking better opportunities. All of this created social and economic pressure on Juba as well as social challenges.” She continued, “You have five star hotels for internationals and then a slum area where women and children are being raped.” She personally witnessed a child getting raped by five men and claimed that such things happen on a daily basis. “No one was working in Juba, because they were focusing elsewhere,” she asserted. Yet, after IsraAID began assisting local activists in South Sudan promoting gender equality, other NGOs joined in.

Namiech Working to Make a Difference

IsraAID  seeks to train social workers, community leaders and teachers to be able to address gender-based violence on their own. Namiech claims that merely providing humanitarian assistance is not long-term thinking, since soon after, once the international activists depart, the aid also goes with them and without being given the tools to deal with the issue on their own, the South Sudanese won’t be able to effect change on their own. This is why Namiech is so motivated to provide local South Sudanese activists with the tools that they need in order to make a difference.

IsraAID has successfully developed a positive working relationship between social workers, teachers, and the police. “As a result of this, there were joint programs. They are doing joint awareness sessions in schools to raise awareness on children’s and women’s rights,” Namiech asserted. Yet in addition to assisting with collaboration between various local South Sudanese actors, Namiech has worked with IsraAID to bring the same Israelis who built the first women’s shelters in Israel to South Sudan, to train the South Sudanese how to do it. They also bring experienced Israeli therapists to train South Sudanese therapists how to treat trauma victims.

Some Rapes Should Be Considered Terrorism

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Politically-motivated rapes should be considered by Israel to be acts of terrorism en par with injuries caused by qassam rockets, rock-throwing, and suicide bombings.

As we speak, a young 19-year-old Israeli woman who was gang raped and beaten up at the tender age of 13 by four nationally-motivated Palestinians is appealing a decision made by the Israeli Defense Ministry, which claimed that her case should not be considered an act of terrorism. While everyone is speaking about the indecent remark made by the judge—who subsequently resigned from his post—Nissim Yeshaya, who had stated that “some girls enjoy getting raped,” not enough people are questioning the Israeli Defense Ministry for not classifying her case as an act of terrorism to begin with.

According to the National Insurance Institute of Israel website, a hostilities-related injury should include “an injury resulting from an act of violence whose purpose was to harm people because of their national or ethnic origin, provided that it arises from the Israeli-Arab conflict or was committed by a terrorist organization.”

According to the U.S. State Department and Title 22 of the U.S. Penal Code Section 265, terrorism is “politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.” As an Israeli woman, I find myself asking, how can one not include a group of politically-motivated Palestinian men deciding to gang-rape a Jewish child specifically because of her national origin, as an act of terrorism?

If a Palestinian rapes a Jewish woman to fulfill some animistic desire and lacks political intentions, then I could understand why it wouldn’t be classified as terrorism, although in my view it is a travesty of justice for rapists to merely serve two years in prison, as was set to happen in this case. Rape is a crime that can emotionally destroy a woman for years into the future. Many rape victims, if not given the proper therapy, and especially if they were raped at a young age, find it very difficult to function due to the trauma that they experienced. For this reason, rapists deserve much more time in prison than two years, regardless of what age they were when they committed the crime.

But when rape is politically-motivated by antisemitism, the punishment for such a crime should be en par with terrorism. In this particular instance, there was convincing evidence that these four Palestinians targeted this Jewish child specifically for her ethnicity. This young Jewish girl was literally dragged off the streets of Jerusalem at random, where she was beaten up and gang raped in such a humiliating manner that only someone motivated by racial hatred would behave in such a way. So if it is established that political motives are involved; then gang rape should be considered an injury en par with being wounded from rock-throwing, qassam rockets, or suicide bombings!

Since the 1929 Hebron Massacre, rape has been an element of Arab terrorism orchestrated against Jewish civilians as part of the Arab-Israeli conflict. More than one case of gang rape committed by Israeli Arab men has been found to be politically motivated. In the Negev and parts of Jerusalem, Arabs sexually harassing Jewish women has become a major issue. Furthermore, in Syria, Iran, and other Muslim countries, rape has been used as a political tool of terrorism in order to silence the political opposition, proving that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the only instance where rape has been used as a tool of terrorism. There is also international legal precedent for considering rape as part of a political conflict to be a war crime. Given all of this, the Israeli authorities should treat politically-motivated rapes as terrorism, not merely as criminal acts.

The ‘Some Girls Like Being Raped’ Judge Resigns

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Nissim Yeshaya has announced he is quitting as an appeals court judge, two days after he publicly stated in court, “There are some girls who enjoy being raped.”

He made the comment during an appeal by a 19-year-old Israeli who was raped by Arabs at the age of 13 and was appealing a Defense Ministry decision not to recognize the attack as an act of terrorism.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Supreme Court President Asher Grunis spoke with Judge Yeshaya about his outburst and accepted his resignation.

“The judge announced his resignation, and this is the correct and only step in this grave incident,” Livni said.

“This is the only way to restore public trust in the judicial system,” she added. “Every judge needs to know that his being examined, correctly, under a magnifying glass and that he must conduct himself correctly as one who is guarding justice and who determines the fate of others.

“We are not speaking only about a comment but about a view that women have been struggling with for years that throws on them the guilt as victims of rape. This kind of expression from a judge is liable unintentionally to give twisted minds legitimacy to rape.

Judges also need to know that when a woman says, “No,” she means ‘No.’”

Israeli Judge: ‘Some Women Enjoy Being Raped’

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Six years ago, a 13 year-old Israeli woman was raped by four young Palestinians from the Shu’afat refugee camp. It happened when she was walking home, in a town located near the Hizma checkpoint. The four Arabs were convicted and imprisoned.

On Monday morning, a judicial review panel assembled in the Tel Aviv District Court to discuss at the Young woman’s appeal of a decision of the Defense Ministry not to recognize her rape as an act of terrorism, as she had requested.

In Israel, a Victim of Terrorism is a person injured as a result of a terrorist act committed for nationalistic reasons, in Israel or abroad.

Victims of terrorist attacks are eligible for compensation, pursuant to the Compensation for Victims of Hostilities Act of 1970.

Attorney Roni Aloni-Sadovnik.

Attorney Roni Aloni-Sadovnik.

During the hearing, the young woman’s attorney, Roni Aloni-Sadovnik, a well known feminist lawyer, tried to convince the panel of judges, headed by Retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Nissim Yeshaya, that there are cases of rape whose circumstances justify recognition as an act of terrorism committed for nationalistic reasons.

Attorney Aloni-Sadovnik later described the scene that ensued to Israel Army Radio: “In the midst of the passionate debate, he (Judge Yeshaya) suddenly said aloud, in earshot of everyone present, ‘There are some girls who enjoy being raped.’”

“The room fell into silence,” the attorney continued her description. “Even the panel members were silent for several minutes. And he didn’t even get what he had just said. He didn’t understand why everyone became quiet all of a sudden.”

The rape victim was very upset and very hurt. Two panel members tried to calm the situation down and minimize the damage of the judge’s statement.

“I have no doubt he did not say these things out of malice or with an evil intent,” Aloni-Sadovnik commented. “The problem is that this is the state of mind, this is the thinking this is the prejudice against victims of sexual assault. We encounter only the tip of the iceberg when judges trip themselves and express to what’s really in their hearts.”

Courts Administration responded that “things were said in the heat of the debate, and that there was no intention to hurt or belittle the plight of rape victims. The Judge apologizes for the things he said. The Court Administration will review the case and the retired judge will be summoned for a clarification in the coming days.”

IsraAID Combats Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Israel, as a liberal democratic country dedicated to human rights and women’s rights, seeks to help South Sudan address gender-based violence, a significant problem in that country.

Helen Animashaun, a volunteer working with the South Sudan Women Empowerment Center, wrote in the Huffington Post, “The reality of life for women in the world’s newest country is harsh; it is full of challenges and limited opportunities.” She reports that “[a]ccess to healthcare and education in South Sudan is simply not an option in many places. The statistics speak for themselves: more than 80% of women are illiterate and one in seven women die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.” Nevertheless, Animashaun wrote that “the greatest challenge women experience is the social acceptance of sexual and gender based violence.”

According to Human Rights Watch, about 48 percent of young girls in South Sudan between the ages of 15 and 19 are forced into marriages by their families, who are often given generous gifts as dowries in return. If a girl dares to resist, they can face violent actions from their families. In fact, some South Sudanese girls are even murdered or raped for attempting to resist such arranged teenage marriages. In one particularly brutal case, a 17-year-old girl was raped and beaten to death in South Sudan for not submissively accepting her family’s decision to marry her off to a 75-year-old man.

According to Ophelie Namiech, IsraAID’s country director in South Sudan,

After more than 40 years of conflict, displacement and poverty, the people of South Sudan are facing enormous social challenges!…Violence against women is pervasive and has been exacerbated by decades of war that have left many children without a proper family structure, education or health care… A large portion of the population suffers from deep trauma that prevents them from being fully included in the development process.

Namiech claims that Juba, South Sudan’s capital city, has not been spared these challenges facing all of South Sudan. “On the contrary, rapes, human trafficking, and under-aged prostitution have all dramatically increased due to rapid and uncontrolled urbanization,” she claims.

Namiech emphasized that “In particular the children in some slum areas are exposed to appalling and sustained sexual abuse. Sexual pressure is very strong in Juba – especially in the most vulnerable areas of the capital where young girls quickly fall into the cycle of sexual violence and exploitation.”

It is not uncommon to see girls as young as eight years old in Juba raped, Namiech says. “In those areas, those girls are condemned to spend their lives in the street, looking for food in the garbage behind market places and being surrounded by violent drunk and drugged men who abused and mistreat them.”

IsraAID, as an Israeli humanitarian organization seeking to improve the status of women within developing countries in addition to providing pivotal emergency relief assistance, has a program to combat gender-based violence in South Sudan that works with local services such as the State Ministry of Gender and Social Development, the South Sudan Police Service as well as several local community-based organizations to help them better address violence against women in South Sudan. IsraAID trains, mentors, and accompanies these South Sudanese actors so that one day they will better be able to address cases of violence against women on their own.

In 2012 alone, IsraAID trained 172 service providers on gender-based violence, as well as how to design and implement gender-based violence related programs. Nevertheless, despite IsraAID’s best efforts, Namiech claimed, “When we monitor the situation in the slum areas with our local partner Confident Children Out of Conflict [the only local NGO that has a shelter for 35 vulnerable girls] we often find very young girls wandering the slum areas alone without any clothes on, who rapidly become surrounded by abusive men.” Namiech has attempted to help such young girls, yet unfortunately there are many of them. “I have seen those scenes myself. They are heartbroken,” she asserts.

Nevertheless, despite the violent plight endured by way too many women living in South Sudan, IsraAID has been able to make a difference there. According to Namiech, “A few weeks ago, the police and social workers that IsraAID has been training since 2012, have encouraged reporting and succeeded in bringing before court the case of a 14-year old girl victim of rape. This is, in itself, a small successful first step.” In addition, IsraAID has sponsored advocacy sessions on gender based violence within South Sudan involving legal, social and security services as well as members of the South Sudanese community.

IsraAID has also supported awareness sessions on gender-based violence in schools and raising public awareness about this issue in the local media as well as training sessions and workshops designed to increase cooperation between social workers and the police in order to work towards increasing reportage of cases of gender based violence. In February 2013, more cases in fact were brought to courts than previously, although there still is much work to be done on this issue. Yet, what IsraAID is doing by training local South Sudanese on gender-based violence is a step in the right direction towards improving the plight of all South Sudanese women.

Visit United with Israel.

An American Tragedy in Steubenville

Monday, March 18th, 2013

A significant number of American values failures came together to create the tragedy in Stuebenville, where two teenage High School football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her mid twenties. Brittney Spears brought the age down to about eighteen. Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even sixteen is not a young enough age to sexually exploit girls.

Then there is the issue of sports as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea that two High School football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures of a nude sixteen year old to their friends on social media shows how they thought the normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t the far more serious conviction on rape. How sad that two young men have ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.

Next is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role in this unfolding tragedy with the essential argument on the part of the prosecution that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible way she could give consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to heavy drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no one in America really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.

I passed my later teen years in an all-male environment in Yeshiva where the focus of my life was study. I certainly was a lot happier than the co-ed environment in which I was immersed in my early teen years where peer pressure, popularity among the girls, and a general self-consciousness made my life less enjoyable than it should have been.

Then there is the general tragedy of the absence of responsible parenting in America. The biggest question for me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when the three teens left one party at 12:30 am to go to another? Where were they to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?

Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the very first time. “I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more involved in their child’s life… be a parent and not a friend.”

No one is better qualified to address this issue than President Obama who also grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved parent himself. The President has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s time that he make this an all-out campaign.

But the greatest tragedy made manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations. She was nothing but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions. Like a third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.

Censoring Sexual Abuse

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Numerous Orthodox-Jewish websites censor the word “sexual” in the context of discussing sexual abuse. Such censorship sends the message to young people that body parts, sexuality and sexual abuse are so shameful, that adults can’t even mention them in public.

By refraining from using words such as “sex” and “sexual,” Orthodox Jewish websites are unwittingly sending the message that sexual abuse is not something that should be discussed. This only perpetuates the existing shame, secrecy, stigma and fear surrounding the issue of sexual abuse.

Parents of pre-adolescent children certainly have a right to determine the age-appropriate language when discussing sexual abuse with their children, but that is no excuse for websites censoring terms necessary to define abuse.

If children are old enough to be on the Internet, they should be mature enough to hear the word “sex” or “sexual” in the context of discussing abuse.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, recommends “[t]alking openly and directly about sexuality” in order to teach “children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.” In a sexual abuse awareness seminar held in Crown Heights, experts explained that a lack of education makes adolescents more vulnerable to abuse.

The lack of discussion around the human body, intimacy and sexual issues, in essence, robs children of the ability to speak because they are not provided with the proper language.

Maintaining Halachic standards of Tzniut (modesty) does not conflict with the necessity of discussing sexual abuse openly and candidly. Tzniut concerns laws related to modesty of both dress and behavior—when dealing with normal, healthy interactions—not when educating the public on the dangers of sexual abuse.

The Talmud relays a story of a student that hid under his teacher’s bed to learn how his teacher was being intimate with his wife. The student commented on the inappropriate language of his teacher to which his teacher exclaimed, “Get out! It’s not proper (for you to be here)!” To which the student replied, “It is Torah—and study it I must.”

In contemporary society, the student might be accused of voyeurism—but this story illustrates the need to rise above the taboos of discussing sexuality. There is nothing shameful, sinful or obscene about having candid conversations about the subject – particularly in the context of educating the public on sexual abuse.

When the language center is shut down, the abuse survivor is less likely to speak, because they are fearful of voicing what is perceived as shameful, and so, sometime, they can’t even articulate their trauma.

Censoring the use of accurate language around sexual abuse perpetuates the notion that such discussions should be secret and such language is shameful. Living in secrecy is painful and damaging to an abuse survivor. We need to empower potential victims to talk openly and candidly about their experience.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/censoring-sexual-abuse/2013/02/04/

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