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50.50 Highlights 2014

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16 Days: Activism against gender-based violence

From peace in the home to peace in the world: challenging militarism and ending violence against women.

"Of all the many women around the world organising this week... some will be focusing on violence in everyday life, while others will be focusing on violence in war. They are two sides of a single coin"

Cynthia Cockburn

Every year from November 25 to December 10, thousands of organisations and activists across the world join together for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. openDemocracy 50.50 brings you critical perspectives from academics, lawyers, activists, grassroots 16 Days global campaignworkers and policy makers around the world exploring the continuum of violence



Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope?

The last known message from the Egyptian activist Zainab Mahdy reads, " It's like we're digging in water...There is no justice…I am aware of that…there is no victory coming…we are just lying to ourselves so that we can live."

British democracy and women's right to live free from violence

As the general election approaches in May 2015, women's organisations in the UK have issued the Women's Safety Manifesto. Politicians ignore it at their peril when it comes to the vote.

Young feminists: resisting the tide of fundamentalisms

Fundamentalism is a root cause of multiple forms of violence experienced by young women and trans*youth worldwide. Young feminists human rights defenders are key actors in this space.

The stories we tell about ISIS and women

Political and popular discussions about strategies to confront ISIS are doing women in Iraq and Syria a disservice, and playing into the hands of ISIS.

The Global Slavery Index: seduction and obfuscation

The Global Slavery Index is critically flawed: compromised by a weak methodology, unverified assumptions and multiple errors of fact and logic. Why the silence?

Women in prison: the cycle of violence

Most women in prison in Britain have experienced sexual or domestic violence, yet the system fails to address their needs and further victimises them. For some, it is the end of the road.

Sexualized violence in Iraq: how to understand and fight it

Sexualised and gender-based violence in Iraq, highlighted in recent weeks in relation to ISIS atrocities, has been at the heart of sectarian and authoritarian politics and developments since 2003. How can we talk about it and mobilise against it?

"It takes broken bones": authoritarianism and violence against women in Hungary

Right-wing discourse in Hungarian politics is matched by the government’s regressive handling of gender issues, as structural violence against the socially marginalised interplays with violence against women.

Changing the behaviour of male perpetrators of domestic violence

Domestic violence shows no sign of abating. There is growing recognition that working with male perpetrators - alongside intervention and protection for women - is essential to reducing the violence that kills two women every week.

Masculine violence: call of duty, or call for change?

The much-hyped launch of a new gun-shooting video game this month reveals the thread of gender linking socially-endorsed militarism to criminal sexual assault. Where are the social programmes that would address the reshaping of masculinity?

The Handmaid's Tale of El Salvador

Poverty, misogyny, and Christian fundamentalism in El Salvador lie behind the prison sentences of up to forty years handed down to seventeen women who were arrested for the crime of abortion, but sentenced for murder.

The right to walk alone without fear

The Reclaim the Night marches through night-time city centres tap into a righteous and rising anger, and are a way to highlight that women have a human right to live free from the threat or reality of male violence.

Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?

There has been a global 'cascade' in commitments to end violence against women.  But the violence keeps happening.  What is needed is more support - nationally and internationally - for feminist organizations.

Iran: a 'bloody stain' on the nation

The war on women continues to manifest itself in different forms and intensity globally; tarnishing all societies with a ‘bloody stain’. In Iran, hard-liner interpretations of Islamic principles dictate gender norms, violation of which can be fatal.

A choir of lost voices: the murder of Loretta Saunders and Canada's missing women

The murder of Loretta Saunders, a young scholar who researched missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, reveals the structural violence that compounds violence against women, and the stinging injustice of Canada’s 825 lost Aboriginal women. 

Abortion: Ireland's reckoning with Amendment 8

Calling for an end to a constitution that bans abortion - and kills women, a deep and broad based movement has sprung up in Ireland to change the constitution, and finally release women's bodies from church and state.

Oscar Pistorius: the South African story

The two versions of Oscar Pistorius presented by the state and the defence fit into a wider narrative of South African patriarchy, and not the other way around; solutions must therefore come from beyond the Pistorius trial.

Gender violence in the media: elusive reality

The death of Reeva Steenkamp has highlighted the problematic way in which the media treat the issue of domestic violence.  We need a better way to transmit and therefore tackle the reality – how violence is built into our lives and how space is gendered, says Heather McRobie.

The rape victims prosecuted for "false" rape allegations

Gail Sherwood was raped three times by a stalker, forced to retract her allegations and sentenced to two years in prison. Lisa Longstaff argues that her case is one example of a police witch-hunt against women wrongly accused of lying about rape that is undermining 35 years of campaigning for justice

Human rights, social justice, and US exceptionalism

American politicians often talk as if human rights were only relevant in other countries, but grassroots organisations are increasingly using the human rights framework to win social and economic rights for the poorest and most marginalised people in the US. Cathy Albisa, director of the National Economic and Social Rights Inititative, spoke to Meredith Tax

Backlash: The unintended consequences of western human rights intervention

The collision of well-intentioned western activists and imperilled activists in the Global South illustrates the hazards of using global “naming and shaming” campaigns to apply pressure to developing nations with the hope of improving human rights practices.

Mandela: towards a non-sexist South Africa

Part of the blessing of Mandela’s longevity is that he modeled reflexive behaviour which changed over time. To realise his vision of a non-sexist South Africa, we might re-evaluate the patriarchal values which pervade our own lives, recognising our own ability to change.

Sexual exploitation in street gangs: protecting girls or changing boys?

In its recent report on sexual exploitation in street gangs, the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England is eloquent on the need for better protection of girls. It lacks any policy recommendation for a conscious remodelling of young masculinity.

The invisible men with the arms

When it comes to gender based violence in Arab transition contexts, it is not only state militarism we should be concerned about, but the proliferation of militias and weapons across borders, argues Mariz Tadros

Preventing abuse in the UK: a matter of education

A new campaign by the UK Government’s Home Office, This Is Abuse, is a critical step to preventing violence against women and girls, but the Department for Education’s failure to support it is baffling, says Holly Dustin

The 'feminism' of patriarchy in Egypt

Images of women and the brutal violence against them, whether committed by the Army, Police, Muslim Brotherhood or thugs, are commodities that sell a certain shade of patriarchy to the people, says Zainab Magdy.

UK: Will proposed legislation mean deporting trafficking victims ?

As young girls, Saima and Linda were trafficked from Zimbabwe to London. It took them ten years to escape from forced prostitution and child labour. Yet Saima is exactly the kind of 'foreign criminal' the proposed UK Immigration Bill aims to deport. Is this what we want? 

Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK

The introduction of the Destitution Domestic Violence concession in 2012 giving some migrant victims access to public funds was widely welcomed. However, while many have long waits for benefits, others still do not have a safety net to escape violence.  

Sexual harassment in UK schools

Sexual bullying in the classroom rarely makes the headlines. But one in three 16-18 year old girls in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school. What does this tacit acceptance of harassment teach our children?

The politics and culture of skin bleaching in Sudan

The past 25 years have witnessed fundamental sociopolitical and cultural changes in Sudan.  Women have been the terrain of many of the uneasy shifts in the country, even down to their skin, which they are now being encouraged to bleach.

Women's human security rights in the Arab world: on nobody's agenda

Security breakdown has wreaked havoc with women’s lives in Arab transition countries, but it is hardly recognized in international debates on gender based violence, says Mariz Tadros

Excluded and silenced: Women in Northern Ireland after the peace process

There is a backlash against women’s agency in Northern Ireland in a number of different ways, all of which impact on the ability of women to participate fully in initiatives intended to deal with the legacy of the past and support the transition out of conflict.

An end to AIDS?: Not through medication alone

In the world of HIV, the allure of the bio-medical techno-fix still attracts many policy makers. Meanwhile a parallel world of care, support, community spirit and women’s resilience still beats quietly. On World AIDS Day Alice Welbourn considers the future of the AIDS pandemic

Immunity and impunity in peace keeping: the protection gap

Trafficking and sexual exploitation are an integral part of armed conflict and its aftermath. Madeleine Rees argues that the lack of political will and an interpretation of law that works in favour of perpetrators - including those working in international peace keeping institutions - must be addressed

The quest for gender-just peace: from impunity to accountability

Yakin Erturk reflects on the six years she spent working as the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and argues that in order to build a gender- just peace, dis-empowering patriarchy and engaging with the feminist agenda of empowering women must be the guiding principle for all peace initiatives.

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