Author: Marcia Banasko

Violence Against Women – What’s the Joke?

Violence against women (VAW) is a serious global issue that transcends cultures, borders and language. Gender-based violence and VAW are often used interchangeably as most gender-based violence is inflicted by men on women and girls. It is something which affects all races, all ages, all people, and results in the dehumanisation, exploitation and even death of countless women and girls around the world. It is estimated that in Europe, my own region, 20 to 25% of women have suffered physical violence. The number of women who have suffered from other forms of gender-based violence is much higher. Globally, VAW and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. Based on data compiled by the World Health Organisation, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. In international news, various celebrities have shown their darker side this week with outbursts of offense attacks against women via social media. Cee Loo Green, African American Grammy award winning singer took to Twitter to express his views on sexual assault and rape …

Defining Family: International Widows’ Day

The 26th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council will come to an end this week. The Council discussions included an annual discussion on gender integration, panel discussions on preventing and eliminating child, early and forced marriage, gender stereotypes and women’s human rights and sustainable development. A resolution was also put forward on the Protection of Family, a resolution that was originally put forward back in March at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. However, it was set aside for the next session as many member states blocked the resolution citing the resolution as controversial and damaging to progress made in the aspect of the rights of both children and women. I would like to take this opportunity of the annual International Widow’s Day to highlight just why this resolution is harmful and has the potential to perpetuate the suffering and injustice faced by widows, young women, girls and boys worldwide. Firstly, the resolution builds on recent resolutions that recognise the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society; …

Girls must be central to the Post 2015 Agenda

The health and status of women and girls are inextricably linked to the well-being and prosperity of families, communities, and economies. Yet today, nearly 15 years on from the launch of the MDGs, progress on reproductive health lags seriously behind. Approximately 800 women and girls die every day from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, and 99 percent of these occur in developing countries. Additionally, over 222 million women have an unmet need for modern contraception. Investing in the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls has never been more critical. The largest-ever cohort of young people is entering their reproductive years, and their access to sexual and reproductive health information and services will have enormous implications for the trajectories of their lives. Advancing the reproductive health of women and girls also pays enormous dividends for development – poverty rates go down, education rates go up and greater prosperity follows. As the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is underway in New York, USA discussions and negotiations are …

When Pastors and Priests Prey

Last week on January 16th in Geneva, Switzerland, a historic milestone took place as the Holy See went before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The committee was seeking detailed information on the sexual violence against children by Catholic clergy around the world, its cover up within the church and the denial of justice and compensation for victims. A day earlier I went to a special screening of Silence in the House of God, a HBO documentary which details the first known protests against clergy sexual abuse in the USA. The documentary also exposures other cases of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy around the world. After the documentary, the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted a panel discussion with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. It was emotional to hear their stories and inspiring to witness their unbroken spirits and determination to secure justice. The realities of clergy sexual abuse of women and minors both boys and girls is now more widely known. However, it is still a taboo subject for many and …

The Ugly Side of Beauty Contests

Recently, in two national beauty contests held on both sides of the Atlantic, the ugly side of beauty reared its racist head as online racist backlash took over the web.  Nina Davuluri, winner of the Miss America Contest, a 24-year-old North American of Indian descent and Flora Coquerel,winner of the Miss France Contest, a 19-year-old whose mother is from the West African state of Benin, both shocked a fraction of humanity as the question was posed: How did they win when they are not white natives to their countries? As a mixed race young woman who has grown up in the UK and exhibits the beauty of Jamaican, Ghanaian and Irish ancestry, I found the racist reactions disturbing to say the least. Here are some of the comments that circulated on Twitter: The United States of America I am literarily soo mad right now a ARAB won. More like Miss Terrorist This is America. Not India Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you. Asian or indian are you kiddin this is America omg …

Sexual Violence in Conflict

Violence against women is a global issue and constitutes various human rights violations. Annually, the 25th of November marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and this special day also marks the beginning of the global campaign – 16 Days of Activism. The theme for this year’s campaign, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women” highlights the impact of militarization and sexual violence during conflict. During armed conflict it is now said that it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier, due to the strategy of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The Rwandan genocide memorial notes that 500,000 women were raped during 100 days of conflict (IPU, 2008). The consequences of sexual violence are devastating and destroy whole communities, ripping through the fabric of humanity. As we witnessed, World AIDS Day, December 1st, also served as a reminder of the millions of women and girls who have been infected through rape in conflict. Many women and …

Building the Future: Youth Rights

In 2012 I was fortunate enough to be selected as a Youth Leader for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Global Youth Forum, held in Bali, Indonesia. The Forum was preceded by extensive interaction at national and global levels on the themes of staying healthy; comprehensive education; families, youth-rights and well-being, including sexuality; transition to decent work; and leadership and meaningful participation. The conference was one of many global youth conferences being held in the lead up to the ICPD 2014 Review and the Post 2015 Agenda. Around the world consultations with governments, NGOs and civil society are taking place with the goal of documenting and developing a global dialogue on population, poverty, universal healthcare, sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence against women, gender equality, sustainable development, climate change and environment and much more. This is a critical moment for positive change and development to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges and build a better future for all, especially girls and young women. More than half of the world’s population …

Can a girl change the world?

Throughout history we have witnessed social and political transformations achieved through the collective actions of others and often led by the vision of an individual. As stated by Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. The version of history we are taught in school would have us believe that all important changemakers were men and that women had very little to do with the advancement of civilisation. However, we know this is completely false. Women have changed the course of history in all realms of humanity. All across technology, economics, health, the arts, social and civil change, sports, education, science and religion, you will find female pioneers leading the way.  Women have affirmed an enduring place in history as a result of the diligent commitment of our foremothers such as Emmeline Pankhurst – Suffragette leader, Angela Davis – political civil rights activist, Emilia Earhart – first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic, Maria Montessori – …

Child Marriage: Enough is Enough

Child marriage remains one of the most horrific human rights violations that exists today. It is estimated that globally 14 million girls are married off before the age of 18, robbing them of their childhood and leaving them vulnerable to violence, poverty, domestic slavery, sexual assault and HIV/AIDS. Child marriage is a human rights violation that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. The recent news coverage of the 8-year-old girl who was married off to a 40-year-old man in Yemen, poignantly highlights the desperate need to outlaw child marriage. After their wedding night, the 8-year-old girl – identified as “Rawan” – died from torn genitals and severe bleeding in the northwest city of Hardh. According to media accounts, the fatal injuries were incurred through sexual intercourse. Let me emphasize that it was NOT sexual intercourse. It was rape and it should be clearly understood as so.  Rawan’s tragic story is sadly not unique and millions of girls die every year from injuries incurred from sexual violence. Furthermore, as a result of child marriage, these girls …

The Harsh Reality for Women and Girls in Syria

If there is one thing we know about Syria it is women, girls, youth and their families have suffered far too much for too long,” -UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. As the civil war in Syria continues, the world holds its breath waiting to hear the final decision from the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress on whether or not to launch a missile strike in Syria. Many questions remain unanswered; the use of chemical weapons in Syria has been internationally deliberated with tragic testimonies, graphic images and video footage screened across the internet and mainstream media. In the debate over the use of chemical weapons, one of my favourite political pundits Tony Benn stated, I am totally opposed to intervening in Syria, it would lead to a Middle East war. Chemicals are just another weapon that kill people. Don’t bombs kill people? Don’t ‘Cruise Missiles’ kill people? If America and Britain defy the UN then it will lead to a greater conflict.” The U.S. Senate drafted a resolution that permits U.S. President Obama to …