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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Honour Crimes in Canada

Let’s work together to prevent crimes of ‘honour’

Published Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 06:00AM EST
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 06:00AM EST

On Jan. 29, 2012, a jury in Kingston, Ont., found Afghan-born Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya Mohammad and son Hamed guilty in the 2009 murders of daughters Geeti, Sahar and Zeinab and Mr. Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad. It was a trial that repulsed our sensibilities: The women were killed to preserve family “honour.” The teenage daughters’ behaviour had become “too Western” for the parents to bear; the patriarch cursed them even after their deaths.

The four deaths pointed to a disturbing national trend. Research by University of Sherbrooke professor Anne-Marie Robert indicated that 16 women have been victims of honour killings in Canada between 1999 and 2009, compared with three between 1954 and 1983. The average victim was 21; the killers were immigrants – usually male – and primarily of Sikh or Muslim background.

The past three trials have pointed to another troublesome pattern: direct participation by the victim’s brother in her murder. While there have been no honour killings recorded since 2009, community groups say the number of incidents involving honour-based violence has increased.

Such alarming trends should prompt a national policy to deal with the issue. But none has been officially forthcoming – aside from cosmetic changes to Canada’s guide to new immigrants in which honour killings are called “barbaric.”

According to University of Toronto sociologist Anne Korteweg, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain have crafted national policies of “prevention, protection and prosecution” to address honour-based violence. Canada, however, lacks a systematic approach.
To be fair, there has been a shift in legal policy, as the Crown has explicitly brought forth the motive of honour in its past three successful prosecutions. The 100-per-cent conviction rate under the Criminal Code suggests there’s no need for any amendment to specifically target crimes of honour.

A robust policy of prevention and protection should complement the legal successes, so fewer trials actually occur. Prevention and protection are inextricably linked, as community-based groups, social service agencies and law enforcement will have to work together to combat the problem.

This co-operative model is already in place in London, Ont., with last year’s launch of the Family Honour Project by the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration (MRCSSI). Research has been conducted into honour-based violence, risk factors have been ascertained, and stakeholders have been brought together from the local community, law enforcement and social service agencies. A pilot program is set to roll out this year. The MRCSSI is co-ordinating its efforts with Chicago’s Cure Violence program, which addresses gang violence based on the paradigm of treating violence as a disease.

In terms of prevention and protection, the MRCSSI is building on its programs that help immigrant families. According to the MRCSSI, for example, there has been a 73-per-cent reduction in the number of Muslim children in local foster care since 2007, with no new cases in the past three years.

A key preventive component is the role of community leaders in speaking up against honour-based violence and all forms of domestic violence. The MRCSSI has galvanized local imams to broach this topic in sermons and community workshops; it’s also promoting a powerful video against honour killings, co-produced by the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM and UN Women.

This is also happening at the national level. Kingston imam Sikander Hashmi (a former journalist) has taken a prominent role in addressing this issue in Muslim communities across Canada. Muneeb Nasir, president of Toronto’s Olive Tree Foundation, has spearheaded the first White Ribbon campaign in the Muslim community, with hundreds of signatories pledging to stop violence against women.

Since 2011, mosques across the country have joined the dialogue on violence against women by devoting at least one Friday sermon to the topic. And community groups are organizing workshops to increase awareness.

Muslim communities are beginning to take responsibility in addressing this issue in a forthright manner and in seeking ways to co-operate with government agencies to find solutions. What will help move this forward is leadership at the federal level to craft a comprehensive policy on honour-based violence in partnership with all stakeholders.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Women and War

I was very moved by this photo, and the message behind this exhibit. You can see more at

Museum of Tolerance: Exhibition Extended!


Afghanistan - Refugee Women & Children - Photo Credit: Marissa Roth

One Person Crying: Women and War, is a 28-year, personal global photo essay that addresses the immediate and lingering effects of war on women. In an endeavor to reflect on war from what I consider to be an underreported perspective, the project brought me face to face with hundreds of women who endured and survived war and its ancillary experiences of loss, pain and unimaginable hardship. I traveled the world photographing, interviewing and writing down their histories, noting gestures and gruesome details, in order to document how war irrevocably changed their lives. Women are the touchstones for families and communities and are often relied upon to keep everything held together during a war or conflict. Often, there is no time for them to assess their own traumas afterwards, let alone speak of them in order to process the experience. I was compelled to put faces and give voices to the other side of war, with no judgment as to which war was worse for its victims. There is no blood or any guns in the images, just the record of lives lived with a never-ending post-war backdrop.

The consequences of war for women in countries, cultures and communities that are directly affected by it, have often been overlooked. My main hope for this project is to show that war doesn’t discriminate how it metes out pain or suffering, that women are basically the same everywhere in how they endure war and live with its aftermath into their post-war lives. I also hope that this project inspires dialog and activism, in order to bring on-the-ground psychological and social support to these war-impacted women.

Addressing this subject started in response to immediate political and social events that I covered as a photojournalist starting in the late 1980’s. After 10 years, I formalized it into a documentary project and continued it from that perspective. In 2009, it was during a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, that I fully understood the deeper motivation for this work. My parents were Holocaust refugees and my paternal grandparents and great-grandmother, were killed in a 1942 massacre in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. On the final day of that trip, I found my grandparents’ former home, and also found their names on a memorial plaque by the Danube River, dedicated to the numerous massacre victims. It felt like I had found them for the first time.

In March/April of 2012, I went to Vietnam for the first time, in order to finally conclude the arc of the project. The war in Vietnam was my coming-of-age war and greatly influenced my formative years, not only as a person and activist, but also as a photographer.

Marissa Roth - Los Angeles  Born and raised in Los Angeles, Marissa Roth is an internationally published freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer.  She has worked on assignment for various prestigious publications including The New York Times, and was part of The Los Angeles Times photography staff that won a Pulitzer Prize for Best Spot News Coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions and a number of images are in museum, corporate and private collections. She has 3 books to her credit, “Burning Heart: A Portrait of The Philippines”, “Real City: Downtown Los Angeles Inside/Out”, and “Come the Morning”, a children’s book about homelessness. A commissioned portrait project by The Museum of Tolerance/ Simon Wiesenthal Center, to photograph the Holocaust survivors who volunteer there, “Witness to Truth,” is on permanent exhibition at the museum.Roth is currently completing 2 long-term book and exhibition projects, “One Person Crying: Women and War,” a 28-year photo essay that addresses the immediate and lingering impact of war on women in different cultures around the world; and “Infinite Light: A Photographic Meditation on   Tibet”. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Upcoming Events planned for the CSW

Sorptomist International Presents 2 Events at the upcoming CSW - 

 Educate, empower, enable: a grassroots approach to end violence against women
Soroptimist International brings 90,000 voices to CSW 57, sharing the global expertise and project-based experience of our members in 124 countries. We are a worldwide service organisation for women, committed to a world where women and girls together achieve their potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice.

From Girl Child to Mature Woman: A Life Course Approach to Gender Empowerment and a Violence-free Life

Soroptimist International, the World YWCA and the World Association of Girl Guides
and Girl Scouts 

Thursday, 7 March at 10:30 AM
Auditorium, Salvation Army
221 East 52nd Street

Stop the Tide: Tackling Adolescent Dating Violence

The World Association of Girl Guides and GirlScouts and Soroptimist International
Tuesday, 5 March at 10:30 AM

10th Floor, CCUN building

Friday, January 25, 2013

North America/Europe Caucus Meeting

The United Nations divides the world up into Regions - and Canada is part of the North America/European Caucus. We just heard that theNorth-American--European caucus meeting is scheduled for 6:15-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 6th March, in the Hardin Room, CCUN 11th Floor. 
This year there will be no conflict with the Reception!

Palestine - call for stonger laws against imunity

(from the IPS Service)  
Many Palestinian women face high levels of domestic violence. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D'Amours/IPS.
Many Palestinian women face high levels of domestic violence. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D'Amours/IPS.
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank, Aug 16 2012 (IPS) - After the brutal murder of a Palestinian woman in late July in a busy Bethlehem marketplace, local human rights groups are pushing for stronger reforms to stem violence against women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“We have problems with the existing laws,” Maysoun Ramadan, director of the Mehwar Centre, the West Bank’s only women’s shelter told IPS. “I think also we need to work more on raising awareness towards women’s rights. We have a problem with the mentality, the culture, we have a lot of previous constructions about women which need to be changed.”

Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, was violently killed by her husband on Jul. 30 in Bethlehem. The murder took place after Zaboun left a divorce hearing. Her husband had reportedly beaten her regularly over the course of their ten-year marriage.

In 2010, the Independent Commission for Human Rights documented the cases of nine women who had been killed for this same reason – to preserve “family honour” – in the occupied Palestinian territories.In addition to these “honour killings,” a 2009 study published by the Gaza-based Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre found that 67 percent of Palestinian women reported being subjected to verbal violence on a regular basis, 71 percent to psychological violence, 52.4 percent to physical violence and 14.5 percent to sexual violence.

“When women come to the shelter, they come in a very dramatic way. They have been abused and subjected to different types of violence for many years. They lost their confidence. They are sometimes aggressive, sometimes suicidal, sometimes in depression. They have nightmares,” Ramadan told IPS.

“They are all the time dependent on someone else and don’t believe in themselves. We try to help them to see their capacities and to raise their motivation to break this cycle.”

In January 2011, the Palestinian Authority (PA) passed a National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women for the period 2011-2019. The programme aims to create work training and empowerment programmes for women, provide social support, and promote a legal framework to stem violence.

“Our aim and target was to eliminate all forms of violence, no matter what kind of violence, against Palestinian women,” Rahiba Diab, the PA’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, told IPS from her Ramallah office.

“There is a serious commitment from the PA to support all the issues related to women, and not to forget about the violence that comes from the critical political situation that we’re living under as Palestinians,” Diab said.

In May 2011, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree to suspend two laws: Article 340 of the Jordanian penal code of 1960, in effect in the West Bank, and Article 18 of the British Mandatory law of 1936, which is enforced in Gaza.

Article 340 granted a man exemption from prosecution and reduced penalties for killing his wife or other female relative if she is caught committing adultery. Article 18 provided leniency for the same crime if a man can prove that he acted in order to preserve his honour or the honour of others.

But various human rights groups have pointed to the fact that the PA left other tenets of the law in place, which allow for violence against women to continue unpunished.

Articles 97, 98, 99, and 100 of the Jordanian penal code deal with mitigating circumstances can be used to justify “honour killings,” – Article 98 allows perpetrators to avoid punishment if they can prove that they acted in a “state of rage”.

“The existing law still allows for women to be killed, still allows for impunity,” said Tahseen Elayyan, head of the ‘Protection of women in armed conflicts’ project at the Ramallah-based Al Haq human rights organisation.
“In order to take practical steps towards protecting women, especially from the so-called honour killing, the law must be changed, and perpetrators of this type of killing must be held accountable,” Elayyan told IPS.

According to a report released in December 2011 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, “high levels of poverty, unemployment and related frustration have contributed to an increase in tension, and ultimately violence, within families” in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This is especially true in the Gaza Strip, where the increasingly harsh economic and social conditions created by the Israeli siege have translated into violence against women, according to Mona Shawa, head of the women’s unit at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza City.

“Gaza is under a closure. The economic situation is very bad. There is a high percentage of poverty and unemployment. There is frequent violence from Israeli attacks. All of these circumstances affect the level of violence against women,” Shawa told IPS.

She explained that while putting laws in place to protect women against violence is a much-needed first step, raising awareness on the rights of women and changing attitudes within Palestinian society is crucial.
“Most important is the community and the culture. We still have a culture which is based on discrimination against women. We still have a culture that sees women as not equal to men. This encourages violence against women,” Shawa said.

“Working on that as a government, as civil society…a joint effort must be made for all this to change.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

You can now register for the NGO Consulation Day!


Space is very limited and allotted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Consultation Day
Click here for registration
Sunday, March 3: 9am-5pm
Armenian Convention Center Ballroom
630 Second Avenue (corner of 35th Street and 2nd Avenue)
New York, NY, 10016

Click here for registration
Tuesday, March 5: 6-8pm
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the UN
305 East 47th Street (at 2nd Avenue), 3rd Floor
New York, NY, 10017

Artisan Fair
here for registration
Friday, March 8: 8:30am-2pm
Church Center for the UN
777 UN Plaza, 8th Floor (Boss Room)

New York, NY, 10017
  • Capacity at all events is very limited: "First come, first-served basis"

Friday, January 18, 2013

NGO Pre-Registration ends January 23rd

NGO Pre-Registration for CSW Ends January 23, 2013
Pre-registration period: 5 November 2012 to 23 January 2013
Because of increasing demands on limited space, it has become necessary to reduce the numbers of attendees from civil society. This number should be kept to a minimum and should not exceed 20 representatives per organization.
Please note that, should the session take place in the North Lawn Building, participants will need a secondary pass to gain access. One or two such secondary passes per/organization will be distributed at or near the registration site. Organizations should also be aware that, in this context, entry into official meetings can still not be guaranteed to all who wish to attend.
Instructions for changing / editing names of representatives who have been pre-registered

Names and contact details of representatives can be edited by clicking on the relevant name on the CSO net.

While logged-in to the CSO net, organizations can also cancel the pre-registration of a representative by clicking on the (unlist icon) button. The name will continue to appear in the system, but the person will no longer be pre-registered.
Please note that an Organization’s login ID and passwords are strictly confidential.
NGOs should not give their organization’s login ID or password to any other organization.
Pre-registration questions
All pre-registration-related questions should be sent to the official CSW e-mail address. The subject line should read “CSW pre-registration”.
Confirmation of pre-registration
Once an NGO representative has been pre-registered, a confirmation letter can be downloaded and printed for her/him from the same webpage.

Application for a United Nations Grounds Pass
Before arriving at on-site registration at United Nations Headquarters, all participants need to fill out and print an application form for a UN grounds pass which will be available in the organization’s account on CSO net. Participants will be required to show this form at on-site registration in order to obtain a grounds pass.
On-site registration

Upon arrival at the United Nations, each pre-registered NGO representative must register on site in order to obtain a grounds pass. Specifics regarding on-site registration and issuance of grounds passes are provided in the confirmation letter and in NGO advisories in the period preceding CSW.
Travel and visa arrangements
The United Nations will not make travel or visa arrangements or pay for any expenses in connection with the participation of NGO representatives in the sessions of CSW. Such arrangements and costs are the exclusive responsibility of participants.

Participants are encouraged to submit their visa applications well in advance, in accordance with their local United States Consulate requirements, in order to allow sufficient time for processing.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Provisional Agenda for CSW now out & Canada's side events

You can now access the provisional agenda for UNCSW at the following link:

The emerging issue for consideration will be: Key gender equality issues to be reflected in the post-2015 development framework. Although specific details in terms of date, time and speakers are still being finalized, Canada will be hosting 3 side-events at the UN Headquarters during the first week of CSW on the following three topics:

     Forced marriage and violence committed in the name of “honour”,

     Engaging men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls; and,

     The role of the healthcare system and doctors in responding to violence against women.

Sounds interesting!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How do NGO's relate to the UN?

Conference of Non Governmental Organizations in consultative relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) is an independent, international, non-profit membership association of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It facilitates the participation of NGOs in United Nations debates and decision-making. CONGO is most active at the major UN centres of New York, Geneva and Vienna but its work stretches out to all regions of the world.

CONGO was founded in 1948. Since then it has relentlessly worked to ensure that NGO voices be heard throughout the international arena. CONGO’s role in mobilizing NGOs to form the first worldwide NGO forum on human rights in 1968, its role in conceiving forms of NGO participation in UN world conferences and its advocacy on behalf of NGOs at UN Headquarters highlight CONGO’s chief objectives: to ensure that NGOs be present when governments discuss issues of global concern at the United Nations and to facilitate NGO discussions on such issues.

CONGO does not take positions on substantive matters. However, CONGO does provide, through special and ad hoc NGO Committees, fora for discussion of substantive matters by its members with officials of the UN Secretariat and UN system agencies, UN delegations and other experts.

NGOs with full CONGO membership status include national, regional and international organizations in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). CONGO associate membership is open to NGOs associated with the UN system but not holding that consultative status. Members represent a large range of vital interests, in areas such as human rights, gender, peace and disarmament, social justice, governance, environment and sustainable development. CONGO and its members collaborate with the larger community of NGOs through standing NGO committees, which follow issues that are of key substantive interest relative to their mandates and objectives.
The Conference of NGOs:
  • ASSISTS a wide variety of NGOs in consultative status to promote their common aim of supporting the UN Charter;
  • WORKS on behalf of NGOs in consultative status to develop that status further and enhance their relationship and cooperation with the UN and its various organs; and
  • PROVIDES a forum for NGOs with common interests to come together to study, plan, support and act on issues relating to the principles and programmes of the UN and its network of agencies.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Parallel Event Planned by NCWC!

All will be welcome to attend the workshop being planned by NCWC during the upcoming meeting of the CSW.

This is an important topic.  Come prepared to share, to learn, and to listen.

When: Tuesday, March 5

Time: 12:30 pm

Where: Taiwan Representative's Office in New York,

1 East 42nd St., 4th Floor, (auditorium)


 Violence against Women in the Name of God: Who Interprets the Sacred Texts?

Dr. Nazila Isgandarova        

Many forms of violence or practices against women and girls around the world are justified in the name of religion, culture, and tradition. The majority of women want to improve their situations by calling for a new interpretation of the sacred texts while respecting religious, cultural, and national identities. An interactive workshop will discuss the concerns of authority or power of interpreting the sacred texts and how it impacts the lives of women. The participants are encouraged to share their thoughts, experiences in order to enrich the learning opportunity and bring an awareness of the power of interpreting the sacred texts.

Monday, January 14, 2013

NGO Consultation Day

NGO consultation day!

Sunday March 3. 

9 to 5

Hunter College
425 E. 25th Street
New York, NY 10010

Registration soon!


According to the 2011 report by the Mexican National Institute for Women, in Mexico 5 out of 10 women aged 15 years or older have been victims of domestic violence and 13.5 per cent of women have been victims of physical violence in their homes. However, only 2 out of 10 women victims of domestic violence have sought help."

Shortly after 4 a.m. on 16 September 2009, Grettel Rodriguez Almeida, a young lawyer from the State of Yucatan in Mexico, was stabbed several times with a kitchen knife by her boyfriend, Germán Alyn Ortega Hernández.
“He came to me and stabbed me on the face,” Grettel recalls. Immobilized, she could only use one hand to defend herself. “I could not move. I used my free hand to fight back. These are from defensive wounds,” she explains, as she shows her scars.
Grettel was also stabbed in the neck and the abdomen. She was rushed to the hospital by her parents who heard her screams. The doctors sutured her wounds without anesthesia to save her life.
Her boyfriend was arrested soon after and confessed attacking Grettel.
But that was just the beginning of Grettel’s quest for justice, for herself and for all the women victims of domestic violence.
Although Ortega Hernández was formally charged and indicted for attempted murder, the crime was later reclassified to aggravated assault. After spending 1 year, 8 months and 25 days in prison, he was set free.
Grettel started living in constant fear as her former boyfriend started harassing and threatening her again. He would send her threatening messages via Twitter and on her phone. “I was scared for my life,” Grettel says.
But Grettel did not give up. She was committed to take the case to Mexico’s Supreme Judicial Court. She researched some past cases of attacks on women and decided to make her story public, and to seek assistance.
“I was shocked to hear a young woman tell me how she was stabbed seven times by her fiancé – only to face the indignity of seeing him freed in court, by a woman judge, who thought she was being too harsh on him,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay referring to Grettel’s story during a visit to Mexico in 2011.
In support of Grettel’s case, the UN Human Rights Office in Mexico filed an amicus curiae brief. An amicus curiae is a person who participates in a case not as a party but as a ‘friend of the court’.
In it, the Office drew the Court’s attention to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women to which Mexico is a party. The Office stressed that “the failure to duly investigate and punish violence in the private sphere sends a message of social acceptance” and that “the administration of justice must avoid reinforcing prejudice and stereotypes that justify, tolerate or minimize the intrinsic gravity of acts of violence against women.”
After several setbacks and months of struggle, on 31 October 2012 Mexico’s Supreme Judicial Court ordered the reinstatement of attempted murder charges against Ortega Hernández.
Grettel also received support from the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City; human rights non-governmental organizations, in particular Centre Prodh, and State officials.
Grettel welcomed the decision of the Court. “What I wanted was to have the case re-examined, because this was never done before for a victim. I wanted to set a precedent. I knew I was swimming against the tides. It is meaningful that the trial will begin all over again,” she says.

Grettel studied law because she wanted to “save the world” or work for the United Nations. She believes that “everything happens for a reason”. “I am alive and should not be; my dream is to “save the world”. I know it is not possible, but I am doing my little part, and I hope it is useful to someone else.”

The day the case was reclassified, Grettel started her own research and came across the word femicide. “I did not know what it meant but I became curious and looked for more information: I read about a lot of cases and I saw myself in all of them. The difference was that I was alive and many other victims were not. This is what gave me the strength to stand up and make my voice heard.”
According to the 2011 report by the Mexican National Institute for Women, in Mexico 5 out of 10 women aged 15 years or older have been victims of domestic violence and 13.5 per cent of women have been victims of physical violence in their homes. However, only 2 out of 10 women victims of domestic violence have sought help.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NGO Reception - Tuesday, March 5






Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Time:  6:00 to 8:00 PM
Place: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations
305 East 47th Street (at 2nd Avenue), 3rd Floor

You are invited to wear your national dress!