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National NOW Times >> Spring, 2001 >> Article

Slavery, Violence Against Women Continue Worldwide

by Jessica Hanson and Anna Stanley

Despite extraordinary progress, women all over the world are still abused, enslaved, and violated on a daily basis. The new millennium does not greet all women with the freedom and hope they deserve as human beings.

Although poor and violent conditions for women span the entire globe, two countries have caught the attention of the international community.

Young Women Flogged in Nigeria
In Nigeria recently, two women were flogged for alleged fornication. The first caning transpired in late January, when 17-year-old Bariya Ibrahim Magazu was lashed 100 strokes after it was discovered that she had conceived a child out of wedlock. The girl, who gave birth and was breast-feeding at the time of her caning, had no representation at the trial where she said she was impregnated by one of three middle-aged men with whom her father pressured her to have intercourse.

Originally sentenced to 180 lashes, the 80 strokes imposed for “making unsubstantiated allegations” against the men (who denied having sex with her) were dropped. The punishment was reduced and postponed due to mounting international pressure, including from human rights groups in Nigeria and a rebuke from the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria. Lawyers on Magazu’s behalf applied to the Sharia Court on Jan. 9 for a leave to appeal and a stay of execution. The punishment was reportedly suspended for 12 months, but despite this, Magazu was whipped 100 times on the morning of Jan.19.

The second young Nigerian woman is awaiting public flogging in November after being found guilty by a Sharia Court of engaging in pre-marital sex. Eighteen-year-old Attine Tanko was found guilty on Nov. 15 after the discovery that she was pregnant while unmarried. Tanko’s 23-year-old boyfriend, who was also flogged 100 times and is currently sentenced to jail time, is the father. She has yet to give birth and is living with her family in wait. The court will allow the young woman to wean the baby for up to two years after she delivers, but she will receive the punishment of 100 lashes after that time.

Women Forced into Slavery Nightmare in Sudan
Across the African continent in Sudan, abuses against women occur on a regular basis. Arab militias, under the command of the president of Sudan and armed by the government, raid Dinka villages and attack the local people. Old men and women are killed, and children and young women are taken for booty.

The soldiers of this militia, known as Popular Defense Forces, systematically gang rape the enslaved African women and girls during and after these raids. Soldiers further torture the women with beatings, denial of food, and prolonged exposure to sun with their hands and feet tied together. Women slaves who are chosen as concubines by Arabs in northern Sudan are also genitally mutilated, a practice not normally followed by the people of this area.

What is being done to rectify and improve these abhorrent conditions and treatment? As the government of Nigeria has received increased criticism for punishment of women, Sudan has also met with international condemnation from groups around the world. Amnesty International is calling on the Government of Sudan to safeguard women’s human rights. Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a Zurich-based international human rights organization, has taken direct steps to ease some of the suffering.

CSI buys freedom for the enslaved. Representatives from the group travel to Sudan where they meet with Arabs who purchase the slaves from their owners and ultimately set them free. CSI takes donations for these redemption missions from various individuals and organizations, including the fifth grade classroom of Barbara Vogel, a Denver, CO, teacher who launched the Slavery That Oppresses People (STOP) campaign.

A group organized specifically around the termination of contemporary slavery, especially in Sudan, is called the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG). AASG not only helps raise money for the emancipation of enslaved women, but also is seeking immediate meetings with U.S. feminist leaders and would like to take this issue of modern slavery to President Bush. Conservatives have already written a letter to President Bush, urging him to place human rights issues high on his foreign policy totem. Whether or not he acts against these human rights violations, it is obvious that action must be taken immediately.

As Leila Milani, who serves on the International Violence Committee of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, states, “In the mind set of the international community, these acts are still excused under the rubric of cultural or religious practices that have not yet risen to a level of human rights violations or crimes against humanity. This can only change when there is stronger show of concern for women’s safety and well-being, not as a compartmentalized issue but as a human rights issue.”

NOW encourages individuals who are offended by the floggings in Nigeria and the enslavement of women in Sudan to send a message to their congress members.

Messages should also be directed to:
Secretary of State Colin Powell
Department of State
2201 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20520
secretary@state.gov

President Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500 president@whitehouse.gov.

Readers can sign the AASG national petition via the web site: www.anti-slavery.com. For information on actually joining the group in its fight against this oppression, visit the web site or call 1-800-884-0719. To read more about or contribute to CSI’s redemption missions, visit www.csi-int.ch.

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