Human Rights Committee

Promoting gender equality and fair treatment of women and girls especially with regard to violence such as but not limited to sexual abuse, harassment and rape.

by Helena Klettke

Introduction

Rape and generally sexual assaults is a great issue in all parts of the world. It occurs in all countries and states and in every social stratum. Rape is mostly seen as a weapon of war or the punishment (mostly of women) by the offender but has even greater consequences for the victim. Sexual assault causes not only physical damage like injuries attributed to either physical violence or drug intake that enabled rape, sexually transmitted diseases and infections, unwanted pregnancy and non-professionally performed abortions but also mental damages like post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, flashbacks, eating and sleep disorders, etc. 

Nevertheless sexual assaults are not only drawn to women but affect men and transsexual people as well.

In the following, several aspects of sexual assaults and the need to revise laws concerning sexual violence are specified.

Key Terms

Gender Equality: also known as sex equality, gender egalitarianism, sexual equality or equality of the genders is the view that men and women should receive equal treatment and should not be discriminated on gender. 

Sexism: is any kind of prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination against someone based on their gender. Sexism is mostly used in the context of unfair and inferior treatment of women.

Feminism: is a collection of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women.

Sexual Violence: covers any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work

Rape: denotes any kind of non-consensual and forced, manipulated or coerced sexual contact. Any act involving the penetration of sexual organs of the victim and (eventually) the rapist is considered rape, regardless of their former relationship. Different types of rape are rape within marriage or dating relationships, rape by strangers and systematic rape. 

Sexual Abuse: implies inappropriate sexual conduct on a child or a mentally or physically disabled person; includes incest as a subset of this form

Sexual Harassment: includes any unwanted sexual advance, comment, attention, gesture or behaviour. Sexual harassment can be verbal, non-verbal or physical. 

Rape Culture: is a society that blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence and dominance. 

Domestic Violence: is verbal, physical, psychological or sexual violence within the fluid concept of “family”. Such violence can occur between domestic partners, parents and children, siblings, or extended family members.

Causes and consequences

Factors that increase women's vulnerability to sexual violence

Age: According to data from justice systems in Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru and the United States, about a half of the victims of reported acts of sexual violence were 15 years and younger. Even worse is that being sexually assaulted when you are underage makes you more likely to suffer from severe mental disorders. The number of sexually assaulted children worldwide is also highly increased by the problem of child marriage.

Poverty: Poverty increases a woman's or a girl's risk of being sexually assaulted in various ways. On the one hand, being forced to use public transportation or walk the streets alone (especially at night time) sets them in a greater danger of getting raped. On the other hand, women who live in poverty have major pressure in maintaining or finding a job. Consequently, they are more likely to become victims of coerced sexual acts.

Educational Level: Contrary to expectations, more educated and empowered women are more likely to experience sexual as well as physical violence by an intimate partner. These actions are mostly seen as demonstration of dominance or punishment of women by the offender.

Dark figure of sexual violence

Despite all statistics that investigate the number of sexual assaults and harassments, many acts of sexual violence are not reported due to the shame or fear of the victims. Some victims even consider themselves being at fault of getting raped e.g. because of their clothing, alcohol/drug consumption or incautiousness. 

Religiously coined societies intensify shaming of rape victims. In countries like e.g. Libya and Afghanistan rape victims are often killed to restore the honour of the family. Other countries like e.g. do not even consider the sexual assault of certain members of society (in this case Dalits/untouchables) a crime. Therefore victims dauntingly do not admit they got raped.

But even in more developed countries the dark figure of sexual assaults is still huge. Approximately two thirds of all sexual assaults in the United States are not reported and about more than 90% of all rapists are and were never imprisoned.

by Emilia Yatlo

Introduction

Coming out as homosexual, transgender or queer in general still takes a lot of courage in today's world. Reasons for that are not only societies prejudices but mainly because in most countries of the world there are laws that discriminate people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The extent of discrimination varies from country to country but nevertheless it is important to fight against any law that discriminates homosexual, bisexual and transgender people, aiming to achieve equality in all societies in the future and taking away the fear of “coming out of the closet”.

Key Terms

Gender identity: The sense of “being” male, female, genderqueer, agender, etc. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and that you cannot assume how someone identifies in one category based on how they identify in another category. 

LGBT: acronym for the “Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual-community”, also known as LGBTQ-community (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual/Queer) as an umbrella term for all non-heterosexual and non-cis-gendered people.

Homophobia: A range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality. It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred, may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs. 

Transphobia: The fear or hatred of transgender people or gender non-conforming behavior. Transphobia can also exist among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well as among heterosexual people. 

Transphobia: The fear or hatred of transgender people or gender non-conforming behavior. Transphobia can also exist among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as well as among heterosexual people. 

Examples of Discrimination of the LGBT-Community

Russia – Anti-LGBT Propaganda Law

Even though Russia liberalized some of its anti-LGBT laws since 1991 (decriminalisation of homosexual relationships in 1993 and permission of transgender people legally changing their gender in 1997), there was a great outrage when President Putin signed a new anti-LGBT propaganda law in 2013. It is supposed to protect minors by censoring all non-traditional relationship from the public eye but displays homosexual relationships as abnormal and dangerous. Since the passage of this law the number of hate crimes against gays and lesbians has risen, as well as the antipathy to homosexual marriage, “lifestyle”, gay parades and people of the LGBT community as part of Russian society.* 

MSM – Blood Donor Controversy 

MSM is an abbreviation for “men who have sex with men”, covering the group of men who practice a homosexual or bisexual lifestyle in terms of sexual intercourse. For these men it is illegal in several countries (United States, China, Germany and many more*2) to donate blood or volunteer as an organ donor. LGBT organizations see these laws as a homophobic act based on outdated stereotypes. 

Same-Sex Marriage

Homosexual relationships might be socially accepted in more countries of the world, yet there are only 18 countries so far, where same-sex marriage is completely legal and 20 countries, that consider it legal (completely or in parts). 

Same-sex marriage still sparks great debates and controversies, partially because it is unclear whether marriage still remains a construct of church and religion or became a governmental institution. The main point of this debate is the engagement of tradition and progress in equality. 

North Africa and the Middle East – Punishments regarding homosexual relationships and expression

On the other side, a cumulative number of countries of North Africa and the Middle East still punishes men and women for practising same-sex sexual activities. Punishments range from imprisonment (e.g. in Syria, Algeria and Egypt) to death penalty (e.g. in Sudan, Qatar*, Saudi Arabia* and Yemen* (*only under certain circumstances)).

These and similar law enforcements undeniably threaten people's freedom and do not only mark members of the LGBT-community as misfits of society but furthermore as criminals and violates human dignity.

Bibliography

http://internationalspectrum.umich.edu/life/definitions

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Discrimination/Pages/LGBT.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_the_United_States

https://www.glad.org/rights/topics/c/anti-lgbt-discrimination

http://www.globalequality.org/newsroom/latest-news/1-in-the-news/186-the-facts-on-lgbt-rights-in-russia

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Russia#cite_note-morello-11

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