Gender Jurisprudence and International Criminal Law Project

Useful Resources Series: Gender Jurisprudence Collections, digests, commentaries, and blog 

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Photo Credit: AU WCL

The Gender Jurisprudence and International Criminal Law Project is a collaborative project between the War Crimes Research Office and the Women and International Law Program at American University Washington College of Law. Launched with support from the Open Society Institute’s International Women’s Program, the project aims to raise awareness of and encourage research and debate about the jurisprudence emerging from international and hybrid tribunals regarding sexual and gender-based violence committed during times of conflict, mass violence, or repression and to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of these crimes under international law. For more information, visit the Gender Jurisprudence and International Criminal Law Project webpage.

Rise in Sexual Assaults in Egypt Sets Off Clash Over Blame

The sheer number of women sexually abused and gang raped in a single public square had become too big to ignore. - New York Times

 

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Photo Credit: New York Times

Conservative Islamists in Egypt’s new political elite were outraged — at the women. “Sometimes,” said Adel Abdel Maqsoud Afifi, a police general, lawmaker and ultraconservative Islamist, “a girl contributes 100 percent to her own raping when she puts herself in these conditions.” The increase in sexual assaults over the last two years has set off a new battle over who is to blame, and the debate has become a stark and painful illustration of the convulsions racking Egypt as it tries to reinvent itself. Re-blogged from New York Times. Read more

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. - Aristotle

Nothing makes me happier than seeing pure joy on a child’s face

Albert Camus once said, “Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable.” This may read as one radical statement, but I wonder how far from the truth it really is. As Marcus Aurelius, I want to think that “very little is needed to make a happy life.” As Helen Keller, I want to believe that ”happiness does not come from without,” that “it comes from within,” that it is all in one’s way of thinking. But I don’t. Plato would disapprove of my lack of good plan for living happily. I simply do not know how to make everything that leads to happiness depend upon myself. Clearly, I am not a Platonian “man of manly character and of wisdom.” 

Dear me! how happy and good we’d be, if we had no worries!Louisa May Alcott

Sometimes I think to myself that I should be profoundly happy. Yet, I find true happiness to be profoundly elusive, even though my life is filled with many beautiful, serene, and happy moments. Mother Teresa claimed that “each moment is all we need, not more.” So I wonder, why being happy in the moment is not quite enough? Is it because I tend to confuse the state of happiness with eternal euphoria? Or is it because I tend to internalize other peoples’ joys and sorrows, which makes happiness feel more like a gift than a choice? The following quote resonates well with me: “Man is here for the sake of other men - above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends” (Albert Einstein). It’s not a healthy approach to life, or is it? Does it make people great and altruistic or stressed and miserable? 

Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes. - Charles Dickens

Make a personal pledge to bring more happiness to others

Yesterday, I learned something new about happiness. I learned that the United Nations has officially recognized the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal. In its 2011 resolution, the UN General Assembly invited countries “to pursue the elaboration of additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies.” The resolution declared that the International Day Of Happiness would be observed every year on March 20th.

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy. - Guillaume Apollinaire

Today is March 21st. My day of happiness was neither particularly happy nor sad. But toward its end I managed to pause. I engaged my children in a silly tickling game. Their belly laughter always has a healing effect on me. This was my moment of happiness - simple and liberating. After the boys went to bed, I downloaded the Cheers app and started writing this post. Who knows, maybe happiness is a choice after all - “a choice that requires effort at times” (Aeschylus). Or maybe we should follow Boleslaw Prus’s advice and not think about happiness at all. “If it doesn’t come, there’s no disappointment; if it does come, it’s a surprise.” 

The man is happiest who lives from day to day and asks no more, garnering the simple goodness of life.Euripides

Regardless of whether it is a gift or a choice, the idealist in me agrees with Mary Baker Eddy, who beautifully said that “Happiness is born of truth and love; it is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” And the realist in me is quite content that according to scientific research, “happiness, compassion and kindness are the products of skills that can be learned and enhanced through training, thanks to the neuroplasticity of our brains.” :)

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Social Guide to Happiness

We Are ONE WOMAN

You hurt, and I hurt, too. We are One Woman. Your hopes are mine. We shall shine. UN Women

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We are daughters and mothers. We are single women, partners, wives, girlfriends, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, and widows. We are homemakers and caregivers. We are businesspeople, workers, employers, and employees. We are presidents, prime-ministers, parliamentarians, and governors. We are soldiers. We climb hills for water and food. We are ONE WOMAN.

We are raped, abused, mutilated, and murdered. We are discriminated against in private and public lives. We are enslaved and deprived of our rights and freedoms. We die from preventable and treatable complications during pregnancy and childbirth. We are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and other major diseases. We lack access to health care, effective contraceptives, and justice. We are not allowed to go to school, to drive, to leave our homes, to show our faces, or to vote. We are ONE WOMAN.

We give life and we save lives. We refuse to be defined by our roles and responsibilities. We have the right to make our own decisions. We dare to make our own minds. We are strong, fierce, and empowered. We are gentle and caring. We are role-models. We are mentors. We are agents of change. We are fighters. We are leaders. We make the world a better place. We are gaining our momentum. We speak out for our rights. We hold up half the sky. We are Equals. We are in it Together. It is Our Day. WE ARE ONE WOMAN & WE SHALL SHINE!

International Women’s Day

Today the world is celebrating the annual International Women’s Day. The 2013 theme is: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” To commemorate the day, UN Women has launched a song "One Woman." One Woman is a musical celebration of women worldwide and a message of unity and solidarity. You can purchase One Woman on iTunesAll proceeds will go to UN Women, the global champion for women’s and girls’s rights.  

There are also many other ways in which you can observe the International Women’s Day. For more information, please review the following social media guide.

Social Media Guide

I also highly recommend the following article by Jennifer James: 5 Online Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day. Last but not least, watch a video about how the Global Team of 200 is celebrating!

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This post was written in cooperation with the  Global Team of 200 - a highly specialized group of members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good that concentrates on issues involving women and girls, children, world hunger, and maternal health. Individually we are all powerful. Together we can change the world. We believe in the power of collective action to help others and believe in ourselves to make this world a better place for our children and the world’s children.

Climbing Hills for Water

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. Thomas Fuller 

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Last October, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Katutura Township, one of the the poorest communities in Namibia, located in the north-western part of Namibia’s capital Windhoek. While climbing Katutura’s dusty hills to visit participants of my study on coerced sterilizations of HIV positive women, I saw many women, men, and children strolling along with bottles, buckets, and carts full of water. 

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Among them was this grandmother and her grandson. They stopped to say hello and make sure I was “all good.”

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The hot African sun was nearly burning my skin and sweat was rolling down my face. I was carrying a purse. They were carrying gallons of water. I did it for two days. They do it every day. Sometimes many times a day. And often it takes them close to two hours to get to the communal pump and back home.

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Needless to say, it’s time-consuming and exhausting. It’s also expensive. In Namibia, which experiences prolonged periods of drought and is covered mostly by dry land, the concept of free or cheap water is not well-known. Most families in Katutura have to purchase special chips to use the communal pump.       

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The communal pump looks unassuming. It doesn’t really draw attention to a casual passerby. Yet, it is one of the most important landmarks in this part of the city.

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Near the pump I spotted another family on their way back home. They were carrying buckets in their hands and on their heads. According to UNDP, women in Africa and Asia often carry water on their heads weighing 20kg (44lb).

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Right to Water

In 2002, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 on the right to water, which underlined that the “human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity.” In 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target is to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015.   

Potable water is a source of life and access to it is a human right. The UN suggests that each person needs 20-50 liters of water a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Yet, between 783 and 894 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. At any given time, nearly half the people in the developing world are suffering from one or more of the main diseases associated with dirty water and inadequate sanitation such as diarrhea, guinea worm, trachoma, and schistosomiasis. Around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation - that’s almost 2,000 children a day. In fact, diarrhea kills more children every year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.imageLuckily, statistics also provide some good news: experts estimate that for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of $4 is returned in increased productivity.     

WaterAid

Several inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, including WaterAid and  UN Water, work tirelessly across the globe to realize everyone’s right to water and decent standard of living. By improving access to safe water and sanitation in the poorest communities, and by educating people about the importance of hygiene, they transform and save millions of lives. 

"Safe water and sanitation close to people’s homes have far reaching and wide ranging benefits which extend way beyond the expected improvements to health and the reduction in time spent collecting water," say experts at WaterAid. "Our projects enable communities to achieve a better quality of life and escape the spiral of poverty," they add. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 17.5 million people with safe water and  12.9 million people with sanitation.

Give a Gift of Water

In December 2010, the UN General Assembly declared 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation (resolution A/RES/65/154). On March 22, the international community will celebrate the annual World Water Day as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This is a really good time to learn more about world water and sanitation issues and give a gift of clean water to families in need.

For more information about how to contribute, visit WaterAid’s:

  • Learn Zone full of educational materials, videos, information sheets, and games.
  • SH2OP for Life store where you can buy handpumps, faucets, wells, and water for life.

Social Media Guide

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WaterAid on Instagram

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This post was written in cooperation with the  Global Team of 200 - a highly specialized group of members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good that concentrates on issues involving women and girls, children, world hunger, and maternal health. Individually we are all powerful. Together we can change the world. We believe in the power of collective action to help others and believe in ourselves to make this world a better place for our children and the world’s children.

Children Need Love, Not Chains

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its childrenNelson Mandela

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In the summer of 2011, I spent three weeks in beautiful Nepal where I conducted a study assessing the country’s response to trafficking in persons, including women and children. In addition to Kathmandu Valley, I traveled to the districts of Makwanpur, Morang, and Kanchanpur, spanning from the East to the Far West of Nepal.

Every person I met with during my journey through the hills and plains of Nepal shed an important light on the nature and forms of human trafficking and on the plight of survivors who confront acute challenges on their path to recovery and reintegration. My conversations with the survivors were particularly disconcerting. To protect their privacy and ensure their safety, I did not take their photographs, but their faces and self-induced images of their stories will always remind me of the importance and urgency of the global fight against trafficking in persons. 

Lalita (name changed), one of the  survivors I spoke with, grew up physically and psychologically battered by her own mother. When a distant cousin offered her a job in the Kathmandu’s carpet industry, she did not hesitate. At the age of 16 she left her abusive family hoping for a better life. But her dreams were quickly crushed: the cousin had sold her to a brothel in Kolkata. After being beaten, raped, and burned with cigarettes, Lalita had no choice but to comply with the demands of her owner and the clients. There was no security system, no panic button, no protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, and no way out of the building. After five years in Kolkata and two years in Banaras, Lalita was rescued in a raid and spent five months in police custody. Eventually, she was released and the Indian police escorted her back to Nepal. Lalita found refuge in her friend’s household. Sometime later she got married and gave birth to two children. At first, her husband was kind and accepting but as the time passed by he became more and more demanding and abusive. After all, she was used to serving men, he claimed. Despite the lifetime of trauma, abuse and exploitation, Lalita is a strong and empowered woman. She works as a peer counselor for a local civil society organization, going from door to door and educating people about the horrors of modern-day slavery. The only thing she worries about is the well-being of her children. Her current salary is simply not sufficient to ensure that they complete their education.

Trafficking in persons is a global phenomenon and one of the most prevalent crimes of the modern world. It indiscriminately affects stable democracies, countries in transition, and societies immersed in war, and takes a heavy toll of millions of victims, including an estimated 5.5 million children.  In Nepal alone thousands of girls and boys fall victim to sex trafficking to Indian brothels and hundreds of thousands of children endure the worst forms of child labor as domestic servants, agricultural laborers, and truck drivers’ assistants; in garbage removal; in embroidery industries; in small, hidden-away shops and factories; and in the entertainment and hospitality enterprises.

Across the globe, human trafficking is a tragedy with a human face. It is a story of women, men, girls, and boys who are enslaved in sweat shops, brothels, cabin restaurants, dance bars, massage parlors and circuses. It is a story of migrant workers who find themselves in a vicious cycle of debt bondage and labor exploitation. It is a story of socially isolated bonded laborers who are severely exploited by their masters. It is a story of survivors who are revictimized by incompetent law enforcement officers and rejected by their own families and communities.  It is a story of men and women of all ages who are subjected to brutal physical and psychological abuse, deprivation of liberty, humiliation, intimidation, stigmatization, and sometimes death. It is a story of parents whose children vanish. And it is a story of all of us who unwittingly purchase and sell goods made by modern-day slaves. 

Trafficking in persons is an affront to human dignity which demands concrete and vigorous solutions. One of the organizations that are at the forefront of fighting trafficking in children is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories, including the US, to save and improve children’s lives. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has launched The End Trafficking project to raise awareness about child trafficking and mobilize communities within the U.S. to take meaningful action to help protect children. The initiative aims to bring us all closer to a day when ZERO children are exploited in the U.S. and abroad.

Human trafficking causes irreparable harm to all people but children are undoubtedly most vulnerable. Trafficking violates children’s rights to be protected, grow up in a safe family environment, and have access to an education. Victims often suffer from inhumane living conditions, neglect, poor diet and hygiene, and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Trafficking of children is a grave violation of their rights, robbing them of their childhood, their well-being, and the opportunity to reach their full potential. Dr. Susan Bissell Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF

UNICEF approaches trafficking as a serious violation of children’s rights and works closely with governments at the national and local levels to combat child trafficking. UNICEF focuses its child protection efforts on: 

  • Reaching the most vulnerable children, including girls, orphans, children living on the streets, and children affected by conflict and natural disasters;
  • Facilitating community educational activities to change social norms, attitudes, and behaviors that make children vulnerable to exploitation
  • Promoting gender equality and ensuring that anti-violence policies, programs, and services and programs are implemented from a gender perspective, while engaging men and boys 
  • Supporting comprehensive services for children and their families, including access to health, social protection and welfare services, psycho-social support, and legal assistance.

To learn more about trafficking in persons and UNICEF’s End Trafficking Project, visit the campaign’s website and:

Download resources to find out how you can help End Trafficking:

Connect with End Trafficking at:

Post the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, 1-888-373-7888. Callers can report potential cases, get help, or request information and training. This 24/7 toll-free hotline is 100% confidential. 

Volunteer by joining the UNICEF Action Center.

What Are You Doing for Others?

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

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This afternoon I found out, through my friend’s Facebook post, that today is Blue Monday - supposedly the most miserable day of the year. Normally, I would not even think twice about it except that I do feel kind of blue today. Fortunately, today is also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Here are some of my favorite Martin Luther King’s quotes:

  • I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear. 
  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend. 
  • Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
  • If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
  • Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
  • Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
  • Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.
  • People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
  • No person has the right to rain on your dreams.

I thought that a little inspiration from one of the most influential civil rights leaders in history would brighten everyone’s day.

Resolved: Learning Inner Peace

"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." - Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha)

Pure Tranquility: Pokhara, Nepal and Windhoek, Namibia: two beautiful and most serene places I visited in 2012

Pure Tranquility: Lakeside Pokhara, Nepal and Namibian savanna - the most beautiful and serene places I visited in 2012

When I was six years old my kindergarten teacher told my parents that I was overly ambitious. Throughout my school and college years I stressed over grades and rankings. In my professional life I have been told that I was too detail-oriented and that I should pay more attention to the “big picture.” Family members have pointed out that I work too much.

The perfectionist syndrome has been haunting me for my whole life. I have always felt the need to prove myself and this attitude has backfired way too many times. The truth is that 
I feel overwhelmed by all the roles and responsibilities I have imposed on myself over the years. I am fully and utterly committed to my children, my work, and social good advocacy, and I will never give them up. But I need to find a way to achieve at least some balance and inner peace. I need to embrace imperfection with as much grace as possible.

Naturally, self-reflection and focusing on yourself is hardly achievable when you struggle with the desire to bite off more than you can chew. So my resolution for 2013 is to stop chasing butterflies. If I want to continue to be good to my family and to advocate for social good, I need to learn how to be good to myself.

In an article What’s Your New Year’s UnResolution?, published by GOOD, the following quote caught my attention:

Time is constant… always going by, but never unexpectedly and always at the same rate. I am the variable in the equation. I need to stop blaming it and start analyzing what I do with it and why it goes perceivably so fast. If I could do this, then I could learn to use time as my tool and not my enemy.”

I am not sure if I am ready for un-resolution but I am ready to start letting go, especially in situations I cannot fully control. "Letting go is all about adjusting your mindset," says Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. “Letting go not only helps you move closer to change, it also has a positive impact on your health,” adds Susan Crandell, author of the article 5 Ways to Start Letting Go, which lists four small changes everyone can make today:

  • Embrace the mantra “don’t worry, be happy.” Not easy - will require a lot of reminders and positive thoughts.
  • Take a joy test, i.e., think about things that you enjoy and would like to do. I thought about it for a while and I realized three things: 1) I want to spend more quality time with my family and close friends; 2) I’d like to continue travelling for social good - travelanthropy is amazing and very rewarding; and 3) I’d love to be surrounded by mountains at least once this year. Maybe go trekking, which I’ve always loved but haven’t done for ages? 
  • Make things better right now. I have taken a few small steps: switched to a part-time schedule at work, increased yoga practices, started running and dieting, and begun therapy for my back which has been killing me since my first pregnancy. I just really hope the trend will continue. 
  • Ignore the peanut gallery. This is a really, really tough one for me. Fear of being judged, resulting in guilt and resentment, is not my good friend. I think this is going to me one of my greatest challenges but I know I need to work on it if I really want to learn how to let go. 
Yesterday was not the greatest day for letting go but today is another day. I will end with a quote that I just love:
“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?” - Swami SatchidanandaThe Yoga Sutras
This post was written as a part of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved. One of my favorite entries was submitted by my fellow Global Team of 200 member, Nicole - the Thirdeyemom

About me

Tidbits about international development, rule of law, human rights, global health, and other social good causes and initiatives. Created by Paula Rudnicka, human rights attorney, Senior Legal Analyst at a major international development organization, member of Global Team of 200.

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