Wales: Stop the Violence - by Kerry-Lynne Doyle for Gair Rhydd

At the age of just 20 a Lithuanian woman was brought to Cardiff and forced to serve as a prostitute in three of the city’s brothels; she was bought for £5,000. After being brought to Cardiff by a sex-trafficking gang in early 2005, the woman, who has not been named, received beatings from the gang – and was threatened with death if she ever tried to escape. While one member of the gang admitted the crime and another was found guilty after a trial at Cardiff crown court, the woman’s harrowing story is just one example of the violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights that occurs every day across the UK and the globe. A recent poll by Amnesty International found that one in three Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights has been subjected to beatings, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime - usually by a member of her family or someone known to her. In an attempt to eliminate these statistics, Amnesty has organised a 16 day campaign to Women's rights's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. Running from November 25 until Human Rights Day on December 10, the campaign will draw attention to the various manifestations of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights worldwide.

Violence at Home

The issue of domestic violence was once again in the UK headlines during November with the conviction of Paul Dyson for murdering his girlfriend, Joanne Nelson. Dyson, 31, had a history of violence towards Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and strangled Joanne after a row over loading the washing machine on the eve of St Valentine’s Day this year. After making tearful television pleas for Joanne to return home, he eventually admitted murdering her. Joanne was 22 when she died. While rates of domestic violence against men are on the increase, a global study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released in November revealed that every 18 seconds a woman is the victim of domestic violence. The study coordinator, Dr Claudia Garcia Moreno said:

Domestic violence can be prevented and governments and communities need to mobilise to fight this widespread public health problem. “WHO will continue to raise awareness about violence and the important role that public health can play to address its causes and consequences. Globally, we need to stop the violence from happening in the first place, and to provide help and support to Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are in abusive relationships.” In Wales, domestic violence continues to be a problem, with an increasing number of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights under the age of 25 suffering at the hands of their partner. “Since we established the Domestic Abuse Helpline 82% of the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who have contacted us have been between the ages of 18 and 24,” revealed Angharad Jones, Communications Officer at Welsh Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s Aid. “I would just like to stress to Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in this age group that you’re not alone and that support is out there.” Internationally, the home remains a sphere for violence with Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights subjected to forced marriages, violence within the family and “honour” killings.

In 2004 Amnesty International estimated that up to half of all Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights living in Turkey were victims of physical violence within their own families, a statistic which Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s groups within the country want to turn around. “Generally, we live in fear. Fear from our fathers, brothers and husbands,” admitted Nebahat Akkoç, the founder of KAMER Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s Centre, which works against family violence in Turkey. “From now on, we don’t want to be exchanged. We don’t want to marry someone whose face we’ve never seen. We don’t want to be made a present of. We don’t want to stay uneducated. We don’t want to live in continual fear of being punished for no good reason.”

Rape

Another aspect of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights which hit the British headlines in November was rape. A poll by ICM – a market research company – for Amnesty International found that a third of people believed that if a woman is flirtatious she is partially or totally responsible for being raped. More than a quarter of those surveyed believed that a woman was similarly responsible if she was wearing revealing clothes, exposing that deep-seated and disturbing attitudes towards rape are still prevalent in our society. In the same week in which the poll was released, the findings were manifested in a Welsh courtroom. The rape case of a 20-year-old female student from Aberystwyth University collapsed at Swansea Magistrate Court because the judge, Mr Justice Roderick Evans, claimed that “drunken consent is still consent”.

Mr Evans’s statement came after the victim claimed that she had been drifting in and out of consciousness during the incident - a state in which, as defined under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, a person would be unable to give consent. The Crown Prosecution Service has demanded a full report into the case - and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights groups and campaigners have reacted angrily to the ruling. “There are situations in which someone is drunk and can give consent,” noted Joanna Lovett, a research officer at London Metropolitan University’s Child & Woman Abuse Studies Unit. “However, the ruling implies that a person can give consent in any state of drunkenness even though the Sex Offences Act says that people must have the freedom of capacity to give it. From what I know of the case, this woman did not have this capacity.” On an international scale, rape continues to be used as a weapon of conflict. Usually committed by one side to another, rape is utilised as gender-based torture in conflicts throughout the world. Rape and sexual mutilation is one legacy of the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. With both acts of violence a social, cultural and religious taboo in the region, most incidents go unreported. Many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights fear being disowned by their families and ostracised by their communities: “Five to six men would rape us, one after the other, for hours during six days, every night. My husband could not forgive me. After this, he disowned me,” one survivor recalled. Yet sexual attacks are not the only form of violence inflicted upon Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in war-torn countries. Mutilation, abduction and murder are all forms of violence which have been used against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in wars worldwide. As highlighted by the United Nations, it is Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights who bear the brunt of violent conflicts. “Readily available and easy to use, small arms and light weapons have been the primary or sole tools of violence in almost every conflict dealt with by United Nations,” said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. “In the hands of irregular troops operating with scant respect for international and humanitarian law, these weapons have taken a heavy toll of human lives with Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights accounting for nearly 80% of the casualties.”

Violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights – the future

While there is no doubt that violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights is, in most cases, performed by a minority of men – and that men are also victims of violence including rape, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation - the eyes of the world cannot stay blind to the many types of violence endured by Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights both in the UK and internationally. “The fact that one in four Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the UK will be a victim of violence at some point in their life is a shocking reality,” asserted Jess Boydell of Amnesty International Wales.

“We hope that our campaign will not only alert people to such horrific facts, but also reassure Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights that this treatment is wrong. We have to change the perception that violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights is somehow okay - but also the perception that it doesn’t really exist. “It does exist, the world over, and the important issue is that such violence goes much further than domestic abuse; it can include genital mutilation, honour killing, trafficking and torture.” And with these issues still paramount in the lives of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights around the globe, it seems that it is only through education, support and calls for action that we can begin to stop this type of violence once and for all.

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