Category Archives: Gender Based Violence

India: Sisters Sentenced to be Raped for Brother’s “Crime”

‘I can’t sleep, I’m very scared’: One of two Indian sisters sentenced to rape after ‘untouchable’ brother ran off with a married woman from higher caste reveals her terrifying ordeal

  • Meenakshi Kumari, 23, was sentenced to rape alongside 15-year-old sister
  • Feared un-elected council of upper caste men ordered savage punishment 
  • Brother ran away with married woman with whom he had two-year affair 
  • Family has appealed to India’s Supreme Court and Prime Minister for help 
'I can't sleep, I'm very scared': Meenakshi Kumari, 23, has described how she has been unable to sleep or leave the house for fear of the village elders, who condemned her to be raped after her brother ran off with a married woman from a higher caste

‘I can’t sleep, I’m very scared’: Meenakshi Kumari, 23, has described how she has been unable to sleep or leave the house for fear of the village elders, who condemned her to be raped after her brother ran off with a married woman from a higher caste

One of two sisters sentenced to be raped in India after their brother ran off with a married woman from a higher caste has spoken out about her fear.

Meenakshi Kumari, 23, has described how she has been unable to sleep or leave the house for fear of the village elders – who sentenced her and her 15-year-old sister to rape – sending someone to deliver the punishment.

‘I can’t sleep, I’m very scared,’ she said from a secret location in Delhi, 30 miles from their village Sankrot, in Uttar Pradesh, central India.

‘How will we ever return home or to our village? If we ever return they will harm dus or rape us. If not today then in the future.

‘Jats never forget and they will not forget this humiliation. They want their revenge. Loving someone is not wrong.’

Meenakshi and her little sister were with their family in Delhi for a wedding when a neighbour called and told them not to return to their village.

The neighbour warned that the un-elected village council, Khap panchayat, dominated by the upper caste ‘Jat’ men, had ordered the two sisters be raped and paraded naked with their faces blackened as punishment for their brother’s actions.

Their brother, Ravi Kumar, 25, from the Dalit caste – historically known as ‘untouchables’ – had been in a relationship with 21-year-old Krishna from the Jat caste for almost two years.

How will we ever return home or to our village? If we ever return they will harm us or rape us. If not today then in the future.
Meenakshi Kumari, 23

When both families discovered the relationship, they did all they could to keep the two lovers apart.

The siblings’ older brother Sumit Kumar, 28, who works as a constable in the Delhi Police, told his younger brother to end the relationship immediately, as they would never be together.

‘We belong to a lower caste, they are from an upper caste,’ he said.

‘I told him this relationship could never work. We are treated as untouchables but he didn’t listen to me and now we are paying for it.’

Ravi met Krishna two years ago, when she joined his computer classes for children in Khekada, Uttar Pradesh.

They exchanged phone numbers and quickly fell in love. They were on the phone to each other all the time and arranged covert meetings in secret locations.

But when Ravi’s father Naik Dharampal Singh, 52, heard of the relationship he ordered it to end immediately.

Even though Ravi ended the relationship, the pair couldn’t bear to be apart.

Eventually Krishna’s parents started looking for prospective husbands for her but she refused.

‘It was hard for my brother but he understood the situation,’ Sumit said.

‘Her family knew about their relationship before the marriage. They beat their daughter a lot and gave my brother warnings many times.

‘In the end my brother told her to go ahead with the marriage, she had to. She went ahead with the marriage in Haryana but she was very unhappy. They treated her like a maid.

‘So she left and returned home. And that’s when she and my brother started their relationship again.’

Ravi and Krishna had eloped twice before but had returned. Each time Sumit claimed her family beat her.

‘We made him understand it was dangerous. At the end of the day it’d be our family who would suffer. He understood what he was doing, he knew the risks but love took over.

I told him this relationship could never work. We are treated as untouchables but he didn’t listen to me and now we are paying for it.

Older brother Sumit Kumar, 28

‘When the girl got in touch with him he just couldn’t contain his emotions. We are now helpless. His future is ruined completely and our family is in danger.’

Krishna’s family was so furious that the couple had eloped again they told the police Ravi was involved with drugs. When they were caught in Delhi at the end of May, Ravi was arrested and has been in Meerut Jail ever since.

Meenakshi and her family were already in Delhi when a neighbour called them to tell them it’s not safe to return to their village called Baghpat, in Uttar Pradesh, 30 miles from Delhi. It has approximately 250 Dalits compared to 7,000 Jats.

Meenakshi said: ‘My father got a call from a neighbour and told us not to come back. They said that the Khap panchayat – that are all Jats – took the decision to rape my sister and me and parade us naked. They want revenge.

‘It is wrong. We did nothing wrong so why should my sister and me be punished. They loved each other and it is they who decided to go. Why should we suffer?

‘We have not left the house, as we are scared they might send someone to attack us. I am finding it very difficult to cope. I am very scared.

‘People today are still living in the caste system; it’s the root of everything here. Right now I do not have any hopes, our future is ruined.’

Family bond: Meenakshi (pictured) and her little sister were with their family in Delhi for a wedding when a neighbour called and told them not to return to their village, as the village elders had ordered their punishment 

Family bond: Meenakshi (pictured) and her little sister were with their family in Delhi for a wedding when a neighbour called and told them not to return to their village, as the village elders had ordered their punishment

Sumit said: ‘I am still in shock that the Khap panchayat could be so disgusting. I knew it was going to be bad, I knew our family would be in trouble but I never expected this. The situation is getting worse and I do not see any hope.’

India’s Supreme Court has ruled that these village councils – known as panchayats – are illegal, but they continue to operate across India.

The family has appealed to the Supreme court for protection and Sumit has written to the Prime minister, Chief minister, Human Rights commission, schedule caste commission but no one has come forward to help yet.

Ravi got bail on June 26 but the family made the decision to keep him in prison because his life would be in danger if he was out on the streets.

Horrific tradition: India’s Supreme Court has ruled that these village councils – known as panchayats – are illegal, but they continue to operate across India. Pictured, the Ganges River in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 

Horrific tradition: India’s Supreme Court has ruled that these village councils – known as panchayats – are illegal, but they continue to operate across India. Pictured, the Ganges River in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Family’s lawyer Rahul Tyagi, 39, said: ‘We’ve been everywhere asking for action but nothing has been done. So now were are at the Supreme Court.

Where caste is concerned it is wrong, and this is all based on caste. But there is no caste in love.
Meenakshi Kumari, 23

‘We’ve asked a few things. No one has seen the girl so we are asking that the girl be produced before the court so we can ensure her safety and well being. We’ve also asked for an independent investigation into the false accusation of the boy.

‘And thirdly, a case should be registered against UP police for torturing the Dalit family and finally some security so the family can return to their home. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will come down heavily on these cases; I have every faith in the judicial system of this country.

‘These cases happen often in rural India. After media attention local politicians have come forward but still the family are in danger. But these cases would not happen in this country if the police act appropriately and did their job. The government officials have a duty to stop such atrocities.’

Meenakshi said that no one has seen Krishna since May and it is believed she is now allegedly saying that Ravi and Sumit held her captive for 10 days in Delhi and raped her.

Meenakshi said: ‘She is now saying that my elder bother Sumit and Ravi raped her for 10 days. She is saying that Ravi told her that he would get her a job in Delhi because his brother is in the police so she came with him and there they forced her to have sex.

‘But they have pressurised her. I know she loved my brother a lot. Loving someone is not wrong. But the girl is Jat and we are the untouchables.

‘Where caste is concerned it is wrong, and this is all based on caste. But there is no caste in love.’

Process of Getting “Virginity Certificates” in Afghanistan

A twenty-three-year-old woman whose stepmother poured acid on her nose at a young age to keep her from competing with her stepsisters for a good husband. The woman escaped to a shelter in Kabul run by the NGO Women for Afghan Women after her father tried to marry her off to a seventy-year-old man for money.

In the graphic opening of “Love Crimes,” writer Jen Percy interviews an Afghani hymen doctor after her first interpreter refuses to translate the sexual details. There are ledes, and then there are ledes. Percy examines the progress, if minimal, of women’s liberation in Afghanistan. She visits women’s shelters, often regarded as mental asylums, and interviews victims of horrific violence. It’s a painful, crucial read. –Alex Beggs

Find the full story in the January issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Gul Raham, the hymen doctor of Kabul, sat behind a wide desk in an office filled with purple plastic flowers. A bouquet of them drooped over a filing cabinet stuffed with virginity certificates. Two female gynecologists sat quietly on folding chairs. Raham wiped the condensation from his small glasses. “I am a man of science,” he said.

I asked Raham to explain his procedure for determining virginity.

“The hymen is a small curtain,” he began. “There’s a very small hole that allows liquid to come through, like the woman’s period. Sometimes we have a blocked hymen. No hole. We poke a hole in the woman if the fluid needs to come out. It’s very tiny and difficult to reconstruct.”

Most visits to the forensic center where Raham works involve questions of rape. Women raped by one or several men, or women whose families suspect that their daughters have been raped at domestic-violence shelters. If a man refuses a woman’s hand in marriage, she might accuse him of rape. Or, if a man rapes a woman, she might be forced to marry him, because in Afghanistan sex before marriage is dishonorable.

It’s a moral crime, according to the country’s customary codes. If you’re not in a shelter, you might be put in jail. By marrying your rapist, you can avoid jail time. In all cases the hymen must be checked. Sometimes suspicious husbands bring their wives in. “But if her hymen is O.K.,” Raham said, “then he will have shamed his wife, and the husband might go to jail.”

I was with a 28-year-old interpreter named Ahmer.* A twist of black hair stuck straight up from his head in the manner of a quail’s forward plume. He turned it nervously with his fingers. It’s rare for men in Afghanistan to talk openly about sex, and rarer still to do so in front of women. (My first interpreter had pretended he didn’t know about hymens and walked away.)

About a month earlier, Ahmer had visited the forensic center and encountered a shamed husband. “He accused his wife of adultery, but the hymen was fine,” he said. “All the workers were taunting him, telling him how he just couldn’t fuck his wife well enough.”

When a woman arrives, the doctors examine her arms and legs first, then move on to the external genitals. Then they go deeper, inside.

“If the doctor is not a professional,” Raham said, “even he can break the hymen by checking for the hymen. In all cases, we have to find out if the hymen has been recently or previously destroyed.”

I asked about the worst-case scenario. It was a young girl, he said, whose vaginal wall tore open during a rape. “Her feces—everything—came out,” one of the female doctors said. “Nonstop.”

“What about sodomy?”

“Yes, then we check assholes,” Raham said. “If it was fine and not used, or itching takes place, or there’s a reddish color on the side.”

Ahmer would not look at me. He covered his face.

“If the hymen is torn, we will take note about the condition under which the virginity was destroyed,” Raham said. “Then give the girl a certificate. Then, stamp and sign.” He gave me some examples of virginity-destroying conditions. Jumping off or falling out of a tree, he said. Raham pointed to the filing cabinet, which contained evidence of all the virgins that had passed through.

I asked about the effects of tampons, but Ahmer didn’t know the word. After a minute of confusion Raham said, “Oh, condoms, you mean? Condoms cause cancer.”

Read the rest of the Jen Percy’s “Love Crimes” here.

 

 

Malaysia: The Obedient Wives Club

A Club in Malaysia Tells Its Members to Be Whores — That Way, Their Husbands Don’t Have to Use One

The club has come under scrutiny for both its published works and vocal advocates, some of whom suggest that the only way a woman can keep her husband loyal is by acting like a “whore in bed.”

Lina Eroh

Over afternoon tea a few months ago, my husband and I learned about an organization called the “Obedient Wives Club.” It was founded in Malaysia in 2011 and the Penang branch counts several female doctors and other educated women amongst its members.

The goal of the club is as off-putting as its name: to teach wives how to submit to their husbands, in life and in bed.

The club has come under scrutiny for both its published works and vocal advocates, some of whom suggest that the only way a woman can keep her husband loyal is by acting like a “whore in bed.” According to one woman who has friends in the club, lessons also focus on treating your husband like the “emperor” he is and introducing new sexual positions into the bedroom.

Which brings me to the situation of women in Malaysia, and perhaps to a larger extent, how women are viewed and hence view themselves within the lens of Islam. Malaysia, a predominantly Islamic country whose Muslim population is governed by Sharia law, is in many ways a patriarchal society where women are subordinate objects to men. In no other place have I seen so many women covered from head to feet in the traditional tudong (at least their faces are exposed), while their husbands walk next to them in shorts and graphic t-shirts. And in no other place in Southeast Asia have I had women look at me in disgust as I pass by them wearing my own shorts and graphic t-shirts. I’ve even seen girls as young as five wear head coverings and full length outfits despite it being 90+ degrees outside and there being no law in place requiring such dress.

Malay women aren’t even supposed to leave their homes in the evening without being accompanied by their husbands — not for safety, but for modesty. So if you were a typical Malay man, which meeting would you rather drive your wife to?

The one in which she talks about improving the government/education system/environment or the one in which she talks about improving… your sex life?

In every country I’ve been so far, I’ve tried to learn about and understand the local way of life. I’ve spoken to people about why they choose to bathe in the river when they have hot showers in their unoccupied guesthouses, why they don’t send their children to school, andwhy they become prostitutes. I may not have agreed with the reasoning for their actions, but I tried to understand.

Malaysia has presented a unique problem. I simply can’t understand why Malay women put up with a society that objectifies them to an extent that I can’t imagine in my own life. I don’t know why they let their husbands keep them at home and tell them what to wear, even as they drive around town in BMWs wearing shorts and t-shirts. And I wonder how they can consider themselves lucky to be married to men who through their behavior act no better than pigs… or pimps.

The answer, of course, is religion, or rather a strict and perhaps too convenient interpretation of Islamic texts. Malaysia makes it illegal for Malays to not be Muslim, but in the past it has tried to embrace secularity and modernity when it comes to its global policies. Recently, however, many politicians, journalists, and scholars have grown increasingly nervous that Malaysia is veering away from secularity to become a strict Islamic state. There are noticeable hints on the ground that this change is indeed occurring. More women wear headscarves (or hijabs) than ever before, even though it’s not required by law. Sharia law is in full effect, with signs in 7 Eleven reminding Muslims that it’s illegal for them to drink alcohol and signs in fancy spas reminding Muslim men (but not women, seemingly since they’d never go to a Western spa alone) that it is forbidden for them to get massages by female masseurs. We’ve even learned of some public schools that don’t have food service available for non-Muslim students during Ramadan, essentially forcing them to follow a tradition that’s not their own. (After the student council at this school complained, the dean agreed to open one food cart with limited lunch hours for non-Muslim students. A student that bought food at the food cart was subsequently scolded by her Muslim teacher.) And a Muslim woman who happens to be a dog trainer was recently investigated and jailed for her “unholy” actions, which consisted of walking three dogs past a mosque and then washing their feet. (There is some confusion as to whether or not Muslims are allowed to touch dogs. Most Malaysian Muslims seem to believe it’s illegal, while Muslims from other countries say there are no laws against it.)

And it is in this societal context that women find themselves. By law, a Malay man is allowed to have four wives and countless numbers of divorces. Most men can’t afford to have more than one wife at a time, since having multiple families (technically) means you support multiple women and children. But there’s always that risk for the woman, the risk that her husband will ask her permission to take on another wife, or worse, just text her:

Talaq.

One time means we’re having problems.

Two times means things are getting worse.

Talaq talaq talaq.

Three times.

That means it’s over. For good. On legal grounds. And the woman who was never allowed to work outside the home is left alone, with however many kids all that crazy sex got her. There’s no way to demand child support, alimony, or anything else our Western minds want to demand from a man who just “feels” like leaving his wife.

So what’s a Malay woman to do? Certainly not refuse to wear loose clothing and a headscarf, at least not if she wants to be married. After all, most of the women here are still raised to think that marriage and children are the ultimate goal.

The suggestion of the Obedient Wives Club is to never let it get that far, to never let your husband even think about sending that text or consider glancing at that other woman. Because he wouldn’t ever leave you for a whore if you act like one in bed. Right?

Note: the members of the Obedient Wives Club are a small fraction of the Malay female population as a whole. However, the teachings of this club permeate throughout society and extend far beyond its headquarters, effecting both men and women. For example, when walking alone on a busy street in Malaysia in the middle of the afternoon, I received two marriage proposals within twenty minutes, both from Muslim men who I’m fairly certain had no time to consult their current wives.

This story originally appeared on Medium.com.

 

El Salvador: Women Jailed for Miscarrying

El Salvador is one of only five countries in the world with a total ban on abortion. Because of the Latin American nation’s strict anti-abortion laws, women who suffer miscarriages are sometimes accused of inducing abortions, and can even be imprisoned for murder.\

By Nina Lakhani

El Salvador has one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the world. A side-effect is that women who suffer miscarriages or stillbirths are sometimes suspected of inducing an abortion – and can even be jailed for murder.

Glenda Xiomara Cruz was crippled by abdominal pain and heavy bleeding in the early hours of 30 October 2012. The 19-year-old from Puerto El Triunfo, eastern El Salvador, went to the nearest public hospital where doctors said she had lost her baby.

It was the first she knew about the pregnancy as her menstrual cycle was unbroken, her weight practically unchanged, and a pregnancy test in May 2012 had been negative.

Four days later she was charged with aggravated murder – intentionally murdering the 38-to-42 week fetus – at a court hearing she was too sick to attend. The hospital had reported her to the police for a suspected abortion.

After two emergency operations and three weeks in hospital she was moved to Ilopango women’s prison on the outskirts of the capital San Salvador. Then last month she was sentenced to 10 years in jail, the judge ruling that she should have saved the baby’s life.

“Start Quote

I will never understand why they did this to me – I lost four years of my life ”

Cristina Quintanilla

Her lawyer, Dennis Munoz Estanley, says the legal system has an inbuilt “presumption of guilt” making it hard for women to prove their innocence.

“She is yet another innocent victim of our unjust and discriminatory legal system which jails poor, young women who suffer obstetric complications for murder on the most flimsy evidence,” he says.

Xiomara’s father describes the conviction as a “terrible injustice”.

He testified in court that his daughter had endured years of domestic violence at the hands of her partner. And yet the prosecution – which sought a 50-year jail term – relied heavily on this man’s allegation that she had intentionally killed the fetus.

Xiomara has not seen her four-year-old daughter since the miscarriage.

El Salvador is one of five countries with a total ban on abortion, along with Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras and Dominican Republic. Since 1998, the law has allowed no exceptions – even if a woman is raped, her life is at risk or the fetus is severely deformed.

More than 200 women were reported to the police between 2000 and 2011, of whom 129 were prosecuted and 49 convicted – 26 for murder (with sentences of 12 to 35 years) and 23 for abortion, according to research by Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Seven more have been convicted since 2012.

The study underlines that these women are overwhelmingly poor, unmarried and poorly educated – and they are usually denounced by public hospital staff. Not a single criminal case originated from the private health sector where thousands of abortions are believed to take place annually.

Maria Teresa Rivera in Ilopango jail

Maria Teresa Rivera in Ilopango jail, where she is serving a 40-year sentence

Munoz has worked with 29 of the incarcerated women, helping secure the early release of eight. “Only one intentionally induced an abortion, the other 28 suffered natural obstetric complications but were jailed for murder without any direct evidence,” he says.

Last year when Maria Teresa Rivera suffered a miscarriage, she was sentenced to 40 years in jail for aggravated murder.

Like Xiomara, Teresa, 28, had no pregnancy symptoms before sudden severe pain and bleeding, and was reported to police by the public hospital where she had sought emergency help.

The scientific evidence was flimsy, according to Munoz who will soon lodge an appeal, and the prosecution relied heavily on a colleague of hers, who testified that Rivera had said she “might be” pregnant a full 11 months before the miscarriage.

A textile factory worker, she was the family’s only breadwinner and her eight-year-old son is now living in dire poverty with his grandmother.

Cristina Quintanilla’s story is different. On 24 October 2004, the 18-year-old from rural San Miguel was seven months pregnant with her second child, living with her mother in the capital to be near a hospital for the birth.

Cristina Quintanilla

Cristina Quintanilla was sentenced to 30 years in jail

Her boyfriend was working in the US, but the couple were excited, buying baby clothes and saving food tokens.

“Around midnight I felt an immense pain, I thought I was dying,” Quintanilla says.

“I was banging on the bathroom door to get my mum’s attention when I felt the baby drop out. The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital.”

Her mother called the police – a typical step for Salvadorans in an emergency, who took them to hospital.

“Start Quote

I would be terrified to go a public hospital as there is no benefit of doubt given to young women, we are presumed guilty and jailed”

Bessy Ramirez, 27

Quintanilla was given an anesthetic, and interrogated when she came round. Then she was handcuffed to the hospital bed, charged with manslaughter and transferred to a police cell.

The first judge dismissed the case, but the prosecution appealed, upgrading the charge to aggravated murder.

Quintanilla was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in jail, where she was vilified as a child killer. Her son Daniel, then only four, spent four years living with his great-grandmother until Munoz succeeded in having the sentence reduced to three years.

“The medical reports couldn’t explain why the baby died, but the prosecutor made me out to be a criminal who could have saved my baby even though I had passed out in pain,” she says.

“I will never understand why they did this to me, I lost four years of my life and still don’t know why I lost my baby.”

Morena Herrera from Citizens’ Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion says these cases have had a chilling effect, with many pregnant poor women who suffer miscarriages or complications during pregnancy “too afraid to seek medical help”.

“I would be terrified to go a public hospital as there is no benefit of doubt given to young women, we are presumed guilty and jailed,” says Bessy Ramirez, 27, from San Salvador.

“We cannot even rely on health staff to put their prejudices aside and treat us confidentially.”

The strict abortion law has other serious human rights implications.

Suicide was the most common cause of death in 2011 among 10-to-19-year-old girls, half of whom were pregnant, according to Health Ministry figures.

It was also the third most common cause of maternal mortality.

Poster campaigning for right of Beatriz to an abortion

Poster campaigning for right of Beatriz to an abortion

Earlier this year, the plight of lupus sufferer Beatriz, 22, attracted international condemnation after the Supreme Court refused to authorize an abortion, even though her life was at risk and the fetus too deformed to be viable.

Beatriz’s health deteriorated while the court deliberated for several months. She gave birth at 27 weeks. The baby died within hours.

Individual members of the current FMLN government, particularly Health Minister Maria Isabel Rodriguez, criticized the abortion law during the controversy over Beatriz’s case. But the government has made no attempt to repeal or relax the law since coming to power in 2009, as it remains popular with large parts of the conservative population, who revere the Church and pro-life religious groups such as Si a la Vida (Yes to Life).

The Arena Party, which is strongly allied with the Church, is favorite to win next year’s General Election.

But Esther Major, Amnesty International’s El Salvador expert, describes the country’s abortion law as “cruel and discriminatory”.

“Women and girls end up in prison for being unwilling, or simply tragically unable, to carry the pregnancy to term,” she says.

“It makes seeking hospital treatment for complications during pregnancy, including a miscarriage, a dangerous lottery.

“It cannot be in the interests of society to criminalize women and girls in this way.”

 

 

Every Day Should be “Day of the Girl”

Around the world, 66 million girls are going without education. That’s bad for them, bad for society. We can change it

• You tell us – how useful are such international events?

Afghan girls in a classroom

Afghan girls in a classroom. Since 2001, the number of girls in schools has risen from a few thousand under the Taliban to 2.7 million. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty

Freida Pinto

Friday is International Day of the Girl, which means that, by tomorrow, the brief frenzy of outrage elicited by articles like this will have passed. This is human nature; I’ll be the first to admit that thinking about the scope of international female suffering often makes me feel like a metronome swaying between rage and despair. Because I know that globally a little girl is still worthless compared to her brothers. And because this makes no damn sense.

I take the long view. We are shortchanging humanity both economically and intellectually by throwing away the potential of our girls. As of this moment, 66 million of them do not get an education. There will be 14 million child brides in 2013 – that’s 13 little ones who were smeared in garish makeup and married since you began this paragraph. And 150 million girls are sexually assaulted each year, half of whom are barely pubescent.

It feels almost impossible to visualize these numbers and easier to just move on with the day. It is reasonable to conclude that until the last fundamentalist beheads a woman, we are doomed never to experience the true interdependence of men and women that we know we are capable of.

For sure, the day when the world’s girls are free from fear may be dismally far in the future. But I have seen the stuff they are made of, as I travel from nation to nation with Plan International. It has become strikingly clear to me how often the boundaries of females are casually breached. I have seen forced tiny prostitutes with dark circles under their eyes, child brides who died in childbirth – their bodies too underdeveloped to handle the stress, adolescents hobbled and feverish from extreme genital mutilation.

Freida Pinto, with Zoe Green

Freida Pinto working with Plan International. Photograph: Zoe Green

Like you, I have felt the agonies of empathy as I thought about Jyoti, my Indian sister gang-raped to death with a metal pole on a bus, or of Malala from Pakistan being shot in the head for simply asking to be a full human being. For simply wanting to learn.

And yet … how many girls have I met on my travels who have endured the worst but tell me they are not broken! Who clamor for education so they can become doctors or accountants! Who beg for birth control. Who come up with detailed plans to make their villages prosperous, but lack any backing to make their visions a reality.

We owe it to these small, bright sparks of humanity to overcome our world-weariness and take decisive, practical action, right now, before the browser refreshes. Clicking through to Girl Rising, for example, reveals how education shatters entrenched patterns of poverty and violence in just one generation. How can this be? Educated girls marry later and have fewer, healthier children. They participate in the labor force or start small businesses. Their work boosts their local economy and they put money aside to educate their daughters as well as their sons.

Crucially, these young women model different ways of being and relating to their sons. Men are the most powerful and vital allies a woman can have in the developing world, and in many cases, they are the key to allowing a girl to attend school. Men born to educated mothers are inclined to do just that.

We must refuse to let let this day pass by like a meaningless milestone. We must take action, with pride, knowing that there will be a ripple effect. Each of us will be directly affecting a girl’s subsequent economic potential and the fate of her future boys and girls. The gesture will be felt down the generations. By educating a girl today, you will change the world.

• for further details on contributing to Girl Rising’s work for female education,see here

Sudanese Woman Flogged in Public for Getting into Car with Man

  • Upsetting video shows the Sudanese woman cower and call out in pain
  • A police officer meted out the punishment under strict ‘public order’ law
  • The video was sent anonymously to a journalist
A Sudanese woman was filmed being whipped by a police officer for riding in a car with a man she wasn't related to

A Sudanese woman was filmed being whipped by a police officer for riding in a car with a man she wasn’t related to

By SAM WEBB

This horrific video shows a police officer flogging a cowering woman in the street as a crowd watches without protesting or intervening.

The crime that prompted this horrendous assault? She had ridden in a car with a man who she wasn’t related to, an offense that is prohibited by Sudan’s public order law.

The video is believed to have been taken in Khartoum, the capital, and shows the terrified and bewildered woman crying out in pain as lash after vicious lash rains down.

The woman, reportedly named Halima, cowers on the ground and tries to cover her head with a pink veil while a police officer stalks back and forth, before lining up a vicious swipe.

In the video, the police officer warns the woman: ‘This is so you don’t get into cars anymore.’

Meanwhile a crowd of onlookers mutely stands and watches the disturbing spectacle. The video was anonymously sent to a journalist, who uploaded it last month.

The accents of the people in the video point to it being filmed around Khartoum.

Mute witness: The crowd watches silently as the blows rain down on the terrified woman

Mute witness: The crowd watches silently as the blows rain down on the terrified woman

Khartoum’s governor, Abdul Rahman Al Khidir, reportedly said that he didn’t think the flogging was properly carried out, but still thought the woman was ‘rightfully punished according to the Shar’ia law,’ according to the New York Daily News.

Shar’ia law, a system of Islamic religious laws, is widely interpreted by Muslim communities around the world.

According to Think Africa Press, the women of Sudan have been suffering under article 152 of the penal code, an ‘inhumane, vicious and notorious’ law first implemented in 1991.

The woman attempted to cover her face with her pink veil during the attack

The woman attempted to cover her face with her pink veil during the attack

Menacing: The guard paces back and forth between blows

Menacing: The guard paces back and forth between blows

In the video, the police officer warns the woman: 'This is so you don't get into cars anymore.'

In the video, the police officer warns the woman: ‘This is so you don’t get into cars anymore.’

Article 152 of Sudan’s criminal code stipulates that any conduct or clothing in violation of public decency be punished with 40 lashes.

The law, which mainly targets women, is vague as to what constitutes indecent clothing, leaving room for the Public Order Police to arrest whoever they deem to be dressed inappropriately or committing an act of indecency.

The nation’s harsh laws came under scrutiny last month when a Sudanese woman said she was prepared to be flogged to defend the right to leave her hair uncovered in defiance of the ‘Taliban-like’ law.

Amira Osman Hamed faces a possible whipping if convicted. Under Sudanese law her hair – and that of all women – is supposed to be covered with a ‘hijab’ but Hamed, 35, refuses to wear one.

Her case has drawn support from civil rights activists.