Tuesday, 16 October 2012

“Tackling poverty requires improving access to justice for the poor” – UN expert on extreme poverty

Several people died due to hunger in the Bhuvan valley tea garden in  Assam

Statement to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – 17 October 2012

15 October 2012
GENEVA – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, has called on States to take immediate measures to ensure access to justice by the poorest segments of society in a statement to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. 

“Access to justice is a human right in itself, and essential for tackling the root causes of poverty,” said Ms. Sepúlveda, urging States to improve such access for the poor as a core part of their efforts to fight poverty. 

“Without access to justice, people living in poverty are unable to claim and realize a whole range of human rights, or challenge crimes, abuses or violations committed against them,” Ms. Sepúlveda stressed. 

People living in poverty face serious obstacles to accessing justice systems – including financial, social and physical barriers – which perpetuate and exacerbate their disadvantage.

“People living in poverty are often prevented from seeking justice due to the cost and time of travel to a distant courthouse, fees charged for filing claims or lack of free, quality legal assistance,” the Special Rapporteur said. “The poor may be denied legal standing to file a claim because they do not have an official birth certificate.”

“Lack of information about their rights, illiteracy or linguistic barriers, coupled with entrenched stigma attached to poverty, also makes it harder for the poor to engage with the justice system. In such circumstances, a person living in poverty cannot uphold their rights or challenge injustice,” she stressed.
Ms. Sepúlveda noted that even mature democracies struggle to ensure de facto equal access to justice by those living in poverty. “It is crucial to construct an inclusive justice system that is close to the people, both socially and geographically,” the independent expert said. 

“Ensuring access to justice for the poor requires well-functioning judicial systems and laws that do not solely reflect the interests of wealthy and more powerful groups but also take into account income and power imbalances,” she said. “Reforms must be implemented with the effective and meaningful participation of persons living in poverty.” 

Ms. Sepúlveda emphasized that women living in poverty face particular difficulties in access to justice, and this is a major cause of their greater vulnerability to poverty. In her view, “efforts to tackle poverty must include empowering women to seek justice, and ensuring that the justice system does not discriminate against them.”

“On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I wish to remind States and others that efforts to end poverty must be multi-dimensional and sustainable. Improving access to justice is a crucial part of any strategy,” concluded Ms. Sepúlveda.

The Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report to the General Assembly, to be presented on 30 October 2012, examines the obstacles that persons living in poverty face in accessing justice. See the report:http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/A-67-278.pdf

Magdalena Sepúlveda was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She is independent from any government or organization. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx

Check the Special Rapporteur’s “Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty”:http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A-HRC-21-50_en.pdf

The Guiding Principles are also available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Lidia Rabinovich (+ 41 22 917 9763 /lrabinovich@ohchr.org or write to srextremepoverty@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)   

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights   

Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en

For use of the information media; not an official record


The statement is available at http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B9C2E/(httpNewsByYear_en)/A5DBA85166516D66C1257A98002F42CA?OpenDocument

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Forced child marriage, slavery like reality in every single region of the world

This is a Statement issued  jointly* by a group of UN human rights experts to mark the first International Day of the Girl Child, Thursday 11 October 2012 

Every year an estimate of 10 million girls are married before they reach 18

GENEVA (11 October 2012) – “Girls who are forced to marry are committed to being in slavery like marriages for the rest of their lives. Girls who are victims of servile marriages experience domestic servitude, sexual slavery and suffer from violations to their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence. 

Every year an estimate of 10 million girls are married before they reach 18. In the most appalling of these cases, little girls as young as eight years old are being married off to men who may be three or four times their age. 

Child marriage cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities; 46% of girls under 18 are married in South Asia; 38% in sub-Saharan Africa; 29% in Latin America and the Caribbean; 18% in the Middle East and North Africa; and in some communities in Europe and North America too.   

Child marriage is a violation of all the rights of the child. It forces children, particularly girls, to assume responsibilities for which they are often physically and psychologically not prepared for.   

Girls who are forced to marry face a life of violence in the home where they are physically and sexually abused, suffer from inhuman and degrading treatment and ultimately slavery. 

Early marriages also impacts on girls’ right to education, health, and participate in the decisions that affect them. Girls who marry early often drop out of school, significantly reducing their ability to gain skills and knowledge to make informed decisions and to earn an income. An obstacle to girls’ and women’s empowerment, it also hinders their ability to lift themselves out of poverty. 

Child brides are more likely to get pregnant at an early age and, as a result, face higher risk of maternal death and injury due to early sexual activity and childbearing. 
A vast array of international instruments recognizes the right to free and full consent to marriage. In particular, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women states that the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, requires States parties to take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing practices that are harmful to children. 

Today, on the first United Nations International Day on the Girl Child, we call on States to increase the age of marriage to 18 years of age for girls and boys without exception and adopt urgent measures to prevent child marriage. As with all forms of slavery, forced early marriages should be criminalized.  They cannot be justified on traditional, religious, cultural or economic grounds. 

However, an approach which only focuses on criminalization cannot succeed in effectively combating forced early marriages. This should go hand in hand with public awareness raising campaigns to highlight the nature and harm caused by forced and early marriages and community programmes to help detect, provide advice, rehabilitation and shelter where necessary. In addition, birth registration should be made universal to support proof of age and prevent forced early marriage. 

On this International Day of the Girl Child, we remind States of their obligation to promote and protect the rights of girls and that harmful practices against girls, including early and forced marriage should be put to an end, in accordance with international law. 

No girl should be forced to marry. No girl should be committed to servile marriage, domestic servitude and sexual slavery. No girl should suffer from violations to their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence. Not a single one.” 


Girls who are forced to marry are committed to being in slavery like marriages for the rest of their lives

(*) This joint statement was issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, the UN Special Rapporteur on Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Slavery, including its causes and consequences, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children and the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice. 

Check the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cedaw.htm, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm

Monday, 1 October 2012

Struggles in Assam


Adivasis in Assam are struggling for schedued caste status for decades. But those of them who live in Barak valley only demand increase of their megre wages and giving them their other legal entitlements as tea plantation labourers so as they can save themselves from starvation and malnutrition deaths. Bengalis in Assam occasionally demand that those of them who are genuine Indian citizens should not be harassed and their right to use their language and to preserve culture should not be taken away. Bengali speaking Muslims sometimes feebly join their Hindu counterparts in their first demand, though their socio-economic condition is by no means better than the Adivasis (excepting that all non-Bodos living in Bodoland are demanding for scrapping or amending the Bodoland accord). A section of Assamese people is still fighting for a separate sovereign state of Assam independent of India. A section of Bodo community is also busy in armed struggle for their independent homeland while another group wants a Bodoland state independent of Assam but within India. All other small and big ethnic communties want separate states or autonomous homelands within Assam. The boundaries of demnaded homelands overlap to a great extent and the fight turns among themselves.

Except Bengali Hindus and Muslims and perhaps Adavasis, all communities are right now up against illegal Bangladeshis while the former groups in principle do not oppose this demand of expulsion of illegal foreigners but fear witch-hunt and therefore want their protection.

But all people of Assam in unision want the state of exception under the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 has to be ended, projects of big river dams that jeopardise the livelihood and ecosystem must be crapped and, yes, all want the regime of corruption and impunity must be ended. 

The energies of the people get nearly exshausted in sectarian struggles. People continue to fight among themselves and kill each others. State repression, elite and mafia (overground and underground) opression and corruption and loot by politicians and bureaucrats continue unabated while peace and progress keep elluding the state and people.