7-30-19 Triple talaq: India criminalises Muslim 'instant divorce'
India's parliament has approved a bill that makes the Muslim practice of "instant divorce" a criminal offence. "Triple talaq", as it's known, allows a husband to divorce his wife by repeating the word "talaq" (divorce) three times in any form, including email or text message. The Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 2017. Supporters say the new measure protects Muslim women. Opponents say the punishment is harsh and open to misuse. Men found in breach of the new law can be jailed for up to three years. The bill was first tabled in 2017 but stalled in the upper house of parliament, where some MPs called it unfair. India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supports the bill, while the main opposition Congress party opposes it. There have been cases in which Muslim men in India have divorced their wives by issuing the so-called triple talaq by letter, telephone and, increasingly, by text message, WhatsApp and Skype. A number of these cases made their way to the courts as women contested the custom. Triple talaq divorce has no mention in Sharia Islamic law or the Koran, even though the practice has existed for decades. Islamic scholars say the Koran clearly spells out how to issue a divorce - it has to be spread over three months, allowing a couple time for reflection and reconciliation. Most Islamic countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq, but the custom continued in India, which does not have a uniform set of laws on marriage and divorce that apply to every citizen. Campaigners and political parties are sharply divided over the bill. The Congress party and others have questioned the need to criminalise triple talaq after the practice was already outlawed by the country's top court. They accused the Hindu nationalist BJP of targeting Muslim families.
7-29-19 Questions over India teen rape victim's car crash
A teenager who accused a ruling party lawmaker of rape in 2017 has been seriously injured in a road accident in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state. The 19-year-old was travelling with her lawyer and two relatives when their car was hit by a lorry on a state highway. The two female relatives of the girl have died and her lawyer is also in hospital with serious injuries. The girl's mother has alleged foul play, saying that the collision was not an accident and demanding justice. The family want police to open a murder investigation against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is accused of raping the teenager. Police this afternoon, registered a complaint naming him and 10 others in connection with Sunday's incident. Mr Sengar has been in custody for more than a year on accusations of raping the teenager. He denies the charges. He has been charged under India's stringent child protection laws since the teenager was a minor when she was attacked. Local police officer Rakesh Singh told BBC Hindi that the truck driver and owner of the vehicle have been arrested and taken in for questioning. Some reports suggest the vehicle's registration plate was smeared with black paint. Police told NDTV that while they were still investigating the matter, at the moment they were treating it as an accident. But opposition parties in the state have called for a federal investigation into the incident, saying the circumstances of the crash are "suspicious". The leader of the state's main opposition Samajwadi Party, Akhilesh Yadav, was quoted by Hindustan Times newspaper as saying the incident "could be a murder attempt". The victim was on the way to a prison to meet her uncle - who is lodged there in connection with a different case - when the crash happened in Rae Bareli district on Sunday afternoon. Police said the girl and her family had been provided with security, but "our information suggests the security wasn't with them" on Sunday.
7-26-19 Why Carroll stays armed
E. Jean Carroll recently moved her gun to her bedside table, said Ed Pilkington in The Guardian (U.K.). “It’s loaded,” says Carroll, 75, holding the revolver by its fake pearl handle in her tiny cabin in upstate New York. She’s been sleeping with it at arm’s reach for several weeks, since publishing What Do We Need Men For?, which recalls “the hideous men of my life.” No. 20 is President Trump, who Carroll says pinned her against the wall of a dressing room in the Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman and penetrated her against her will (she dislikes the word “rape”). It was late 1995 or early 1996, she says. Since making the accusation, Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle, has received several death threats, while Trump brushed it off by saying, “She’s not my type.” His defense “was so dumb,” Carroll says. “‘When I rape a woman, I don’t rape a 52-year-old in Bergdorf. I rape a blond 28-year-old.’” Trump has been largely unscathed by her allegation and numerous accounts of sexual assault by other women, which she attributes to society’s expectations about presidents. “We crave powerful male leaders who grab what they desire without asking.”
7-25-19 Forced penetration: If a woman forces a man to have sex, is that rape?
When a man has penetrative sex with a woman without her consent, that's rape. But what if a woman makes a man have penetrative sex with her, without his consent? That's not rape under the law of England and Wales, but the author of a new study of the phenomenon says perhaps it should be. Dr Siobhan Weare of Lancaster University Law School carried out the first research into forced penetration in the UK in 2016-7, gathering information from more than 200 men via an online survey. Her latest study, published this week - based on one-to-one interviews with 30 men between May 2018 and July 2019 - explores in greater detail the context in which forced penetration occurs, its consequences, and the response of the criminal justice system. All the participants were anonymised, but I will call one of them John. John says the first sign that something was wrong was when his partner started to self-harm. After a particularly frightening incident he rushed her to A&E for treatment. The couple spent hours discussing possible psychological causes. About six months later instead of harming herself, she trained her sights on John. "I was sitting in the living room and she just came in from the kitchen, punched me very hard on the nose and ran off giggling," John says. "The violence then started happening quite regularly." She tried to get help from her GP, John says. She had some counselling, and she was referred to a psychologist - though didn't attend the appointment. She'd come home from her job "and basically demand sex", he says. "She would be violent, and it got to the stage that I dreaded her coming back from work." On one occasion John woke up to find that his partner had handcuffed his right arm to the metal bed frame. Then she started hitting him on the head with a loudspeaker from the stereo system beside the bed, tied up his other arm with some nylon rope and tried to force him to have sex. Scared and in pain, John was unable to comply with her demands - so she beat him again and left him chained up for half an hour, before returning and freeing him. Afterwards she refused to talk about what had happened. (Webmaster's comment: Any forced penetration is rape regardless whether it's victim is a man, women or child!)
7-25-19 Baiq Nuril Maknun: Indonesia grants amnesty to woman who recorded boss
Indonesia's parliament has approved a pardon for a woman sentenced to jail for recording a call with her boss to prove he was sexually harassing her. President Joko Widodo granted the amnesty to Baiq Nuril Maknun after the Supreme Court rejected her appeal. The mother of three wept as she told parliament: "Don't let anyone else have an experience like mine." Activists say the case highlights Indonesia's lack of safeguards for women in sexual harassment cases. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the six-month jail sentence handed to the teacher for recording and sharing a phone conversation she had with her boss, saying she had produced no new evidence. Nuril was held in police custody during the trial for two months and three days, but did not serve time in prison. She told parliament, to applause from lawmakers: "It hurt so much. I hope there won't be any more victims, and women should dare to speak up." Baiq Nuril Maknun had complained of getting lewd phone calls from the headteacher of the school she worked at in Mataram, a city on the island of Lombok. She recorded one of the calls in which the head teacher allegedly made sexually explicit and abusive comments. The recording was later distributed among staff at the school and submitted to the head of the local education agency. It also went viral on social media. The headteacher - who court documents say lost his job after the recording was circulated - reported her to the police for distributing the recording of their conversation. She says it was shared by someone else. A local court initially cleared her but prosecutors took the case to the Supreme Court. It found her guilty in November of "violating decency" and fined her 500 million rupiah (£28,200; $35,200). President Widodo had previously said he would consider a request for a pardon if she failed in her legal appeals. Her lawyers stressed their client had not committed a crime. (Webmaster's comment: If at all possible blame the woman!)
7-22-19 Ex-US Senator Al Franken regrets resigning over sexual misconduct claims
Former US Senator Al Franken has said he "absolutely" regrets resigning from his post in 2017 following a wave of accusations of sexual misconduct. The Minnesota Democrat stepped down just three weeks after allegations of unwanted touching first surfaced, amid mounting pressure from colleagues. Mr Franken told The New Yorker he wished his case had first been examined by the Senate Ethics Committee. Now, seven of the 36 Democrats who demanded he resign say they regret it. Mr Franken's hastened resignation came after Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden claimed the former Saturday Night Live comic "aggressively" kissed her while they rehearsed a scene during a 2006 tour to entertain US troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan. "Differentiating different kinds of behaviour is important," he said. "The idea that anybody who accuses someone of something is always right -that's not the case. That isn't reality." Ms Tweeden declined to comment to the New Yorker. As pressure from his colleagues escalated, Mr Franken recounted a late-night meeting with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in which Mr Schumer issued an ultimatum: Mr Franken must quit or the minority leader would rally the entire Democratic caucus to call for his resignation. Through a spokesperson, Mr Schumer denied that he threatened to turn his caucus against Mr Franken, but confirmed he called upon the Minnesota Democrat to step down. Mr Schumer's demand came before any independent investigation or Senate Ethics Committee hearing had taken place. "I couldn't believe it," Mr Franken told The New Yorker. "I asked him for due process and he said no." Several Democrats told the New Yorker they regret their own role in Mr Franken's downfall during the winter of 2017. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, called his role in Mr Franken's resignation "one of the biggest mistakes I've made" in his 45 years in the US Senate. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth echoed Mr Leahy's regret, and lamented the absence of any investigation or hearing into Mr Franken's behaviour. It is important to acknowledge the trauma of Mr Franken's accusers, Ms Duckworth said, but added: "We needed more facts. That due process didn't happen is not good for our democracy."
7-19-19 98% get away with rape!
The U.S. government estimates that police departments in the U.S. have warehoused more than 200,000 untested sexual assault kits, although some estimates are far higher. About 125,000 rapes are reported in the U.S. annually—with the alleged assailant going free 49 out of 50 times.
7-19-19 U.S. scientist murdered
A 27-year-old Greek farmer has confessed to the rape and murder of Suzanne Eaton, an American molecular biologist whose body was found in an abandoned World War II bunker on Crete last week. Eaton, 59, was attending a scientific conference on the island and disappeared after going out for a hike. The unnamed suspect was arrested days after police obtained DNA evidence from nearly a dozen people who lived near the crime scene. Police said the suspect confessed that he saw Eaton walking and, “motivated by sexual satisfaction,” struck her twice with his car. He put the unconscious scientist in his trunk and drove to the bunker, where he raped and choked her to death. Eaton, who worked at the Max Planck Institute at Dresden University in Germany, is survived by her husband and two children.
7-18-19 Ayia Napa: Twelve teenagers in court after 'British woman raped'
Twelve Israeli teenagers have appeared in court in Cyprus over the alleged rape of a 19-year-old British woman. The alleged attack was said to have taken place in a hotel in the popular holiday resort of Ayia Napa. The boys - who are aged between 16 and 18 except one, who is 15 - have not yet entered any pleas. They have been remanded in custody and police have been given a further eight days to investigate. The British woman contacted police in the early hours of Wednesday morning saying she had been raped in a hotel in Ayia Napa. Later that day police arrested the 12 teenagers. During the hearing on Thursday morning, judge Tonia Nicolaou confirmed the names of those arrested before reporters were told to leave the courtroom due to the age of one suspect, the 15-year-old boy. The parents of several of those arrested flew from Israel to the court hearing in Paralimni, near to the Ayia Napa resort. The suspects were led through the court building handcuffed to each other in pairs. Some parents shouted messages of support and embraced them. The mother of one of the suspects told the BBC her son had done nothing wrong. An Israeli diplomat was present in court and said they would monitor but not interfere with the case. The Foreign Office has said it is supporting a woman who was assaulted and says it is in contact with local police.
7-11-19 The sex scandal at the heart of the Afghan government
Afghanistan has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment at the highest levels of government. Officials deny wrongdoing but a BBC investigation has heard from women who describe a culture of abuse. In a house near the foot of the dusty mountains that surround Kabul, I meet a former government employee. She asks to remain anonymous because she fears a backlash. But she wants the world to hear her story. She says her former boss, a senior minister in the government, repeatedly harassed her, and one day when she went to his office, tried to physically assault her. "He directly asked me for a sexual favour. I told him I'm qualified and experienced. I never thought you would say such things to me. I stood up to leave. He grabbed my hand and took me to a room at the back of his office. He pushed me towards the room and told me, 'It'll take only a few minutes, don't worry, come with me.' "I pushed him by his chest and said enough. Don't make me scream. That was the last time I saw him. I was so angry and upset." Did she file a complaint after the incident? "No, I resigned from my job. I don't trust the government. If you go to the court or to the police, you will see how corrupt they are. You can't find a safe place to go and complain. If you speak out, everyone will blame the woman," she tells me. The former government employee says that two other women have told her that the same minister raped them - a claim the BBC has not been able to independently verify. "He's doing this brazenly, without any fear because he's an influential man in the government," she says. Afghanistan consistently ranks as one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman. A UN report released in 2018 detailed how women who are victims of sexual crimes and violence are pressured to withdraw their complaints. In many cases, they are blamed for the offences committed against them.
7-5-19 Norway ex-minister Svein Ludvigsen guilty of sexually abusing asylum seekers
A Norwegian ex-cabinet minister has been given five years in jail for sexually abusing three asylum seekers. Svein Ludvigsen, 72, was found guilty of abusing his position as a regional governor and exploiting the vulnerable situation of the three young men. They said they believed their response to Ludvigsen's demands for sex could either result in being deported or securing permanent residency. Ludvigsen has maintained his innocence and vowed to appeal. The ruling was handed down on Wednesday but only made public the following day. The events took place in Troms, a county north of the Arctic Circle, between 2011 and 2017. The men, now aged 25, 26 and 34, told the court that they first met Ludvigsen when he was Troms governor and that he offered them housing and jobs in exchange for sexual favours. The abuse took place in Ludvigsen's home and country house, in hotel rooms and in his office, they said. One was aged just 17 at the time, while another was said to have a "mild intellectual disability". Ludvigsen was ordered to pay the men damages totalling 743,000 Norwegian kroner (£69,000; $87,000). During the trial, the former politician admitted to having sex with one of the men but said it was consensual. He also admitted to lying to police about it. However, he denied having sex with the two others. In its verdict, the court said the defendant had deliberately taken advantage of his status to have sexual intercourse. He knew that there was a fear that as county leader (Ludvigsen) he could revoke an asylum seeker's citizenship.
7-2-19 Virginia bans 'deepfakes' and 'deepnudes' pornography
Virginia has become one of the first places to outlaw the sharing of computer-generated pornography known as deepfakes. The US state has done so by amending an existing law which criminalised so-called revenge porn - the malicious sharing of explicit photos or videos without the victim's consent. It now makes clear that the category includes "falsely-created" material. The move coincides with a report critical of the UK's own laws. The study, published by Durham University and Kent University, highlighted that artificial intelligence software had made it much easier to create deepfakes and at the same time the imagery was becoming more difficult to identity as having been manipulated. "We must overhaul our out-of-date and piecemeal laws, including criminalising the paralysing and life-threatening impact of threats, and recognising the significant harms of fake porn," said one of the authors, Prof Clare McGlynn. The report said the lack of specific laws covering the issue in England, Wales and Northern Ireland meant the police were often only able to give an informal warning. However, it noted that the law in Scotland was better at covering cases involving altered imagery. Last month, the Ministry of Justice asked the Law Commission to review the issue in England and Wales. However, the independent body is not due to report back until the summer of 2021. "While I welcome the Government's recognition of the need for a comprehensive review of the law, we know that deepfake pornography is harming people right now and any delay means justice delayed," commented Prof McGlynn. Fake pornography had initially been dominated by "photoshopped" stills which had been created by hand. But last year, some developers applied machine learning techniques to the task, to make it relatively easy to create videos. To make a deepfake, the software involved needs to be fed photos of the subject taken from different angles. An algorithm then uses this information to replace the face of another person in a video with a computer-generated version of the target's, mimicking the original's expressions.
7-1-19 India arrests after mob attacks female forest officer
Sixteen men have been arrested after a female forest official was brutally beaten with sticks by a mob as police officers watched in the southern Indian state of Telangana. The mob, led by a member of the state's ruling party, was protesting against a tree plantation drive on Sunday. A video of the incident has gone viral, and the party has condemned the attack on Twitter. The forest officer is being treated in hospital for severe injuries. A video of the incident shows the mob attacking the officer with bamboo sticks, as she stands on a tractor and tries to placate them. She is repeatedly hit with the sticks until forest officials and local police step in to disperse the mob and contain the attack. The footage has gone viral in India and led to outrage across the country. This prompted a high-ranking official of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party, Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao, to condemn the incident on Twitter. The leader of the mob has been identified as Koneru Krishna Rao, a local official who is the brother of a TRS lawmaker. The party confirmed that he has also been arrested. In his defence, Mr Rao told local media that he was trying to "ensure justice for tribal farmers as forest officials were destroying their crops". "The forest department is terrorising tribal farmers and confiscating their land forcefully", he alleged, adding that the attack was "accidental". Two police officers, who were at the scene at the time of the attack, have been suspended for failing to protect the officer, BBC Telugu confirmed. The incident occurred in the town of Kagaznagar, where the state's forest department has been authorised to carry out a plantation drive as part of the Kaleshwaram project - a large irrigation scheme, which was inaugurated last week. Opposition parties in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party, have strongly condemned the attack.