UN :Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women
27 March 2006 INTEGRATION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND A GENDER PERSPECTIVE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Ertürk
Summary At its sixty-first session, the Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 2005/41 entitled “Elimination of violence against women”, encouraged the Special Rapporteur to respond effectively to reliable information that comes before her and requested all Governments to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of her mandated tasks and duties, to supply all information requested, including with regard to implementation of her recommendations, and to respond to the Special Rapporteur’s visits and communications. The present report contains, on a country-by-country basis, summaries of general and individual allegations, as well as urgent appeals transmitted to Governments between 1 January and 31 December 2005, as well as replies received during the same period. Observations made by the Special Rapporteur have also been included where applicable. Government replies received after 31 December 2005 will be included in the Special Rapporteur’s next communications report. Due to restrictions of length of the report, the Special Rapporteur has been obliged to summarize the details of all correspondence sent and received. The Special Rapporteur wishes to emphasize that the omission of a particular country or territory should not be interpreted as indicating that there is no problem of violence against women in that country or territory. The names of the victims whose cases are presented in this report have been replaced by initials, in order to respect their privacy and to prevent further victimization. The full names of nearly all victims have been provided to the Government concerned. With a view to preserve the presumption of innocence, the same procedure has been adopted by the Special Rapporteur withr egard to the alleged perpetrators whose names were transmitted to the Government. Bahrain Urgent appeal 10.On 13 June 2005, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning G.Y.J., 38, living in Muharraq, a leading women’s rights activist, President of the Women’s Petition Committee and President also of the Bahrain Social Partnership for Combating Violence Against Women. According to information received, G.Y.J., as the head of the Women’s Petition Committee, which is a network of activists demanding reform of Bahrain’s family laws and family courts, reportedly organized, during four years, protests, vigils and a hunger strike in an effort to draw attention to how the existing family court system allegedly discriminates against women. She also presented numerous complaints to the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the King reporting the mishandling of cases by certain judges. According to information received, defamation charges were brought against her in three separate cases for having publicly criticized family court judges. If convicted, she faced up to fifteen years imprisonment. The first court hearing took place on 9 June 2005. The second sitting was, at the time this communication was sent, scheduled for 19 June 2005. Moreover, according to information received, there are two separate family courts in Bahrain hearing personal status cases, including those of marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance - one for Sunni Muslims and another for Shia Muslims. Since there are reportedly no written personal status laws in Bahrain, judges hearing these cases have the authority to take decisions according to their own reading of Islamic jurisprudence. On many occasions, cases are reportedly decided arbitrarily to the detriment of women’s rights and dignity. For example, according to information received several judges denied women custody of their children because they worked or were pursuing higher education. On the basis of this information, the Special Rapporteur had expressed concern that the above-mentioned family courts might not be in compliance with international laws and standards on women’s human rights. Government reply 11.By letter dated 8 July 2005, the Government responded to the communication of 13 June 2005, concerning G.Y.J. The Government explained that several judges of Sharia courts had lodged complaints against Ms. G.Y.J., which led the Department of Public Prosecutions to launch an inquiry into the matter. They summoned Ms. G.Y.J. twice for questioning but did not arrest her. Ms. G.Y.J. was then charged on three counts of 1. Publicly insulting the Shariah courts of the Kingdom of Bahrain, an offence for which the penalty is up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 500 dinars; (2) Using abusive language in a telephone conversation, against a Shariah judge, an offence for which the penalty is up to six months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 50 dinars; and (3) Insulting a Shariah judge, an offence for which the penalty is up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to 50 dinars. The criminal court delivered its judgment on 19 June 2005, dismissing the first charge on procedural grounds and referring the second and third charges to the lower courts. The Government explained that the criminal case brought against Ms. G.Y.J. was not related to her activities as a human rights and women’s rights activist. The Government also explained that the Shariah courts in Bahrain are fair, impartial and transparent. Bahrain’s Shariah courts are subdivided into the Sunni courts and the Ja`fari courts, which apply Islamic law according to the school of law to which the person before it adheres or which he or she chooses upon marriage. The Shariah courts are governed by the Code of Shariah Procedures, which regulates both schools of law and establishes two levels of courts. In addition, the Judicial Authority Act defines the subject matter jurisdiction of the Shariah courts and regulates all matters relating to the discharge of their functions. The Government also highlighted safeguards in place to protect women and children’s rights with regard to Shariah courts, such as regular and unannounced inspections and numerous guidelines issued for litigants in proceedings before Shariah courts. The Higher Council of the Judiciary and the Shariah courts are working together on the elaboration of a personal status code to codify and develop the Islamic Shariah, taking account of the Kingdom’s concern for the protection of women and children’s rights. The Government also highlighted the role of the Higher Council for Women in promoting and protecting women’s rights.
Letter of allegation 12.On 19 September 2005, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, sent a letter of allegation concerning the alleged mistreatment of migrant women working as domestic workers in Bahrain. According to the information received migrant domestic workers, who typically live with their employers, are excluded from the protection of the 1976 Labour Law for the Private Sector. Many have to work 15 to 17 hours a day, seven days a week, and their employers often restrict their freedom of movement. Since their legal status in Bahrain depends on the continued visa sponsorship of their employers, migrant domestic worker who flee exploitative situations risk arrest, prolonged administrative detention and deportation. Their vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that many employers take away their migrant domestic workers’ passports, a practice that is reportedly officially tolerated. In addition, public authorities often privilege employers in disputes involving migrant workers. In extreme cases, domestic migrant workers may also be subjected to physical or sexual abuse. In this connection, the Special Rapporteur brought to the Government’s attention allegations she had received relating to the situation of Ms. A.B.J., an Indonesian girl. A.B.J. was recruited through a Jakarta- based private employment agency by a Bahraini married couple when she was 16. The couple agreed to sponsor her visa and employ her as a domestic worker. While she was actually born in 1989, the head of her Indonesian home village helped arrange for her a passport that falsely stated her date of birth as 1 August 1978. After A.B.J. arrived in Bahrain on 24 June 2004, her employers took her passport away. On the evening of 26 June 2004, her employer touched her intimate body parts against her will. His wife was present when the incident occurred but did not protest. On the evening of the next day, after the wife had left the house, the employer forced A.B.J. to watch a pornographic film, tore off her clothes and touched her intimately once again even though she screamed in protest. The next morning, A.B.J. informed the wife about the incident but the wife did not react. Approximately one month later, the wife told A.B.J. that she could earn additional money if she agreed to have sexual relations with men. That same day, she was forced to leave the house with an unknown man who took her to the premises of a factory where he and another man raped her. The man told A.B.J. that he had paid the wife to have sexual relations with her. Even though she was bleeding and suffered strong pain after being raped, her employers did not allow her to seek medical assistance. Instead, the wife gave her pain killers. In the weeks thereafter, A.B.J. was forced to have sexual relations with a number of men, including the husband/employer. To diminish her resistance, A.B.J. was given stimulant drugs, reportedly Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (also known as Ecstasy). During the entire period she was confined to the house and was not able to communicate by mail or telephone. Only on the occasion of a relative’s visit did she manage to contact her employment agency in Jakarta with the relative’s mobile phone. The employment agency then organized her rescue. A criminal investigation was opened and the husband was detained for a brief period of time but then released. A forensic medical examination proved that A.B.J. had had repeated sexual intercourse, but no blood test was taken to determine the nature of the drugs she had been given. The husband/employer was indicted for rape and the wife for facilitating prostitution. A court hearing was, at the time this communication was sent, scheduled to take place in September 2005. ABJ’s former employers still retained possession of her passport and had, at the time this communication was sent, neither paid her wages nor compensated her for the sexual violence suffered.
Letter of allegation 12.On 11 October 2005, the Special Rapporteur sent a letter of allegation concerning the alleged mistreatment of A.B.S., a migrant domestic worker from Indonesia working in Bahrain. According to the information received, Ms. A.B.S., a 22-years-old Indonesian domestic worker from Central Java, was placed with an Egyptian family in September of last year by agency X, specifically with her male sponsor, his two brothers and their mother. On 17 September 2005, she was taken to the hospital (Salmaniya Medical Complex, SMC) after being severely beaten by her sponsor’s mother. She suffered a fractured left forearm, cuts to her head and scratches on her neck. The incident was reported to the police on 18 September. Ms. A.B.S. declared that she had been repeatedly beaten by her sponsor's mother ever since she began working with the family for different reasons, including when it was considered that she was late in completing a task. The sponsor’s mother also cut Ms. A.B.S.’ hair against her will. Ms. A.B.S. also stated that, until the time this communication was sent, she had only received two-monthly salaries of $182 (BD68.600); Both salaries were sent to her family in Indonesia. Moreover, Ms. A.B.S.’ family was only allowed to contact her after one year that she had been working in Bahrain. In April 2005, her relatives reportedly contacted the employment agency, which in turn contacted A.B.S.’ sponsor. Her sponsor did not, however, allow the agency to speak to Ms A.B.S. directly. Ms A.B.S. said she wrote several letters to her family and gave them to her sponsor's mother to post, but was not sure if they were ever sent. The Indonesian Consular Office was, at the time this communication was sent, arranging for Ms. ABS to speak to her family. Observations 13.The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government for its extensive reply to her communication of 13 June 2005 and looks forward to receiving replies to her letters of 19 September 2005 and 11 October 2005. 14.With reference to her communication of 13 June 2005 concerning Ms. G.Y.J., the Special Rapporteur kindly requests the Government to provide her with information on how the implementation of the different measures referred to in the Government’s reply to ensure the protection of women’s rights before the Sunni courts and the Ja`fari courts, are being monitored. 15.Moreover, the Special Rapporteur would appreciate receiving further information concerning the grounds on which the charges referred to were brought against Ms. G.Y.J. and how these grounds are compatible with her rights and freedoms, including those of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and those provided for in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. 16.The Special Rapporteur regrets not having received any reply to her communication of 19 September 2005 concerning Ms. A.B.J. The Special Rapporteur invites the Government to reply to the issues and questions she raised in her communication, and to keep her updated of the outcome of the court proceedings, including the award of any compensation to A.B.J. 17.The Special Rapporteur regrets not having received any reply to her communication of 11 October 2005. With respect to both A.B.J. and A.B.S., the Special Rapporteur would appreciate receiving detailed information of all measures which are in place in Bahrain to regulate and monitor the working conditions of all migrant workers in Bahrain, including their right not to be subjected to violence by their employers.