We’re well into the 21st century and homosexuality is a punishable crime in multiple countries, and survivors of rape and members of the media who report sexual violence face ridiculous fines and even jail time. These outrageous setbacks for human rights worldwide have us scratching our heads and shouting, “say what?!?”
1. Being gay could land you in the slammer
On February 24th, Uganda’s President signed into law a bill that punishes gay people with 14 years in jail, and life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality.” Adding insult to injury, the law makes it a crime not to report gay people. Uganda is the latest country to pass laws criminalizing homosexuality, which is similar to one passed in Nigeria in January; in June 2013, Russia passed its controversial anti-propaganda law; and who could forget when India reinstated its 1861 law banning gay sex last December.
2. Syrian women and children face rage instead of refuge
The Syrian crisis has been marked by systematic, brutal violence against women and girls, including rape as a weapon of war. Equally horrific: reports of violence from overflowing refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and beyond. In the largest camp for Syrian refugees, Zaatari, on the Jordanian border, a bridal boutique that has sprung up in a small tent – where the average age of girls wearing a bridal gown is 15 – has become a disturbing symbol of rampant child marriage, trafficking, and other forms of sexual violence.
3. Somalia: Report a rape, go to jail
In December, a 19-year-old Somali woman was sentenced to six months in jail for reporting her rape – the second time in 2013 that a woman in Somalia faced jail time for reporting sexual violence. The Somali court also sentenced two male journalists who interviewed the survivor and reported on her experience for defamation and “offending state institutions.” Oh, the irony.
4. 24 million child brides = 24 million reasons to act
India has 24 million child brides, the highest number in the world, despite the fact that the legal marriage age is 18. In September, India refused to join 107 other countries in co-sponsoring the first-ever U.N. resolution calling for the end of child marriage to be included in the post 2015 global development agenda.
5. Think you have control over your body? Think again.
Many countries – including the United States – restricted access to safe, legal reproductive and sexual healthcare in recent months, even in the case of sexual violence and rape. 2013 saw the largest wave of legislation aimed at restricting access to abortion in the U.S. in the decades since Roe v. Wade, with North Dakota, Kansas, Virginia, Arkansas, and Alabama enacting strict laws to restrict access to abortions. One of the most horrific being Michigan's "rape insurance" law. In El Salvador, where there is a complete ban on abortions, the heartbreaking case of Beatriz was a harsh reminder that the global fight for reproductive rights is far from over.