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Girls Speak Out About Sexual Pressure

by Melinda Tankard Reist, Contributing Writer for AnaiRhoads.org

Molly, 16, (at their request, only first names are used) was asleep in the home of a friend after a party a year ago when a boy snuck into the room.

The schoolgirl from regional NSW says she felt powerless. ”I felt threatened. I guess I knew he wasn’t going to take no for an answer, that all he wanted was sex.

girl distressed

”I do think he knew I didn’t want to do it, but he also knew he would be able to force me to anyway, and I do believe he had power over me.”

When others heard about it they called Molly – a virgin until then – an ”attention seeking slut” who was ”asking for it”.

Aurora, 16, was at a party where a drunk boy tried to assault her. If not for her friend’s intervention, she would have been raped.

”A friend had to pull him off me so I could get away. If she hadn’t been there I don’t know what might have happened. I am, petite, 5’6′, he was at least 6’4. He could have easily overpowered me.” She was shaken and distressed for days. Neither girl reported what happened.

This is the reality for so many girls in their sexual experiences. And the pressure isn’t just from strangers.

An idea floats around that girls are sexually freer than ever. That they are exercising ”agency” in their sexual decisions and having great sex lives. That’s not what I’m hearing as I talk to girls all over the country.

For so many girls it appears the boy calls the shots. It’s submission disguised as freedom. Many feel they are not allowed to say ”no”.

And the stories girls used to tell me at 16 and 17, they are now telling me at 13 and 14.

Somehow, despite the women’s movement, despite ”Girl Power” sloganeering, girls have become disempowered.

Shannon is bright, articulate and confident. I met her at a Tasmanian school recently. She is a leader among her peers. Yet she captured what so many girls are experiencing: a struggle to assert themselves in relationships with males.

”I felt this overwhelming feeling of being lower than my boyfriend,” she said. ”I felt as though he was the male therefore he was dominant over me and I was there purely to fulfil his physical needs.

”I feel my needs, both sexually and emotionally, come second to my partner’s.”

sunherald18nov2013

At a private girls’ school in Melbourne, girls shared their experiences. Jen, 16, said: ”When you are in love they are allowed to treat you however.”

”If you say you want to wait, you are asked ‘why?”’ said Marly, 16.

”Girls want love and they are willing to compromise themselves to get it,” said Marina, 16. ”They need that validation. Boys feel they have more worth. They often think when they are in love, even when he treats you badly, they think this is meant to happen, I deserve this, this is how relationships are meant to be.”

”We are stuck in mindset of them having power over us,” said 16-year-old Micaela. Samantha, 16, believes girls are taught by media and popular culture that having sex will give them a sense of worth. ”If you don’t have sex he will leave for someone else.”

A 15-year-old Tasmanian student, teased for being a virgin, was planning to ”get it over and done with” with a 19-year-old she had met twice. He was happy to oblige, telling her feelings didn’t have to come into it. She told me this with tears streaming down her face. It was clear she wasn’t ready.

Girls say that it’s hard to keep feelings out. ”Girls get affected more, they are more emotionally connected and think they are in love,” said Marly.

”For girls sex is more of a sacred thing with someone you love. With boys it is seen as more of a joke … they have a different mindset. Girls have different attitudes, guys don’t seem to care that much,” said Jen.

Girls describe being touched inappropriately, frequently pushing away unwanted hands.

”At parties boys come up and just touch you,” said Micaela. ”You are there as an object. If you don’t do what they want they call you frigid”.

But girls are growing tired of being reduced and degraded in these ways. They are increasingly demanding respect-based relationships in which their wishes and desires are treated equally, not last. ”I stand up for myself now,” Aurora told me.

The sexual landscape is grim, but let’s hope more girls are empowered to follow Aurora’s lead. Listening to girls’ experiences and supporting them to stand up for themselves – as well as calling boys out on their abusive and too often criminal behaviour – is more helpful to them than persisting with media fantasies about the wonderful and liberated sex lives of Australian girls in the 21st century.

sunheraldsmh

As published in the Sun-Herald November 17 2013

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Father Barters 5 year old Daughter for Land

Mamnoon claimed the girl’s father was a drug addict, who recently sold his seven years old daughter to another man

By Muhammad Jan Tamkin

A man has bartered his five years old daughter to a boy in return for 1.5-acre of land in northern Jawzjan province, fuelling concerns among rights campaigners.

Maghfirat Samimi, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) chief for Jawzjan, Faryab and Sar-i-Pul provinces, identified the minor girl as Asma — a resident of Darzab district.

She told Pajhwok Afghan News the girl was presently living with her family near the Shiberghan airport. The boy’s family had initially agreed to marry her on reaching puberty.

But now they are adamant on her marriage, according to Samimi, who vehemently denounced the so-called non-age wedding.

She quoted the girl’s parents as opposing their daughter’s sale and seeking help from human rights advocates. In an attempt to wriggle out of the vexing situation, they are ready to return the piece of land.

The AIHRC official said that an application from Asma’s mother for a settlement of the issue had been referred to the police headquarter.

Col. Abdul Malik Mamnoon, the Jawzjan crime branch chief, confirmed the girl’s plea had been under consideration and the problem would be addressed over the next few days. Both parties have been summoned as part of the ongoing investigation.

Mamnoon claimed the girl’s father was a drug addict, who recently sold his seven years old daughter to another man. The girl’s relationship with her in-laws had been tense, he added.

A jovial Asma, blissfully ignorant of the meaning of a marriage contract, said: “I don’t know anything in this regard and want my father to enroll me in school.” She wants to be a doctor or teacher before tying the knot.

Surrounded by three children and her eyes welling up, the girl’s mother acknowledged her spouse had sold another seven years old daughter to a 25 years old man.

Mistreated and beaten, the girl has now left her father-in-law’s house and is living with her parents. She informed her parents of the harrowing circumstances she was living in. He father Ramazan said economic constraints had forced him into selling his daughter.

Meanwhile, a religious scholar condemned the act as un-Islamic. Maulvi Muhammad Osman said Islam has specified a girl’s marriageable age. A person deviating from Islamic teachings would face Allah’s wrath, he said.

The AIHRC official warned cases of child abuse and other unwholesome social customs, if not checked, would rise dramatically. Samimi recalled 86 accident of violence against women and girls were recorded in Jawzjan last year.

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No Childhood for Most Afghani Children

Children can be found working in precarious conditions in mines; in brick kilns and agriculture; tending livestock and on the streets

By Sohaila Weda Khamosh

Child labour is rampant in Afghanistan. Many children are forced by circumstances to do hard labour for a trifling wage. They risk long-term health problems, even death. For most children a normal childhood and school are distant dreams.An Independent Media Consortium (IMC) investigation*.

On the basis of information provided by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) there are 1.9 million working children in the country.

Decades of war and poverty have forced them into the ranks of workers. Children have to contribute to family incomes and shoulder the responsibility of looking after siblings and disabled relatives. As a result of chronic conflict there are many orphan children.

Children can be found working in precarious conditions in mines; in brick kilns and agriculture; tending livestock and on the streets. Findings by the IMC reveal their earnings are at best paltry. It could be as little as 1,000 Afs a month (17 USD).

Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994. Labour laws lay down a minimum age – 15 years – and number of hours of work – not longer than 35 hours a week. But IMC found children working for 20 to 24 hours a day in mines.

Coal mine

A mine called Gawmargi in Dahan-e-Tour in Dare-i-Souf Bala in Samangan province is one of those that are mined by local people. When IMC visited the mine there were children between 8 and 18 years busy at work, cutting the coal seams and transporting the coal on donkeys to the bazaar in Dahan-e-Tour, 5 kms from the mine.

A boy carries rubbish for recycling outside Kabul December 15, 2010
A boy carries rubbish for recycling outside Kabul December 15, 2010. Children can be found working in precarious conditions in mines; in brick kilns and agriculture; tending livestock and on the streets. Findings by the IMC reveal their earnings are at best paltry. It could be as little as 1,000 Afs a month (17 USD).

The mineworkers are hard to miss. Everyone, including the children, is covered in soot; their clothes and faces dirty from the coal.

Pir Mohammad, a worker in Gawmargi, says there are at least a hundred children in the mine, including two of his own.

He says children are paid 10,000 Afs (170 USD) on the average every month. He is a contract worker, and is paid 50,000 Afs per month (870 USD).

Khal Mohammad, 13, has been working for the last two years in Gawmargi. He says he works from 1 in the morning to 7 or 8 pm. He herds the donkeys carrying coal to the bazaar at least 15 times daily. It takes him more than an hour to just load and unload the coal.

Khal Mohammad has a sibling in the mine – his eight-year-old brother. They are the family’s sole breadwinners since their father’s death many years ago.

The two brothers live along with other mineworkers in a tent. Once a year they visit their family in Moshak Village in the same district, spending two or three days with them.

IMC fixed an appointment with engineer Ewaz Ali, head of mines in Dare-i-Souf, for an interview but he did not turn up.

Salt mine

Children as young as 10 are employed in the salt mine of Taqcha Khana in Namak Ab district, Takhar province. It is one of the mines in the High Mountain area.

Local people have been illegally mining here. They pay no tax to the government.

Abdul Kabir, head of Taqcha Khana Community Developmental Council (CDC – under the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development) says there are more than 1,000 children. “Their rights have been entirely ignored. The mine should be recognised by the government. Then it will have legal status, and workers will be able to decide salaries. When it is illegal, workers are exploited. Benefits go into the pockets of government officials for looking the other way,” says Kabir. He puts the conundrum facing workers in a colourful way. “People only toil; they don’t even get to fill their stomachs with food.”

On the basis of information provided by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) there are 1.9 million working children in the country.

The Killid Group, Nov. 9, 2013

Here too like in the Gawmargi coal mine children transport salt to Taqcha Khana bazaar on donkeys, a 1.5 km journey by foot.

Ezatullah is 15 years old. He says he has worked in Taqcha Khana since he was 10. He spends nearly 12 hours transporting the salt to the market; the rest of the time he has to work in the salt pans.

Ezatullah’s father and brother are also working in the mine. The three of them together earn roughly 300-400 Afs a day (300 Afs is 5 USD).

The work is hard but they have no choice. “If we don’t work we won’t have food to eat,” says the father, Abdul Razaq. While Razaq and his older son extract the salt – almost 350 kg a day – Ezatullah takes it to the bazaar where he sells a ser of salt (7 kg) for 4 Afs (57 Afs is 1 USD).

Feda Mohammad Tashi, head of mines in Takhar, admits children are working in the mine. But the practice is soon coming to an end, he claims, with the mining being contracted to a company that will not hire children. IMC could not find out more details about the unnamed company.

Ministry of Mines (MoM) spokesperson Mohammad Rafi Rafiq Sediqi,said children are banned in mines licensed by the government. He claimed that once before a company had leased the salt mine, but its contract was cancelled when it broke the law against child labour.

On the question of child labour in the salt mines, he said they were not working in the mine but transporting the salt by donkeys. “Children are guides for the donkeys,” he insisted.

The government has been trying to create other job opportunities in the area to increase means of livelihood, he claimed.

Nasrullah, commander of a police unit in Namak Ab,told IMC that attempts to stop child labour have failed because families want children to work and contribute to the household budget.

Gold mine

Most children in Malik Haye Khatayan, besides Taloqan (capital of Takhar province) spend the day sieving sand from the banks of the river for gold. Sharp eyes and nimble hands are essential for this tiring process of gold washing which is done after adult gold diggers have finished their work.

Imam Mohammad is the foreman of the gold washers. He says there are some 7,000 mine workers in Khatayan, and at least a third are children. They earn 150-200 Afs (up to 3 USD) daily from selling the tiny pieces of gold they find.

Noor Ahmad is a 14 year old from Farkhar in Takhar province. He was carrying a basket of sand along with a 13-year-old boy when IMC stopped to talk to him. Ahmad said he was staying in his sister’s house. He worked day and night, and earned 200 Afs on most days.

Gold washing was his autumn and winter job, he explained, when the water levels were lower in the river. During the summer he was a farm worker.

Most workers in the mine said they started work at 8 in the morning, and ended at 5pm.

Brick kilns

According to figures from the National Union of Afghanistan workers, there are 50,000 children in brick kilns Deh Sabz and Qarabaghdistricts, Kabul. There are 900 kilns in the two districts, and they are the biggest source of jobs here. An adult brick worker could earn between 400 and 450 Afs (a maximum of 7 USD) for producing 1,000 bricks.

Afghan children work in Kabul

IMC findings reveal boys and girls as young as six years are working in brick kilns along with their families.

The children are not paid separate wages since they are only seen as helping the adults. In this even families are complicit.

Khilaigul is an elderly worker in a brick kiln in Deh Sabz.”We give only 10-20 Afs to our children, just to make them happy,” he says indulgently.

Nari is a 6-year-old girl. She has been assigned to turn the half-dried bricks. There is red dust on her face, eyelashes and lips. “I am working in the brick kiln along with my father,” she lisps in a dialect. “I earn 10 Afs daily and buy myself something to eat,” she tells IMC. About her daily routine, she says: “When we have breakfast we go to work and in the evening we go home.”

In some places, the wage rate for child labour in brick kilns is specified.

Arshad is an eight-year-old resident of DehSabz. While putting the mud into the brick moulds he told me, “There is poverty … The contractor gives my father the money, and he gives me 100 Afs a day (1.7 USD).”

Hajji Arsala, the owner of a brick kiln, says the production work is contracted out to a family. It is the responsibility of the family elder to assign work. They are responsible for hiring child labour, he adds. “We don’t hire the children (in brick kilns). When the elders give them work we cannot interfere,” the brick owner very cleverly passes on the buck.

He claims that if owners were to prevent children from working, the families would abandon their work.

In Kabul

The UN’s children’s agency UNICEF has calculated that 37,000 children are working on the streets of Kabul. They may be washing vehicles, in workshops, selling plastic bags, transporting goods in wheelbarrows, and many other jobs.

They could be as young as seven years, and working 17-hour days.

Seven-year-old Husain is selling plastic bags outside Cinema Pamir in Kabul. He says he is in grade two. He talks easily about himself. “I earn 30 Afs or more daily. We are five people in the family. We don’t have money, so I have to work. We live in a rented house.”

Hamidullah is 17. He unloads trucks bringing in fruit and other things into Kabul during the day. At night he is an apprentice cook at the Hotel Hamsafar. He finishes work at 1 am.

Hamidullah says he earns between 100-150 Afs at the fruit market, and at the hotel he is paid 3,000 Afs per month. He gets to eat what guests leave. There is no tradition of carrying away food if you have over ordered.

Sometimes when work at the truck stop is slow, Hamidullah says he sells bananas. He has to work because his father is old and ill, he adds. His 20-year-old elder brother works in the fruit market. Together they support a family of 17 members.

Risks

Child workers are exposed to all kinds of risks whether they are working in the mines or on the streets of Kabul.

Ewaz Ali, foreman in Gawmargi coalmine, says there are no safety mechanisms in the mines. There can be roof collapses. Workers suffer from chronic chest-related problems because of the dust.

Qahraman is a mine contractor in Gawmargi. He admits workers are not protected. “The roof (of the mine) could collapse anytime. There are cases when lives have been lost, even of children. My brother was seriously injured 17 years ago. He is at home, paralysed, unable to move. Many people, old men, children, young, have suffered injuries.”

On September 14 this year a coal mine in Samangan collapsed. Twenty-seven workers were killed, and 30 were injured in the accident in the Abkhorak area of Royi Du Ab district.

Ahmad is 48 years old. He says he worked in the salt mines for eight years, and now he has hired labour to work for him. “The work in mines is very dangerous. Two children were caught by the salt (sucked into a pit) and died. Children (in the area) do not go to school; they carry loads. They are at risk every moment because accidents could take place any minute,” he says.

Ahmad could not say when the accident involving the two children happened. Their bodies were never retrieved, he added. The government should give compensation, and improve safety standards particularly for children working in mines, he pleads.

Ministry of Mines spokesperson Mohammad Sediqiadmitted the laws on safety in mining were inadequate. The ministry has drafted a new mining law, which was approved by the ministers’ council on May 26, 2013, and sent to the National Assembly.

According to Sediqi, chapter 13 of the new law includes issues such as workers’ safety. Workers must be provided helmets, and other safety gear, for instance.

DrReza Nazari of the Mazar-e-Sharif Regional Hospital says she knows of a child worker who fell into a salt well when he was trying to come out after he had finished work. The child was brought to the hospital but unfortunately did not survive.

Dr Sayed Asadullah Sadat, the head of Polyclinic, Kabul Child Health Hospital, says it is hard to estimate the numbers but children are brought to the hospital with injuries that could only be as a result of dangerous work like mining.

Akram Bek, 16, who works in the salt mine of Taqcha Khana, has asthma. “I am ill. My lungs hurt, I have asthma. The clinic here is not well equipped, and I can’t go to the city for treatment.”

Dr Sadat says child workers in the mines are worst affected. “It is dangerous work for children,” he is categorical.

Illiteracy

Many of the children IMC spoke to have never been to school because they are too poor.

According to letter number 405 dated June 1, 2013from the education department, Namak Ab, Takhar province, to the security commandant 105 students have not been attending the Kabir Shaheed middle school. The education department has urged the security commandant to take action.

Nasrullah, commander of the police unit, who investigated found that 80 of the children are working in Taqcha Khana salt mine.

He says, “We summoned 80 of them along with their fathers to security commandment. The fathers said that if our children don’t work and go to school, what would we eat? Their work is the only source of income for us.”

The commander said the children were forcibly sent to school. “But it did not last. They again started working in the mine. We could do no more.”

Nasim is a 15-year-old worker in the coal mine of Gawmargi. “I have to work. We are five people in the family, my father has died,” he is clearly desperate.

Sajad Agha, 13, an apprentice in a motor workshop in the Parwan-e-Se of Kabul, says he dropped out of school last year because of financial problems at home. He is lucky: his “master” pays him a stipend of 300 Afs daily even as he teaches him the work.

Double burden

Matiaullah, 13, is in grade six at Guzragah school. He works as an apprentice metal worker all morning and goes to school after lunch.

Fariba Haidari, a teacher at his school, says there are at least 60 children, in class 4 to 7, who work, selling plastic bags or washing cars. A majority of the children are orphans, who have no support at home, and are unable to cope with school work.”When you ask them questions, they cry, and say they are working after school in the bazaar,” she laments.

(*) Ms Khamosh is an investigative reporter working at Killid, which is a member of the Independent Media Consortium (IMC) together with Hasht-e-Subh, Nawa radio networks, Saba TV network, and Pajhwok Afghan News. The IMC has set up an investigative reporters’ team led by Mr. Abdul Qadir Munsef and supervised by Mr Ricardo Grassi, IMC’s coordinator. The IMC is investigating cases of corruption and human rights abuses with financial support provided by Twanmandi.

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