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Pakistan: Upholding blasphemy death sentence against Christian woman ''a grave injustice''
by Amnesty International
16 October 2014
A Pakistani court’s decision to uphold the death sentence against a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges is a grave injustice, Amnesty International said.
The Lahore High Court today rejected the appeal against the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.
“This is a grave injustice. Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place – still less sentenced to death – and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
“There were serious concerns about the fairness of Asia Bibi’s trial, and her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row. She should be released immediately and the conviction should be quashed.”
Asia Bibi’s lawyer said after today’s verdict that he will file an appeal to the Supreme Court.
On 4 January 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was killed by one of his security guards after campaigning for Asia Bibi and criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, was killed by the Pakistani Taliban on 2 March 2011.
“The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas – both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims – while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence. Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards,” said David Griffiths.

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Empowering adolescent girls: ending the cycle of violence
by UN News, agencies
The International Day of the Girl Child was created to recognize girls rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face worldwide. This year focuses on “empowering adolescent girls: ending the cycle of violence.”
“All over the world, an alarming number of adolescent girls are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated and even murdered,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message marking International Day of the Girl Child.
“The threat of violence at the hands of family members, partners, teachers and peers grossly violates their rights, diminishes their power and suppresses their potential”.
Adolescent girls, in particular, face “multiple deprivations” such as unequal access to education, sexual and reproductive health services and social and economic resources.
“Girls are subjected to discriminatory social norms and harmful practices – such as female genital mutilation – that perpetuate a cycle of violence. A culture of impunity allows violence against adolescent girls to continue unabated”.
We must all join forces and reaffirm our commitment to ending violence against adolescent girls and to promoting their empowerment.
We need to invest in adolescent girls to equip them with skills, confidence, and life options; we need to make services and technology accessible to girls and effective in meeting their needs for safety, connectivity and mobility; we must facilitate adolescent girls engagement in civic, economic and political life; we must all continue to advocate for making any violence against girls and women visible and unacceptable both in private and public domains. And we must continue to strengthen the measurement, data, and evidence base in relation to the empowerment of and violence against adolescent girls.
The UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign is working to raise awareness and increase political will and resources in the ongoing fight against violence against women and girls. The campaign known as HeForShe calls on all men to become active participants in the continuing efforts for gender equality.
“Ending gender violence and promoting the empowerment of girls and women must be at the heart of our global agenda”.
The level of violence and abuse adolescent girls continue to face remains distressingly high, according to a new compilation of data issued by the UN Children"s Fund (UNICEF).
An estimated 70 million girls aged 15 to 19 report being victims of some form of physical violence while around 120 million girls under the age of 20 have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts. At the same time, 70 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 who had been victims of physical or sexual violence never sought help as many said they did not think it was abuse or did not see a problem.
“These numbers speak to a mind-set that tolerates, perpetuates, and even justifies violence – and should sound an alarm to everyone, everywhere,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.
“The problem is global but the solutions must be found at the national, community and family level. We have a responsibility to protect, educate, and empower adolescents. We are all accountable for ending violence against girls.”
UN Women"s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, warned that such widespread gender-based violence ultimately led to “a catastrophic loss of human potential”.
“The promise made to girls must be delivered. Protecting girls from all forms of violence and promoting girls empowerment must be at the heart of the global development agenda,” she said.
“The International Day of the Girl Child is an opportunity to step up collective action to break the cycle of violence against girls and women. Empowering girls today makes for a safer, healthier, more prosperous and sustainable tomorrow.”
A group of UN human rights experts also called on Member States to bring their efforts against gender violence “to the next level” to “move beyond awareness-raising to supporting adolescent girls as key actors in shaping the present and the future.”
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, said, "today, the international community pays tribute to the one billion young girls living around the world; acknowledges their immense potential for the future of humanity and once again commits to eradicating the unique challenges that regrettably still stand in the way of fully realizing such promising potential.
Today, we must renew our collective commitment to do all that we can to protect their daily lives as children and ensure their promise for adulthood as constructive and productive citizens is fulfilled.
The shameful truth remains, however, that the cycle of violence against girls is yet to be decisively broken. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of girls subjected to terrifying forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based crimes, whether in armed conflict or otherwise.
Sexual violence is often used as a most destructive criminal weapon of war. As we have seen time and again, it has the power to not only destroy the individual, but to shatter the family unit and tear violently at the social fabric of society.
Forced marriages continue to blight the lives of countless girls, and an estimated 100,000 girls are currently being used as child soldiers in raging conflicts around the world. The effects of such crimes on the girls are unbearable to contemplate. It is a global curse that weighs heavily on our collective consciousness.
Violence against girls and women is a scourge that must be confronted with unified resolve. We all have a role to play in this struggle.


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