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New Report Shows Educators Are Targeted in Armed Conflict
by Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack
July 14, 2014
Attacks on teachers and other educators are a disturbingly common tactic of war and a serious threat to education, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said in a new study released today, Protecting Education Personnel from Targeted Attack in Conflict-Affected Countries. The report describes how teachers have been targeted around the world and documents various ways communities have tried to keep them safe.
“On Malala Day, we should also remember the courage of teachers like Malala’s father, who too often place their lives at risk simply by going to work and doing their job,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA’s director. “Attacks on teachers strike at the very heart of a community, and more must be done to protect them.”
Malala Day – July 14 – celebrates the courage of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist shot by the Taliban in 2012 for her work to promote girls’ education.
The report draws from interviews with global practitioners, documents from international and local organizations, and field research in the Philippines. It highlights the devastating impact of violence against educators on the education system. Attacks can deplete the teaching force, as teachers and professors are intimidated, injured, killed, or forced to flee. In the longer term, they can exacerbate teacher shortages, disrupt education and employment cycles, and impact a country’s development.
“In many places, there is already a significant gap between the number of trained teachers and the demand for education,” said Nijhowne. “When low pay is compounded with the risk of attacks, there is little incentive to enter and stay in the teaching profession, weakening the education system even further.”
Teachers Targeted in at least 23 Countries since 2009
Over the last five years, teachers and other education staff have been targeted for assassination, killed, injured, tortured, detained, extorted, and harassed in areas of conflict and instability in at least 23 countries, according to Education under Attack 2014. In Nigeria, where the militant group Boko Haram abducted almost 300 schoolgirls exactly three months ago, the President of the National Union of Teachers reported that the group had also killed 171 teachers since 2009.
The motives for attacks vary. Some educators face threats because of their classroom activities: they refuse to allow armed parties to recruit children from schools, they teach girls, or their lessons include particular topics and not others. Others are targeted because of their ethnicity, their association with the government or a warring party, their political activities, or because they engage in education-related advocacy.
In the Philippines, for example, education personnel are required to serve as poll workers during elections, resulting in an upsurge in attacks on teachers during voting periods. Ahead of 2010 elections in Maguindanao, unidentified gunmen assassinated a principal and a teacher at an elementary school that is regularly used as a polling station. Teachers in the Philippines also experienced harassment and attacks when schools were used by armed parties for military purposes, such as barracks and camps, despite national laws prohibiting this practice.
Protecting Teachers from Attack
Educators who face attacks require more protection, GCPEA said. The new report examines measures taken to protect teachers, including: arming teachers, using armed and unarmed civilian guards, setting up community protection committees, relocating and transferring teachers, negotiating with belligerent parties to keep schools and teachers off-limits, and monitoring and reporting attacks. Some of these measures bring their own risks. Armed guards in southern Thailand, for example, themselves became the targets of attack, putting in the line of fire the very teachers they were hired to protect.
The report also assesses strategies to prevent attacks in the long term, including increasing accountability and ending impunity for attacks, enacting protective legislation and policy, and developing conflict-sensitive education programs and policies. Teachers’ unions and human rights groups in Colombia and Zimbabwe, for example, have taken perpetrators to court for attacks against teachers, with some successes in Colombia.
Finally, the report offers guidance to practitioners and policymakers on what they can do to help improve teachers’ security.
“Teachers play a crucial role in enlightening and inspiring the next generation of leaders like Malala,” said Nijhowne. “For the sake of their children, their societies, and their future, it is imperative that States galvanize efforts and resources to keep teachers safe.”
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Honduras must address widespread impunity for crimes against women, girls
by Rashida Manjoo
UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women
An independent United Nations human rights expert has urged the Government of Honduras to address the culture of widespread impunity for crimes against women and girls, while also noting that incidents of violence against women appear to be on the rise in the Central American nation.
“In Honduras, violence against women is widespread and systematic and it impacts women and girls in numerous ways,” the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, said in a statement delivered on Monday following an eight-day mission to the country.
“The climate of fear, in both the public and private spheres, and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women, is the norm rather than the exception,” she added.
During her mission, which took her to Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba, Ms. Manjoo noted “scores of concerns as regards the high levels of domestic violence, femicide and sexual violence.”
Noting that Honduras is currently in a state of transition, she welcomed current attempts “to build institutions; foster trust and confidence in the new Government set up in January 2014; and address the climate of widespread and systematic crime, corruption and impunity.”
In particular, she welcomed the legislative, policy and programmatic measures taken by the Government to fight violence against women, including the recent amendments to the Penal Code to incorporate femicide as a specific crime.
However, Ms. Manjoo noted that incidents of violence against women appear to be on the rise, with an increase of 263.4 per cent in the number of violent deaths of women between 2005 and 2013.
Regrettably, without accurate, reliable and uncontested data, it is impossible to grasp the magnitude of violence against women in Honduras and to develop appropriate policies and responses to address it, she said.
Trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation purposes is also underreported in Honduras, mainly due the hidden nature of the crime and also the prevalence of organized crime.
The expert identified persisting and significant challenges in addressing violence against women, including the lack of effective implementation of legislation, gender discrimination in the justice system, inconsistencies in the interpretation and implementation of legislation, and the lack of access to services that promote safety and help prevent future acts of violence.
The lack of accountability for acts of violence against women and girls also remains a major obstacle, Ms. Manjoo said. It is reported that there is a 95 per cent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes.
She underlined that the State has a responsibility to hold accountable State authorities who fail to protect and prevent the violations of women’s human rights, due to a lack of response or due to ineffective responses. “The best interests of all women and girls should guide the response of the Honduran Government,” she stated.
“The importance of accountability as the norm for acts of violence against women cannot be over-emphasised, more especially within a context of generalised impunity for violence in the public and private spheres,” said Ms. Manjoo.
“The lack of focus and effective measures to address women’s empowerment needs is also a factor that contributes to continuing insecurity and fear, and precludes the possibility of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
“I have noted with concern, the ineffective measures to address social transformation through activities that are not sustainable and that do not meet the goal of addressing myths and stereotypes about gender roles and responsibilities.”
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