American survivor of female genital mutilation calls on US to take action

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “American survivor of female genital mutilation calls on US to take action” was written by Alexandra Topping in New York, for The Guardian on Monday 12th May 2014 13.10 UTC

A 24-year-old American survivor of female genital mutilation called on the US government on Monday to help bring an end to FGM in the United States by gathering vital information about the practice in an effort to protect girls across the nation.

Jaha Dukureh, a mother of three from Atlanta, is urging President Barack Obama to order the department of health and human services to carry out a new study on FGM in the US that would establish how many American women and girls are at risk of the practice – the first step in tackling a crime that experts say stubbornly persists despite legislative efforts.

NGOs and survivors from affected communities have told the Guardian that American girls are being taken overseas to be cut, while others are cut by hired women on US soil. When legislation outlawing FGM in the US was passed in 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services put the number of women and girls affected or at risk at 168,000. But as affected communities have grown, the number is believed to have grown by 35% to at least 228,000 by 2000, according to research from the African women’s health center of Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has endorsed Dukureh’s campaign, which is being highlighted by the Guardian, calling FGM “a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States”. Supporters can sign her petition on the Change.org website.

“There is no way you should be born in America and still be worried about female genital mutilation,” said Dukureh. “America is the land of the free. In this country girls are protected. But FGM is not something that is happening in a far away place, it is happening here to American girls. They may come from immigrant communities, that doesn’t make it acceptable.”

Ban Ki-moon said FGM had to be tackled as a human rights issue. “I am proud to lend my voice to this important campaign. Governments around the world must work to protect girls from the barbaric practice of FGM,” he said.

He added that he had been inspired by meeting Fahma Mohammed, the young British activist who spearheaded a campaign in the UK, which resulted in the British government writing to all schools warning teachers about the dangers of the practice.

“Her courage and conviction show that one person can make an enormous difference. Now we are seeing Jaha Dukureh taking up the challenge in the United States, where I hope she will have equal success,” he said. “FGM is a terrible threat to girls and women, including those in the United States and other countries where the practice is not well-known. We have to break all taboos about speaking out against this practice so that we can end it.”

He added his voice to the call for better data collection and more government and public commitment to tackle the practice. “We need more information on how many girls are sent from the United States for FGM, we need more discussion about the issue – and above all, we need action,” he said.

FGM on a minor has been illegal in the United States under federal law since 1996 and 22 states have passed their own FGM laws. Last year, through the Girls Protection Act, Congress closed a loophole which meant girls could still be taken back to home countries in the summer – a practice known as “vacation cutting”. Only six states have outlawed vacation cutting.

Joe Crowley, the Democratic congressman for New York’s 14th district – who alongside Republican Mary Bono Mack spearheaded the passing of the Girls Protection Act in 2013 – said: “People have the idea that this is happening elsewhere and not right here in their backyard. The reality is FGM is taking place here and is happening to US citizens.”

He called for greater awareness among professionals who might come into contact with victims. “We have the laws we need in place,” he said. “What we now need is a campaign of education, of understanding and compassion by law enforcement, by educators and by the medical community We need to bring all forces that can be brought to bear to eradicate FGM in this country. “

Without a prosecution under federal law and little awareness of the highly secretive ritual, experts warn that the practice is still being carried out when girls are taken to meet extended families, or is happening by hired “cutters” on American soil.

Mariama Diallo, African Community Specialist at Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit that works with affected communities, said she regularly came across cases of high school students who had been taken “home” to be cut. “We also hear from community members that families pay for flights for cutters to come to the US and do it, but this is more likely to affect babies so no one will find out.”

Shelby Quast, senior policy advisor at Equality Now, said: “We think that with the growing immigration there is quite a big problem with women at risk in the US as well women who have been subjected to FGM. We need to do a great deal more in educating people, making it known what FGM is, and making sure that there are places that girls who are at risk can report and those that hear them have some place that they can go.”

More than 140 million women and girls worldwide have suffered FGM, with up to 98% of girls mutilated in certain African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries. The practice – typically carried out on girls between the ages of four and 12, though victims can be as young as just a few weeks old – involves the removal of part or all of a female’s outer sexual organs. In some instances part or all of the clitoris is removed while in the most extreme cases, girls are sewn up with only a small hole left to pass urine and menstruate.

Related complications – both physical and psychological – can be lifelong and catastrophic. The Guardian spoke to Naima Abdullahi, who went through FGM in Kenya when she was nine years old. She still suffers from trauma and hip problems related to struggling when she was being pinned down by two women in order to be cut. “This is something I live with every day. It is something I carry and every woman like me has learnt to carry,” she said. Other related issues include recurrent infections, reduced fertility, complications during childbirth and severe pain during sex.

Among other survivors interviewed by the Guardian, some like Leyla were cut on a family holiday, during their first visit to their parent’s home country. “There was no anaesthetic, no gloves, no pain medication after – no nurse to take care of you,” she said. “It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced.”

Deeply rooted in some cultures where it has been practised for thousands of years, FGM – sometimes referred to a female genital cutting – is traditionally seen as a way of maintaining a girl’s virginity before marriage, but condemned by campaigners as a means of controlling women’s fertility and sexual desire.

Despite the passing of laws the US government and public at large have been reluctant to tackle FGM head on because of cultural sensitivities, said long-term campaigner Taima Bien Aime, now executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “FGM is a taboo that is yet to be broken in the States,” she said. “People, both in the community and outside it, just do not want to talk about it. And that makes it very difficult for women to stand up and say ‘this happened to me.’”

But it is time for survivors to speak out and for government action, said Dukureh, who has set up a grassroots organisation – Safe Hands for Girls – to raise awareness about FGM. “Someone has to talk about this, someone has to say what is going on,” she said. “Most of the time, what we hear from government officials is –this is their culture. But I’m a woman from this culture and I’m saying, this is not to my benefit. This is abuse and it is time we did something to stop it.”

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Women who fear being forced to marry abroad told to hide spoon in underwear

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Women who fear being forced to marry abroad told to hide spoon in underwear” was written by Helen Nugent, for The Guardian on Thursday 15th August 2013 18.00 UTC

A number of women and girls at risk of forced marriage have avoided going abroad by concealing spoons in their underwear at airport security, according to a campaign group.

Karma Nirvana, a Derby-based charity that supports victims of forced marriage, advises people who ring its helpline to hide a spoon in order to set off metal detectors at British airports. The group says that its recommendation has prevented some women from being spirited overseas.

Last week ministers warned that young people were at the highest risk of being taken abroad for a forced marriage during the school holidays. The government’s forced marriage unit received 400 reports between June and August last year, out of an annual total of 1,500.

No one knows for sure how many Britons are forced into marriage each year. Estimates range from 1,500 to 5,000. More than a third of those affected are thought to be aged under 16.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager, said that when worried youngsters ring the charity’s helpline, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear.

“When they go through security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry.”

The government wants teachers, doctors and airport staff to be conscious of the issue of forced marriages over the summer break.

Aneeta Prem, founder and president of Freedom Charity, an organisation that deals with the prevention of forced marriage through education and training, believes that summer is a crucial time for children and young adults.

“Children go out of people’s consciousness over summer because they are away for such a long time,” she told the Guardian. “The victim may think they are going away to a family wedding, not knowing it is actually their wedding. And when they go they are often gone for a long time and don’t come back until they are pregnant.”

Campaigners fear official statistics on the number of forced marriages of UK citizens are just the tip of the iceberg, partly because children do not want to report their parents to the authorities or have little idea where to go for help.

Prem said: “Nobody knows what the true figure is because so many young victims are terrified of coming forward. But it is definitely much, much higher than what is reported.”

Freedom Charity has produced an app for potential victims of forced marriage or other abuse. It is also aimed at friends of those women who may be at risk and professionals such as teachers. Since the app was launched in March, more than 1,000 people have contacted Freedom Charity using the technology. The charity also has a 24-hour helpline.

The Karma Nirvana charity usually fields 6,500 calls a year from around Britain. This year, it has already reached that number.

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Boot up: Google Glass privacy, Facebook video ads, iOS 7 apps threat, Kazam smartphones and more

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Boot up: Google Glass privacy, Facebook video ads, iOS 7 apps threat, Kazam smartphones and more” was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th June 2013 06.30 UTC

A quick burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Privacy authorities issue Google a ‘please explain’ on Glass | ZDNet

Josh Taylor:

In April, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim requested a briefing with Google on the device, and today he, and nine of his colleagues from Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, and Switzerland, among others, have written to Page asking for detailed information on Google Glass, stating that their knowledge on it comes "from media reports, which contain a great deal of speculation".

The commissioners state in the letter that Google has not approached them to discuss the associated ethical issues with Google Glass while the product is in early testing stages with developers.

They have asked Google eight questions around the associated privacy issues, including asking Google to explain how Glass complies with data protection laws, what the privacy safeguards are, what information Google collects through Glass, who that information is shared with, and whether Google has undertaken a privacy risk assessment.

The suspicion is that Google itself doesn’t understand all the ethical issues yet: that’s partly what the early tests are for. It’s a reminder that outside the early-adopter bubble, Glass’ privacy implications will be on the agenda for politicians as well as the public.


Facebook’s Video Ads Now Likely Delayed Until Fall >> Advertising Age

Cotton Delo:

As of late last year, Facebook was prepping video ads for their debut in the first half of 2013, but the launch was pushed back to the summer. Now it’s unofficially been pushed back until mid-October, according to a source familiar with the product. The given reason is that there are new features Facebook wants to release concurrently with video ads, and they require more software development.

Facebook needs to tread very carefully with this one to avoid a big user backlash, even if its sales teams are champing at the bit as AdAge suggests. I’m intrigued to see how video ads are handled on mobile, to avoid users hurtling through their data limits.


Radical iOS 7 Design Is Threat To Some Existing Apps >> ReadWrite

Brian S. Hall:

iOS 7 is a truly audacious redesign of Apple’s chief operating system. I have been using the beta version since last week and it’s abundantly clear that Apple is determinedly focused on ensuring that iOS–the software underpinnings of the iPhone and iPad–remains the simplest, purest OS on the planet. It’s also obvious that the new iOS 7 design and enhanced functionality will kill off many non-Apple apps, including some good ones.

Weep for the flashlight-app makers. The claim that "iTunes Radio should choke off all but the very best most-entrenched streaming music competitors" is debatable too – or, at least, there are plenty of other reasons why the not-so-best competitors will fall by the wayside.


Kazam Is Another European Startup Hoping Against Hope To Inch In To The Smartphone Hardware Market >> TechCrunch

Natasha Lomas (hat tip to @modelportfolio2003):

Details of how exactly Kazam plans to assault the Samsung and Apple smartphone duopoly were not forthcoming when I asked. Atkins declined to answer the bulk of my questions — including such specifics as whether Kazam’s planned smartphones will run Android and be skinned with a custom UI or keep the experience familiarly stock. Instead, he trotted out a repeated PR mantra: "Today we are just announcing that the Kazam brand is here, for the rest you will have to wait and see."

Remember the days when the UK had its own smartphone manufacturer, Sendo? That didn’t end so well. Now Kazam, launched by two former HTC executives, is having another crack at the market, with plans to launch devices later this year. But for now, it’s all brand and no (public) hardware.


The Humble Bundle with Android 6

The latest games bundle for Android devices:

Pay what you want for the underwater fantasy action-adventure game Aquaria; the chromatic minimalist puzzler Fractal: Make Blooms Not War; the retro zombie survival game Organ Trail: Director’s Cut; and the nail-biting stealth strategy platformer Stealth Bastard Deluxe. You’ll also receive a bonus game: the rhythmic audio-visual game Pulse: Volume One. If you pay more than the average, you’ll also get the intense tactical combat sim Frozen Synapse and the classic mystery point-and-click adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – Director’s Cut!

Many games developers criticise Android for its users’ perceived unwillingness to pay for content. Yet with 13 days to go, more than 68k people have stumped up just under 0k for the latest Humble Bundle. There’s life beyond the Google Play store…


Premium Smartphone Market: Why the Apple vs. Samsung Duopoly is Misleading >> Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh (hat tip to @HotSoup):

The chart above shows the ratio of premium (0+) smartphone shipments from other vendors to Apple’s and Samsung’s shipments. While the share of "Others" in the premium smartphone market doubled from 7% in May 2012, to 15% in May 2013, the pattern with respect to Apple & Samsung is quite interesting. In May 2012, premium smartphone shipments from "Others" were just 10% of Apple’s shipments and about 35% of Samsung’s shipments. By May 2013, the shipments from "Others" had grown to nearly 40% of Apple’s shipments and remained at 32% of Samsung’s shipments.

A smart look at the data, but do you agree with the conclusion that "the 0+, premium smartphone market may begin to lose its relevance in a year"?


Musical Identity >> The Echo Nest

From the music technology company’s new Musical Identity blog:

Can your music taste predict your taste in other forms of entertainment (books, movies, games, etc)? This post focuses on some (hopefully) amusing, interesting examples of what our Taste Profiling technology can uncover about the relationship between one’s taste in music and one’s taste in movies.

BREAKING: Fans of romantic comedies also like Céline Dion. But there are some interesting insights here, and implications for how the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google may be able to learn from our preferences in one area to recommend things in others.


Rihanna Passes Justin Bieber as Most Viewed Artist on YouTube >> The Hollywood Reporter

William Gruger:

Some time early Tuesday morning, June 18, Rihanna passed Justin Bieber as the most-viewed artist on YouTube. The 77 videos on Rihanna’s official VEVO channel now have a combined 3.784 billion views in total, surpassing the total view counts of the 79 videos on Bieber’s official VEVO channel by roughly two million views.

It’s all about the subscribers, apparently: Rihanna has 8.73m while Justin has 4.9m. Still, Bieber remains Twitter king with 40.6m followers. Perhaps he should start tweeting more YouTube links at them.


One year later, the Nexus 7 has gone from the best to worst tablet I’ve ever owned >> Android and Me

Dustin Earley:

I don’t remember when it first started happening, but most say it was when Android 4.2 began hitting devices. The new features and changes in Jelly Bean, 4.2, were certainly welcome additions, but my Nexus’ new found love of life in the slow-lane was not. I have not spent a full year using the Nexus 7 as a daily driver, only the last six months. So at first, I didn’t notice just how bad things had gotten. I thought maybe it was an illusion from using so many high-end Android phones. Until I started asking around.

Commenters suggest (a) SSD hitting the end of its read-write life (b) Google Currents sucking up resource (c) too little free disk space (d) he’s been mistreating it.


Why can’t Facebook help Emma Watson with her naked photo problem? >> Graham Cluley

So, if I’m seeing these messages, and readers of this blog keep seeing these messages, why isn’t Facebook’s security team seeing these messages?

Or is it that they *are* seeing the messages, but they either:

a) don’t care?

b) aren’t capable of doing anything effective to stop them?

Whatever the explanation, it’s disturbing to continue to see spams and scams spreading so effectively across the world’s most popular social network.

There aren’t any nekkid pics. The app pretending there are will take a lot of liberties, though.


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CES 2013: as big as ever, but is it out of date?


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “CES 2013: as big as ever, but is it out of date?” was written by Rory Carroll in Las Vegas, for The Guardian on Wednesday 9th January 2013 08.53 UTC

The world’s biggest consumer technology expo opened on Tuesday to a familiar scene: thousands of gadget buffs streaming down Paradise Road to the cavernous Las Vegas convention centre, eager to glimpse the devices and trends of the future.

For the next four days the Consumer Electronics Show will unveil technological advances and launch 20,000 products and prototypes – a vast bazaar showcasing new phones, new televisions, new tablets, new everything.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here!” squealed a voice as crowds surged through the doors. Tweets from those visiting the booths of Samsung and the like declared them “awesome” and “amazing”.

The event is as big as ever: around 150,000 industry professionals – entrepreneurs, executives, designers, bloggers – crawling over 1.85m sq ft of exhibition space. The chief executive of mobile chip maker Qualcomm, Paul Jacobs, who delivered the keynote speech on Monday night, said its wares would change the world. “There are almost as many mobile connections as people on earth. Pretty soon mobile connections will outnumber us.”

But there is a problem. Sceptics say that the world has changed faster than CES, that the pre-eminence of the internet and software has marginalised an event still tethered mainly to hardware, and that CES is sliding into limbo as a consequence.

Wired, the technology magazine, declared on the convention’s eve: “As software matters more and more, CES matters less and less. The internet is already the world’s largest trade show. Gadget blogs are the new conventions.

“Sure, big electronics shows offer the opportunity to meet people and forge relationships. But even that transaction is being moved online in the era of real-time social media.”

Hardware has become increasingly meaningless as upgrade cycles accelerate and spread across platforms, it argues, citing the Nokia Lumia 900, a flagship phone hailed as the next big thing at last year’s CES. It was a hardware triumph but disappeared after Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8, rendering the Lumia, which used Windows Phone 7.5, obsolete.

Wired at least sent reporters to Las Vegas. The news site BuzzFeed boycotted and published a story headlined “Why We’re Not at the Biggest Tech Show in the World.”

After years of dwindling relevance CES was no longer the most important place to go to see trends in technology, it said. “Seriously doesn’t the word ‘electronics’ in the conference’s dusty title make your eyes instantly droop a bit?”

One problem raised by the news site BuzzFeed was the event’s focus on hardware at the expense of software and services. The other was that social media had displaced traditional conventions as forums to showcase products and ideas. It noted that none of the four technology companies which “truly matter to people” – Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – were exhibiting at the expo.

For years Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, had given the keynote speech at the Venetian resort hotel. But the company pulled out this year, handing the job to Jacobs of Qualcomm. In his speech Jacobs exuded optimism and said “Gen M” – generation mobile – would keep the industry humming. He underlined his point by unveiling Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 800 Series processor. Due on the market this summer, it should improve the performance of smartphones and cars and give rival Intel a run for its money. And as if to rebuff accusations of dwindling relevance, Jacobs spiced up his speech with eclectic celebrity guests. Director Guillermo del Toro came on stage to show a clip of his new robot film, Pacific Rim, streaming it from a tablet that uses a new Qualcomm chip.

“Snapdragon ensures the film you see will be viewed exactly as I want it to be seen. When you’re watching a great film, you want a great experience.”

The Nascar driver Brad Keselowski displayed an app which lets fans follow drivers during races. The actor Alice Eve lauded a new app for her new film, Star Trek: Into Darkness. Big Bird from Sesame Street appeared to plug an app which helps children with vocabulary. For the industry audience the biggest and most welcome surprise was Microsoft’s Ballmer, who made a cameo to talk up the tech giant’s new generation tablets and smartphones.

This week’s CES is expected to be dominated by ultra HD TVs, supersized smartphones, acrobatic PCs and sensors which replace the mouse by tracking gestures and eye movements. If any of that catches on CES will claim, as ever, that you saw the future here first.

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