From the September-October 2022 issue of News & Letters
In July, the Pope visited Edmonton, Canada, apologizing to Indigenous peoples for the separation of over 150,000 children from their families between 1881 and 1996. Placed at state-sanctioned schools mostly run by the Catholic church, many children died from severe abuse. Indigenous people considered the Pope’s apology a distraction from unmet demands, including survivors’ compensation, school records release, return of artifacts, and rescinding a Church doctrine justifying colonialism. RoseAnn Archibald, national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, stated that the Pope refused to speak with women leaders and she criticized the church’s “archaic” position of having no women in its own leadership. She said: “We don’t feel that it has been about survivors. It has been more about the church promoting the church’s idea, fundraising for the church.”
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In Sudan, human rights activists warn that the right-wing government imposed by last October’s military coup is rolling back rights women had won over the past two years. The government has revived the police “community service unit,” which had previously arrested women for wearing pants, not covering their heads, and mixing with men who are not their immediate family. It has already arrested people for drinking alcohol, and, in June, a woman was sentenced to death by stoning for “adultery.” Feminist activist Mervet Elneil stated the unit is “clearly targeting women and not protecting anybody. It’s a way of domesticating them, and we have a long history of that since Sudan was under the British administration. In that last version of the community security, they used to mainly target women to get money out of them.”
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In August, a Canadian provincial Supreme Court convicted Dutch citizen Aydin Coban of extortion, possession of child pornography, child luring, and criminal harassment against Canadian teen Amanda Todd. In 2012, Todd posted a video describing how Coban convinced her to send him a nude photo, which he used to blackmail her into sending more. Coban stalked and harassed her for three years, sending her photos to her classmates, who bullied, ostracized, and assaulted her, leading to her suicide at age 15. The case shows justice systems are taking seriously the growing, worldwide crime of sextortion (sexual extortion). Predators manipulate victims, often teen girls and gay males, into uploading sexual images or videos, often blackmailing them for money or into prostitution. Coban was previously convicted in the Netherlands of fraud and internet blackmail of dozens of victims.
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In August, Spain’s congress passed the “only yes means yes law” in spite of conservative opposition. In 2016, five men calling themselves “the Wolf Pack” videoed themselves raping a woman who was not struggling because she had frozen in shock. They were given only nine years for sexual abuse, changed to 15 years for the greater crime of sexual violence (rape) after public outcry and massive demonstrations from a galvanized feminist movement. The law removes the distinction between the two crimes by stating consent must be given. It cannot be assumed the victim gave consent by not fighting back, and victims no longer have to endure the stress of attempting to prove violence and intimidation were used. Equality minister Irene Montero called it “a victorious day after many years of struggle.”