Council Orders Indian Girl to be Raped as Punishment for Her Brother's Crime

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:58 p.m. DST, 15 July 2014

Sarpanch Pinky Devi with her kid. Kabza Gram Panchayat, District Dungarpur, Rajasthan

SWANG GULGULIA DHOURA, India — A 13-year-old girl in a rural Indian village was condemned to be raped by the head of her village as a punishment for her older brother. The girl's brother, according to CNN, attempted to rape a married woman, and as his punishment, the woman's husband was ordered to rape the man's younger sister.

The woman that was allegedly attacked, Suguna Devi, is the daughter of the village's headman, Ghosal Pasi, The New York Times reported. She was groped by the teenage girl's older brother, Harendra Pasi, after he entered her hut in the night after drinking a "kind of rice beer." He was thwarted by the woman's husband, Nakabandi Pasi, after her screams awoke the village.

The morning after the incident, the father of the teenage girl and the alleged assaulter went to Ghosal Pasi and asked them to reach some kind of terms. He says he told the head man, "My son did wrong, and we are willing to take the punishment. if you want to impose a punishment, then beat him," but he did not receive an answer from him.

Despite his efforts, the local council that afternoon convened to discuss the punishment for the attempted rape. The local council determined that the husband raping the teenage sister of his wife's attempted rapist would be retribution, despite the girl having no involvement in the case.

The local council that ordered the rape, known as panchayats in India, act as the judicial system for rural villages. The male-dominated council are highly ranked according to Indian caste governance and thus have the authority to punish indiscriminately. They are known in India to deliver harsh, medieval sentences. CNN says that some of their rulings include forcing women to marry their rapists, some brides as young as six, and ordering gang-rapes. In a culture where a woman is a man's property and her "honor" is her value, raping woman is seen as a severe punishment for men.

After the panchayat made the ruling, the teenage girl said that the wife and her husband came to her home. According to CNN, the girl told reporters that the wife, "dragged me out of my house. She handed me over to her husband and told him to take me away to a nearby forest and rape me." And he did.

The father of the girl, Munna Pasi said that no one from the village stepped in to help save his daughter. He told reporters, "My wife wept, but nobody listened. My daughter said, 'Save me, save me,' but nobody listened. All these people became blind when he was dragging my daughter away." A neighbor, Sunita Devi, and another woman heard the girl's screams did not step in claiming, "We did not know he was going to rape her."

However, the girl was raped by the husband of Suguna Devi in an attack that lasted forty-five minutes, according to The New York Times. They say she then limped an hour's distance to the nearest police station to report it. Since then police arrested the headman Ghosal Pasi and the husband of Suguna Devi in relation to the girl's rape and the girl's brother, Harendra Pasi, in connection with the attempted rape of Suguna Devi.

The children of the headman Ghosal Pasi, Suguna Devi and her brother Gupta Kumar continue to proclaim his innocence in ordering the rape of the young girl. Gupta Kumar says, "My father did not order anything. Out of anger my brother-in-law did this thing." While Suguna Devi promises that if the police release her father and Munna Pasi, the girl's father drops the charges then, "if something will happen, people will go to the police station."

Vinod Vishwakarma, head of an elected village council involved in this area is not so convinced that this incident will discredit the panchayat system. He tells The New York Times, "There is a practice here, to sort out matters themselves." Harkening back to the neighbors who did nothing, Vishwakarma says, "I spoke to some women, they said if something like this will happen in our village again we will oppose it. But when the girl tried to seek help from people, they turned away their faces. That's the fact."

One of those who is attempting to defy the panchayat system by pressing charges against the headman Ghosal Pasi is Munna Pasi, the girl's father. He is pressured by his village to drop the charges, but he stands firm declaring, " When this was done to my family and my daughter, nobody came forward to help us. Why should I be lenient to anybody?"

With mounting hostility from the other villagers for turning in their headman, district police have also placed two armed guards outside the girl's hut and politicians have come by offering small cash gifts and foodstuffs.

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

International Volunteers Series: Humanitarian Photographer in Bangalore, India

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:15 a.m. DST, 09 July 2014

Matthew Pirrall, Humanitarian Photographer, Bangalore, India

BANGALORE, India -- I had the pleasure of working alongside, humanitarian photographer Matthew Pirrall, in India for a few weeks. While I was stationed in Davangere at a child labor rehabilitation center through Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society (BREADS), Matt’s job involved traveling around southern India to various BREADS locations to work as a humanitarian filmmaker and photographer.

When he wasn’t at the Davangere site the boys and girls would constantly ask, “Where is Matt brother”? and “When is Matt brother coming back”? When he returned to the site, the kids would rush to the jeep to help Matt unpack his things, and never wanted to leave his side, instead smothering him in hugs, showing off their dance moves, or asking him for help with English. Clearly the children in India loved Matt. Read on to hear how much Matt loves working in India.

Matt recently won the International Award for the See|Me Group's 2014 Exposure Competition. To see his work, check out his YouTube BREADS Bangalore Channel.

What is a day in the life-like?‬‬

‪I'm working as a photographer and videographer for the Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society, BREADS for short. They work mainly with youth; developing programs on child rights for school children, rescuing child laborers and street children, and building shelter homes and rehabilitation centers for them.

I travel around to their various centers and take videos and photography for them to use on their website and in the various publications they put out to raise awareness. I'm also helping them with grassroots marketing, and consulting on fundraising and awareness campaigns.

What prepared you for this job?‬‬

I went to DeSales University in Center Valley, PA where I studied TV/Film and Marketing. I actually went on two summer service trips in college, both of which were to Kolkata, India, so my journey in India actually began at DeSales.

I developed the idea to do something along the same lines post-grad, but I wanted to be able to use my skills as a filmmaker and photographer to help out the organization I would be volunteering with. Luckily when I found the Salesian Lay Missioner program they were very open to finding me a placement where I would be able to do that, and it also happened to be in India.

What drew you to the country you decided to work in?‬‬

India has a way of calling you back. India became the obvious choice since I had been here before and how well everything worked out with finding placement. Plus, the diversity of this country and its people also make it a goldmine for a photographer.

What exactly is a humanitarian photographer?‬‬

Basically, any professional photographer who uses their skills primarily for humanitarian purposes. It can be to raise awareness of a need on their own, or photograph campaigns for non-profits.

Has there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to take the direction you did towards humanitarian photography?

‪‬I want to say that this year has been it. I considered myself more of a filmmaker coming out of college, and I had very little experience in photography. I still am a filmmaker. I love the freedom that film gives you to tell a story.

I love helping the pieces of a story fall into place, and the humanitarian world is full of stories, incredible stories, and the amazing thing is that they're all real stories of real people. You just need to find all the pieces. Photography adds a new challenge because you have to find and tell a story using a single frame. It's in challenging myself in this way that I've developed a love for photography as well.

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Published: 9 July 2014 (Page 2 of 3)

Have you ever run into dodgy situations while on assignment?

I think the most unsafe I've felt is when I went to a brick-field to film and photograph the children working there. The families that live and work there were very welcoming, but the owners know that NGOs come to rescue these kids. They are afraid of the media and the prospect of losing the kids who are paid less (if anything) and work faster than the adults because of their small hands.

While I was shooting the social workers I was with stared getting a lot of questions from the owners, and then the owners started yelling at the workers to hide their children. I think the social workers were afraid the owners might get violent so we left quickly, but not before I managed to get some pretty powerful shots.

How do you approach shooting in sensitive situations?

There isn't really a way for me to blend in or really know what's going on as I don't speak the language, so I just have to trust that the guides I'm with know what they're doing and know when things might get out of control. I try to approach everyone I meet while shooting with a smile and express a friendliness that usually goes a long way toward getting people's guard down. For the most part people here are very open with me, and I don't find myself struggling to get a shot very often.

What is the most rewarding part about living there?

Definitely the people. When I visit a child labor rehab center everyone is always so welcoming and generous with me. The children always want their photo and usually the adults do to, and my camera has been a great way for me to break down the language barrier and really get to know the people wherever I go. It's always tough to move on to the next center because the people at each one, especially the kids, embrace you like a family member.

Can you tell me someone in India who has impacted you?

‪‬There are a lot of people that have impacted me while I've been here: the kids, their teachers, and the social workers with whom I work. But I think the people that have the greatest impact are the people around my age who grew up in BREADS centers.

Kids who were abandoned my their parents, or ran away from abusive situations at ages as young as four or five years old. They had traumatic life experiences at such young ages that are difficult for me to even comprehend, but they have grown into successful and well-balanced adults with BREADS support. It really drives home for me the power of education and how much difference a loving environment can make in a person's life.

Do you find that women are treated differently than men in India?

‪‬Yes it's very ingrained in the culture. I often find myself noting situations where I'm with a female colleague or friend who is ordering something searching for something in a store, but the worker will address me instead. Even if the worker is a woman. There are other situations too, where I've noted women's opinions are less valued.

It starts from a young age and girls are brought up to believe they can only fill certain roles. They don't have good role models in the media either. In most of the movies I've seen, it's the female lead's job to cry and be a burden on the man, and to fall in love with him in the end no matter how terrible he is to her.

There are exceptions of course. I've met more strong, empowered Indian women than I thought I would from all the bad things that you hear. But there definitely needs to be more education about women's rights at a younger age if things are going to change. It's another area where I think BREADS is doing a good job.

What are the most critical problems faced by people in your area?

‪I think lack of education is a huge issue. I've seen entire communities trapped in this cycle of poverty due to this fact alone. I've also seen the difference that education makes when it's introduced in these communities. Health improves, the situation of the women improves, and people's freedom increases. ‪ 1 Next Page » 2 3

Published: 9 July 2014 (Page 3 of 3)

What do you think is the key to ending slavery worldwide?

‪‬‬The acclaimed humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine recently said something in an interview that resonated with many of the problems I've seen here, “People fall into slavery, not because they’re willing, and not because they are stupid. It’s because they’ve been lied to.”

It's a lack of education that leads people into slavery, plain and simple. I believe education is the single most important tool to combat the lies that lead to modern day slavery. Only when children and their parents can be taught that there is another way, when people around the world can be shown that these horrors exist, and when individuals can be motivated to take a stand to do something about it; only then can organizations like BREADS have the power to stand against the lies with a message of truth.

That's what I hope to do with my photography and videos here. Raise the awareness that this organization needs to combat these lies.

Who has had the biggest impact on you as a photographer videographer? Where do you find inspiration for your photos and videos?

My parents have had a huge impact on me as a person. I feel truly blessed to have such amazing parents when so many of the children who I work with don't have any. In terms of professional impact there are a number of photographers from whom I draw inspiration. I have improved a lot this year just by pushing myself to emulate their work.

I also draw inspiration from the people whom I am photographing. I love catching people during their day to day activities, just talking and interacting with them, before asking for their portrait. I find a lot of inspiration in the moments when people let their guard down and stop seeing my camera.

Do you ever feel like you really belong in India?‬‬‬

The way that I've been embraced by my community here has been truly heartwarming. I really feel like my co-workers at BREADS and the community I'm living in has become a second family that really cares about my well being and I can't imagine myself having spent this year anywhere else. I've grown so much and met so me amazing people who I am sure will be lifelong friends.

What are your hopes for the people you’ve interacted with?‬‬‬

My hope is that the photos and videos that I've taken will be able to help more of these children and communities get the education that they deserve.

What are your plans once you’ve finished at your site? What do you plan to have accomplished in five, 10, 20, and 50 years personally and professionally?‬‬‬

I plan to pursue photography and film making with a special focus on humanitarian work. Down the road I'd love to have my own production company to continue to tell stories that will make an impact on people's lives.

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Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

Punjab Immigrants Stuck in Iraq | How to Avoid Fraudulent Job Offers

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Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:50 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

Self portrait – All about the Sandy’s, Photo by: MattysFlicksPUNJAB, India & Dubai -- When dreams get wings, they fly high. But when dreams are met with deceit, often disappointment and broken aspirations are the residue left behind.

The metaphor is evident in a recent tragedy that has stirred the whole world and has discredited the developing economies involved in Dubai.

Let us unfold the chapters of this very dark story......

A Shameless Tale of Innocent Job Seekers & Fraud Predators

More than 40 young job aspirants from Punjab were lured west by proposals offered by travel agents who promised them high-paying job opportunities in Dubai. The worst part here was that these travel agents were in direct connections with illegal recruitment organizations operating from the Gulf countries.

The travel agents (as per their promise) sent these youth to Dubai, but there the job seekers were told to wait for many weeks. Later, they were informed that Dubai has dearth of ideal jobs, and currently Iraq would be a better fit for them.

In need of money and a better career, the aspirants agreed and moved on, not knowing that Iraq has been the epicenter of political and social unrests for the past decade.

Subsequent to the arrival, several of the hopeful employees disappeared and are still unaccounted for, and the families of these individuals are heartbroken. They are imploring Dubai to deliver justice and proper punishment for the fraudsters. Those immigrants who have been located in Iraq are trying to return home, but the cost of travel has been a barrier for many of these individuals. Other reports claim that ISIS terror group are holding the Indian workers.

Be Aware

While this seems like an extraordinary occurrence, many similar cases have been reported in recent years. The best antidote is to be aware and cautious when applying to jobs in Dubai or elsewhere. Whether you are promised a job in a large metropolis or rural area, the same risks apply.

Here is a plan to avoid becoming the next victim of such fraud:

  1. “Deposit Money & Get Your Dream Job In-Hand”

This is the first red flag that the there is something suspicious about the job offer. As the saying goes, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Well, if the opportunity is genuine, potential employees will never ask for money, but rather they will ask you your expected salary range. In these cases, the best advice is to avoid such opportunities and not fall prey to fraudulent career-furthering options. The statement is generally mentioned in the ‘terms & conditions’ part of the intent letter.

  1. Remuneration Amount Beyond Experience & Expectations

This is another technique used by the conmen to raise hopeful employee's hopes and encourage a flood of applicants. It is understandable that if you get an opportunity to go for a high-paying job in Dubai or EU, as these are some of the flourishing economies of late, you might have a hard time saying 'no.' However, it is advisable to study the current global market salary trends in advance, so you can find work that pays well, and avoid fraudulent job offers.

  1. Use the Power of Internet

Make use of the power of the internet by searching buzzwords and hashtags related to your job. There are cyber cafes that offer access to the world wide web in small towns and big cities of every globalized country. To know the authenticity of the job offer, enter the company’s name, the agency’s name, and even the address of the company. You can find this information in prior corporate mailings and brochures.

  1. Job Search Sites

If you are eyeing opportunities in Dubai or other flourishing economies, you should access famous Dubai job portals like Naukrigulf.com. You just have to create a profile, and then you can access several legitimate job options at your convenience.

  1. No Personal Information Please!

There have been incidents of hacking and identity theft; therefore save yourself from this trap. There are mailers containing job opportunities that may ask you for your birth date, social security number or your mother’s maiden name. It is safe to assume that the intention of these mailings is to steal your identity or access your financial accounts.

Last Word of Advice

Be aware as you conduct your international job search. However if you find yourself a victim of a fake job offer, immediately report it to the job board, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The commission or the establishment will vary from country to country, but by reporting the offense, you can actively end the fraudulent and exploitative practices perpetrated by these recruiters.

Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

13-year-old Indian Girl Reaches the Top of Everest

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 10:04 a.m. DST, 14 June 2014

"Steel Bridges of Everest Base Camp Trek" Photo by: ilkerenderTIBET--A 13-year-old Indian girl wept after overcoming her fears. Her fears differ a bit from most young girls. This girl, Poorna Malavath, the daughter of poor Indian farmers in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, cried tears of joy after successfully climbing Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Her bravery and tenacity is incredible, especially since 16 Sherpa’s recently died in an avalanche, Everest’s deadliest ever, prompting the government to shut down the climbing season.

As the youngest female to climb Everest, she feels her victory is not only for herself but also for all young women, because “they tell us that we are nothing, that we can do nothing…but I know that I could do something, and I kept my eye on the goal, and now I made it.”

Though Nepal requires climbers to be at least 16 to scale the mountain, Malavath and her team of guides started from the northern side of Tibet, an area under control of China, which has no age restrictions. This side is considered significantly more difficult and dangerous, and in 2010 Jordan Romero, 13, of Big Bear, California became the youngest male to climb Everest, also from the Tibetan side. Before Malavath’s climb, the previous youngest woman to reach the top of Everest was Nepal’s Nima Chemji Sherpa, 16, in 2002.

She was sponsored by the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational Institution Society as part of its initiative to encourage underprivileged students in India. Most people in her hometown cannot read or write, and her town does not have internet or roads. Her parents are dalits, also known as “untouchable,” at the bottom of India’s caste system. Malavath attends a boarding school where she studies her native Telugu, Hindi, and English, and participates in track and field, volleyball, and kabaddi. Nine months ago she signed up for mountaineering training, a club where she would climb boulders and walls of an old fortress. Now she has reached the 29,029 foot top of the world’s highest peak after a 52-day expedition.

Though she had a few months of training, this expedition to Everest was her first mountain climb and along the way Malavath faced elevation sickness, temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and saw six dead bodies. A major challenge for Malavath was the packaged food she had to consume. “I did not like its smell or taste. I wanted to go home and eat my mother’s food,” she said. Despite being initially sent back to base camp for altitude sickness, she made it to the top before her 16-year-old friend, S. Anand Kumar.

India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi praised the duo on Twitter saying, “Was very happy to read this. Congrats to our youngsters. They make us truly proud.”

When she returns to school she will catch up on homework and she hopes to eventually join the police force, in homage to a retired policeman who introduced her and others at her school to mountaineering. When I finish my studies, I want to join the police because [of him]," she says. "It will be my thank-you to him for changing my life."

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

 

Inside Uttar Pradesh Station, Woman Raped by Four Policemen

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 02:50 a.m. DST, 14 June 2014

"Policeman facing women in a protest march, Calcutta Kolkata India" Photo by: Jorge RoyanUTTAR PRADESH, India -- This past week has been a treacherous time for the safety of women living in the most populous state in India, Uttar Pradesh. The most unthinkable of these events occurred late Monday night, 9 June 2014, inside a police station in Hamirpur district.

When a woman entered the police outpost after dusk, she intended to leave with her husband. After explaining her connection to the detained man and asking for his release, the officers told the woman she would need to pay a bribe in order to see him freed. When she refused, four policemen proceeded to rape her inside of the police facility.

The highest ranking police officer has been detained, and authorities are now searching for three additional security officers still on the loose.

Several similar tragedies have occurred throughout the various rural villages that form the state of Uttar Pradesh. On Thursday, 12 June, a 19-year-old woman was hanged by a mob of men in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. This episode followed the rape and hanging of two teenage sisters in the early morning hours of 29 May, and another similar incident on Wednesday, 11 June, in the Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. In this horrific crime, a 45-year-old Indian was raped and hanged below a tree.

Therefore, since the 29 May attack, four women have been killed by the brutalities of mob sexual assault in Uttar Pradesh alone. Many are claiming that the prevalence of these attacks are nothing new, only that the reporting and discussion of such crimes are increasing.

In many Indian states, rape goes under-reported because of a stigma against the victims of sexual assault. As the number of formal charges against perpetrators rises, so too does the awareness of the problem.

The aforementioned rape and hanging of two teenage sisters generated international outrage as reports emerged, both with regard to the atrocious act as well as the failure of police to investigate initial reports that a group of men had been seen accosting the young women. The indignation of Indian and international advocates was emphatic, but did little to discourage future cruelties of the same nature.

A final note. On Thursday, June 12, two preteen girls were raped by a group of men inside a hostel in Tamil Nadu state. The hostel is affiliated with a local church, but the offenders had no apparent connection to the congregation. An undoubtedly monstrous act, the attackers held the two girls at knife point while proceeding to violate them.

While the incident in Tamil Nadu took place on the opposite side of the country when taken in conjunction with the crimes throughout Uttar Pradesh state, the faraway communities seem in closer proximity because of these paralleled events.

The first step in addressing the brutality towards women is creating an environment where women feel safe to disclose the crimes committed against them. This process is already underway, and the people of India have protested in favor of increased legislation, and seen positive results. Safeguards against such terrible acts have increased since 2012.

But when policemen are perpetrators in the crime, as in the Hamirpur case, or when officers are complicit in murder, such as the double hanging in May, the shortcomings of these individuals signal a step backward for the movement as a whole.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Finally Justice for Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu

Of course silence is an option, but is it moral? "From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all." ~ Guru Nanak, 15th Century Founder of Sikhism

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Teen Sisters Raped, Hanged in Rural India

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 02:50 p.m. DST, 30 May 2014

"casa el purgatori" Photo by: Scott Clark

UTTAR PRADESH, India -- Two teenage girls were brutally raped, strangled, then hung by a group of men in the rural Katra Shahadatganj village of Uttar Pradesh.

Two men have been charged in the crime, and two police officers are being held for failing to file a report of the missing teenagers. Further arrests could be forthcoming.

The 14 and 16-year-old sisters went outside on Tuesday night, 27 May 2014, to relieve themselves in a nearby field. The majority of homes in the Katra locale have no indoor plumbing, which affects women in particular.

To avoid public humiliation, females in the community must restrict their bodily functions to nighttime hours. Tragically, while dusk provided the girls with privacy, the darkness also concealed the perpetrators during their heinous acts. The field is a 15 minute hike from the family's residence.

According to the family of the young girls, the tragedy could have been prevented if police had taken action. Tuesday night, a neighbor warned the parents that he saw a group of men surround the sisters. When the young women were slow to return, the father went directly to police.

The man's plea to officers was met by mockery and condescension. As a member of the 'untouchable' caste, his report meant little to those working in the police outpost. In the eyes of the police, the import of the two missing teens is conditional on their caste status.

An unbelievable image -- the father was literally on his knees in front of police, who continued to ridicule his social rank.

Since the crime, two officers have been jailed. But members of the Katra village aren't encouraged by the punishments. According to locals, the issue is far deeper than a few officials, and like patrolmen will almost certainly take the vacant positions.

At the heart of the tragedy is the intersection of class and gender in India. Had the father held an elevated caste position, perhaps his appeal would have prompted quick police intervention.

The idea of policemen who disregard crimes against women is nothing new in the world's largest democracy. In recent years, police have come under fire for overlooking claims of rape and sexual assault, and in extreme cases, minimizing the culpability of the perpetrators thus further victimizing the women who are brave enough to report abuse.

It is unfortunate that in recent weeks victimization of women across Asia seems to have increased with alarming frequency, but perhaps the converse is true; these crimes against women have always occurred, but now with access to the internet, what was formerly a "dirty" little secret, is now being revealed for what it is - a systemic human rights abuse against women.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom