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The Upstream Journal

A magazine on social justice since 1975

  • The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

    The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

  • Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

    Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

  • More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

    More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

The Upstream Journal

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Affording Nairobi street children the rights they deserve

Nairobi street children

Glue sniffing is common among street children. Estimates of the number of street children in Kenya range from 30,000 to 250,000. Photo: Undugu Society

When people walk through the city streets of Nairobi they are often confronted by the pleading hand of a child. Street children, called chokoras in Kiswahili slang, are outcasts of everyday society in Kenya. They are seen wandering through the city in search of shelter, drinking water and food, in their daily activities of begging, substance abuse and evading arrest.

The alternatives to being on the street are limited to anything from abusive homes to underground social circles, says Juma Assiago, an urban safety expert in the UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities Programme. “What is not good, with the question of having children on the streets, is that they did not have another option.” Continue Reading

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Le Cachemire, une destination de rêve?

De grandes étendues, d’immenses lacs et rivières, de très hautes montagnes, une faune et une flore uniques, un environnement préservé, un climat doux… L’immensité à portée de vue, un paysage qui fait rêver. Le paradis sur terre! Mais tout n’est pas parfait au paradis… Le gouvernement, contaminé par la corruption, ne défend pas l’environnement contre les chaînes de grands hôtels.

Kashmir

La ville de Pahalgam en hiver. Malgré son climat relativement doux (la température en hiver reste aux alentours de zéro degré celsius), une quantité importante de neige due à l’altitude y tombe pendant les mois les plus froids. (Crédit photo : Showkat Ahmad)

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Uruguay – Truth, Justice, and Gender Inequality

2009 protest

May 20th, 2009 – Annual March of Silence to honour the victims of Uruguay’s last dictatorship. Photo: Flickr user Nae

Fifty years ago, Beatriz Benzano was a member of Uruguay’s militant leftist Tupamaros.  The Tupamaros, made up predominately by middle-class youth, sought to redress the country’s rising rates of inflation, unemployment, and bureaucratic corruption through violent insurrection.  In 1972, Benzano was captured by state forces and confined in Punta de Rieles Prison for four years.

She recounted her prison experience in a lecture to the Faculty of Law at the University of the Republic in 2014, in which she spoke about the degradation she and her fellow female dissidents were subjected to. “Forced nudity, exposed to the gaze of troops and officers; fondling and groping; degrading and offensive insults; the violation of one’s body, again and again, with sticks or bugs, with electric prods on the genitals, and with huge dogs snooping the breasts and genitals.” Continue Reading

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Lumad people claim their language and identity despite extreme violence

ALCADEV students

At the ALCADEV school, “the youth learn alternative farming not only for individual growth but also for the development of their communities and for reinforcing collective pride and identity as indigenous people capable of taking an active role in shaping the country’s future.”

Early in the morning of Sept. 1, 2015, members of the paramilitary group Magahat – apparently acting with the support of nearby soldiers – murdered three Lumad leaders in their village. The victims included the executive director of the school, Emerito “Emok” Samarca. Local people were told they too would be killed if they didn’t leave the area, so 4,000 of them fled, mostly to an evacuation camp in Tandag City.

This was not a singular attack on indigenous people, or “Lumad” as they refer to themselves. Their community school, the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), had been previously subjected to “killings, torture, forced displacement, and harassment of residents, students, and educators” by paramilitary groups, Human Rights Watch stated shortly after the attack. In November, for example, a satellite school of ALCADEV was burned down by men in military uniforms, destroying an electrical generator, sewing machine, farm tools and seeds. Continue Reading

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Romance and Patriarchy in the 21st Century: The Bride Abductions of Kazakhstan

Bride abduction

Bride abduction. Photo by Gazbubu Babayarova

Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has been actively pursuing the path of cultural revival on every level, from transforming the northern swamps into a modern capital with a yurt-shaped entertainment center to strengthening the role of the Kazakh language. Yet the inevitable challenge that accompanies such a revival, especially after roughly seventy years of the local culture being repressed by the Soviet Union, is how to reconcile traditionalism with modernity and eliminate the less welcome vestiges of the past.

One such issue is the questionably traditional bride abduction practice that has been on the rise since the 1960s. Just recently, on November 18, 2015, the 24KZ national news station reported that police were investigating a 28-year-old man in Charyn, a village in the south of Kazakhstan who admitted abducting a woman and bringing her to his house for the purpose of marriage. He claimed that there was no malice in his actions. The parents of the woman – a 21-year-old from the same village – had contacted the police, claiming that their daughter was held captive against her will.

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Derrière l’homophobie en Ouganda, l’évangélisme américain

Frank Mugisha, au centre, en compagnie de militants LGBTI, lors d'une parade de la fierté homosexuelle, en 2013.

Frank Mugisha, au centre, en compagnie de militants LGBTI, lors d’une parade de la fierté homosexuelle, en 2013.

Le lundi 24 février 2014, le président ougandais Yoweri Museveni promulguait à Kampala l’Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), une nouvelle législation visant à empêcher la «promotion» de l’homosexualité en Ouganda. La loi s’ajoutait alors à l’ancienne législation, héritée de la période coloniale, qui criminalisait déjà l’homosexualité. Or, bien que le projet de loi ait été allégé de ses articles les plus radicaux – tels que la peine de mort pour les «récidivistes» -, la législation adoptée a conservé plusieurs articles controversés, dont l’obligation légale de dénoncer tout homosexuel présumé.

La nouvelle avait à l’époque suscité une vague de protestation de la part des organismes de protection des droits humains et nombre de pays occidentaux avaient fermement condamné la mesure. Certains, comme les Pays-Bas, premier pays du monde à légaliser le mariage homosexuel, avaient même immédiatement gelé leurs programmes d’aide à l’Ouganda, chiffrés en millions de dollars. Le président Museveni, pourtant initialement opposé à la loi, avait alors réagi sur le ton de la bravade, déclarant notamment: «je conseille aux amis occidentaux de ne pas faire [du sujet] un problème», car «ils ont beaucoup à perdre». Continue Reading

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Changing atitudes – the people with disabilities of Uganda

For the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3 2014 we have updated an Upstream Journal article published in 2005 on the rights of the disabled in Uganda.

Most physically disabled people had no access to wheelchairs or crutches. Many were seen by their families as curses or bad omens. In rural areas they’re at high risk of extreme poverty because of the lack of access to education, health care, housing and employment.

Some innovative advocacy at the local level in Uganda.

Some innovative advocacy at the local level in Uganda.

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Update: Iran’s female political prisoners

In May 2010, The Upstream Journal ran an article about the imprisonment of women who had organized the “Million Signatures” campaign for women’s rights in Iran. Now we revisit the situation of those women…

bahareh-hedayat-campaign

Poster from Iranian rights group. There are at least 50 women imprisoned for their politics or religion (several are Bahá’í). Here is one example, picked at random: Nasrin Sotoudeh – lawyer and human rights activist, six-year sentence, has served three years. Mother of two. Has launched four hunger strikes behind bars in protest of the unlawful treatment of herself and her family members.

Iran recently executed young Reyhaneh Jabbari. She was hanged on October 25, 2014 after spending seven years in prison for killing a man who attacked her.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard about Iran when it comes to human rights abuse and especially its treatment of women. In May 2010 the Upstream Journal published the story of Bahareh Hedayat and Mahboubeh Karami, among other activists, imprisoned in 2009 for advocating for the “One Million Signatures” campaign to abolish laws discriminating against women. Continue Reading

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“The worst of times” – asylum seekers in Australia

Protest in melbourne

Refugee Action Protest in Melbourne. Photo Credit: John Englart.

2013 was the first time since World War II that the number of asylum seekers and displaced people in the world reached more than fifty million. In light of the masses of people seeking asylum, Australia’s policy towards asylum seekers has been one of deterrence.
Since the 1990s, Australia has had a policy of mandatory detention of anyone in the country illegally – the only country in the world to do so. International human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the detention camps, in which it is claimed that human rights violations regularly occur. Continue Reading

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Aid and debt follow natural disaster

Marcos

Bust of Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator who embezzled $10 billion. International creditors still collect payments from the people of the Philippines because of their loans to his corrupt regime.

After super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, nations and charities were praised for their quick response. The United Kingdom offered more than $110 million in grants and humanitarian assistance, and the US promised $90.5 million.  They did not offer to cancel debt payments.

In 2014 it is estimated that the Philippines will have to spend $8.8 billion on debt service, almost as much as the $8.99 billion it will spend on infrastructure projects and reconstruction.

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