Low-income women and girls in developing countries receive "little justice" when it comes to issues such as HIV/AIDS-related stigma, property rights, and sexual and domestic abuse, Michael Gerson, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a columnist for the Washington Post, writes in a Post opinion piece.
The World Bank estimates that more than two-thirds of women in "some parts of the developing world" are "beaten or coerced into sex during their lifetimes," and most of the crimes occur with "impunity," Gerson writes. He adds that police in developing countries are "often indifferent, hostile or corrupt"; lawyers and judges view rape and abuse as "lesser offenses"; and attorneys who take such cases "are either unaffordable or unavailable." In addition, there is a "persistent myth" in African countries that having sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS, Gerson writes. He adds that although the physical evidence in these cases is "clear," children are "often not allowed to give sworn testimony in court," and there is "no DNA testing to provide evidence."
According to Gerson, these problems call for a "range of responses," including educating young girls and providing economic empowerment for women. Some organizations -- such as the International Justice Mission, which provides legal services to women in need -- have "opened" a "promising front in the cause of development and human rights," Gerson writes, concluding that for "millions of women ... nothing is more important" (Gerson, Washington Post, 4/4).
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