In pursuit of Social Justice

thato_motaungAuthor: Thato Motaung
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

World Day of Social Justice – 20 February 2015

Social justice becomes a reality when social protection measures against discrimination and marginalization are enforced, thus targeting systemic social injustice and differential treatment. This is what the United Nations General Assembly aimed at emphasizing when it proclaimed The World Day of Social Justice on 20 February 2007.[1] The advancement of social justice requires the removal of such barriers which discriminate against people based on – but not exclusive to – their age, gender, religion, culture, ethnicity or disability.

In Eritrea, religion can be a basis for differential treatment and persecution. A 1995 Presidential Decree declared that the country would recognize only four religions: the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, and Sunni Islam. The 1997 Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but because it was never implemented, the Decree trumps this right. All other faiths were banned and those who practice them would incur penalties of arrest, detention in inhumane conditions, intimidation and even social exclusion.

Makda[2], a young Eritrean girl, recounts how her father was expelled from his government job and left with no income to support his wife and seven children for being a Jehovah’s Witness.

“Our family were called “traitors” and our neighbours harassed us when we went outside. One day my parents and I were arrested during a religious gathering – I was only 14 years old. After three days, locked up in a cold prison cell with my mother, the officer released me with a warning: “Do not follow your parents’ religion or you will be expelled from school”.

A 1995 Presidential Decree declared that the country would recognize only four religions the Evangelical Lutheran Church the Eritrean Orthodox Church Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam

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What we need to succeed in the fight against human trafficking

monique_esmerAuthor: Monique Emser
Research Associate, Department of Criminal and Medical Law, University of the Free State, South Africa

World Day of Social Justice – Ending human trafficking and forced labour: 20 February 2015

While there is evidence to suggest that some trafficking networks in South Africa are transnational, exhibiting professional and entrepreneurial business structures and methods of operation, reported cases of human trafficking in South Africa to date tend not to be affiliated with large, sophisticated criminal networks. Rather, they involve opportunistic individuals or families who are loosely coupled in temporary arrangements with criminal syndicates and co-conspirators in points of origin and transit.

Small-time traffickers and their co-conspirators often ‘piggy-back’ on existing criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling or drug trafficking, using established transportation routes to hide their activities. Highly organised trafficking networks, on the other hand, have evolved to such an extent that some even exhibit professional structures and employ legal companies as a front for their illegal activities.[1] It is this flexibility and mobility of organisation which makes trafficking networks so difficult to detect and dismantle.

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Taking the right to adequate food seriously: Reflections on the International Agreement on Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems

bereket_kefyalewAuthor: Bereket Kefyalew
Freelance consultant and researcher in human rights and development

After two years of negotiations the Principles of Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (PRIAF) were approved by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) on October 15, 2014. This has been endorsed by some as a breakthrough for realising the right to adequate food and ensuring food security for all.

Since the 2007/2008 global economic crisis, agricultural investments, particularly large scale investments have flourished across the globe. Africa has become a major destination for large scale agriculture investors largely due to the cheap and fertile land, and poor protection of land rights. The investments are apparatuses of the market led agricultural trade liberalization model claimed to be the panacea for food insecurity in the world by hegemonic industrialized states.

It is evident that some of these investments have utterly affected the right to adequate food in Africa and elsewhere as the investments, for instance, displaced people from their land, or registered futile contribution to food security and nutrition. For this reason some practitioners proposed human rights based regulation of global and national food and nutrition related policies. Nevertheless the investors and host nations defended the investments and denied the adverse effects.

The PRIAF was born out of these competing views on agricultural investments. It brought together major stakeholders to come into consensus on common principles on how to conduct agriculture investments. It is an effort to regulate agriculture investments globally; and to strike a balance between investment promotion and protection of human rights and ensuring sustainable development.

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Factors inhibiting the identification and investigation of human trafficking cases

monique_esmerAuthor: Monique Emser
Research Associate, Department of Criminal and Medical Law, University of the Free State, South Africa

World Day of Social Justice – Ending human trafficking and forced labour: 20 February 2015

Law enforcement efforts have failed to keep pace with the mutable phenomenon of human trafficking despite the fact that it is regarded as the fastest growing and second most profitable criminal enterprise after drug trafficking.

The biggest challenge facing law enforcement in human trafficking cases is finding victims and their traffickers in the first place, since human trafficking involves the movement and concealment of victims.

Victims of human trafficking often do not self-identify as such. There are numerous reasons for this. Some victims may have consciously engaged in illicit activities, such as undocumented migration into the Republic or engaging in sex work. In such cases, ‘victims are unlikely to report their victimisation to the police or seek help from service providers.’[1] Where trafficking occurs within diaspora communities, self-identification and reporting to the police are even lower.

Others are too traumatised by their experiences and remain in denial. Distrust of law enforcement, fear of retaliation by traffickers, a lack of understanding of basic rights, are further inhibiting factors in relation to victim cooperation and investigation.

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Human trafficking investigations and victim identification

monique_esmerAuthor: Monique Emser
Research Associate,  Department of Criminal and Medical Law, University of the Free State, South Africa

World Day of Social Justice –  Ending human trafficking and forced labour: 20 February 2015

The identification and investigation of human trafficking cases is perhaps one of the most challenging and complex activities facing law enforcement and prosecution in South Africa, and the African region.

Despite new laws, widespread awareness-raising, the formation of specialised multi-agency task teams, and training of key public officials, little inroads have been made in combating and preventing trafficking. Indeed, the number of reported cases and victims assisted remain low, while the prevalence of trafficking appears to be increasing. Human trafficking remains a hidden crime which obviates simple solutions.

Comprehensive and socially inclusive counter-trafficking legislation which is victim-centred is a vital component for effective counter-trafficking governance. While South African anti-trafficking legislation was signed into law in 2013, it is yet to commence. Human trafficking remains partially criminalised. Prosecution of the crime, and victim assistance, is reliant on a transitional and inchoate legal and policy framework. The slow pace to bring the new law into force has several implications for law enforcement, prosecutors and service providers who are beginning to confront the problem at both national and local levels.

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How biometric identification can help the judicial management system

mohammad_shahnewazAuthor: Mohammad Shahnewaz
Senior Digital Marketing Specialist, M2SYS Technology

In many developing countries in Asia and Africa, the judicial system is yet to catch up with the perpetrators of crimes. The time has come for the respective authorities to change this notion and prepare themselves to adopt cutting-edge technologies like biometrics to accelerate the pace of the judiciary process. They have to remember the saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.

In developing countries people have a stereotypical view about judicial systems being slow, rigid, and secretive. This impression exists largely because of the slow judicial process and corruption within the system due to unavailability of modern age technologies to establish accountability of judicial personnel. On the other hand, since there is no effective system for keeping track of day-to-day judicial activities or cross-checking with previous case histories, problems like suspect identity theft and the use of stock witness are frequently taking place. Biometric identification technology can help to establish more accurate and secure identification and thus help the judicial system become more efficient, fast, responsible, and user-friendly.

In a judicial system the accurate identification of subjects is of major importance for effective administration. The public’s faith and trust of the judicial system relies largely on the ability to administer the right justice to the right person in a timely manner. Biometric identification systems can help the judicial system to accurately identify a crime suspect without a shadow of a doubt to determine guilt or innocence in a timely manner by a quick scan of a physiological attribute.

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Zero tolerance for female genital mutilation in Eritrea?

thato_motaungAuthor: Thato Motaung
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation: 6 February 2015

February 6 – the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation – is dedicated annually to making the world aware of the harmful effects of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) and to promote its eradication[1]. FGM/C involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia; a deep form of discrimination against women and girls, it directly violates their right to health, and physical integrity. The practice is rooted in cultural and religious beliefs of communities who perceive it as a social obligation to control female sexuality and ‘preserve or protect’ a woman’s chastity.

The most common form of FGM/C in Eritrea is ‘infubulation[2]’. During the procedure, the child’s legs and hips are tied together to limit movement – often for several weeks afterward to allow healing. The age for circumcising of a girl varies amongst cultural groups, but can range from one month old to 15 years. A traditional circumciser commonly performs the act within communities; close relatives or neighbours can also act as circumcisers.

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