Trade or Human Rights? Integrity of State Department Trafficking Report Still an Open Question — Charlie Fanning

Source: AFL-CIO

BY CHARLIE FANNING

06/30/2016. The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report is a powerful tool to hold governments accountable for their failures to prevent human trafficking. The report ranks governments worldwide into one of three tiers based on their efforts to combat and prevent trafficking and forced labor, with the lowest ranking of tier three carrying economic sanctions. The release of the 2016 report has been met with mixed reviews from labor and anti-trafficking groups.

In recent years, the administration has politicized the ranking of certain countries to fit its trade and economic agenda rather than prioritizing people’s right to live in freedom. Last year, after the State Department upgraded Malaysia—a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership trading partner—from tier three, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said: “The administration appears to be resolute in forging a flawed trade agreement with countries that currently violate fundamental labor and human rights.”

This year, the administration doubled down on the mistake and failed to downgrade Malaysia, despite reports that grueling working conditions for migrant workers remain the norm. Indeed, the Nepal Embassy recently reported that some 2,945 Nepalese migrant workers died on the job in Malaysia in the past 10 years—an average of nearly one worker per day. Read more

Malaysia remain in the Tier 2 Watch List in the latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2016 by the US State Department

OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
June 30, 2016

MALAYSIA: Tier 2 Watch List

Malaysia is a destination and, to a much lesser extent, source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and a small number of children subjected to sex trafficking. The majority of trafficking victims are among the estimated two million documented and an even greater number of undocumented migrant laborers in Malaysia. Foreign workers—primarily from Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, India, Burma, and other Southeast Asian countries—typically migrate voluntarily to Malaysia to pursue better economic opportunities. Some of these migrants are subjected to forced labor or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labor recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel. Foreign workers employed by outsourcing or contract labor companies, which may or may not have oversight of personnel issues or day-to-day working conditions, have heightened vulnerabilities to exploitative labor conditions and a reduced ability to resolve disputes. Agents in labor source countries may impose onerous fees on workers before they arrive in Malaysia, in some cases causing debt bondage. Foreign workers in Malaysia and the companies which employ them are subject to a range of government fees for immigration processing, foreign worker levies, and other administrative processes. The law allows many of the fees, which are initially paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recouped. Government regulations placed the burden of paying some immigration and employment authorization fees on foreign workers; this practice makes workers more susceptible to debt bondage. Authorities report organized crime syndicates are responsible for some instances of trafficking. Corruption among immigration and police officers remains a problem and impedes efforts to address trafficking. Read more

Survey ranks Malaysia highly for medical care, but behind Pakistan, Sierra Leone for rights

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Infographic taken from MMO

Infographic taken from MMO

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 ― Malaysians enjoy basic healthcare that is comparable to some developed countries but also face restrictions on civil liberties more severe than in repressive regimes such as Pakistan and Sierra Leone, according to a recent survey.

The Social Progress Index 2016 released this month by the Social Progress Imperative, an international network that pushes for social change, showed Malaysia ranked 50th out of 133 countries overall, falling four spots from the previous survey.

The survey measured countries’ social progress on three broad categories: “Basic Human Needs”, which comprises public safety and access to nutrition, basic medical care, water, and housing; “Foundations of Wellbeing” that measures access to basic education and information, as well as environmental protection; and “Opportunity” that measures personal rights, freedom, prejudices in society, as well as access to advanced education.

Malaysia was 38th and scored an overall 88.45 out of 100 for the “Basic Human Needs” indicator. It performed especially well in terms of nutrition and access to basic medical care (97.24 out of 100) followed by access to water and housing.

But the country’s score was weighed down by its performance on personal rights. It ranked 101st and scored just 32.52 out of 100 on the personal rights indicator that comprises political rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or association, freedom of movement and private property rights.

Malaysia placed lower than Pakistan, Indonesia and Singapore in this area, even falling below poor African countries like Sierra Leone. Read more

In Malaysia, Syrian migrants speak of harrowing torture in Syria

Source: The Malay Mail Online

A Syrian man reads the Quran after a mass prayer session during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Harran refugee camp in Sanliurfa province, Turkey June 7, 2016. — Reuters pic

A Syrian man reads the Quran after a mass prayer session during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Harran refugee camp in Sanliurfa province, Turkey June 7, 2016. — Reuters pic

SHAH ALAM — It is hard for peace-loving Malaysians to imagine ceaseless war. But for a doughty bunch of Syrian migrants, it was all there for many years.

Thanks to the efforts of the Coalition of Humanitarian NGOs for Syria, 68 people are now settled in the country after being moved from one refugee camp to another since fleeing their conflict-ridden homeland.

The migrants were vetted by Home Ministry officials, who ensured they had no ties with the government of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, the Free Syrian Army, or any other political faction in the civil war. Any connections, even the most remote, merited automatic disqualification.

Yet the adults of these 17 families will never forget the horrors they witnessed first-hand during the early years of the Syrian Civil War, which erupted in 2011.

Abdullah, 26, was a former military officer under the government of Syria’s strongman, who once worked in a four-storey prison where dissidents were subjected to torture. Sickened by what he saw, he eventually turned against al-Assad and fled with his wife Nur S., also 26.

“The most common method of breaking you was to tie your arms above your head and leave you in that position for 10 days. Either that or arms pulled and tied behind your back, or one arm and leg pulled back for that period,” he said, as some of his compatriots gestured in illustration. Read more

Shariah court allows Sabah woman’s bid to delete ‘Islam’ from MyKad

Source: The Malay Mail Online

The Sabah shariah court granted a Christian woman’s application for a declaration that she was not Muslim, enabling her to apply for a MyKad without the ‘Islam’ status. File picture shows people queueing up at the NRD to submit their MyKad application form. — Picture by Choo Choy May

The Sabah shariah court granted a Christian woman’s application for a declaration that she was not Muslim, enabling her to apply for a MyKad without the ‘Islam’ status. File picture shows people queueing up at the NRD to submit their MyKad application form. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KOTA KINABALU, June 29 — The Shariah court here today granted a Christian woman’s application today for a declaration that she was not Muslim, after a five-year legal and administrative process.

Ervinna Chua Soo Kea @ Ervinna Abdullah’s application was granted by Shariah High Court judge Nawawi Diman, who was satisfied that she did not fall within the meaning of “Orang Islam” under the state Sabah Islamic Council Enactment 2004.

“The judge ruled that the plaintiff, who grew up in a Christian family but whose father later converted to Islam, never practised or lived a Muslim life,” said her counsel Hamid Ismail.

“The judge in the case allowed the application after saying that Chua had followed her mother’s religion and there was no evidence that Chua’s Muslim father, when he was living with her prior to the divorce, had raised her as a Muslim by teaching her performing solat, fasting or others, therefore never practised a Muslim’s life throughout her life,” he said. Read more

Rayuan k’jaan ditolak, bekas tahanan ISA dapat RM5.16 juta

Sumber: Malaysiakini

The Palace of Justice in Putrajaya - File pix

The Palace of Justice in Putrajaya – File pix

Mahkamah Persekutuan hari ini menolak rayuan oleh polis dan kerajaan terhadap kuantum ganti rugi am diarahkan supaya dibayarkan kepada lima bekas tahanan Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri semasa era Reformasi pada tahun 2001.

Mahkamah tertinggi negara itu juga mengekalkan pampasan RM10,000 sehari yang diberikan kepada lima mereka sepanjang tempoh penahanan mereka yang menyalahi undang-undang.

Setiap mereka dikurung dari 41 hingga 53 hari, iaitu ketika dalam jagaan polis sebelum dipindahkan ke pusat tahanan Kamunting.

Mereka adalah Ahli Parlimen Batu Chua Tian Chang atau Tian Chua, ADUN Hulu Klang Saari Sungib, aktivis Hishamuddin Rais, bekas Ahli Majlis Tertinggi PKR Badrul Amin Baharom dan Badaruddin Ismail, yang lebih dikenali sebagai Pak Din.

Pampasan itu bagaimanapun tidak meliputi tempoh dua tahun ketika mereka ditahan di kem Kamunting untuk tahanan ISA, selepas dilabel sebagai pengganas pada masa itu oleh Ketua Polis Negara, Tan Sri Norian Mai. Read more

A call to action — #FightUnfair

Source: UNICEF

The life prospects of children trapped in intergenerational cycles of poverty and disadvantage might seem like a matter of chance – an unlucky draw in a lottery that determines which children will live or die, which have enough to eat, can go to school, see a doctor or play in a safe place.

But while children’s origins are largely a matter of fate, the opportunities available to them are not. They are the result of choices – choices made in our communities, societies, international institutions and, most of all, our governments.

We know that the right choices can change the lives of millions of children – because we have seen it. National action, new partnerships and global commitments have helped drive tremendous – even transformational – change. Children born today are significantly less likely to live in poverty than those who were born 15 years ago. They are over 40 per cent more likely to survive to their fifth birthday and more likely to be in school.

But far too many children have not shared in this progress.

Reaching these forgotten children must be at the centre of our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which pledge to leave no one behind. The 2030 goals cannot be reached if we do not accelerate the pace of our progress in reaching the world’s most disadvantaged, vulnerable and excluded children.

Unless we act now, by 2030:

  • Over 165 million children will live on no more than US$1.90 a day – 9 out of 10 will live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Almost 70 million children under the age of 5 will die of largely preventable causes – and children in sub-Saharan Africa will be 10 times as likely to die as those from high-income countries.
  • More than 60 million children aged 6 to 11 will be out of school – roughly the same number as today.
  • 750 million women will have been married as children. Read more

What it’s Like to be Married at 7 Years Old

Source: Huffington Post

A view of Pol-e-Charkhi, as seen from near the house of Spengul’s mom. — Photo Shougofa Alikozay/Huffington Post

For this 37-year-old mother of five, life is the picture of enforced marriage: she barely scrapes by on less than a dollar a day and cannot afford to take any of her children to school.

“I don’t want my daughter to suffer the same limitations and problems I have. I want her to marry when she is old enough, not in her childhood,” Spengul’s mom tells me when we meet in her mud and clay house in the dusty village of Pol-e-Charkhi, on Kabul’s outskirts. She abides by a rural Afghan tradition of not using her own name, and instead is called after her first-born child.

Spengul’s mom was married at just 7 years old to a man then in his mid-20s. For her impoverished family, the marriage offered some financial relief and a form of protection. “I was a child. How could I be happy?” she says. “How can a child without her mom and dad be happy in a strange house?”

But her husband turned out to be mentally unstable and addicted to opium, meaning she suffered neglect, unbearable loneliness and heartbreak. As soon as she started menstruating, at age 13, she conceived their first child. But with her adolescent body not fully developed and prepared for birth, and with no money for food and medicine, the baby boy did not have much of a chance. He died after a mere four months.

As is common in underage mothers, Spengul’s mom suffered physically after her first birth, and did not have another child for some time. Girls who give birth under the age of 18 can face many problems, including diabetes, anemia and heart disease, health experts say. She was lucky to have survived, especially as she was under the age of 15: Afghanistan has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, largely owing to the custom of enforced marriage of young girls and women. Poverty and a lack of sufficient calories worsen the problem. Afghanistan has the fourth worst mortality rate for children under 5 in the world, after Angola, Benin and Chad, with some 101 children dying for every 1,000 live births, according to UNICEF. Read more

Malaysian woman stands up against religious policing during Ramadan

Source: Asian Correspondent

Women in hijabs queue for food on the street in Kuala Lumpur. Pic: Peter Rowley / Flickr

A LOCAL activist has taken a stance against “moral and religious policing of Muslims in Malaysia, especially Muslim women”, sharing her own personal experience of not being allowed to eat in public during the month of Ramadan.

Over the weekend, “Mrym Lee” (as she is known on Facebook and Twitter), who wears a hijab, was subjected to rude behavior when she went to a restaurant at a shopping center in Kuala Lumpur in the daytime.

The manager of the restaurant, as well as various passersby, harangued her, with some claiming that she was “damaging the image of Islam” and “disrespecting those who were fasting”.

In a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, Mrym explained that she made a conscious effort for this year’s observance of Ramadan to protest against societal expectations by eating and drinking in public when she could not fast.

Screenshot via Twitter.

Screenshot via Twitter. Read more

Penang to hold talks with Islamic agencies to discourage child marriages

Source: The Malay Mail Online

The Pakatan Harapan Penang government is seeking to hold in-depth talks with the state’s Islamic authorities and Muslim groups to curb the existing practice of child marriages, state executive councillor Chong Eng said today.

The women, family and community development committee chairman said she hoped to rope in state Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim for the talks.

“We plan to do a consultation with him, the relevant Islamic religious agencies and Muslim groups to discourage child marriages and get Muslims to understand that child marriages is not good for the child,” she said after a roundtable discussion on child protection.

She said a report on the round table discussion will be presented to Abdul Malik, who was not present at the discussion, so that he could assist in arranging discussions on the issue with Muslim groups and Islamic religious authorities.

There is currently a conflict between civil laws and Islamic laws on the minimum legal act for marriages in Malaysia. For non-Muslims, the earliest they can tie the knot is at 18, although those who are 16 may be allowed if they have the written consent from the state chief minister. Read more