Category Archives: Child Abuse

Revealed: chaining, beatings and torture inside Sudan’s Islamic schools

 Inside the khalwa in Sudan run by Sheikh Hussein, who died earlier this year.
Inside the khalwa in Sudan run by Sheikh Hussein, who died earlier this year. Photograph: Jess Kelly/BBC News Arabic

An April evening in the suburbs of Khartoum. After months of undercover work, I had learned to time my visits to khalwas, Sudan’s Islamic schools,to coincide with evening prayers. I entered while the sheikhs (teachers) and 50-odd boys dressed in their white djellabas were busy praying. As they knelt, I heard the clanking of chains on the boys’ shackled legs. I sat down behind them and started filming, secretly.

I began investigating after allegations emerged of abuse inside some of these schools: children kept in chains, beaten and sexually abused. Khalwas have existed in Sudan for centuries. There are more than 30,000 of them across the country where children are taught to memorise the Qur’an. They are run by sheikhs who usually provide food, drink and shelter, free of charge. As a result, poor families often send their children to khalwas instead of public schools.

I had been working as a journalist in Sudan for five years, but this was the first time an assignment really felt personal. I was taught at a khalwa: a place where I would try to get through each day without being beaten.

In 2018, I began what would become a two-year investigation with BBC News Arabic and take me to 23 khalwas across Sudan. Before proper undercover equipment from the BBC arrived, I taped my phone inside a notebook, to secretly film.

Despite having gone to a khalwa myself, I was shocked by what I found. I saw children – some as young as five – beaten and shackled like animals. One boy with deep, raw wounds around his ankles told me: “We can be in groups of six or seven all chained together, and they [the sheikhs] make us run around in circles. Whenever one of us falls over we have to get up again because they keep whipping us … They say that this is good for us.”

One of the worst experiences I had was in 2018 at Ahmed Hanafy, a well-respected khalwa in Darfur. In a study room, under a hot corrugated iron roof, a small boy was held down and whipped more than 30 times by a teacher. The only sound in the room was the lashing of the whip and the boy’s anguished cries. I wanted to grab the whip and hit the sheikh, but I knew I couldn’t. When I later contacted the school, the sheikh confirmed they do beat children but denied this incident ever took place.

Another disturbing case was that of two 14-year-old boys, Mohamed Nader and Ismail. When I visited them in hospital they were lying on their stomachs, unconscious, their backs stripped of flesh. They were beaten and tortured so badly they nearly died.

“They kept them in a room for five days without food or water,” Mohamed Nader’s father, Nader, told me.

“They rubbed tar all over their bodies. [Mohamed Nader] has been so badly beaten you can even see his spine.”

I had filmed inside the same khalwa where this had happened, al-Khulafaa al-Rashideen, run by a man called Sheikh Hussein. The conditions there were the worst I had seen. Most of the boys were shackled and teachers hovered over them with whips in case they made any mistakes. One student pointed out a room with barred windows, which he described as a prison. It was the room in which Ismail and Mohamed Nader had been kept.

I kept in regular contact with the boys. Several months after the attack, as we played on a PlayStation together, Mohamed Nader began to tell me what happened when he was caught trying to escape with Ismail.

“They tied me up and laid me on my stomach before whipping me”, he said. The beatings went on for days. “A lot of people came to beat us while the rest of the khalwa was asleep. After that, I don’t know what happened, I woke up in the hospital.”

The police charged two teachers with assault, who were later released on bail. The khalwa remained open.

As he stared at the screen, Mohamed Nader said: “There is rape in the khalwa. They would call you for it, in a macho way.” He said the smaller or weaker boys were abused by older students.

Mohamed Nader and Ismail were not sexually assaulted, but several other people also told me that rape happened in the khalwa under the management of Sheikh Hussein.

When I returned to the khalwa to talk to him, Sheikh Hussein admitted that it was wrong to imprison children, but maintained that shackling was “packed with benefits” and that “most khalwas use chaining, not just me”. He told me he had stopped using chains and that “the prison” was now a storeroom. When I asked about allegations of sexual abuse he became angry, categorically denying these claims and accusing me of attacking the Qu’ran.

The sheikh died in a car accident earlier this year.

The new transitional government is now conducting a survey of all khalwas in Sudan. The minister of religious affairs, Nasreddine Mufreh, said they would be reformed. There should be “no beating, torture, violation of human rights or children’s rights whatsoever” inside khalwas.

When I told him about the abuse I had seen, he replied: “The old regime didn’t have laws regulating khalwas. I can’t solve a problem caused by 30 years of the old regime overnight.”

With the influence that sheikhs hold, it’s rare for families to seek justice. However, Mohamed Nader’s parents have decided to press charges. Although the public prosecutor’s office is obliged to look into all cases of violence against children, Mohamed Nader’s parents have had to hire a lawyer to fight their case.

On the way into court his mother, Fatima, said the 2018 revolution had made her more optimistic: “In the past, we had no rights but now it’s different. With the new government, we will get our rights, God willing.”

After several hours inside she emerged disappointed. One of the defendants had failed to turn up and the hearing was postponed. The teachers accused of beating the boys still haven’t entered a plea. The khalwa is now run by Sheikh Hussein’s brother who told me that under his management the beating of children would not be tolerated.

Mohamed Nader and Ismail are on a slow road to physical recovery. But thousands of other children across Sudan are still at risk.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/oct/19/revealed-chaining-beatings-and-torture-inside-sudans-islamic-schools

Ethiopia’s enslaved child maids seek solace at night school

Screenshot_2020-03-04 Ethiopia's enslaved child maids seek solace at night school
An underage domestic worker takes notes in a class in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 14, 2020. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Emeline Wuilbercq

ADDIS ABABA, – Each day, 12-year-old Tesfa waits for the clock to strike 3:30 p.m. and provide her respite from the cooking, cleaning and beatings she endures working as a maid in Ethiopia’s capital.

Once she finishes her daily tasks – which include caring for a toddler – Tesfa runs to a primary school to avoid being late for a catch-up class tailored towards underage domestic workers.

“I’m only happy when I come here,” Tesfa, whose name was changed to protect her identity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after a class in Addis Ababa last month.

Fiddling with her necklace, she spoke of sleeping on the floor, eating only leftovers and being denied any days off.

“I do anything (the employers) order me to do … they beat me, always,” added Tesfa. She was left with the family last year by an aunt who took her from northern Ethiopia to Addis Ababa.

Tesfa is one of countless girls working as maids in cities across Ethiopia although official data is lacking. Most come from rural areas and are sent away in search of a living by their families – often via labour brokers or with relatives.

Kept indoors, far from home, and unprotected by labour law, many child servants are denied an education, exploited and enslaved, according to activists that work with such victims.

Run by a local charity, the two-hour lessons are attended by about 130 pupils, most of them young maids, who have permission from their employers to go to school once their chores are done.

“These children are hungry for education,” Fikirte Assefa, a volunteer for the Organization for Prevention, Rehabilitation and Integration of Female Street Children (OPRIFS), which has been running the early evening classes since 2006.

“(The classes give them) hope and a vision,” Fikirte added, recounting success stories of former child maids she had worked with who later went on to become nurses, doctors and engineers.

LEGAL STRUGGLE

Yet such triumphs are thought to be rare in a country where the rights of domestic workers are not enshrined in labour law.

Their working conditions are regulated by Ethiopia’s civil code of 1960, leaving them highly vulnerable to abuses according to lawyers who say this limits their legal avenues to pursue justice and fuels a sense of impunity among exploitative bosses.

Under the code, employers must pay domestic workers living in their homes every three months and cover healthcare costs, while being entitled to offset the outlay against owed wages.

Former federal prosecutor Mussie Mezgebo Gebremedhin said this meant that the lives of Ethiopia’s domestic workers “largely depended on employers’ sense of fairness”.

“The government has drafted a regulation on domestic work but still it has not been enacted,” he said. “(It) thinks that domestic work based on a contract can disrupt the family-like conditions or the relationship between the employer and worker.”

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200304002433-0qarl/

 

India: six guilty of child rape and murder that outraged nation

IndiaA bus carrying the accused arrives at court in Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir state, on Monday. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

An Indian court has convicted six men of involvement in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state last year, in a case that sparked outrage and criticism of the country’s ruling party after some of its members opposed charges being laid.

The girl, from a nomadic Muslim community that roams the forests of Kashmir, was drugged, held captive in a temple and sexually assaulted for a week before being strangled and battered to death with a stone in January 2018.

The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a plan to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the 15-page charge sheet said.

Among those accused were a Hindu priest and police officers, raising communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the area.

“This is a victory of truth,” the prosecution lawyer M Farooqi said outside the court. “The girl and her family have got justice today. We are satisfied with the judgment.”

The prosecution was seeking the death penalty for three men – the priest Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar – who were convicted of rape and murder, he said.

Three others, Surinder Kumar, Tilak Raj and Anand Dutta, were convicted of lesser crimes of destroying evidence.

AK Sawhney, a lawyer leading the legal team representing the accused, said they planned to appeal against the verdict.

The trial, held in private, began more than a year ago in Pathankot, a town about 45 miles from Rasana village in Kathua district, where the incident happened.

The supreme court shifted the trial to the neighbouring state of Punjab after the girl’s family and lawyer said they faced death threats, and local lawyers and Hindu politicians, including some from the ruling Bharatiya Janata party, held protests against police filing charges.

India has long been plagued by violence against women and children. Reported rapes climbed 60% to 40,000 from 2012 to 2016, according to government statistics, and many more go unreported, especially in rural areas.

Eight people are accused of involvement in the case. The seventh man, named as Vishal, was found not guilty on Monday, Farooqi said, while the eighth, a juvenile, is awaiting trial.

Pope Francis issues norms for reports of abuse of minors, seminarians, and religious

St Peter RomeThe dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Credit: Luxerendering/Shutterstock.

– New Vatican norms for the Church’s handling of sex abuse, issued Thursday, place seminarians and religious coerced into sexual activity through the misuse of authority in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

The norms also establish obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, require that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.

Pope Francis promulgated the law May 9 via a motu proprio, titled, “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”). He approved its promulgation on an experimental basis for a period of three years. It will enter in effect June 1, 2019.

“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful,” the pope wrote, stating that the primary responsibility for improving the handling of these issues falls to the bishop, though it concerns all who have ministries in the Church or “serve the Christian People.”

“Therefore, it is good that procedures be universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful,” he said.

The norms regard what are called, in canon law, “delicts against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue,” consisting of sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person; forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority; and the production or possession of child pornography.

The new law also concerns any actions intended to cover-up a civil or canonical investigation into accusations of child pornography use, sexual abuse of minors, or sexual coercion through abuse of power.

It establishes the so-called “metropolitan model” for the investigation of accusations against bishops and their equivalents, as proposed by Cardinal Blase Cupich at the November meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican February summit on the protection of minors.

According to the new law, the metropolitan archbishop will conduct the investigation into a suffragan bishop with a mandate from the Holy See. The metropolitan is required to send reports to the Holy See on the progress of the investigation every 30 days and to complete the investigation within 90 days unless granted an extension.

The metropolitan archbishop may use the assistance of qualified laypeople in carrying out the investigation, though it is primarily his responsibility, the norms state. Bishops’ conferences may establish funds to support these investigations.

The document emphasizes that “the person under investigation enjoys the presumption of innocence.”

At the conclusion of the investigation, the results are sent to the competent Vatican dicastery, which will then apply the applicable penalty according to existing canon law.

In the event a report concerns a major archbishop, it will be forwarded to the Holy See.

One article states that Church authorities shall be committed to ensuring “that those who state that they have been harmed, together with their families, are to be treated with dignity and respect,” be welcomed, listened to, and supported, offered spiritual assistance, and medical and psychological assistance.

The norms also introduce obligatory reporting, requiring that every cleric or religious man or woman who has become aware of an accusation of abuse or cover-up report it “promptly” to the proper church authority.

The ‘motu proprio’ also states that it will be required that every diocese create a stable mechanism or system through which people may submit reports of abuse or its cover-up. The exact form of the system, which could also be an entire office, will be left to the discretion of the individual diocese, but must be established by June 2020.

“Even if so much has already been accomplished, we must continue to learn from the bitter lessons of the past, looking with hope towards the future,” Pope Francis wrote.

“In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed,” he said, “attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.”

“This becomes possible only with the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, as we must always keep in mind the words of Jesus: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-issues-norms-for-reports-of-abuse-of-minors-seminarians-and-religious-94849

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religious superiors voice shame over child abuse failings

Shame photoCredit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

By Hannah Brockhaus

Rome, Italy,(CNA/EWTN News). Superiors general of men’s and women’s religious communities expressed sorrow Tuesday for sexual abuse committed within religious congregations and orders ahead of a Vatican meeting on child sex abuse.

The Feb. 19 statement noted the summit’s focus on “the sexual abuse of children and the abuse of power and conscience by those in authority in the Church, especially bishops, priests and religious.”

“We bow our heads in shame at the realization that such abuse has taken place in our Congregations and Orders, and in our Church,” the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG) wrote.

“Our shame is increased by our own lack of realization of what has been happening,” it continued. “We acknowledge that when we look at Provinces and Regions in our Orders and Congregations across the world, that the response of those in authority has not been what it should have been. They failed to see warning signs or failed to take them seriously.”

The organizations said they hope the Holy Spirit will work powerfully during the Feb. 21-24 meeting on the protection of minors in the Church, and that they are ready to implement whatever is decided in terms of accountability for those in authority. Representatives of UISG and USG will attend the summit.

“New steps forward can be imagined and decisions can be made so that implementation can
follow speedily and universally with proper respect for different cultures,” they said, adding that “the abuse of children is wrong anywhere and anytime: this point is not negotiable.”

The same statement also said that the Church and wider society needs a “different culture” – one where children are treasured, and safeguarding promoted. They listed education, healthcare, formation, and spirituality, as areas in which the work of religious can help the Church safeguard children from sexual abuse.

It went on to say that the leadership provided by Pope Francis on this issue is “key,” and that they join with the Holy Father in reaching out to survivors and to “humbly acknowledge and confess the wrongs that have been done.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/religious-superiors-voice-shame-over-child-abuse-failings-63124