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Amnesty Report: Justice Systems Fail Female Rape Victims

Marking the 100th anniversary of Women's Day, human-rights watchdog Amnesty International says female victims of rape are denied access to justice in rich and poor countries.  

Widney Brown is senior director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.

"We wanted to demonstrate that actually the issues we say women are facing, they face in developed countries and countries that actually have very high marks for gender equality," said Brown.

In two reports, Amnesty looks at rape in Cambodia and the Nordic Countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.  Amnesty says it found that although the legal systems in each country varied greatly, all had gaps that discouraged women and girls from seeking justice for sexual crimes committed against them.

In the Northern European countries, Amnesty says women who report rape to police only have a small chance of having their cases tried by a court of law.  It says the use of violence determines the seriousness of rape, instead of the violation of a woman's sexual autonomy.

In Cambodia, official statistics show the number of rapes is on the rise, but Amnesty says the extent of the increase is hidden by lack of monitoring and reporting.  And it says in Cambodia corruption and discrimination within the police and courts prevents rape victims receiving justice.

Brown says the reports show rape is not just a major problem in conflict areas.

"What we need to recognize is that rape and sexual violence happen in non-conflict situations in sort of a day-to-day way that just does not get taken seriously, where is a real lack of political will to say 'This is something that we care about and we are going to address it,'" added Brown.

And she says Amnesty's research has found the use of rape as a mechanism of war shows no sign of abating.

"It continues to be used as a tactic of war.  But again, you know, it is still seen as regrettable, but rather inevitable, part of war, instead of being understood as the impact it has on the civilian population," she noted.

Brown says forcing international justice systems to confront the problem of rape has been a long battle.  She says in the past 17 years legislative reform has taken place that makes it clear that rape is a crime.  But she says the struggle now is to make sure those laws are implemented.

"Now I do not think the issue is proving the violence is happening.  But I think there is a sense that a lack of political will to make justice systems work for women, and again, still an incredible amount of skepticism when women report rape," explained Brown.

This year is the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day, first proposed in 1910 and officially sanctioned by the United Nations in 1975.

The day is an official holiday in 15 countries, including China, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

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