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Photos of Tina adorn Thelma Favel’s home in the Sagkeeng First Nation. (Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail)

How many more women will it take, asks family of slain teen Tina Fontaine

Kathryn Blaze Carlson, The Globe and Mail, Aug. 22 2014

The night before Tina Fontaine left home for the last time, her family gathered in a circle in their living room to pray, a nightly tradition of uttering the Our Father and asking for healing and protection.

That was June 31, the eve of the 15-year-old’s journey to Winnipeg for a visit with her estranged mother. The next day, the aunt who had for a decade raised Tina as her own, Thelma Favel, sent her out the door with $60 cash, calling cards, a pack of cigarettes and a hug.

With that, Tina was on the road with a relative, passing over Devil’s Creek and Brokenhead River as the prairie grass disappeared in the rearview mirror.

“I let her go [to Winnipeg], and that’s the worst mistake I’ve ever made,” Ms. Favel said in a sit-down interview at her Powerview-Pine Falls home, where Tina grew up. “I’ll never hear her voice again, never see her beautiful smile.”

On either side of the living room, prayer candles flicker beside framed school photos: one of Tina not long before her cancer-stricken father’s 2011 beating death, the other taken just months before the teen’s body was pulled from the muddy waters of Winnipeg’s Red River on Aug. 17.

Tina’s life and mysterious death have become a galvanizing force in the fight for a national inquiry into the more than 1,100 aboriginal women who have died or gone missing in the past three decades. In the words of Winnipeg Police Service’s aboriginal liaison officer, Patrol Sergeant Edith Turner, the women’s tears would form a river spanning the nation.

Tina’s family wants Canadians to see the petite teen as more than a statistic. Half of Manitoba’s female murder victims between 1980 and 2012 were aboriginal, but Tina had a story of her own.

She loved math and science and made her schoolmates laugh. She was supposed to start Grade 10 in the fall. She had just finished a babysitting course and some day wanted to work with children. She was reading her driver’s handbook in anticipation of her 16th birthday. She was shy, but sometimes let loose and danced in her living room.

In the days since her body was found, family and friends have offered a complex picture of the girl. It’s a familiar story of a young aboriginal woman whose life was marked by trauma and instability, leaving her vulnerable to a tragic end.

Her mother left her as a toddler, but had recently come back into her life. She’d been struggling with the violent details emerging from the court case into the slaying of her father, Eugene Fontaine, but refused to accept what little professional help Ms. Favel was able to arrange.

She had run away several times before her latest disappearance in August, but signalled a couple of weeks ago that she wanted to return soon to Powerview-Pine Falls. Her last text to her 14-year-old sister, Sarah, said: “Tell mama and papa I love them and I miss them, but I’m not ready to go home yet” – a reference to Ms. Favel and her husband, Joseph Favel.

Hundreds turned out for Tuesday evening’s vigil, held on the Alexander Docks near where Tina was found by police divers who were actually looking for another person when they happened upon her body, wrapped in plastic.

Across the country, the high-profile case has prompted renewed calls from the Assembly of First Nations, Manitoba’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the federal NDP for a federal inquiry.

Winnipeg police Sergeant John O’Donovan expressed frustration in announcing her death Monday. “Society would be horrified if we found a litter of kittens or pups in the river in this condition.” he said. “This is a child. Society should be horrified.”

But the Conservative government has rebuffed the appeals, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper drawing criticism this week for saying Tina’s death is first and foremost a crime – not part of a “sociological phenomenon” requiring further study. In an interview with The Canadian Press, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said that “for Stephen Harper to say that there’s not a systemic aspect to this, I think is just – I think it’s outrageous, quite frankly.”

Tina’s death has raised some very complex questions, specifically around what former judge Ted Hughes has described as the “gross disproportion” of aboriginal children and youth in the care of provincial government agencies. In her short life, Tina was twice briefly in the care of Manitoba’s Child and Family Services; she was in the system in the weeks before she was reported missing Aug. 9.

“I reached out for help, and thought I was doing something good,” Ms. Favel said of voluntarily placing Tina in CFS care in Winnipeg, “But now I don’t have my baby.”

The ripple effects of Tina’s death are now being felt throughout the police service and the Sagkeeng First Nation community, whose acting chief, D.M Henderson, said he was “in shock.”

It’s also taking a toll on her sister, Sarah. At the vigil Tuesday, she clutched wildflowers as tears streamed down her round cheeks. “I can’t believe your [sic] actually gone,” she later wrote on her Facebook page.

Saturday afternoon’s funeral service at the re-serve’s St. Alexander Roman Catholic Parish will serve as a reminder of a life cut short, dreams not lived and what University of Winnipeg aboriginal studies professor Niigaan Sinclair calls the “largest epidemic” plaguing this country: the murder and disappearance of Canada’s aboriginal girls and women.

‘The system failed her’

On the first day of 1999, Tina was born at the Women’s Hospital in Winnipeg to Eugene Fontaine, of Sagkeeng, and Valentina Duck, a Bloodvein First Nation woman. “She was a New Year’s baby,” Ms. Duck, 33, told The Globe and Mail.

The couple, who met at a Winnipeg house party when Ms. Duck was 12 years old, already had a three-year-old son named Charles. One year after Tina’s birth, they had Sarah.

Ms. Duck fell into alcoholism and left her children with Mr. Fontaine, who worked at a tire recycling facility, when the girls were barely toddlers. Mr. Fontaine tried to raise them on his own in the city, but when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, he reached out to his older sister, Ms. Favel, for help.

He needed someone he trusted to look after Tina, whom he nicknamed Monkey, and little Sarah, whom he lovingly called Chubby. When he let his girls go, he believed it was temporary – that some day he’d care for them himself once more.

In a handwritten letter dated Nov. 21, 2003, he wrote: “I, Eugene R. Fontaine, give Thelma Favel temporary custody of my daughters Tina Michelle Fontaine and Sarah Mae Fontaine until [future] notice. This is until I am ready to take them back.”

Mr. Fontaine never got that chance. He died from an Oct. 31, 2011, beating that cut his life just short of the four months doctors had told him he had left to live. Tina’s father gave Thelma Favel temporary custody of his two daughters until he was ready to take them back. He was beaten to death before he got the chance. (Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail)

Ms. Favel said the girls briefly came under CFS supervision after she assumed custody, living with her on the reserve. Skeptical of CFS, she decided to take them out of the system after about six months, despite it meaning she wouldn’t get financial help to raise the girls.

“I wanted them to be mine,” said Ms. Favel, who is also raising Tina and Sarah’s two cousins. “Kids in care sometimes fall through the cracks.”

But after Tina started struggling with her father’s brutal slaying and her newfound relationship with Ms. Duck, Ms. Favel turned to CFS for help. In July, Ms. Favel called and asked that Tina be placed in short-term provincial care. She said she wanted Tina to have access to counselling; she thought the girl might be more safe.

Ms. Favel is under the impression Tina then lived on and off with a foster family in the city, though she isn’t sure. She said a CFS worker reported Tina missing Aug. 9 after she said the teen had already been “AWOL” from care for two weeks.

“The system failed her,” Ms. Favel said.

Manitoba’s Office of the Children’s Advocate is investigating the public services Tina received as part of an automatic review that occurs whenever a child in care dies. The results of the review, including any recommendations aimed at preventing future tragedies, must remain confidential under current provincial legislation.

Two CFS workers, including a man Ms. Favel said tried to help secure grief counselling for Tina, were among those who streamed into the Favel home delivering food ahead of the teen’s wake. Both the man and his supervisor declined to answer questions, referring The Globe to the their communications office.

A turning point: ‘I’m lonely. I miss Daddy.’

Growing up on Louis Riel Drive in Powerview-Pine Falls, Tina did household chores – tidying her room and doing the dinner dishes – to earn her weekly $20 allowance. She also made Ms. Favel laugh with her singular love of iceberg lettuce.

“I used to have to buy an extra head every time I made salad,” she recalled with a smile. “She’d walk around the house eating the layers.”

But emotions also ran high at the Favel home. The day of Mr. Fontaine’s funeral, Ms. Duck called her daughters for the first time since the girls could remember, Ms. Favel said. Tina was hit hard by the reality of burying her father, whose framed picture still sits on her bedside table. A younger Tina Fontaine (R) with her sister Sarah. (Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail )

But it wasn’t really until three years later that his death started affecting her behaviour, said Ms. Favel and Bryan Favel, Tina’s 29-year-old uncle who was raised as her brother.

The court proceedings were under way last spring, and Tina wanted to go with Ms. Favel to hear the case. Ms. Favel resisted, saying the teen shouldn’t remember her father by his violent killing.

However, Ms. Favel believes Tina overheard her one night relaying to her husband the details of the beating, including that Mr. Fontaine’s torso had been stomped so hard that a Nike checkmark was visible on his bare chest.

That’s when everything seemed to change. “We’d be watching TV and she’d come sit beside me and say, ‘Mama, I’m lonely. I miss Daddy,’” she said. “She would cry and then when she was done, she’d say, ‘Okay, I’m good now.’”

But Ms. Favel and Bryan Favel knew she wasn’t okay. Ms. Favel said she tried to get Tina into counselling – reaching out to CFS and the province’s Victim Services – only to have “doors shut” in her face and find that Tina was unwilling to get professional help.

Tina had been attending the nearby Ecole Powerview, where she was slated to enter Grade 10 in September. Her cousin, Shauna Bruyère, said Tina was most often seen at school with her sister, and recently cried on the cousin’s shoulder, saying she didn’t want to be living at home.

Ms. Favel said Tina wasn’t having issues at school, though she said there were times the teen got into minor trouble for arriving late to class after lunch, usually because she had dilly-dallied back from a nearby convenience store with friends.

A schoolmate and friend, Tarya Pakoo, described Tina as “funny,” but they also had serious conversations, including one in which Tarya implored her friend not to run away.

‘My God, what is happening here?’

Tina ran away twice last spring and didn’t return to Powerview-Pine Falls after what was supposed to be a five-day visit with Ms. Duck in early July. Bryan Favel drove the teen into the city’s north end and soon got the sense something was amiss when Ms. Duck wasn’t at her sister’s home, as Tina had thought.

Tina assured Bryan Favel everything would be fine and that she could stay with her aunt until her mother returned. Despite his unease, he relented. “I told her not to walk the streets at night, and if she needed anything, to call me,” he said. “She said, ‘I love you.’ I said, ‘I love you, too.’ And then I left her.”

Ms. Duck said she spent the better part of the week with Tina, watching movies and going to bingo at a local hall. She also said she met her daughter’s boyfriend, Cody, who posted a picture of himself with Tina on Facebook on July 10. He didn’t respond to an interview request.

Ms. Favel has said publicly she thinks Ms. Duck was doing drugs with her daughter; Ms. Duck said the pair “only smoked marijuana” together.

When Ms. Favel couldn’t reach Tina, she reported her missing on July 10. A week later, the RCMP issued a release saying Tina had been located. Ms. Favel said most times police found Tina she was at Portage Place, the city’s downtown mall. Tina Duck, mother of 15 year old Tina Fontaine, leaves a vigil on the Alexander Docks in Winnipeg. (Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail)

Ms. Duck said she doesn’t know where her daughter spent her final days, but thinks she was sometimes staying in a foster home and sometimes at her aunt’s in the city.

Police have revealed few details of the case, but Constable Jason Michalyshen said investigators believe the teen was “a vulnerable young lady and someone that would be easily exploited by certain individuals.” He wouldn’t say whether Tina had been involved in the sex trade. Ms. Duck, who once worked as a prostitute, said she’s certain her daughter was not a sex worker.

After police found Tina’s body, Justice Minister Peter MacKay offered his condolences to the Fontaine family. The Prime Minister did the same a few days later. Ms. Favel said the words mean nothing.

“[The government] is just putting it aside until another poor woman is found murdered, and then they’ll open their mouths and say, ‘We’re going to try to do this, we’re going to try to do that,’” she said. “But nothing is ever really done.”

Still, local activist Leslie Spillett said she’s hopeful Tina’s death might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“Maybe it’s that threshold where people kind of wake up and say, ‘My God, what is happening here?’” said Ms. Spillett, executive director of Ka Ni Kanichihk, a social development organization.

The issue is on the lips of those living on the Sagkeeng reserve, where one resident said Tina’s former teachers were overheard at a fundraiser lamenting her death. Gloria Spence, a 49-year-old woman who grew up on the streets of Winnipeg but returned to Sagkeeng in the 1980s, said she believes the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women has gotten worse over the years.

“In my younger days, it wasn’t an everyday-type thing,” said Ms. Spence, who was hosting a yard sale in the reserve this week. “Now, it seems like it’s constant.”

Patrol Sgt. Turner, whose own mother was reportedly a residential school survivor, said Winnipeg police met with local aboriginal leaders, including Sagkeeng’s acting chief, in the aftermath of Tina’s death.

With a trembling voice, she told those gathered at Tuesday’s vigil that everyone agreed on the importance of working together to end the plight of Canada’s so-called stolen sisters.

For Ms. Favel, though, it’s too late. She and her husband have arrangements to make and a funeral service to attend. In the coming days, she’ll scatter Tina’s ashes atop Mr. Fontaine’s grave. She knows today’s steady flow of family and friends into her home won’t last forever. She knows it will only get harder.

“Everything settles down,” she said, “and then you’re all alone.”

The granite monument is located near the historic rail bridge and the Oodena Celebration Circle. (Genevieve Morin/CBC)

Winnipeg monument honours missing, murdered aboriginal women

Forks monument honouring missing, murdered aboriginal women first of its kind in Canada

CBC News Posted: Aug 12, 2014

A monument honouring Manitoba's missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls was unveiled at The Forks on Tuesday. Missing murdered women monument "This is a very important day for families of Manitoba's missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls as we unveil a monument in their honour and recognition," Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson said at the unveiling.

"Manitoba continues to support families who have tragically and violently lost a loved one in a very tangible and symbolic way with the installation of this monument and we continue our community partnerships on this most critical issue.

"Many families have no place to honour, grieve or celebrate their loved one. This monument offers such a space to families and community seeking to honour aboriginal women and girls who were sadly taken from their families."

Families of Manitoba's missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls identified the establishment of a monument as a priority at the annual Wiping Away the Tears gathering.

The three-day gathering, held in June 2010 and hosted by the province, was aimed at developing new policies and improving resources for victims and their families. About 150 people gathered for Tuesday's unveiling.

The monument, created in the female form, is polished on one side with a rougher surface on the other to represent the roughness in life, explained Nahanni Fontaine, special adviser to the province.

“She is the whitest granite that you can get,” said Fontaine. ​ The circle represents the connection between two worlds and allows light to pass through. For many families of missing, murdered women there is no grave or place to remember, so this can be that place, Fontaine said. 'This is very special' “One of the things that happens for families is that they feel nobody cares or nobody listens or nobody understands,” said Fontaine. “This monument is that symbolic representation that this is a critical issue.”

Jennifer Catcheway went missing six years ago while heading home to Portage la Prairie for her 18th birthday party. “No matter how many years have gone by, it’s like yesterday,” said her mom, Bernice Catcheway. “We just need to bring her home now.”

During Tuesday’s unveiling, Catcheway sat next to families whose loved ones who had also gone missing – or had been murdered. “This is very special,” said Sue Caribou, Tanya​ Nepinak’s cousin. Nepinak went missing at age 31. A second-degree murder charge was laid in Nepinak's death but that charge was eventually stayed. “

You can come and remember your loved one. I’m very happy. I’m so happy,” said Caribou.

Europe in push to stop violence against women
by Associated Press, 1 August 2014

PARIS (AP) — The Council of Europe is taking new steps to combat violence against women under a newly ratified convention that comes into force Friday.

Fourteen European states are committing themselves to better fight violence against women following the signature of the so-called "Istanbul Convention."

The convention comes into force on Friday in 11 member states (Turkey, Albania, Italy, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Austria, Andorra, Spain, Denmark) and will be joined by France, Sweden and Malta in November.

"Violence against women remains one of the most widespread human rights violations which take place every day in Europe", said Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement published this week.

The convention obliges participating governments to take measures to counter domestic violence, forced marriage, stalking and sexual violence.

At least 12 women are killed by gender-related violence in Europe every day, according to the Council of Europe. In 2013 domestic violence claimed the lives of 121 women in France, 134 in Italy and 143 in the United Kingdom, according to national statistics.

The convention also targets female genital mutilation, forced abortion and forced sterilization, sexual harassment, and crimes committed in the name of "honor."

Signatories must "ensure that victims have access to services facilitating their recovery from violence" including "services such as legal and psychological counselling, financial assistance, housing, education, training and assistance in finding employment," according to the convention.

They must also "provide for the setting-up of appropriate, easily accessible shelters in sufficient numbers to provide safe accommodation for and to reach out pro-actively to victims, especially women and their children".

Independent experts will monitor governments' compliance with the convention.

Another 22 nations in the 47-member Council of Europe — the continent's leading human rights body — have signed the convention but not yet ratified. Eleven have so far ignored it, including Russia.

Read more:

Women's rights protestors take to the streets of Rezua, Matupi Township, Chin State on Monday, 23 June 2014. (Photo courtesy of Chinland Guardian)

Women’s rights activists stand trial in Chin State for protesting against army rape

by DVB, 16 July 2014

Eight women’s rights activists were questioned yesterday in two separate legal cases in Matupi Township Court in Chin State for staging unauthorised public protests against sexual violence by the Burmese military.

In June, about 400 protesters in Rezua took part in a demonstration that was prompted by the alleged attempted rape of a 55-year-old woman by a Burmese army soldier from Light Infantry Battalion No. 269. In Matupi, roughly 200 people showed up for a similar protest.

Although event organisers had requested permission from local authorities to stage their demonstrations, they were rebuffed – but forged on anyway. Four activists in Matupi and four more in Rezua were then charged with the violation of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law.

According to a press release yesterday by the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), the trial for the four women from Rezua will continue on 22 July.  The trial of two men and two women from Matupi is set to continue on 23 July.

Urging authorities to “immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against the activists”, CHRO reiterated its call for an impartial and independent international investigation into “serious human rights violations in Burma, including sexual violence, in order to deter further violations and help end the culture of impunity.”

CHRO has documented five cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the Burmese military in Chin State since the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein came into power in 2011.

However, Cherry Zahau, a prominent Chin activist, said that these recorded instances are just the “tip of the iceberg”, and that the Burmese military is using sexual violence and rape against Chin women to assert power.

“So far, those perpetrators have not been brought into any court system and justice has not been done in the favour of the victims,” Cherry Zahau said. “Clearly, it is a power issue [to show] that the soldier can do whatever he wants to do in that village. That is the message they want to indicate.”

Cherry Zahau added that the way the Burmese military and the government have been dealing with these complaints indicates a lack of political will.

“If there is a functional government or a more democratic government, they should look at the cases and the problems the women are raising instead of arresting the people who are raising the concerns and their voices,” she said.

"Don't use killer's name in stories", Letter to the Editor, Vancouver Sun.

This undated letter (left) was published in the 1990s and expressed how MANY PEOPLE in Canada felt about the media's irresponsible focus on the mass murderer.

Fast forward to June 7, 2014, and please read the latest article on the subject...

It goes against journalistic instinct, but we should deny killers their glory

by Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail, Jun. 07 2014

The whole country watched Moncton, first with horror, then with caught breath. For a day, a gunman was on the loose, a city terrorized. And three people were dead, all RCMP constables: David Ross, Fabrice Georges Gévaudan and Douglas James Larche.

A suspect is in custody. Police have released his name, too, but I’m not going to repeat it here. There are plenty of other places to find his identity and read about the trail of unearned grievances on his Facebook page. In the coming days, I’m sure we’ll learn more. I imagine it will be a familiar story of alienation and misplaced rage completely unattached to any actual injustice.

Police have apprehended the suspect in the shooting deaths of three RCMP officers in Moncton, New Brunswick. One resident who lives a few doors down from where the arrest was made says she is relieved.

This man is a suspect at the moment, nothing more. But he’s already succeeded in one thing: turning the attention of an entire country on himself. For a day, he and his stupid guns were the star of international cable news.

I’m not sure we want these guys taking up any more of our public space, sucking our valuable air. It’s what they want, to live in infamy, on a public stage where the spotlight is always on them. This is why they dress like cut-price Sylvester Stallones when they go out hunting humans, and make videos to be endlessly played on YouTube, and write “manifestos” about how the world has done them wrong.

We give them the attention they crave. Last Dec. 6, when I wanted to mark the anniversary of the murderous rampage at l’École Polytechnique that left 14 women dead, I realized that I knew the killer’s name but not the names of any of his victims. I went and looked them up, and it occurred to me that this was a second indignity committed against them. They are unknown, while his name lives on.

The 22-year-old who killed six people in Isla Vista, Calif., two weeks ago did his best to ensure that his electronic ghost would persist after he’d taken his own life. Affluent, pampered and troubled, he felt ignored, especially by the women who “owed” him something. He left a trail of poisonous videos and letters behind to ensure he’d have the attention in death he felt so grievously deprived of in life.

There are people who want to make sure that doesn’t happen. Richard Martinez is the father of Christopher Martinez, one of the victims of the Isla Vista killer. Mr. Martinez is incandescent in his rage, and he’s aiming that fury at America’s gun laws and a culture that he thinks inadvertently glorifies these criminals.

“When the media puts the shooter’s name out there, they put his picture out there, they put his videos out there, they’re doing exactly what the shooter wanted – they’re completing his plan,” Mr. Martinez told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Mr. Cooper has a policy of not naming or showing the pictures of mass killers on his program, partly prompted by the impassioned plea of the father of another shooting victim, a young man killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colo., theatre rampage. Megyn Kelly of Fox News has the same policy, saying she doesn’t want to reward murderous “infamy.” 60 Minutes recently ran a story about a football coach who confronted a student after he’d killed three classmates; the killer was deliberately not named or shown.

Does denying one killer his moment of glory keep others from following? It’s impossible to know, because you can’t measure absence. But there is evidence that some mass murderers play to an audience, and are well aware of their predecessors: “Many other perpetrators pay obsessive attention to previous massacres,” Ari Schulman wrote in The Wall Street Journal last year. “There is evidence for a direct line of influence running through some of the most notorious shooters – from Columbine in 1999 to Virginia Tech in 2007 to Newtown in 2012 – including their explicit references to previous massacres and calls to inspire future anti-heroes.”

It goes against every fibre of journalistic instinct to suggest that there should be less information out there, rather than more. We are always pressing for more detail, more information, on the grounds that the public deserves all the facts possible in order to make clear-headed decisions.

But there are many instances in which the media shield certain information, by law or by custom – publication bans imposed by judges, for one thing, or not naming minors involved in court cases. Perhaps that custom could extend to people who go on murderous rampages.

What if, after initial identification, they were quietly ignored, and pictures of their Rambo costumes and their big-boy guns weren’t reproduced incessantly? That way, the act would be greeted with the contempt it deserves. That way, there would still be room to remember the victims: David Ross, Fabrice Georges Gévaudan and Douglas James Larche.

Police in northern India used water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters who were demonstrating against the authorities’ seeming inability to halt sexual attacks and violence against women.

Indian Police use water cannons to disperse women's rights protesters after gang-rape and murder

by Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, Delhi, 02 June 2014

The protesters, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which controls India’s federal government, were demonstrating outside the headquarters of the administration of Uttar Pradesh state, which has been the location of a flurry of rapes and attacks.

The BJP protesters demanded that the state government, headed by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, do more to improve security for women. They have accused Mr Yadav and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who heads the ruling party in UP, of being soft on crimes against women.

The protests follow the rape and murder last week of two cousins, who were seized and assaulted after they went into the fields to relieve themselves. The girls, believed to be aged between 12 and 14, were then hanged from a mango tree on the edge of the village using their own scarves.

Relatives said when the girls went missing, police refused to investigate the case and abused them over their low-caste status. The family’s caste is at the very bottom of the Hindu social structure, whereas the three alleged attackers and the police officers on duty belong to the yadav caste, which is the “dominant” caste in the area. Five people - the three suspects, who are brothers, and two police officers - have been detained.

Since the discovery of the girls’ bodies last Wednesday morning, a number of politicians have made their way to the simple shack occupied by the girls’ extended family in the village of Katra Sadatganj, 150 miles west of the state capital, Lucknow. The most recent of them was Ram Vilas Paswan, a central government minister who is also from a low caste.

During a visit on Monday, he also criticised the UP state government for failing to do more to protect the girls.

“If you are not being able to provide right to life, then what kind of government this is,” he asked, according to reports in the Indian media.

The state government in UP is run by the the Samajwadi Party, which draws much of its support from the yadav caste. During India’s recent election campaign, the head of the party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, sparked controversy by saying rapists should not receive the death penalty because “boys will be boys”.

The sprawling state of UP is has a population of around 200 million people and is considered India’s most important state politically as it returns 80 seats to the country’s parliament. But it is also known for poor social indicators, a lack of amenities and development, and widespread crimes against women.

Experts say that since the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi, there is a greater willingness to report such attacks and greater pressure on the police to investigate them.

“UP seems to be a place which is notorious for these things,” said Dr Prabha Kotiswaran of King’s College London. “The fact that Mulayam Singh Yadav was able to say those things and get away with that is indicative of the mindset that is prevailing.”

Dr Kotiswaran said that in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape, the government had introduced new legislation for dealing with such crimes and a fast-track system of courts. The problem was enforcing such laws. “The criminal justice system is a shambles,” she added.

On Monday it was also revealed police were trying to ascertain the identity of a young woman who was strangled to death and had acid poured on her face. The attack took place about 60 miles from the village where two girls were murdered last week.

Officers said the body of the woman, believed to be aged 22, was discovered on Saturday in a field in the village of Aithpura, close to the city of Bareilly.

Initial reports said the woman had been raped, made to drink acid and strangled. Her face had later been mutilated with acid and petrol, apparently in an attempt to hide her identity.

But the senior investigating officer, Supt Ravindra Gaur, told The Independent that while the woman had been murdered and her face destroyed by acid, post-mortem examination results showed she had not been raped.

“We are still trying to identify the body,” he said. “[We believe] the acid was poured on her to conceal her identity.”

Chart above from "Attacking the demand for child sex trafficking"
by Siddharth Kara


Millions of women and girls around the world are exploited in the commercial sex industry, mainly in prostitution, which is often the end destination of sex trafficking. While most activists, lawmakers and international and regional organizations agree that the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution is a serious problem and a human rights violation, there is disagreement as to the best way to prevent sex trafficking and exploitation in prostitution.

An effective approach to preventing trafficking and exploitation is the ‘Nordic model’ (also known as the ‘Swedish model’), a set of laws and policies that penalizes the demand for commercial sex while decriminalizing individuals in prostitution and providing them with support services, including help for those who wish to exit prostitution.

The Nordic model has two main goals: to curb the demand for commercial sex that fuels sex trafficking, and promote equality between men and women. It is based on an approach first adopted in Sweden in 1999, and followed by Norway and Iceland.


Sex trafficking is a criminal industry that operates on the market principles of supply and demand. Demand is created by the (mainly) men who pay for commercial sex. Traffickers, pimps, brothel owners and other facilitators profit from this demand by supplying the women and girls who are exploited every day in the commercial sex industry. Sex trafficking does not just exist because its victims are vulnerable - it exists because there is a demand for commercial sex that traffickers can exploit and profit from. Thus, addressing the demand for commercial sex is a key component of any plan to prevent sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Men who buy sex and thereby create the demand that fuels trafficking have stated that greater criminal penalties, having their name publicized and having a letter sent home stating that they were arrested for buying sex would deter them from buying sex.


Women and girls who are trafficked and exploited to satisfy the demand for commercial sex are treated as commodities to be bought, sold, exploited and abused.

An estimated 98% of sex trafficking victims are women and girls and the vast majority of commercial sex “buyers” are men. Buyers often have specific preferences regarding the women and girls they buy - including “young” or “fresh” girls, specific races/ethnicities, and body shapes and sizes – but most importantly, they want on-demand sexual access to a diverse supply of women and girls. Exploitation of women and girls in the commercial sex industry is both a cause and consequence of gender and other inequalities. It entails numerous human rights violations, including of the right to equality and non-discrimination, dignity, health and to be free from violence, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.

It perpetuates the idea that it’s acceptable to buy women’s and girls’ bodies as long as a buyer can pay for it. The Nordic model challenges this construct and tries to redress these inequalities by promoting women’s and girls’ right to safety, health and non-discrimination, and by challenging men’s perceived – but nonexistent – “right” to buy women’s bodies for sex. Unsurprisingly, 3 of the top 4 countries with the highest level of gender equality have adopted the Nordic model.

Sex trafficking does not just exist because its victims are vulnerable - it exists because there is a demand for commercial sex that traffickers can exploit and profit from. 3 of the 4 countries with the highest level of gender equality have adopted the Nordic model as a way to combat sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.


In 1999, as part of a Violence Against Women bill, Sweden passed a law that criminalized buyers of sex while keeping the person who sold or was sold for sex decriminalized. Sweden understood that gender inequality and sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, could not be combated effectively as long as it was considered acceptable to purchase access to another – often more vulnerable and disadvantaged – person’s body.

Alongside this law, the Swedish government made a significant investment in exit programs for those who wish to leave prostitution
and to provide comprehensive social services for victims of exploitation, which is essential for a victim-centered, human rights-based approach to combating trafficking. Since the introduction of the law, street prostitution has decreased (while increasing dramatically in Sweden’s neighbors) and Sweden has become an undesirable destination for pimps and traffickers.

In addition, the new law has influenced attitudes regarding the purchase of sex: from 1996 (before the law) until 2008, the
number of male sex buyers decreased from 13.6% to 7.9%.


Several countries have followed Sweden’s example, and many more are considering this approach. Norway and Iceland passed similar laws in 2008 and 2009, respectively, while in a growing trend sweeping across Europe, Nordic-model style legislation has recently been discussed in the parliaments of France, Ireland, Northern Ireland,
Scotland and England and Wales. In early 2014, the parliaments of the European Union and the Council of Europe both adopted non-
binding resolutions recommending member states to consider the Nordic Model.

An increasing number of activists and organizations across the globe, many of which are survivor-led, including in countries such as South Africa, India, the U.S. and Canada, are calling for lawmakers to recognize the realities of prostitution and to enact the Nordic model. This is in line with countries’ international legal obligation to address demand.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the former head of UN Women have also called for countries to combat the demand for commercial sex in order to prevent sex trafficking and promote gender equality.

Learn more at

See e.g.
CAASE, Deconstructing the Demand for Prostitution: Preliminary Insights from Interviews with Men who Buy Sex, May 2008, available at:;
Jan Macleod, Melissa Farley,Lynn Anderson, and Jacqueline Golding, Challenging Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland, 2008, available at:

International Labour Organization, Minimum Estimate of Forced Labour in the World, April 2005, p. 6.

Iceland is 1, Norway is 3 and Sweden is 4. World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2013, available at:

Swedish Ministry of Justice, English summary of the Evaluation of the ban on purchase of sexual services (1999-2008), 2 July 2010. The report acknowledges the limitations in determining the prevalence of illegal activities, but even with these limitations, it is confident in the statements above.
See also Presentation by Simon Haggstrom, Stockholm police, 2013:

Kajsa Claude, Targeting the sex buyer, the Swedish Institute (2010), available at:

European Parliament resolution:; Council of Europe resolution:

See e.g.,

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Article 9(5); General Assembly resolution 67/145, para 22 (‘Encourages Governments and relevant United Nations discourage, with a view to eliminating, the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation’).

See e.g. CEDAW Committee Concluding Observations for Finland (UN Doc CEDAW/C/FIN/CO/7 (2014), Para 21; Republic of Korea (U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/KOR/CO/7 (2011), para. 23(f); Botswana, U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/BOT/CO/3 (2010), para. 28.

Michelle Bachelet, “Fighting Human Trafficking: Partnership and Innovation to End Violence Against Women and Children”, United Nations General Assembly Interactive Dialogue, 3 April 2012.

REED postcard campaign to support the Nordic Model in Canada "Canada can do better for prostituted women"

(April 23rd 2014) a letter signed by over 800 international women's advocates, including women and men involved with REED, calls on politicians to look towards the Nordic Model - a model which decriminalizes prostitutes, criminalizes pimps and johns, and institues services and supports for those wishing to exit the industry - as a solution to the issue of prostitution and sex trafficking in Canada. The model has been successful in Sweden since 1999, has since been adopted by Norway and Iceland, and has been recommended by French Parliament and EU Parliament. This model focuses explicitly addresses the gender inequality inherent to the sex industry.

If you are in support of the Nordic Model consider writing to tell your elected officials that you want to see prostitution treated as a form of violence against women. Gather your community group, church circle, book club, class, men's group, etc. and write letters or fill out the postcards (see below) together. It's a great way to learn and take a step towards collective action!

To order postcards contact

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