By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
SANTIAGO, Chile – On Thursday, thousands of students and teachers held a massive demonstration in Chile. They gathered to denounce profit-making in higher education under President Sebastian Pinera’s administration.
Organizers estimated around 120,000 participants in the demonstration along central Alameda Avenue in Santiago. Similar protests took place in other main cities of Chile such as Coquimbo, Valparaiso, and Temuco. The march was called by the National Confederation of Students of Chile (Confech) and was the first major protest under the month-old administration of conservative President Pinera. They demanded an end of profit-making, student debts, and sexism in higher education.
This protest follows a recent decision by the country’s constitutional court to overturn a law that prohibited for-profit companies from controlling universities. While profit-making from higher education is illegal, critics have long claimed that some companies that operate universities have found ways to exploit loopholes in the law. These companies find ways to turn a profit without re-investing the money in reduced tuition or improved education.
Young people consider higher education a business that is putting them and their families in debt. One spokeswoman for the students, Sandra Beltrami, said “the demands of the student movement are still valid and remain the same. We want to be in the classrooms, we want to have classes, we want to study a career in order to be someone in life and have a profession like many people in this country, and we cannot do it because there is still profit in Chile.”
Students and teachers marched through downtown Santiago and made their point by banging drums, toting banners, and sometimes throwing rocks and blocking traffic. There were small confrontations with police who occasionally used tear gas to disperse protesters.
President Pinera is a conservative billionaire who served a term as president from 2010 and 2014. His first term was marred by massive student protests seeking an education overhaul. Earlier in the week, President Pinera sent a bill to Chile’s Congress to increase public financing for technical colleges. In a move that many thought was intended to defuse tension with students, he promised that access to free education was “here to stay.”
Higher education was free in the country until 1981 when Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship pave the way for the development of private universities with no constraints on tuition fees. Now, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that Chile has the fourth-most-expensive university system in the world.
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By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
North Carolina, USA – Twitter has added a new word for when people want to submit a report about inappropriate behavior on their platform. The word disabled as been added to the list of reasons for reporting someone. This change has been a long time coming according to some. In early April, Twitter revised its’ reporting form so that those who were being targeted for their disability could more accurately report it.
“It’s against our rules to directly attack or threaten someone based on their protected category, including disability,” Twitter stated in a tweet that was posted April 2. “You asked us to clarify this in our reporting flow, and we’ve updated it to be more specific.”
Twitter brought about the change after Natalie Weaver suggested they revise their reporting form. Natalie Weaver called on Twitter after her daughter’s photo was used in an offensive tweet that promoted eugenics. Weaver’s daughter, Sophia, has Rett Syndrome. Sophia is only nine years old. Rett Syndrome is a genetic brain disorder that effects a person’s language, walking and coordination. Weaver said she faced some opposition from Twitter by them refusing to take down the offensive tweet, but then they removed the account completely.
“People with disability experience hate and discrimination every single day just because they are disabled,” Weaver said to Today. “It is very important to have that distinction.”
Weaver said to The Mighty, “Many people with medical conditions and/or disabilities receive hate and harassment every day on Twitter and no violations are found. I am hopeful that this change will create a safer environment for people with medical conditions and disabilities. I hope that Twitter support will be more consistent now in finding violations. I will continue my work to ensure that Twitter support follows through on this”
Melissa Blake, a freelance writer says the change has been a long time coming. “Disabilities may make people uncomfortable. I’m sure my disability and my wheelchair has made people uncomfortable in the past. But that doesn’t give people the right to use it against me and vilify me for it. Twitter’s change in policy gives me hope. Hope that perhaps, finally, we’ve moved the needle of dismantling centuries of negative misconceptions surrounding people with disabilities,” Blake wrote in an article for CNN.
Weaver took on a social media platform and called them out for not protecting disabled individuals. By getting Twitter to respond by changing their reporting form, she won.
For more information, please see:
CNN – On Disability, Twitter is Better Late Than Never – 13 April 2018
Today – Mom Fights Twitter After Cruel Troll Mocked Child’s Appearance – 5 April 2018
Mighty – Twitter Changes Reporting Form to Include Hate Against People with Disabilities – 3 April 2018
By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Asia
NEW DELHI, India – A major confrontation occurred outside a state courthouse in India- governed Jammu and Kashmir on 9 April 2018. The crime branch of the police were on their way to file a chargesheet against 7 men and a boy for the gang rape and murder of an 8 year old Muslim nomad girl on 10 January to 17 January 2018.
The men accused are a retired government official, Sanjhi Ram; his son Vishal, special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma; head constable Tilak Raj; sub-inspector Anand Dutta; and a civilian, Parvesh Kumar. Lawyers representing these men, from the Kathua Bar Association, physically attacked the police in an attempt to stop them from filling the chargesheet. However, they were unsuccessful in preventing the filing. The Inspector-General of Police, Crime Branch, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba said in a statement, “The chargesheet against the seven accused persons involved in the crime has been produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua.”
A separate chargesheet is being created and will be filed for the juvenile boy involved in the case.
The protesting lawyers want an investigation done by the CBI, which would be a federal investigation. They believes that the local court does not “understand the sentiments of the people.”
Many, including the family of the 8 year old girl, Asifa Bano, believe that the gang rape and murder was done to drive Muslims out of the community. Asifa was kidnapped on 10 January, drugged, gang raped, murdered in a temple, and left in the forest. Over 100 witnesses have testified and corroborated evidence that the police have.
Many of the supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling Hindu party, and Hindu Ekta Manch, and affiliated party, have supported the lawyers protests. Typically, this party has taken a strong stance against rape and sexual violence crimes. At the same time the BJP has been criticized as not supporting minority groups.
Religious tensions have been growing in the community as a result. A Hindu strike, demanding the release of the accused, shut down the town (Kathua) where Asifa was from. Economic groups in Kathua and Kashmir are threatening economic agitation if the perpetrators are not brought to justice. Muslim groups believe that because those investigating are also Hindu, they will be biased and not bring justice to Asifa.
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By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
VATICAN CITY – After admitting “grave errors” in judgment concerning Chile’s sex abuse scandal, Pope Francis has invited three survivors to meet with him at the end of April.
The invitation comes after public outcry following the Pope’s visit to Chile in January and his defense of Bishop Juan Barros following accusations that Barros ignored sexual abuses committed by Rev. Fernando Karadima.
Sixty-four victims testified that Bishop Juan Barros had witnessed and ignored abuses suffered at the hands of Karadima.
During his visit to Chile in January, Francis accused Karadima’s victims of trying to assassinate Barros’ character.
After public outcry, Francis ordered Archbishop Charles Scicluna to investigate the scandal.
For decades, the Catholic church has been rocked by scandals involving thousands of priests accused of abusing countless more children.
In a letter to the public, Pope Francis apologized for his “grave errors in judgment” and blamed a lack of “truthful and balanced information” for his initial misgivings. He thanked the sixty-four individuals who testified against Barros and praised their courage to come forward and bare the “wounds of their souls.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, one of the survivors invited to the Vatican to meet with the Pope, hopes that the meetings will bring attention to survivors of sex abuse in the church worldwide.
Barros’ three main accusers plan to continue their fight “until zero tolerance about abuse and cover-up in the church becomes a reality,” they said in a statement.
“It’s about the thousands of survivors who have gone through horrible things, who have been disrespected, discredited. That culture has to change,” said Cruz. “It has to be about every survivor. I hope that this is a sign that this will not be the norm.”
A research organization called BishopAccountability, which tracks clergy abuses around the world, called Francis’ actions “long overdue but welcome.” Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the organization, says that the decades-long pattern of abuses can only be thwarted by major systemic reform.
In his letter, Francis called for an emergency meeting with Chile’s bishops to discuss the scandal.
“From now on I ask forgiveness of all those I offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks,”Francis said.
For more information, please see:
CNN – Three Church sex Abuse Survivors to Meet With Pope – 13 April 2018
Huffington Post – Abuse Survivors Demand Concrete Action After Pope Admits his ‘Serious Errors’ – 13 April 2018
U.S. News and World Report – Chile Victims Meet Pope April 28-29 at Vatican – 13 April 2018
The Washington Post – Pope Admits he Made ‘Grave Errors’ in Chile sex Abuse Case – 11 April 2018