TIME Hong Kong

Guilty Verdict Handed Down in Landmark Domestic-Worker-Abuse Case

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih
Kin Cheung—AP Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, center, accompanied by her supporters, walks out from a court in Hong Kong on Feb. 10, 2015

The plight of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih shocked the world

A 44-year-old Hong Kong woman and mother of two was found guilty Tuesday of criminally abusing her Indonesian domestic helper, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, whom she beat, refused to pay and even starved.

The case, tried in a Hong Kong court, has drawn global attention to plight of women from countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, who leave home to work as domestics in other countries but are often vulnerable to abuse at the hands of unscrupulous employers.

Judge Amanda Woodcock described Erwiana as a “prisoner” of employer Law Wan-tung, who sent her home after eight months, emaciated, scarred and barely able to walk, and who threatened to have Erwiana’s family killed if she ever reported the abuse.

The 24-year-old Erwiana was listed in the TIME 100 in 2014 for her decision to speak up. The court heard that during her employment Law punched her so hard that her teeth fractured, shoved a vacuum-cleaner tube down her mouth and denied her food until she was forced to knock on a neighbor’s door at 2:30 a.m. to beg for help. Erwiana also never received a paycheck from Law.

“To employers in Hong Kong, I hope they will start treating migrant domestic workers as workers and human beings and stop treating us as slaves,” Erwiana said in a written statement after the verdict. “Because as human beings, we all have equal rights.”

If given the highest possible sentence, Law could receive up to seven years in prison, according to Detective Superintendent David Cameron of the Hong Kong police.

“The message is if you live in a society that can afford domestic helpers, they are still protected by the law and even if there are cultural differences they are still treated equally,” Cameron said.

Sentencing will be on Feb. 27.

With reporting by Yenni Kwok / Hong Kong

TIME National Security

Guantanamo Bay Detainee Details ‘Sadistic’ Abuse

Guantanamo Bay Facility Continues To Serve As Detention Center For War Detainees
Joe Raedle—Getty Images A Public Affairs Officer escorts media through the currently closed Camp X-Ray which was the first detention facility to hold 'enemy combatants' at the U.S. Naval Station on June 27, 2013 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Deprived of sleep, drugged, and forced to watch pornographic footage or videos of other prisoners being abused

A man detained in Guantanamo Bay for nearly 13 years has said he was subjected to “dirty and sadistic” abuse at the prison, days after a Senate report revealed the extent of the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation tactics.

In a first-person account for the human rights organization Reprieve and published on CNN, Samir Naji from Yemen says he was deprived of sleep, drugged, and forced to watch pornographic footage or videos of other prisoners being abused.

Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, was cleared for release in 2009 but remains in detention along with 135 other inmates.

“The dirty and sadistic methods I endured — which were then taken directly to Abu Ghraib — achieved nothing, except to shame that American flag hanging in the prison corridor,” he says in the account. “America cannot keep hiding from its past, and its present, like this. Our stories, and our continued detention, cannot be made to disappear.”

Read more at CNN

TIME China

China Has Finally Drafted a Domestic-Violence Law

Kim Lee
Alexander F. Yuan—AP Kim Lee leaves court after a session for her divorce trial in Beijing on March 22, 2012

But changing attitudes will remain an uphill task

When people speak up about family violence in China, they typically hear one thing: That’s a private matter. Though beating another person is technically illegal, the abuse of your spouse or child is seen as a household, rather than societal, concern; there is no nationwide law prohibiting domestic violence. Solve this yourself, survivors are told, quietly.

On Tuesday, China’s ruling Communist Party finally broke its silence on the matter. After a decades-long push by women’s-rights activists and survivors of abuse, a top government body published a draft for China’s first-ever national family violence law. Though it is just a draft, and far from comprehensive, advocates called it a necessary and important first step. “This was long over due,” says Leta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. “It is just a draft, and it is not sufficient, but it is important and encouraging that they have actually written something down.”

What authorities outlined, and posted online, is an imperfect but ambitious plan to change the way the state handles abuse. Social organizations and individuals would have the right to report violence and police obliged to investigate claims. Those convicted would face punishment — anything from a written reprimand to up to seven years’ imprisonment should the abuse lead to serious injury or death.

That may sound like a forgone conclusion — of course the police must investigatebut, in practice, it is not. Accounts by survivors suggest that family pressure, shame, and police indifference mean that reporting abuse is rare, and legal recourse almost unheard of. In a searing essay for the New York Times, Kim Lee, an American who was beaten by her Chinese husband, recalls sitting at a police station in 2011, visibly bruised, trying to convince the duty officer to help her. They told her to calm down and go home. “As far as the police were concerned,” she writes, “no crime had occurred.”

Lee went home and posted pictures of her bruised face online. Within hours, the pictures were forwarded by some 20,000 people, she writes, and her case became national news. People took to China’s popular social-media sites to share their own stories and vent frustration. That a relatively privileged woman — a foreigner with a famous husband — could not get help spoke volumes. Like many survivors, Lee worried she would lose custody of her children, and the right to family assets, should they divorce. (In a landmark 2013 case, she was granted a divorce on grounds of domestic violence.)

This week’s draft measures could, potentially, help in similar cases. The All-China Women’s Federation estimates that 1 in 4 Chinese women has experienced domestic abuse. (Estimates from other countries are even higher.) If China pushes ahead with the legislation, makes it comprehensive, and strengthens enforcement, the police and courts would be better equipped to take action. The draft suggests that people could seek physical protection from attackers — a restraining order, for instance — a detail that Feng Yuan, founder of Equality, a Beijing-based NGO dedicated to the protection of women’s rights, called “very encouraging.”

But there are gaps. The draft mentions children, which is a good step, but does not include provisions or protections for nonmarried couples (including same-sex couples, who are not legally allowed to marry in China). And how will police officers and courts be trained to interpret and enforce the law? “There are a lot of good laws on the books in terms of rights protection in China,” says Hong Fincher, “yet those laws are not enforced.” She points to countries like India and Bangladesh. Both have decent anti-domestic-violence laws, but have made limited progress curbing abuse.

For the law to mean something, people’s attitudes must change too. Codifying a government response to family violence can help achieve that. “Domestic abuse is not a personal affair,” says Hou Zhiming, director of the Maple Women’s Psychological Counselling Centre in Beijing. “Every person has the right to oppose it, the victims do not need to keep silent.”

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

TIME health

New Global Study Calls Violence Against Women ‘Epidemic’

A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls in a village about 80 kilometres from the town of Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, Oct. 16, 2014.
Siegfried Modola—Reuters A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls in a village about 80 kilometres from the town of Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, Oct. 16, 2014.

Governments need to step up their game to protect women, says extensive new research

When it comes to stopping violence against women, actions speak louder than words. So even though there’s increased worldwide awareness about violence against women, the problem won’t be solved unless countries make significant policy and financial changes to support victims, according to a five-part series of studies in The Lancet, one of the world’s premier medical journals.

The series, entitled “Violence Against Women and Girls,” calls the violence a “global public health and clinical problem of epidemic proportions,” and the statistics are bleak. 100-140 million women have undergone female genital mutilation worldwide, and 3 million African girls per year are at risk. 7% of women will be sexually assaulted by someone besides their partner in their lifetimes. Almost 70 million girls worldwide have been married before they turned 18. According to WHO estimates, 30% of women worldwide have experienced partner violence. The researchers said that these problems could only be solved with political action and increased funding, since the violence has continued “despite increased global attention,” implying awareness is not enough.

“No magic wand will eliminate violence against women and girls,” series co-lead Charlotte Watts, founding Director of the Gender Violence and Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement. “But evidence tells us that changes in attitudes and behavior are possible, and can be achieved within less than a generation.”

One of the major problems highlighted in the Lancet series is that much of the current research on violence against women has been conducted in high-income countries, and it’s mostly been focused on response instead of prevention. The study found that the key driver of violence in most middle-and-low income countries is gender inequality, and that it would be near impossible to prevent abuse without addressing the underlying political, economic, and educational marginalization of women.

The study also found that health workers are often uniquely positioned to help victims, since they’re often the first to know about the abuse.

“Health-care providers are often the first point of contact for women and girls experiencing violence,” says another series co-lead, Dr. Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician at the WHO, in a statement. “The health community is missing important opportunities to integrate violence programming meaningfully into public health initiatives on HIV/AIDS, adolescent health, maternal health, and mental health.”

The series makes five concrete recommendations to curb the violence against women. The authors urge nations to allocate resources to prioritize protecting victims, change structures and policies that discriminate against women, promote support for survivors, strengthen health and education sectors to prevent and respond to violence, and invest in more research into ways to address the problem. In other words: money, education, and political action are key to protecting the world’s most vulnerable women. Hashtag activism, celebrity songs, and stern PSAs are helpful, but this problem is too complicated to be solved by awareness alone.

“We now have some promising findings to show what works to prevent violence,” said Dr. Cathy Zimmerman from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “We urgently need to turn this evidence into genuine action so that women and girls can live violence-free lives.”

The study comes just in time for the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on Nov. 25.

TIME celebrities

Lena Dunham Goes on ‘Rage Spiral’ After Abuse Allegations

Lena Dunham
Joel Ryan—Joel Ryan/Invision/AP U.S actress Lena Dunham holds her memoir, Not That Kind Of Girl, ahead of a book signing at Waterstones, Piccadilly in central London, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

She hits back at right-wing media accusations that she molested her younger sister

Girls star Lena Dunham went on a self-described “rage spiral” over the weekend in response to conservative media allegations that, as a child, she molested her younger sister.

In her memoir Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham writes about bribing her little sister, Grace, with candy in exchange for kisses as a child. “Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying,” Dunham writes. She also details an instance where, as a 7-year-old, she examined her baby sister’s vagina. Several right-wing blogs have blasted the story as admitted abuse.

A fed-up Dunham took to Twitter on Nov. 1 to express her outrage at the allegations.

Dunham’s sister, Grace, has also commented about the backlash:

TIME relationships

Jennifer Lopez Says She ‘Felt Abused’ in Past Relationships

Jennifer Lopez attends the Versace show as part of Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015 on July 6, 2014 in Paris.
Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images Jennifer Lopez attends the Versace show as part of Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015 on July 6, 2014 in Paris.

"I've never gotten a black eye or a busted lip”

Jennifer Lopez says in a new book that she has “felt abused” in past relationships, even if she’s never been physically harmed like other women.

“I’ve never gotten a black eye or a busted lip,” the singer writes in her upcoming book True Love, which is previewed in People magazine. “But I’ve felt abused in one way or another: mentally, emotionally, verbally.”

“I would never go into specifics about my relationships, and I don’t,” Lopez tells People of the book. “But the idea was that I learned something.”

The 45-year-old opens up about her past trials in love, including her three marriages and several high-profile courtships.

“You have to take control and you have to set up your own boundaries,” Lopez tells People of what she’s learned in relationships. ” You have the power to change it.”

Read more at People

TIME Australia

Gay Asylum Seekers Could Be Resettled in Papua New Guinea, Which Outlaws Homosexuality

(FILE) Manus Island Detention Centre
Handout—Getty Images This handout photo provided by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, shows facilities at the Manus Island Regional Processing Facility, used for the detention of asylum seekers that arrive by boat, primarily to Christmas Island off the Australian mainland, on October 16, 2012, in Papua New Guinea.

The men had originally sought refuge in Australia

Several gay people, who fled persecution in their home countries and sought asylum in Australia, are reportedly to be resettled in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where homosexuality is a crime.

The asylum seekers are currently held by the Australian immigration officials on Manus Island in PNG, where they could eventually live permanently, the Guardian claims.

Homosexuality in PNG is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The Guardian says it has seen what purport to be letters written in Farsi by four gay Iranian men in the Australian-run detention center on Manus Island. The authors appear to detail persecution in their home country and the fear of being resettled in PNG.

“I thought Australia and its people would be my protector, but they taught me otherwise,” one letter reads.

“I am hoping that I will not be sent to PNG prison because I don’t want to be killed by indigenous people living in PNG like my fellow countryman did in February,” reads another.

The authenticity of the letters has not been confirmed.

A December report by Amnesty International says the detainees at the facility have been told that anyone found engaging in homosexual acts will immediately be reported to the PNG police. The report also details numerous other human-rights violations at the detention center.

Amnesty had “consistently raised the issue of gay men on Manus with the [Australian] immigration department” but “never had a clear response,” Graeme McGregor, Amnesty Australia’s refugee-camp coordinator, told the Guardian.

Ben Pynt, director of Humanitarian Research Partners, estimates there are around 36 gay men detained at Manus and several others who are too afraid to reveal their sexual orientation, the Guardian says.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on the purported letters, said in December he was unaware of any claims of homosexuality among Manus inmates. He also denied that it was the Australian government’s policy to report homosexual activity among asylum seekers to the PNG government.


TIME Football

Chicago Bears’ Brandon Marshall Addresses Domestic Abuse Claims

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall looks on from the sidelines during a game against the Buffalo Bills in Chicago on Sept. 7, 2014.
Scott Boehm—AP Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall looks on from the sidelines during a game against the Buffalo Bills in Chicago on Sept. 7, 2014.

"We have to gather all the facts before we play judge and jury"

Pro football player Brandon Marshall defended himself Thursday against allegations that the National Football League had mishandled Marshall’s alleged 2007 assault of his ex-girlfriend.

Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred claimed the NFL had failed to properly investigate Marshall’s arrests on suspicion of domestic abuse and misdemeanor battery in 2007 and 2008.

“We have to gather all the facts before we play judge and jury,” the Chicago Bears star said at a press conference. “Because there are two sides to a story. And there are some thing that we don’t know.”

Marshall has insisted he never “put a hand to” ex-girlfriend Rasheeda Watley, and demanded an apology from ESPN, which resurfaced allegations of domestic abuse in a televised profile.

Still, he acknowledged that his relationship with Watley had been rocky and said that he has been attending therapy sessions since. “We argued every single day. We treated each other bad. We had no business being in a relationship,” he said.

While defending himself, Marshall said his life had been touched by domestic violence growing. “I grew up in a house, in an environment, in a neighborhood where it was volatile,” he said. “Domestic violence is serious. I saw how it affected my mother.”

The wide receiver’s remarks come the day after the Chicago Bears issued a statement defending the player.


TIME Parenting

A Young Southern Woman Remembers the Fear and Shame of Being Whooped

Adrian Peterson
Dilip Vishwanat—Getty Images Adrian Peterson

Sierra Mannie is a writer based in Mississippi.

The difference between a spanking and child abuse has nothing to do with race

I’m grown, but I’m not grown grown.

Maybe my decent credit score is proof the downy feathers of my childhood have somehow molted to reveal adult plumage patterned with W2s and check stubs and old text messages from men, but relative financial independence doesn’t make me feel like someone who’s planted her foot firmly at the adult’s table of the Thanksgiving dinner of life. As a twenty-one-year-old Southerner, I still teeter on this cusp of age-affirmed identity — full-breasted and home trained and French 75’d down, absolutely, but not yet a veteran of childhood. My mama doesn’t care what the hell FICA says, how grown I think I am. Like many black mothers might say, she could still whoop me — and that’s a promise.

Twenty-one years is a long enough time, I think, for me to be able to find that language humorous, tell myself that I now take value and wisdom from those past threats of bodily harm. Living in my own apartment, I am detached from the poking straws of the nest that nurtured me and the methods like corporal punishment that were used to prepare me to live outside of it. Spankings in my household weren’t perceived as brutalizations or assault. Neither were they administered as such. For bad behavior or disobedience, spanking was righteous judgment, swiftly executed, but the memory of the pain, not an explanation of my wrong-doing, kept me obedient.

And I wonder, in light of the news of Adrian Peterson beating his son so badly that even the child’s testicles were bruised, whether or not the pride that accompanies Southerners when it comes to withstanding beatings as children, this conviction that we are all somehow better people because of it, is rooted in some puerile sense of belonging, as if children must be hazed into their Southern identity in order to truly respect some arbitrary societal order. The pictures of Peterson’s son make one wince, and the dismissal of his obvious abuse by those of us who claim that our regional background makes us experts in the social growth of children is troublesome.

Because I understand parents who choose corporal punishment as a means of training their children and that that choice isn’t always a malicious one, though I might wince in regional camaraderie with other Southerners as we recall selecting our own switches, what I remember most looking at Adrian Peterson’s son is the humiliation of being hit. The pain is intense, but your sore ass heals, eventually; the confusion at being physically punished sans communication from people who might not be equipped with the tools to communicate their reasons for hitting you in the first place lingers. I don’t remember being a little girl who sometimes did bad things that were met with matching punishments by authority figures — my recollection of those times only yank forward misery, with fear of asking questions and fighting back because I wasn’t grown enough to do so.

So, at 21, I’m not grown enough now to know what’s best for those who navigate the landscape for raising children in a constantly socially-shifting world. Maybe I, like Charles Barkley claims, will swell the ranks of Southern black parents who whip their kids if I’m ever a mother myself, but hopefully with critical self-examination and that past shame in mind, I can figure out for myself if it’s actually worth it.


Sierra Mannie is a senior majoring in Classics and English at the University of Mississippi. She is a regular contributor to the school’s student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, and her writing has previously appeared on TIME.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Football

Second Adrian Peterson Child Abuse Claim Could Aid Prosecutors

The running back was accused of hitting another one of his sons last June

Although the Minnesota Vikings announced Monday Adrian Peterson would return to the team after he admitted to using corporal punishment to discipline his son, Peterson is now facing new allegations of an earlier instance of child abuse, according to Sports Illustrated. SI reports that Peterson hit another one of his sons last June, leaving a scar on his forehead.

The team reinstated Peterson under the argument of “due process”– something they did not do for Chris Cook who, after being accused of choking his girlfriend in 2011, was suspended indefinitely without pay and missed 10 games before being acquitted, according to Sports Illustrated.

[Sports Illustrated]

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