World Voice: South Korean Women Fight Against Spy Cams

World Voice: South Korean Women Fight Against Spy Cams

Every person I know values their privacy, but what happens when you find out that your privacy has been invaded, or worse, been subject to scrutiny without your knowledge?

Women in South Korea are currently fighting for their right to privacy, especially when it involves spy cams in public bathrooms. The installation of these microcameras have been a huge problem for women who view these as a gross invasion of their privacy. Privacy in Korea is seen as an illusion since it is seen as a way of protecting their citizens from any crimes, but for Chung Soo-young, this was not okay.

Soo-young was a victim of being spied on in a public bathroom of a chain coffee shops last winter and decided to fight back by creating an “emergency kit” through a crowdfunding project to protect against “molka” or hidden cameras. This kit includes an ice pick to break tiny camera lenses, stickers with messages warning of illegal filming, and a tube of silicone sealant to fill up holes and stickers to cover them. Soo-young had no idea that her kit would become such a hit, and inspire women to fight for their right to privacy. Since its inception, 600 women have bought the kits which costs $12 and do their part in preventing illegal filming of them.

Women in South Korea have been fighting to keep their privacy intact, but it’s difficult when the laws exerted by the government to protect them are not enough to stop the rampant sharing of these molka videos by men. What’s worse is that these men then “share” these videos online as pornography and the women they target never know about it, unless they discover them by accident. These videos have become a new category of pornography, whereby the subjects have no knowledge of their involvement. Even the punishment of those caught is quite lenient and can be perceived as being favorable towards men. Spy cams have given license to digital peeping Toms, at the expense of women’s safety.

Punishment for illegal filming has also spurred women to fight the gender bias surrounding them. For the men who have been arrested for these crimes, their punishment has been less stringent than what should fit the crime. Of the men who were caught, only 31.5 percent of them were prosecuted and 8.7 percent received jail sentences. To highlight the gender bias, when a woman was caught sharing a nude photo of a male model, she was sentenced to serve a 10-month jail term, which in my opinion was unfair in comparison to sharing pornography. According to a report by the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Report, Korea ranks 118th out of 144 with regards to how women are viewed and treated and it hasn’t gotten better in light of the current crimes against them.

In light of the #MeToo movement, one would think that women who speak out against their attackers would have the courts on their side, but unfortunately not. A recent case involving a former governor of South ChungCheong and his secretary shed light to the gender bias women in South Korea still face. When Kim Ji-eun brought up charges of sexual abuse from her former boss, Ahn Hee-jung, instead of being jailed for his crimes, was acquitted from rape and sexual harassment. Hee-jung resigned from his post, but not before claiming that the relationship was consensual. For Kim, the ruling was not unexpected and solidified the gender bias towards women.

Women are fighting back by holding protests, as in the one this past August in Seoul, when about 70,000 women called upon their government for tougher laws against sexual violence and hidden-camera pornography. While the government responded by doing regular sweeps in public bathrooms and providing support systems for the victims, these women believe that more has to be done.

For someone who lives in the U.S., I have been in clothing store dressing rooms where notices are posted to let you know that you are under camera surveillance while you try on clothes to prevent you from shoplifting. There are 13 states that prohibit dressing room surveillance:  Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Utah. While I understand their policy, I do feel uncomfortable knowing that I’m being watched as I try on clothes in a public setting. The discovery of being videotaped without one’s knowledge could result in deep-rooted distrust of the authority who are supposed to protect them, and affect their outlook on how society treats them. This is what’s happening in South Korea, and while so many women are fighting back, I fear that they have a long road ahead until their government takes the matter of sexual violence and hidden-camera pornorgraphy seriously and create laws to punish criminals regardless of their gender. Here’s hoping that they continue to protest and hold their government accountable for the crimes perpetrated against them.

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WORLD VOICE: #IStandForGirls: Help Send Girls to School in Mozambique

WORLD VOICE: #IStandForGirls: Help Send Girls to School in Mozambique

Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.

Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.

In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.

This month, Kurandza has launched their second #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 200 girls to school in Mozambique.  

What is the campaign?

In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 200 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.

For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.

This is my second year signing on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.

Why girls education? 

I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.


World Voice: South Indian Shores Lose Land to the Sea #ClimateChange

World Voice: South Indian Shores Lose Land to the Sea #ClimateChange

As the South-West monsoon gained strength in several parts of India (Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and other parts of the southern peninsula) throughout the month of June, wind-generated waves lashed various parts of Tamil Nadu (South India).

The effects were profound near the Pamban bridge, which connects Palk Straits (Rameswaram) to India. The sea was rough and winds blew at high velocity. In fact, gusty winds accompanied by giant waves rose above the cantilever railway bridge, an engineering marvel and pride of India.

Rail commuters were frightened out of their lives as they were only used to the gentle sway of the 2.3 km long bridge, as the sea below is usually a calm one. Further inland, in Chennai, the waves wreaked havoc on more than 500 meters of the shoreline along Pattinapakkam, a locality close to the sea.

Sea Water Rising Above the Pamban Bridge Near Rameswaram

Sea Water Rising Above the Pamban Bridge Near Rameswaram

On June 28 evening, (full moon day) when the fisherwomen were going about their daily routine, giant waves crashed into their hamlet, damaging large portions of their homes. The waves unleashed large amounts of energy bringing down walls in the houses and taking away a lot of sand too. The waves rolled relentlessly for a day or two.

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

Vasanthi, a resident could hardly come to terms with the loss and could hardly excuse herself for having built her home quite close to the waters. She stood staring at the mound of debris which was all that was left of her home, which had been built with her one year earnings.

Residents of the hamlet said that sea which had been rough for more than 24 hours, finally invaded the shore shattering as many as 70 houses. Many of them were seen trying to salvage whatever they could from the wreckage after the onslaught.

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

The Devastating Effect Near Pattinapakkam, Chennai

Peter Aloycious, another resident pointed out that the sea has been advancing in the last few years and destruction of houses have become a common phenomenon in these hamlets which house more than 1,000 fishermen families. “A small portion of my earnings is spent on piling sand bags in front of my house to prevent intrusion of sea water. But I have realized, that it hardly helps,” explained Peter.

Mr. Balachandran, Director of Area Cyclone Warning Centre, said it was just a weather-related phenomenon and there is no need to panic. “These are wind-generated waves which are especially strong during full moon days. They occur in a specific area based on several factors such as water currents, monsoon rain, change in density and salinity of sea water.” he explained.

The Meteorological Department official further said the phenomenon occurs as there is a constant exchange of energy between ocean, land and atmosphere. He also explained that TN coast is much safer compared to the Arabian Sea coast as the winds are stronger there and cause a heavy damage.

“For instance, high-energy swell waves, which are common during June, cause extensive damage to coastal areas in Kerala in south India. These waves are generated in a wind field, that travel away from it. In fact, they are formed miles away from the area where they would crash on land. Actually, you cannot gauge the impact till the swell reaches the shore and at times they look flat in the deep sea. But as they near the shore, they pack up energy, grow huge and land so hard that they take back huge mounds of sand with them,” elaborated Balachander. “Fishers in South India call the swell as Kallakadal, meaning deceptive sea.”

Experts in ocean science say that reasons for such rough sea condition can be ascertained only after a detailed analysis. But they agree that climate change is real and it has been causing extreme weather events in India.

They point out that we have been given plenty of warning signs by nature. “For instance, the floods, caused by heavy rain that inundated the metropolis of Chennai; Cyclone Vardah, which was the fourth and most severe tropical cyclone of 2017 that struck Andaman and Nicobar Islands and south India; severe cyclonic storm Ockhi that devastated several parts of India and Sri Lanka in 2017 are all due to climate change,” said Dr S. Srinivasalu, Director, Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University.

He pointed out that over 41 per cent of the Indian coast has been eroded due to climate change. “There is also a rise in sea level and this has submerged three islands out of 21 in the Gulf of Mannar. There is also a slight increase in ocean temperatures and acidification of sea water. This has affected fragile ecosystems in India _ Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay,” he said.

He further elaborated about the studies that have been conducted about adverse impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms and coral reefs. He said Bethnic calcifiers are not able to precipitate calcium carbonate in the ocean and this has affected skeletal grown in reef-building corals. The acidification has also reduced the survival of larval marine species and this in turn has affected the food chain.

“The decrease in the carbonate ions in the water will finally lead to brittle coral skeletons and slow growth rate in coral reefs. In future, erosion of reefs may be faster than calcification. This will impact the natural eco system, food cycle and the humanity at large,” he said.

Research by universities here shows that we are likely to lose considerable land mass along the coast if do not pay heed to the alarming signs of climate change.

Environmental changes have not only impacted the life of fishers but also people of  diverse fields. The agrarian economy of the county is also facinchallenges dueue to changes in the weather patterns.

The changes in the ocean will affect the communities whose livelihoods are dependent on it. Rapid urbanization and high pollution levels near the coastal regions have a telling effect on coastal ecological sensitive areas, which actually act as a shield during tsunamis or cyclones.

But, Dr. Srinivasalu is happy that due to some proactive measure taken by the Tamil Nadu government there is a significant increase in the mangrove cover at Pichavaram (It is the world’s second largest mangrove forest located near Chidambaram in Cuddalore district). It is actually a success story created in a span of 10 years post-tsunami (that struck in 2004), said the director who has been mapping the ecologically sensitive areas in the state.

With sea water set to rise, we need a lot of natural buffers along the coast such as mangroves, creeks and estuaries. The experts opine that satellite images do show an increase in mangroves in Pitchavaram,  a coastal area near Cuddalore but we need to do implement more measures to protect us from the devastating effects.

If we fail to address the issue, the southern states will soon be grappling with issues like water crisis, ground-level ozone concentrations, change in the nutritional quality of food and so on due to irregular rainfall pattern.  “The number of cyclones lashing the south has decreased but their intensity has increased. They cause heavy rainfall in a short span of time. The result is there is heavy leaching and erosion of soil by rainwater,” said experts.

For a state like Tamil Nadu, where the influence of the sea plays a major role in society, unless concrete and long-term measures are implemented by the government it cannot escape from nature’s fury.

Pic Credit: Author

Tell us about localized climate changes in your city/country. 

World Voice: Where Humans Dare @Global_TigerDay #globaltigerday

World Voice: Where Humans Dare @Global_TigerDay #globaltigerday

Not every animal has a day devoted to it. But, the biggest of the cat species, the tiger, is exceptional and it is celebrated today (July 29). The International Tiger Day was launched in 2010 to create awareness about this magnificent creature, as it was on the brink of extinction.



Many factors have contributed to the decline in the numbers of this striped animal – climate change, loss of habitat and heavy poaching. Therefore, many organizations interested in wildlife came together to raise awareness about it.

It is not only the organizations but it is also the responsibility of every human being to understand the role played by the tiger in maintaining an ecological balance.  Here is a personal narrative about sighting the big cat in all its splendor in a reserve forest.

Pristine waterfalls, a rich carpet of grass, trees laden with flowers, butterflies flitting in and out of bushes and trees and squirrels scampering away with a fistful of nuts have captivated the young and the old alike.

These are gifts from God. We love to see them, love to bask in their glory and would feel blessed to be part of them forever.

Nature has never considered itself as just a gift to us. It has blended with us and played its part very well. It has given us food, water, and warmth in abundance and helped us to flourish.

In India, the great Himalayan ranges, Western Ghats, and the Eastern Ghats are home to several beautiful creations of God _ animals, birds and rare plants. In fact, wildlife is an inseparable part of its natural treasure.

From various studies and surveys, we understand that we have not been respecting these gifts from God. Many do not even realize that we have lost much due to callousness.

Therefore, over a period of time, many species of flora and fauna have started disappearing from this world. Don’t you think it is high time we did something about it?

As a wake-up call and in order to save some of the endangered species, the Indian government has taken a number of measures on its own and in association with several organizations to preserve wildlife and plant species in the country.

As these values have to be instilled among children, our family decided to go on a nature camp to a tiger reserve in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu.

While my husband and I wanted to have some quiet moments amidst greenery and enjoy mother nature, the children (10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter) were excited about visiting the Kalakad Mudanthurai Tiger Reserve. It was a welcome change for them, as they had spent the last six months shuttling between home and school.

We reached Tirunelveli by train on a Saturday morning and rented a car to the tiger reserve. As the vehicle neared the western ghats, the kids were excited as the ride through the lush green forests was a surreal pampered experience for them.

The guide who accompanied us informed that it is the second largest protected area in the state and Kalakkad has also been declared as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.

This information triggered my son’s curiosity. He did not understand why animals and plants needed protection. Seizing the opportunity, I explained to him about how we are influenced by nature and the crucial role played by it in our lives.

“Plants give us food, shelter, clothing, relaxation and many more. Right from a unicellular organism to the multicellular carnivores and herbivores, all play a part in sustaining life on Earth. They help to maintain the food chain and play an important role in maintaining the ecosystem,” I explained.

“Just like how we maintain our home, school and our immediate environs there is a dire need to conserve nature too. It has given us so much for our sustenance and as more and more resources are used by man, there has arisen a need to conserve whatever is left.”

To this explanation, my son with a puzzled look asked me: Mama are these not given to us by God. Will he not take care of it? I said that since nature is a gift from God and just like any other gift we need to preserve it too. “It has given us so much. Don’t you think we should give something back to it?”

As my son nodded in agreement, the guide told him that the place of visit was a jungle where tigers were protected in their natural habitat. The little one’s eyes fell out and he could not believe that a giant of an animal like the tiger needed protection.

My husband stepped in to offer an explanation: Yes, the magnificent tiger was slowly becoming extinct as it was being hunted for its skin and claws. Therefore the Government of India in order to promote awareness about wildlife initiated programmes like Project Tiger to save it from extinction. Thanks, to the timely intervention,  the step did help and the number of big cats has increased in India.

“You are here to learn more about it,” he said as he lifted my daughter to show some deer feeding on the grass in the shade of some trees in the forest.

Though a tiger reserve, it was also noted for chital, sambar and lion-tailed macaques. The children clapped their hands in glee as they sighted some of the animals en route.

The rugged topography of Kalakad was dotted with dense rainforests, perennial streams, and falls. As the vehicle negotiated a hairpin bend we sighted the Agasthiar falls located amidst picturesque surroundings.

The children wanted to go near it. But we were told that we had to trek a few meters to reach the falls and it was almost 4.30 pm. The guide told us that we could not stay there beyond 6 pm as we would interfere with free animal movement in the forest.

As the children were hell-bent on seeing the falls, my husband relented and we climbed the slope. But one thing is for sure, the excitement and sheer pleasure of experiencing a jungle is an unparalleled one.

Though it was a tourist spot, there was not a single soul as it was late in the evening. As the flow of water in the falls was gentle, the children had a good time jumping and frolicking in the pristine waters. With passing away of nearly an hour, I pulled them away and took them near a bush to change their wet clothes. As I was just changing mine, darkness had begun to fall and my son took the powerful torch and tried to scourge the mountainside.

All of a sudden, my daughter pointed out to a speck of light which kept moving. When we enquired with the guide, he got worried and said, “I don’t think forest personnel would be there at this time of the hour.”

Meanwhile, my husband who was having a great time standing in the waters gestured me to come near him. As I was about to move towards him, I noticed that a light was not far off. As I lifted my daughter to move towards the falls, all three of us observed that it was not a speck of light but a pair. It suddenly began to move towards us rapidly.

It was then, it struck the guide that my son was constantly shining the torch towards the source of light.

“Oh god, madam, it is a tiger moving towards us, as it has been irritated by the torchlight.”

Panic-stricken we ran to the falls which was just a few yards away and pulled my husband who was basking in the waters.

We had not noticed the time slipping away and it was 6.30 pm. As I turned behind I could clearly see the two specs of light moving rapidly towards the falls.

Picking up our belongings we ran for life and almost skid down the slope towards the vehicle. It was the most frightening experience of my life. As soon as the jeep’s engine roared into life, we turned behind to see the falls for one last time. What we saw made the hair on our hand stand up.

With starlight bouncing of its glossy fur and emerald fiery eyes, a majestic tiger stood near the tumbling falls. It stretched its body as though it was about to settle for a nap and its claws emerged like crescent moons. It looked at us lazily, and let out a roar that made jeep turn into the road at top speed.

After two blissful hours of animal spotting among the lush green of the forest, we retired for bed at the guest house still shivering at the thought of what would have happened to us even if we had delayed by a few minutes.

“I am sorry to have troubled you to take us near the falls at dusk. We should not have disturbed the animals in their natural habitat,” said my son as he nearly sobbed to sleep.

My husband who was more than angry after this experience vocalized that he could not forgive himself for having failed to take note of the time and leave the protected place a few minutes earlier.

After all, we share the earth with all species created by God. They too have a right to exist and enjoy in the place that suits them.

Please live and let live.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

World Voice: Death Sentence for Sudanese Child Bride

World Voice: Death Sentence for Sudanese Child Bride

How do you feel about young girls who become child brides? If a young woman was tricked into marriage, raped by her husband and tried to escape a violent attack by killing him, should she face the death penalty?

A Young Sudanese Girl

A Young Sudanese Girl

In Sudan, 16-year-old Noura Hussein was forced by her parents to marry her 35-year-old distant cousin. Instead of going through with it, Noura fled from her home in Khartoum and stayed with her aunt for a few years to continue with her education.

After graduating high school, she had thought the prospect of marriage was no longer an issue. Three years later, Noura’s parents convinced her to come home with the promise of no marriage to her cousin, but she was tricked and forced to marry her cousin in April regardless of her protestations. Noura felt trapped and hopeless so she went along with the wedding. Her dream of becoming a teacher was dashed. In addition to participating at a wedding that was not of her choice, she had to find ways to thwart her husband from consummating their marriage.

Noura refused to have sex with her husband for several days after the wedding, but on the ninth night, he had his male relatives hold her down while he raped her. When he tried to have sex with her again the following night, and she refused, he threatened her with a knife. While struggling with the knife, Noura was able to wrestle it away from her husband and stab him to death before he could rape her again.

Instead of protecting Noura, her father turned her into the police and she confessed to stabbing her husband to death. She was sent to jail and because marital rape is not seen as a crime in Sudan, the court sentenced her to death, stating her action to be criminal, not self-defense.

Noura’s death sentence has garnered global attention that resulted in overturning the death sentence, but she was still sent to prison for five years and ordered to pay a fine of $19,000 to her deceased husband’s family. How was this just? Wasn’t it enough that her family betrayed her by forcing her to marry a stranger, only to be raped for not acquiescing to have sex with him as he thought was his right as her husband? Yes, she stabbed her husband, but for Noura, it was her only way out of a hopeless and dangerous situation. She should not be condemned for trying to save her own life.

I understand that every country has traditions and customs, but how can forcing a young girl to marry at the age of 16 by her family be agreeable, even enforced by law in that country? According to the non-profit Girls Not Brides, 1 in 3 Sudanese girls is married before the age of 18. How can any girl develop their potential if they’re forced into a situation where they have no rights and are treated like property?

As a mom, I can’t imagine my daughter married at the age of 16, let alone forcing her into a marriage where it wasn’t her choice. Yes, I’m coming at this as a Mom with a Western perspective, but also as someone who values a person’s worth. I believe that every country’s traditions and customs should be respected, but if it means endangering the life of a child or young woman, then I don’t support it. Is she guilty of murdering her rapist or was it self-defense? In my opinion, Noura did what she thought was necessary to ensure that her husband did not rape her again or endanger her life.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia