Women are primary victims of Mali crisis: UN human rights official

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A Malian refugee woman anxiously thinks about her future UNHCR/H. Caux

Human rights abuses in northern Mali are continuing, but have changed in nature, says Ivan Šimonović, the UN's Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Mr. Šimonović recently returned from a four-day visit to Mali, where he says women are the primary victims since extremist Islamic groups have taken control of the region.

Charles Appel reports.

Ivan Šimonović says that extremist Islamic groups in northern Mali have imposed a strict interpretation of Sharia law and are curtailing women's human rights to employment, education and access to basic services.

He says that forced marriages are reportedly common and women are being sold and forced to remarry, which is akin to rape and commercial sexual exploitation.

According to Mr. Šimonović extremist Islamic groups have compiled lists of women who have had children out of wedlock or who are unmarried and pregnant.

He warns that these may be subjected to cruel and inhuman punishment.

Mr. Šimonović calls for measures to empower women and advance their human rights including by introducing a 30 percent quota for them in Parliament.

Charles Appel, United Nations.

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