N.J. councilman-elect sues to silence women posting abuse claims about him on Facebook

A Cape May City councilman-elect has obtained a court injunction to stop four women from posting about him online, after allegations he abused one of them in 2015 became the subject of online debate surrounding a contentious election.

The injunction, which also bars them from defaming or harassing him via social media or “published media,” is just the latest volley in a legal battle between Christopher M. Bezaire, 42, and his ex-girlfriends that involves a slew of restraining orders and him being charged with violating one.

Claims that Bezaire punched a former girlfriend, Amanda Francis, in 2015 came out in October when she posted about it publicly on Facebook — not naming him, but sharing photos of them together, along with one showing her with a black eye. That same photo and text messages purported to be sent by Bezaire, made it onto a mailer that was sent to voters before the Nov. 3 election, though Francis denies any involvement.

Bezaire — who won the election for a seat on the non-partisan city council after vying against two other candidates — said he “categorically denies any abuse” and the assault charge she filed against him was dismissed by the state.

After the election, the four women posted disparaging comments about Bezaire on Facebook, according to the complaint in court. It prompted him to obtain temporary restraining orders against Francis, 44, and a more recent ex, Brianna Bodkin, 24, alleging cyber harassment.

Bodkin got a restraining order against Bezaire last week alleging ongoing harassment.

Bezaire is also facing a municipal charge for violating the restraining order with Francis, according to court documents and an interview Francis gave to NJ Advance Media before the injunction. He denies the charge.

A Facebook page called “Impeach Chris Bezaire” has posted court documents related to the allegations as well as screenshots of text messages supposedly from Bezaire.

Francis said she thinks public officials should call on Bezaire to step down — even before he’s sworn in in January. So far, no one has done so publicly.

“Public officials shouldn’t bully women,” said Meghan J. McCormick Hoerner, an attorney representing Francis and Bodkin in regards to the restraining orders. “From my perspective this is just another effort to bully them.”

Bezaire, who is president of the Cape May County Association of Realtors, believes that given the timing and other factors, this is a politically-motivated campaign to harm him.

“This has certainly been a trying and emotionally exhausting time for me and my family, however my resolve is strong and I will continue to focus on serving the citizens of Cape May come January and doing the best I can for the city,” he said in an email.

Court records show that in 2015, he was charged six times with violating a restraining order, four times for harassment and once for property damage, but all the cases were disposed of in family court.

In an interview Nov. 16 — before the injunction — Francis told NJ Advance

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Help create Christmas for women in STEPS substance abuse treatment

As Christmas presents go, a new set of bath towels, some bus passes or maybe a $10 gift card for coffee may not seem like much. But for women undergoing substance-abuse treatment in Central Florida’s STEPS program, a nonprofit, the gifts are potent reminders that they’re not forgotten.

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Stephanie Bowman, founder of her own charity, One Heart for Women and Children, has been organizing a Christmas gift drive for STEPS residents for 15 years, honoring the place that once helped her turn her life around.

This year, Bowman hopes to have presents for 50 women there, with each receiving gift cards for Walmart and Starbucks, towels, twin sheets, a week’s worth of bus passes, a yoga mat, socks, a journal and soap.

Items can be ordered online and shipped to One Heart for Women and Children at 2040 N. Rio Grande Ave, Orlando, 32804, or dropped off at that address Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The deadline is Dec. 5.

You’ll find a sign-up sheet for the Christmas for the Women in the Shelter 2020 gift drive online at signupgenius.com.

Questions? Contact [email protected] or 321-299-4594.

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©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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Sacramento homeless shelter uses art to help heal abuse trauma

The Meadowview Navigation Center is asking the Book of Dreams to fund creative supplies this holiday season. Micaela Partida, holds her image “Sacrifice” outside of the center on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. “Sacrifice means everything I have had to give up – not being able to be with my kids, not having my old life … not being out there like one of you making money,” she said of the painting.

The Meadowview Navigation Center is asking the Book of Dreams to fund creative supplies this holiday season. Micaela Partida, holds her image “Sacrifice” outside of the center on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. “Sacrifice means everything I have had to give up – not being able to be with my kids, not having my old life … not being out there like one of you making money,” she said of the painting.

Special to The Bee

Sacramentan Micaela Partida, 38, can recite all the facts that led her to endure homelessness for three years, but she struggles to put words together describing all the trauma she experienced.

“I suffered from a disability due to a car accident when I was a teenager,” she said. It left her hip and other parts of her left side permanently weakened, but she never let it get in the way of her ambition.

She obtained an associate degree in communications and worked at two well-known technology companies until her disability “got in the way” and she had to stop work.

She says she endured years of abuse from a former boyfriend and had to leave “after he pulled a gun on me.” More recently, she was living in her truck before getting into the Sacramento Meadowview Navigation Center for Women in south Sacramento, which opened in October and has served nearly 50 previously unsheltered women.

If you prefer, you can print out this form and mail in a donation.

To claim a tax deduction for 2020, donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31, 2020. All contributions are tax-deductible and none of the money received will be spent on administrative costs. Partial contributions are welcome on any item. In cases where more money is received than requested for a given need, the excess will be applied to meeting unfulfilled needs in this Book of Dreams. Funds donated in excess of needs listed in this book will fulfill wishes received but not published and will be donated to social service agencies benefiting children at risk. The Sacramento Bee has verified the accuracy of the facts in each of these cases and we believe them to be bona fide cases of need. However, The Bee makes no claim, implied or otherwise, concerning their validity beyond the statement of these facts.

The shelter put a roof over her head, she said, while enabling her to work with the center’s team to obtain permanent housing.

Part of the recovery process for Partida is an art class, sponsored by the center, that is helping her and others begin to process what they have been through.

She says one of her paintings, an 11-by-14-inch abstract entitled “Sacrifice,” especially speaks for her.

“Sacrifice means everything I have had to give up – not being able to be with my kids, not having my old life … not being out there like one of you making money,” she said of the painting.

The bright handprint is a “statement of my life,”

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In new UN role, ex-CNN journalist seeks to end abuse of women and girls

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Former CNN correspondent Isha Sesay planned to begin her new role as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with a visit to Nigeria and Haiti – canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the British journalist and author listened remotely to stories from women and girls, from midwives to abuse survivors, in Yemen, Ukraine, Somalia and Sierra Leone.

“We did a global virtual tour,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation this week from her home in Los Angeles.

“It’s not the same as being there and sitting side by side but …. it will have value.”

UNFPA, the U.N.’s sexual and reproductive health agency has warned of COVID-19’s catastrophic impact on women and girls, with a surge in domestic violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).

“In this moment of COVID and the pandemic, and seeing its impact on women and girls, there’s really a need to amplify efforts to draw attention to gender-based violence and harmful practices,” said Sesay, who was announced as ambassador on Wednesday.

“I think we can achieve a great deal together.”

Sesay has a strong record as a girls’ rights advocate, leading CNN’s Africa reporting for more than a decade and winning the Peabody Award in 2014 for its coverage of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in Chibok.

In a welcoming statement, UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem called Sesay “a gifted storyteller who has used her platform to elevate the voices of some of the world’s most marginalized women and girls”.

Sesay left CNN in 2018 and wrote “Beneath the Tamarind Tree”, a book about her experiences reporting on the Chibok girls, and founded W.E. (Women Everywhere) Can Lead, a non-profit supporting girls’ education in Sierra Leone.

The newly minted U.N. ambassador grew up in Sierra Leone, where her mother Kadi Sesay was a government minister, as well as an FGM survivor, and one of her grandfather’s wives was a traditional cutter.

FGM, which affects 200 million girls and women globally, involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia and can cause bleeding, infertility and death.

Gender-based violence is growing exponentially as the pandemic stretches on, Sesay said, with UNFPA estimating that every three months of lockdown could result in 15 million more cases of domestic abuse than would normally occur.

“It’s really important for people to understand that the scale and impact of COVID is so much greater than what we can see at first glance,” she said.

“There is an urgency to this moment.”

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst. Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org

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U.S. Agrees To Pause Deportations For Women Alleging Abuse At ICE Facility : NPR

Protesters gather for a news conference in Atlanta earlier this year, shortly after the release of a complaint by whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.

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Protesters gather for a news conference in Atlanta earlier this year, shortly after the release of a complaint by whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.

Jeff Amy/AP

The U.S. government has agreed to freeze any planned deportations of the immigrant women alleging abuse at a detention facility in Georgia. In a consent motion filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday, authorities and the accusers’ attorneys jointly notified the court that the alleged victims — and others with “substantially similar factual allegations” — will not be removed from the United States.

The consent motion, which remains subject to the approval of U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands, requests that further court proceedings be scheduled “after the week of Jan. 21, 202[1]” — following the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The agreement represents a reprieve for the dozens of women who say that they endured unwanted procedures at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga., including hysterectomies or other surgeries that left them sterile. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility is privately operated by the for-profit LaSalle Corrections, which has denied the allegations.

“In all, more than 43 women have reportedly alleged that they underwent nonconsensual and/or medically unnecessary gynecological procedures while detained at ICDC,” a group of more than 100 Democratic lawmakers said in a letter earlier this month to the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

In the letter they noted that, though federal investigations are reportedly underway, “at least six victims of the alleged nonconsensual, unnecessary, and potentially sterilizing gynecological procedures have reportedly been deported.”

Others awaiting conversations with investigators stood in “imminent risk” of deportation, the lawmakers said last week, while still others had narrowly avoided the possibility of removal from the country. As NPR’s Joel Rose reported in September, Cameroonian immigrant Pauline Binam was on the tarmac when her scheduled deportation was averted.

Another woman, Yanira Yesenia Oldaker, said to The Guardian that she was also close to deportation when her attorneys successfully intervened.

“The examination was horrible,” she told the British newspaper, referring to an examination that she says Dr. Mahendra Amin performed on her without her consent earlier this year. “He hurt me mentally and physically. He caused me a lot of pain.”

More than a dozen other women have alleged mistreatment specifically by Amin, a gynecologist, to whom the facility has sent patients. A 27-page whistleblower complaint by a nurse at Irwin described some of these claims in mid-September, along with other allegations of poor medical care and inadequate COVID-19 protections.

Amin, through an attorney, has previously denied the allegations. And in a statement released to news outlets earlier this year, an ICE spokesperson said that “any implication that ICE is attempting to impede the investigation by conducting

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US agrees for now to stop deporting women who alleged abuse

The U.S. government has agreed temporarily not to deport detained immigrant women who have alleged being abused by a rural Georgia gynecologist

HOUSTON — The U.S. government has agreed temporarily not to deport detained immigrant women who have alleged being abused by a rural Georgia gynecologist, according to court papers filed Tuesday.

Dozens of women have alleged that they were mistreated by Dr. Mahendra Amin, a gynecologist who was seeing patients from the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general is investigating as well. Amin has denied any wrongdoing through his lawyer.

The agreement filed in court Tuesday proposes that no deportations would take place until at least mid-January for women who have “substantially similar factual allegations.”

Elora Mukherjee, a Columbia University law professor working with several of the women, said the agreement gives the women “a measure of protection for trying to expose the abuses there.”

“ICE and others at Irwin thought they could silence these women,” she said. “They thought they could act with impunity and nothing would ever happen. But the women have organized and had the audacity to speak out.”

ICE said Tuesday that it “complies with all binding court orders.” The agency has previously denied allegations that it tried to deport women to silence them, saying in a written statement: “Any implication that ICE is attempting to impede the investigation by conducting removals of those being interviewed is completely false.”

Scott Grubman, a lawyer for Amin, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

The allegations were originally revealed by a whistleblower complaint. Further investigations have found several examples of Amin performing surgeries on women who later said they didn’t consent to the procedures or didn’t fully understand them.

Grubman has denied any wrongdoing by the doctor and previously described Amin as a “highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia.”

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Women fleeing Venezuela are being targeted for abuse amid pandemic border closures

If Gabriela Ochoa had known what would happen to her down by the Táchira River that divides Venezuela and Colombia, she never would have crossed.



a person flying a kite: Muddy paths across the Táchira river can be the only way into Colombia -- but they're far from safe.


© CNN Illustration/Getty Images
Muddy paths across the Táchira river can be the only way into Colombia — but they’re far from safe.

But her family was desperate.

The 21-year-old single mother had been struggling as Venezuela’s economy collapsed under the regime of embattled President Nicolás Maduro. In 2019, she lost her job at a fruit shop and could no longer feed her three young children, all under the age of five.

With government subsidized food growing scarcer and more expensive, Ochoa didn’t even bother seeking government aid. Instead, after a short stint living with her mother, with whom she had a troubled relationship, she set her sights on moving to Colombia, where people advised she might find work and a friend had offered to host her.



a person driving a bus: Colombian Military Police officers patrol the surroundings of the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in Cucuta, near the "trochas" -illegal trails on the border between Colombia and Venezuela- on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Schneyder MENDOZA / AFP) (Photo by SCHNEYDER MENDOZA/AFP via Getty Images)


© Schneyder Mendoza/AFP/Getty Images
Colombian Military Police officers patrol the surroundings of the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in Cucuta, near the “trochas” -illegal trails on the border between Colombia and Venezuela- on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Schneyder MENDOZA / AFP) (Photo by SCHNEYDER MENDOZA/AFP via Getty Images)

As the first Covid-19 cases started popping up at home, she traveled towards the Colombia-Venezuela border. Many Venezuelan migrants have been living in the city of Cúcuta, the closest major city on the Colombian side of the border, often in the precarious conditions of slums and temporary shelters.

Ochoa and her children made it to the border bridge in early April, after hours of hitchhiking and walking from her hometown, the coastal city of Puerto Cabello — more than 450 miles (730 km) from the border. But the Colombian government had already closed all checkpoints to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus in mid-March.

The only option left for Ochoa to make it across to Cúcuta was to cross through one of the nearly 80 muddy, crime-ridden trochas in the Cúcuta area — informal routes across the Táchira river — controlled by criminal gangs, guerrillas and paramilitary groups, she said.



a group of people swimming in a body of water: Venezuelans attempt to cross the Tachira river in Cucuta, Colombia.


© SCHNEYDER MENDOZA/AFP via Getty Images
Venezuelans attempt to cross the Tachira river in Cucuta, Colombia.

On the first day, Ochoa said she begged people on their way to the trocha to help her cross, with no luck. That night, she slept on the street with her children, their stomachs roaring with hunger. By the end of the second day, as the sky darkened, a young man finally offered to help her, she said.

As they inched closer to the water, a group of men emerged from the bushes, their heads covered by hoodies.

“They had guns, knives, all kinds of things,” Ochoa recalled. The men grabbed her children and threatened to take them away if she didn’t pay them to cross.

“I thought they were going to kill me and the children,” she said. In tears, Ochoa told them she didn’t have any money and begged them

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US Congress members demand halt to deportations of women who accused gynecologist of abuse

A group of 30 US senators and 75 congressmen and women have demanded an immediate halt to deportations of women who claim they were abused by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) gynecologist, as the furore over alleged abused in Ice custody continues to grow.



a sign on the side of a building: Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

The development comes as some of the women recounted their experiences to the Guardian, two of them detailing the painful and invasive procedures they were subjected to by Dr Mahendra Amin in Georgia. Both women were then listed for deportation days after they spoke out against the doctor, in what their lawyers say is a “pattern of intimidation” designed to silence abuse claims.



a sign on the side of a building: The Department of Homeland Security flag flies outside the Ice headquarters in Washington DC. In the last month seven women were threatened with deportation days after it emerged they had spoken out against Amin.


© Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
The Department of Homeland Security flag flies outside the Ice headquarters in Washington DC. In the last month seven women were threatened with deportation days after it emerged they had spoken out against Amin.

Related: Trans women in Ice custody already suffered sexual harassment and abuse. Then came Covid-19

The members of Congress, including Senators Richard Blumenthal, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, signed a petition to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday, seeking to prevent Amin’s accusers from being deported.

At least 43 women at Irwin county detention center (ICDC), in Georgia, have now alleged misconduct by Amin. He is accused of operating on migrant women without their consent or performing procedures that were medically unnecessary and potentially endangered their ability to have children.

Amin’s lawyer denies the doctor did anything wrong.

Six of the 43 women have been deported since they spoke out about abuse. Another seven women have been listed for deportation.

The 105 members of Congress said the deportation of alleged victims and witnesses in an ongoing investigation into Amin amounted to a “destruction of evidence”, and urged federal agencies to stop deportations.

“At least 18 women who were patients of Dr Mahendra Amin remain detained at ICDC,” the officials said. “Any deportation of these witnesses constitutes interference with the investigation.”

An spokesperson said: “Ice is fully cooperating with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation … Any implication that Ice is attempting to impede the investigation by conducting removals of those being interviewed is completely false.”

Allegations of abuse by Amin, who served as a gynecologist for the Irwin center for several years, have rocked Ice and shocked America since a whistleblower filed a complaint in mid-September.

Since then a number of women allegedly abused by Amin have come forward. But lawyers for the women say they have been subjected to a “pattern of intimidation” by Ice after speaking out.

In the last month seven women, all long-term detainees at the Irwin center, found they were threatened with deportation days after it emerged they had spoken out against Amin.

One of those women, Yanira Yesenia Oldaker, told the Guardian she was taken to Columbus airport,

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Yves Saint Laurent Beauty Launches “Abuse is Not Love”, a Global Program which Aims to Help Combat Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

PARIS, Nov. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In the lead-up to the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25, 2020, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty has launched Abuse is Not Love, a new global program aimed at helping to combat Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) by supporting the prevention programs of its non-profit partners. IPV is a major societal issue: approximately 1 in 3 women will experience Intimate Partner Violence in their lifetime1 and only a small proportion of survivors will obtain justice.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is one of the most common forms of violence against women and includes physical, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse, as well as controlling behaviors by an intimate partner. In the United States, United Kingdom and France, one woman is killed by her partner every three days.2 Globally, more than 600 million women are living in a country where Intimate Partner Violence is not considered a crime. Intimate Partner Violence affects individuals from all socioeconomic, religious, and cultural groups;3 however, women are most at risk, with the highest rates seen among young adults aged 16-24.4 

Intimate Partner Violence prevalence rates have increased by 30 to 60 percent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.5 Many women have been living in lockdown with an abusive partner and have been unable to seek support from expert organizations, friends, loved ones and colleagues.

Research shows that IPV comes with key warning signs. If these signs can be detected earlier, we may be able to recognize it better and seek or offer help.6 YSL Beauty aims to do its part in raising awareness of these common signs.

Abuse is Not Love is built around three key pillars: funding academic research on the topic to develop thought-leadership around youth and prevention; educating 2 million people on the common signs of IPV through international partnerships; and training YSL Beauty employees and beauty advisors on Intimate Partner Violence in the workplace.  

Supporting women, especially when it comes to their independence, is central to the way the brand acts. Intimate Partner Violence hinders the safety, wellbeing and independence of women,” says Stephan Bezy, International General Manager, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty. “It therefore felt very natural to work on an issue that stood in opposition to our core values and beliefs.”

Abuse is Not Love has launched as a global program with 3 key partnerships in 2020: En Avant Toute(s) in France, Women’s Aid in the UK, and It’s on Us in the U.S., with more partnerships coming in 2021 in other countries. Through these partnerships, YSL Beauty aims to raise awareness of the seriousness of IPV in order to contribute to meaningful change. By 2030, YSL’s objective is to educate two million people around the world on IPV through its partnership with local non-profits.

Dr. Beth Livingston, a US-based gender and diversity academic who has conducted research as part of the Abuse is Not

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Women bear brunt of online abuse as world goes digital in pandemic

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women bear the brunt of digital abuse – threatened with rape and exploited for porn – as the coronavirus pandemic drives ever more people online, media experts said on Wednesday.

Through salacious claims and viral memes, Brazilian journalist Patricia Campos Mello said she has repeatedly faced attack online for reporting on the Brazil government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Thousands of memes have circulated on the internet which my face appears in pornographic montages,” Mello told the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual event, Trust Conference, held online this year due to the pandemic.

“(People) calling me a prostitute and saying that I offer sex in exchange for stories. I get messages from people saying I deserve to be raped.”

Women’s rights campaigners worldwide have warned of an increase in online abuse such as revenge porn as COVID-19 confines many people to stay home in front of a screen.

Girls as young as eight have also been subject to abuse, with one in five young women quitting or reducing their use of social media, according to a recent survey by girls’ rights group Plan International.

The International Women’s Media Foundation said 58% of nearly 600 female journalists interviewed in 2018 had been threatened or harassed in person, and one in 10 had received death threats.

This came as no surprise to India-based journalist Rana Ayyub, who has featured in a fake porn video circulated to government officials and has received numerous death threats.

“I had burnt copies of my book … sent to me at home saying this would happen to me,” said Ayyub.

“If you are a critic of the government and a woman, who also happens to be a Muslim, this ticks all the boxes to be humiliated and to be discredited.”

The #MeToo movement – which took off three years ago – has emboldened women to recount their experiences of being verbally abused, groped, molested or raped.

Ayyub said online abuse needed to be taken more seriously, adding that authorities are yet to do anything about the dozens of death threats she had received.

“We underplay how online threats can be dangerous because there’s a very thin line when online can go offline,” she said.

“It’s about time that our countries make it safer for us to be where we are and not feel threatened to leave.”

Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.

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