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News and Views: May 2010

Human Rights and Cultural Diversity - UN Experts Statement

May 21, 2010

The following statement has been issued by a group of UN human rights experts to mark World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, 21 May 2010

Egypt using defamation laws to prosecute dissenting voices

May 25, 2010

Amnesty International has criticized the Egyptian authorities' use of criminal defamation charges to silence and harass activists, after the trial of two leading human rights defenders and a prominent blogger started on Saturday.

A court in Cairo heard the case of the three men on charges of "defamation", "the use of threats" and "misuse of communication tools", after allegations of extortion were made by a judge in 2007.

Pakistan: Freedom of Expression on Internet Must be Respected

May 21, 2010

Decisions by a Pakistani High Court to ban numerous international websites and services violate international human rights law.

Peru: Women are victims of male machismo at home & in court

May 21, 2010

LIMA – Preys of the machismo culture and domestic violence at home, Peruvian women also have to deal with a justice system that often justifies the behavior of the aggressor.

Last year – during which there was a 40-percent increase in cases of domestic violence compared with 2005 – there were 139 women slain and 64 injured, while in the first three months of this year, 29 women were murdered and attempts were made to kill another 17, according to figures from the Ministry of Women.

Women's Right to Have Rights - Resisting Fundamentalist Orders

May 14, 2010

While fundamentalist movements may vary according to the global context in which they operate, for women this diversity is outweighed by the core characteristics, strategies and impacts that they share.

Nepal school expels 29 girls based on outlawed “chhaupadi” custom

April 25, 2010

Nepal school expels 29 girls for 'being accursed'

Kathmandu: Less than a week after a religious leader in Iran said earthquakes were caused by women who were promiscuous and wore revealing clothes, a school in Nepal's west has expelled 29 girls for 'angering the gods' as they had begun to menstruate, a report said.

The Siddheswar Higher Secondary School in Doti, a district in farwestern Nepal, has expelled 29 girl students from its hostel because they had begun to menstruate, the Naya Patrika daily reported.

FPI radicals remain free after assault

May 13, 2010

Three days after the unruly Islam Defenders Front (FPI) stormed a human rights training workshop for transgender individuals in Depok, West Java, police seem reluctant to pursue the case further, with no arrests made to date.

Despite massive media reports covering the Friday attack and the presence of several police officers at the crime scene, police investigations have made little progress, despite apparent evidence of the perpetrators.

Yemen's Child Bride Backlash

April 30, 2010

After a 13-year-old girl's death, the conservative Islamists are retrenching -- with some bizarre, yet somehow effective, arguments.

The sad case of Elham Assi, a 13-year old Yemeni girl who died from internal hemorrhaging after being raped by her 23-year-old husband, has certainly sparked conversation in Yemen over the longstanding practice of child marriage. But the conversations -- taking place everywhere from Sanaa kitchens to the parliament building -- aren't exactly what you'd expect.

Pakistan: Over 600 women killed in name of honour in 2009

March 31, 2010

The Urdu expression `chaddar aur chardawari’ is often quoted in Pakistan to suggest that women are safest under their shawl (`chaddar’) and within the four walls (`chardawari’) of their home. This may hold true for many women, but for some, such as 25-year-old Naseeba Bibi, it could not be further from the truth. Naseeba said she had suffered continual abuse from her husband since they got married six years ago in Kasur, about 55km southeast of Lahore, Punjab Province.

Saudi Arabia: 12 Year Old Girl Granted Forced Marriage Divorce from Husband 80

April 22, 2010

A girl aged 12 has won a divorce from her 80-year-old husband in Saudi Arabia in a case that may help to introduce a minimum age of marriage in the kingdom for the first time. The girl’s unusual legal challenge to the arrangement generated international media attention and scrutiny of Saudi Arabia’s record of child marriages.

It also prompted the state-run Human Rights Commission to appoint a lawyer to represent her. The commission has capitalised on the case and pushed for a legal minimum age for marriage of at least 16.

Brunei: Domestic Violence Victims To Get More Protection

April 26, 2010

Bandar Seri Begawan - The Attorney General Chambers (AGC) will be introducing an amendment to the Married Women Act called "protection order" with "very extensive coverage" to better defend victims of domestic violence.

Discussions are being conducted with the Syariah Court to make a similar amendment to the Islamic Family Law, AGC senior counsel officer Zuraini Hj Sharbawi has told The Brunei Times.

Nigerian senator Sani denies marrying girl of 13

April 30, 2010

A Nigerian senator accused of marrying a 13-year-old Egyptian girl says he has done nothing wrong.

Ahmad Sani Yerima, 49, told the BBC that his fourth wife was not 13, but would not say how old she was.He denied breaking the law but said he would not respect any law that contradicted his religious beliefs. The Nigerian senate ordered an investigation after complaints from women's groups but the senator said he did not care what the groups thought.

A spokesman for the Egyptian embassy in Nigeria has said the girl is still at school in Egypt.

Jordan: Women's Progress But Honour Killings Persist

April 22, 2010

AMMAN, Apr 22, 2010 (IPS) - Earlier this month, a 33-year-old man was charged with hammering his wife to death and dumping her body on the highway leading to the Queen Alia International Airport. The husband confessed to murdering her ''to defend his honour,’’ as she was meeting a male friend.

Also this month local newspapers ran a story about a man allegedly shooting and killing his Moroccan wife and her sister, and injuring her lawyer in the Ain Al Basha area. The wife had filed for divorce and was on her way to court with the lawyer when she was attacked.

Moral police need policing, too

April 28, 2010

Fearing public embarrassment, couples accused of infringing religious laws on morality often put themselves at risk of physical hurt, and even death.

WHEN a fatal accident happens, usually there will be an enquiry to find out the reasons behind it. Landslides may cause homes to be buried along with some occupants so an enquiry is needed to decide who is at fault and to be held responsible.

Or schoolchildren out on an excursion may wind up drowned and investigations must be done, not least to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

The Politics of UN Human Rights Council and Iran's Candidacy

April 17, 2010

The Islamic Republic of Iran, in a provocative act, has announced its candidacy for the United Nation Human Rights Council, a UN organization based in Geneva. The candidacy of Iran comes at a time that during the last 10 months, Iranians are experiencing one of the darkest periods of human rights violations since 1979 revolution. The candidacy of Iran for the UN Human Rights Council is comparable to electing apartheid South Africa to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or to awarding the US for humane treatment of detainee's right after the world was shocked with pictures revealing sexual torture and humiliation of naked prisoners.

Mexico rejects church criticism of sex education

April 16, 2010

MEXICO CITY — Mexican educators and officials defended the country's public school sex education Friday from criticism by a Roman Catholic bishop who said such teachings make celibacy vows more difficult for priests to keep.

Education Secretary Alonso Lujambio told reporters that public-school sexual education texts "seek to make our boys and girls responsible, to take responsibility for their actions, and for that they need information."

Lujambio said the programs are careful to avoid "hurting any social sensitivities."

Indiscriminate Attacks Devastate Mogadishu

April 18, 2010

(New York) April 18, 2010 -- The Islamist armed group al-Shabaab is subjecting inhabitants of southern Somalia to killings, cruel punishments, and repressive social control, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Al-Shabaab, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and African Union (AU) forces in the war-torn capital, Mogadishu, continue to conduct indiscriminate attacks, killing and wounding numerous civilians.

Senegal: Boys in many Quranic schools suffer severe abuse

April 15, 2010

(Dakar) April 15, 2010 -- Tens of thousands of children at residential Quranic schools in Senegal are subjected to slavery-like conditions and severely abused, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged the Senegalese authorities to regulate all Quranic schools and take immediate and concerted action to hold accountable teachers who violate Senegalese laws against forced begging and child abuse.

Women Online In Iran Brave Heavy Web Surveillance

April 9, 2010

Iranian female journalists are veterans of government closure of their print publications and early Internet ventures. Now they are prevailing against the region's most advanced censoring and monitoring software.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Iranian women have pushed the battle for equal rights online even as security forces aggressively monitor the Internet and shut down pro-democracy Web sites that fall out of step with the regime.

Iranian cleric blames quakes on promiscuous women

April 20, 2010

Women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes, an Iranian cleric says.

Hojjat ol-eslam Kazem Sediqi, the acting Friday prayer leader in Tehran, said women should stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," he explained.

Tens of thousands of people have died in Iran earthquakes in the last decade.

Afghanistan: Attack on female politician highlights growing risk for Afghan women in public life

April 8, 2010

The shooting of a female Afghan politician on Monday demonstrates the fragility of the modest gains made by Afghan women after the fall of the Taleban, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

Nida Khyani, a female Provincial Council member, was left in critical condition after being attacked in a drive-by shooting in Pul-e-Khumri, the provincial capital of Baghlan in northern Afghanistan.

UN Secretary-General calls for religious leaders to foster dialogue between cultures

April 27, 2010

Religious leaders have a vital part to play in promoting dialogue between different cultures and societies at a time when globalization has left many people feeling discontented, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told an international gathering of leaders.

In a message to the two-day World Summit of Religious Leaders, which concludes today in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, Mr. Ban said that “when we build a culture of understanding and uphold human dignity, we build a better world.”

Iran Elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women

April 29, 2010

NEW YORK — Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged "immodest."

Just days after Iran abandoned a high-profile bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, it began a covert campaign to claim a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women," according to its website.

UPDATE: MALAYSIA - Kartika's caning sentence commuted to community service

In a Press Statement issued by Sisters in Islam (SIS), the Malaysian women's group, one of the most well-known nongovernment groups in this Muslim-majority country, registered their happiness with the decision by Sultan of Pahang, Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, to commute Kartika’s caning sentence to community service.