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News and Views: July 2011

Lebanon: Hotchpotch of religious laws restricts basic rights

July 19, 2011

The demand for equal religious, gender and other treatment for all Lebanese citizens has gained pace with some saying the time has come to review laws that confer inequality, especially on women.

“As a women, I am not equal to my brother, husband or male friend," Rita Chemaly, a researcher and women’s activist in the capital Beirut, said. "My state doesn’t guarantee my rights. The constitution says that all Lebanese are equal, yet the laws do not [guarantee this]."

Human Dignity and Honour of Women

July 15, 2011

Human beings have explored more civilisations with the passage of time and we are now in the 21st century. But, in some countries and societies that is merely a technicality and nothing more. The archaic and often criminal notions of justice and honour, particularly the treatment meted out to women, speak of a society that remains mired in a mediaeval mindset. This is evident judging by news from different countries and societies and because the world has emerged as a global village such news and stories are easily accessible.

Afghanistan: Demanding Dignity on Kabul’s Streets, Afghan Women March Against Sexual Harassment

July 25, 2011

Holding signs that read “This street belongs to me too”; “We won’t tolerate insults anymore”; and a banner with a verse from the Koran emphasizing the wrongness of abusing women, around 30 young Afghan women and men marched in the sweltering afternoon heat to protest the rampant and often violent sexual harassment of women and girls on Kabul’s streets.

Tunisia: Sit-in against 'fundamentalism, extremism, and violence' in centre of Tunis

July 2, 2011

Dozens of people participated Saturday in a sit-in in the center of Tunis to warn against "fundamentalism, extremism and violence", AFP noted. 

Gathered on the steps of the City Theatre, the participants came following calls on social networks, waving placards saying "no to violence, yes to tolerance," "against any religious extremism", "No to Algeria of the 90s."

The event turned into impromptu happening, dozens of passers-by sit down to discuss the place of Islam in society, freedom of expression or the defense of the Revolution’s gains.

Afghanistan: Suspect in Mutilation Case Is Freed

July 11, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — The only suspect arrested in the case of a woman mutilated for leaving her husband has been released, local Afghan officials and the woman’s father said Monday, in a move that has angered human rights advocates and the woman’s family.

Afghanistan: Making Peace With The Taliban At The Cost of Women’s Rights

October 8, 2010

Massouda Jalal is a psychiatrist and paediatrician based in Afghanistan. After the fall of Taliban in 2001, she emerged as a powerful voice of Afghan women and later contested the 2004 elections as a presidential candidate. Jalal was minister for women's affairs in the Hamid Karzai government for a brief while. As director of Jalal Foundation, she travels across Afghanistan to champion women's empowerment and rights. She spoke to Ashima Kaul.

India: Infant Sex Selection on Rise, Despite Stricter Law

July 12, 2011

When Sujatha’s husband learned that she had conceived just five months after they got married, he became agitated over what he called her "ill-timed pregnancy". To worsen her husband’s anxiety, a test to determine the sex of the foetus showed she was carrying a girl.

Iran: The life of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani remains in the balance

July 8, 2011

A year after public attention was cast upon Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s plight, her life appears to remain in the balance.

UK: Teachers urged to be alert to students who may be at risk of forced marriage

July 7, 2011

This summer over 350 young people will be forced to marry someone against their will and as a result may not return to their classrooms next academic year.  

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint-initiative between the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Home Office, is the Government’s specialist ‘one-stop shop’ for forced marriage. It provides support to victims of forced marriage as well as expert training and guidance to professionals working with victims or potential victims.  

Outrage as 'Obedient Wives Club' spreads across south-east Asia

July 6, 2011

A women's group that aims to teach Muslim wives how to "keep their spouses happy in the bedroom" is taking root in south-east Asia, prompting outrage from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Bangladesh: Protect women against 'fatwa' violence

July 6, 2011

Despite court orders, government has failed to intervene. 

(Dhaka) - The Bangladesh government should take urgent measures to make sure that religious fatwas and traditional dispute resolution methods do not result in extrajudicial punishments, Human Rights Watch said today.  The government is yet to act on repeated orders of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court, beginning in July 2010, to stop illegal punishments such as whipping, lashing, or public humiliations, said the petitioners who challenged the practice.

Time To Lead: Islam in Canada

July 6, 2011

This summer, thousands of people will become new Canadian citizens. Many of them will be Muslims. They have come to Canada from every corner of the globe and, like my parents did 24 years ago, they will make this peaceful, progressive nation their home.

My parents left behind Pakistan and chose Canada for the same reasons many other Muslim immigrants came here 20, 30 or 40 years ago: for democracy, freedom, stability and modernity.

India: How fruit trees in Indian village save girls' lives

July 14, 2011

In India, where traditionally boys have been preferred over girls, a village in backward Bihar state has been setting an example by planting trees to celebrate the birth of a girl child. In Dharhara village, Bhagalpur district, families plant a minimum of 10 trees whenever a girl child is born.

And this practice is paying off.

Nikah Kumari, 19, is all set to get married in early June. The would-be groom is a state school teacher chosen by her father, Subhas Singh.

India: Row after minister calls homosexuality a disease

July 5, 2011

India's health minister has sparked a furious row over comments in which he described homosexuality as a "disease". Ghulam Nabi Azad told a conference on HIV/Aids that gay sex was "unnatural". Later he said he had been misquoted. One leading Aids campaigner said the minister was "living on another planet". 

Gay sex was decriminalised in the country in a landmark judgement in 2009 but anti-homosexual discrimination remains widespread.

Mr Azad told the meeting in Delhi on Monday that homosexuality "is a disease which has come from other countries".

UK: Girls at risk of mutilation abroad

July 4, 2011

Thousands of British schoolgirls as young as eight face being taken abroad this summer to have their genitals mutilated and stitched up to preserve "purity".

A campaign by the Metropolitan Police and Foreign Office will suggest that more than 22,000 girls under the age of 15 risk being taken abroad by their family for "cutting", based on data from The International Centre for Reproductive Health.

Bolivia: Women fight superstition and machismo in mining cooperatives

June 23, 2011

Hundreds of women belonging to mining cooperatives in Bolivia are striving for the right to mine seams of tin and silver in the country's western highlands, where an age old superstition maintains that the presence of women "scares away" the minerals.

In these freezing high-altitude mineral-rich but impoverished areas, native women have been assigned a secondary economic role for centuries. But now they are seeking to make headway in traditionally male domains, say researchers interviewed by IPS. 

Indonesia: Using religion to strengthen gender equality

May 12, 2011

DENPASAR, Indonesia, May 12, 2009 (IPS) - ‘My husband rapes me repeatedly. I asked the ulama (religious leader) for help, but he sided with him, saying that according to Islam, a woman has to obey her husband. I have nowhere else to go. I have no tears left to shed. I no longer scream.’

It was while recording stories like this that staff at Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), a branch of the country’s Human Rights Commission, decided in 2007 that they needed to focus on religious leaders if they wanted to protect women. 

Egypt: ‘They Ogle, Touch, Use the Filthiest Language Imaginable’

May 30, 2011

CAIRO, May 30, 2009 (IPS) - As night falls over Egypt’s capital, youth gather along the banks of the Nile where a carnivalesque atmosphere prevails.

Tamer and Mido have taken up positions on the railing next to the river. As a group of veiled teenage girls approaches, the duo works in tandem. Tamer removes the girls’ headscarves with his eyes, while sexually nuanced words roll off Mido’s tongue. 

Guatemala: Women-only buses against sexual harassment

June 24, 2011

"We are all safer here; it's great because this way there are no men groping you," Jaqueline Escobar, a sales executive, told IPS on a bus that is exclusively for women, a service against sexual harassment that is being tried out in the Guatemalan capital.

Guatemala City's mass transit system, Transurbano, launched a pilot programme on Jun. 14 with dozens of buses identified with signs reading "For Women Only" and pink ribbons, which run between the city centre and neighbourhoods to the north and south. 

Yanar Mohammed: Iraqi Women’s Vigilant Champion

June 28, 2011

The democratic spirit of the Arab Spring uprisings is alive and well in the determination of women protesters in Iraq, who are seeing their rights slip away under the current administration.

Fiji: Police Shut down Fiji Women's Rights Movement birthday retreat

July 20, 2011

Police closed down the Fiji’s Women’s Rights Movement’s (FWRM) retreat and planning at the Pearl resort in Pacific harbor this morning. At around 9.30am, a police officer, known as Tomu, from the Central Investigation Department asked the hotel event coordinator whether FWRM had a permit. The information was relayed to the FWRM Executive Director, Virisila Buadromo, who informed him that the event was an internal FWRM planning.

Liberia: Tackling sexual violence head on

June 27, 2011

Rape continues to be the most frequently reported serious crime in Liberia. A new multipronged approach is underway to reduce sexual and gender-based violence.

MONROVIA, Liberia (WOMENSENEWS)-- Korlu, a young mother of two, lives on the outskirts of Monrovia, the capital here. A high school dropout, Korlu, who declined to give her last name for safety reasons, says when she was a teen, she became pregnant. "My parents put me out of their house because they couldn't bear the shame of me getting pregnant," she says.

Sri Lanka: Police investigate attack on teenage girls

June 28, 2011

Sri Lankan police are investigating an alleged assault on two girls accused of watching pornography in the east of the country last week. A group of men allegedly beat up the 17-year-olds after they came out of an internet cafe in the mostly Muslim town of Kattankudi, near Batticaloa.The father of one of the girls says they were accused of watching pornography - a charge the girls deny.

The case has fuelled concern about a rise in radical Islam in that area.

An incident of this sort is extremely unusual for Sri Lanka.

'Taken to hospital'

Death in the West Bank: the story of an 'honour' killing

June 30, 2011

The brutal murder of a young Palestinian woman shocked a nation and helped change the law over so-called 'honour' killings.

Kenya: I was told that I deserved to die – for being a female journalist

July 3, 2011

It's not always easy being a female investigative journalist, even in the west. But imagine going to do an interview and not being able to shake hands with the interviewee or indeed even being able to sit in front of him to ask questions.

In Somali culture – I grew up in a Somali family in Kenya – it is wrong to speak and raise an opinion in front of men or even to shake hands with a man of no relation to you. Even travelling for work unaccompanied by a relative is not permitted.

Afghanistan: Authorities must look to the International Criminal Court to prosecute Taliban attacks

June 28, 2011

The Afghan government must work with the International Criminal Court to investigate those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Amnesty International said today, after an attack on a Kabul hotel claimed by the Taleban left at least 10 people dead.

India: Doctors turn baby girls into boys through genitoplasty

June 26, 2011

Girls are being 'converted' into boys in Indore - by the hundreds every year - at ages where they cannot give their consent for this life-changing operation.

This shocking, unprecedented trend, catering to the fetish for a son, is unfolding at conservative Indore's well-known clinics and hospitals on children who are 1-5 years old. The process being used to 'produce' a male child from a female is known as genitoplasty. Each surgery costs Rs 1.5 lakh.

Moreover, these children are pumped with hormonal treatment as part of the sex change procedure that may be irreversible.

Saudi Arabia: 5 women detained for driving, activist says

June 29, 2011

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabian police detained 5 women for defying the conservative kingdom's driving ban, an activist said on Wednesday, although police said they had detained only one.

"All the cases were in Jeddah and we were really surprised to hear this because this was not the case before," said Saudi activist Eman al-Nafjan.

Lebanon: Clerics attack domestic violence law

June 26, 2011

New legislation intended to combat domestic violence in Lebanon has run into opposition by the country's religious establishment.

Dar Al-Fatwa, the country's highest Sunni religious authority, claimed that the new law contradicted Islamic law (Shariah) and would deprive Muslim women of the ability to turn to religious courts for protection. It warned the legislators against "religious innovations" such as the concept of rape within the marital framework.

Saudi Arabia: Women challenging male guardianship laws

June 29, 2011

When she was a little girl, Samia* would practice medical procedures on watermelons. Back then, her dream was to become a successful surgeon and to marry a good man.

"I started to dream of the [wedding] gown when I was 10 or 11 years old. I dreamed of forming a small family - having a kid like my mum and to be a surgeon at the same time".

More than 30 years on, Samia is a fully-qualified doctor.

Egypt: Military pledges to stop forced 'virginity tests'

June 27, 2011

The head of Egypt’s military intelligence has promised Amnesty International that the army will no longer carry out forced ‘virginity tests’ after defending their use, during a meeting with the organisation in Cairo on Sunday.

Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), discussed the issue with Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty months after the organisation publicized allegations of the forced ‘tests’. 

India: Child marriages reduced through regional government UNICEF Program

June 19, 2011

HYDERABAD: Kiran Kumar Reddy may have made for a pretty picture helping a girl child write at a government school in Ameerpet, but it is in the distant revenue division of Adoni in Kurnool district that a real revolution is actually unfolding. Revenue officials here have stopped a whopping 400 child marriages in less than two months.

Pakistan: Sexual Harassment Act in place, but fears of reporting remain

April 14, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Despite the introduction of Harassment Act 2010 in the country, most women are more afraid of repercussions which may cause them to loose their job or face retaliation, so they save themselves by remaining quite.

Women are hesitant of lodging complaints as they feel they would face abusive language, forced late sitting, unnecessary work load and rumors about their characters.

Italy: LGBT Christians want Pope Benedict XVI to defend their human rights

June 10, 2011

Today the European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups has sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking for true respect of the human rights and the personal integrity of LGBT people. They appeal to the Pope for a clear statement against homophobic violence and any pressure by religious authorities to undergo „reparative therapy“, often causing harmful psychological damage.

Palestine: Honour Killing Draws Government & Social Response

May 19, 2011

A 20-year-old Palestinian woman who was thrown into a well and left to die in the name of “family honour” has not become just another statistic in one of the Middle East’s most shameful practices.

The killing of Aya Baradiya — by an uncle who didn’t like a potential suitor — sparked such outrage that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas scrapped laws this week that guaranteed sentences of six months or less for such killings.

Pakistan: Woman paraded naked in shaming in Haipur

July 18, 2011

Update: In response to the June 6, 2011 public shaming of a woman in Haipur, who was forcibly paraded naked in front of her entire village, Pakistani civil society organizations and NGOs formed a broad coalition to push authorities, including the chief minister, the high court and the police department, to take appropriate action. With public support, media coverage and strong rights-based advocacy, law enforcement agencies have extended their suppor to the victims and their families. Support work is ongoing.

New site brings dignity to victims of honor-violence

July 18, 2011

According to the United Nations and The International Campaign Against Honor Killing at least five thousand women and girls worldwide are murdered each year to preserve ‘family honour’. Many of these women are killed for making personal choices that don’t match the limits placed on them by their families and local society.

Malaysia: Muslim women's rights leaders spoke against the Obedient Women's Club

July 18, 2011

Interview by Fathol Zaman Bukhari. There has been much furore over the formation of the Obedient Wives’ Club by a fringe Islamic group causing heated debate among women and men, alike. Ipoh Echo sought the views of two Malay Muslim women who helm a women’s rights movement here in Ipoh. Dr Sharifah Halimah Jaafar and Puan Halida Mohd Ali are from the Perak Women for Women Society. Here are their answers to our questions:

IE: Your views on the formation of the Obedient Wives’ Club by Islamic fringe group, Global Ikhwan on Saturday, June 4.

USA: Women have abortions whatever their religion

May 16, 2011

We are in the midst of very painful debates in Congress over family planning and abortion care. It’s time to catch our breath, step back and take a broader perspective. There’s an ongoing search for “common ground” on abortion, dreams of reaching an agreement that, once and for all, satisfies everyone involved. For those seeking this elusive “common ground,” a recently released Guttmacher Institute study holds the key.

Nepal: Widows' Organization to Address Discrimination & Rights

March 17, 2011

When my husband died I was 29 years old with two young children. I was educated and from a professional middle-class family in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. My husband was of similar background.

But with his death I realized for myself that education could make inroads into a society only up to a point. In Nepal which is mostly a Hindu society, deep-rooted religious traditions, some of them blatantly discriminating against women, are difficult to change. And this is what I faced, an experience so traumatic that I was jolted into working for change.

Iran: Gang rapes cause fear and religious controversy

June 15, 2011

Recent reports of gang rapes in Iran are worrying women and raising questions about social values, reports Mohammad Manzarpour of the BBC Persian Service.

Widow Cleansing: Harmful Traditional Practice

April 13, 2009

Violence against women still is universal, and while it has many roots, especially in cultural tradition and customs, it is gender inequality that lies at the cross-cultural heart of violent practices. Violence against women is deeply embedded in human history and its universal perpetration through social and cultural norms serves the main purpose of reinforcing male-dominated power structures.

Afghanistan: Virginity-related penalties unfair for women

April 26, 2011

Virginity is not mentioned in the Afghan penal system and other laws, but hundreds of women unfairly face penalties over it.

Women from Around the World Condemn Attack on Peaceful Protesters in Iraq and Call for an End to Sexual Assault of Women Protesters

July 18, 2011

The global campaign Violence is Not our Culture (VNC) joins our sisters at MADRE and feminist activists around the world in calling for full security of our sisters and brothers in Bagdhad's Tahrir Square, protesting peacefully for basic rights.

Indigenous women shape women’s rights

June 3, 2011

The voices of indigenous women have repeatedly reminded national governments, human rights bodies and other national and international fora that their human rights as women need to be addressed as the rights of indigenous women.