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News and Views: July 2012

Afghanistan: Execution highlights concerns about Afghan aid deal

July 9, 2012

News of the execution of an Afghan woman accused of adultery by the Taliban will press home the need to secure guarantees about women’s rights as the US prepares to withdraw its troops in 2014.

After international leaders at a Tokyoconference tied billions of dollars of aid to the need to fight corruption, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that women should also “have the chance to benefit from and contribute to Afghanistan’s progress”.

Lebanon: Activists slam government inaction over women’s rights

July 17, 2012

Women’s rights campaigners voiced Monday their frustration over the government’s inaction over key issues, namely equal citizenship rights and protection from domestic violence. At a news conference held jointly by the “My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family” and the “National Alliance for Legalizing the Protection of Women from Family Violence” campaigns, organizers spoke of what they called the systematic neglect of citizens’ rights.

Morocco: Moroccan women build land rights movement

July 18, 2012

RABAT, Morocco — When Rkia Bellot’s family sold their communal land in 2004, each of her eight brothers received a share of the proceeds. But Bellot, a single woman, got nothing.

That’s because Bellot’s family land was part of the 37 million acres in Morocco governed by the orf, or tribal law. When this type of family land is sold, the unmarried or widowed women in the family, collectively called the Soulaliyate, often become destitute.

Syria: Charting the use of rape in conflict

July 20, 2012

A woman swathed in black squares her shoulders and calmly looks into a camera. She holds a Quran. Only a sliver of her face—her eyeglasses—shows. “What happened to me hasn’t happened to anyone, or if it has affected anyone else I do not know,” she says.

Lebanon: The sectarianization of politics and genderalizing the Arab uprisings. An interview with Maya Mikdashi

June 21, 2012

The following interview with Jadaliyya Co-Editor Maya Mikdashi was conducted by Eugenio Dacrema for the Istituto per gli studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI), on whose website it was originally published on 21 June 2012. In the interview, Maya discusses developments in Lebanon as they related to the uprising in Syria. She also discusses Lebanese politics more generally as well the workings of gender politics in the Middle East.

Russia: Protestor shows support for feminist punk band facing 7-years in prison for dissenting views on religion

July 13, 2012

A 22-year old woman spent almost an hour on a cross outside a central St. Petersburg church in protest against the prosecution of Pussy Riot, the punk band being tried over an anti-Putin performance inside Moscow's main cathedral.

Lebanon: Activists use street theatre to build support for domestic violence bill

July 12, 2012

The story ended as many do. The debate between Junaid and his wife Lamia became heated and he slapped her, causing her to fall to the ground. Twenty other women like Lamia fell to the ground in Nejme Square in front of the Lebanese parliament building in Beirut in protest of domestic violence against women in Lebanon.

Afghan Women & Poetry as Resistance

April 27, 2012

In a private house in a quiet university neighborhood of Kabul, Ogai Amail waited for the phone to ring. Through a plate-glass window, she watched the sinking sun turn the courtyard the color of eggplant. The electricity wasn’t working and the room was unheated, a few floor cushions the only furnishings. Amail tucked her bare feet underneath her and pulled up the collar of her puffy black coat. Her dark hair was tied in a ponytail, and her eyelids were coated in metallic blue powder. In the green glare of the mobile phone’s screen, her face looked wan and worried.

Afghanistan: Growing Violence Against Women, Government action needed

July 16, 2012

Pressing her cheek against the fresh grave of her newly married teenage daughter, Sabera yowls as she gently smears clumps of dirt over her tear-stained face.

"My daughter! Why did they kill you so brutally?" the mother screams in the sparsely filled cemetery in Parwan province, 65 km (40 miles) north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Sabera says her daughter Tamana was killed by a relative in a so-called "honor killing", in what officials link to a wider trend of rapidly growing violence against women in Afghanistan.

UN: Harmful Traditional Practices - statement by Rashida Manjoo, UNSRVAW

June 27, 2012

Throughout the world, there are practices that are violent towards women and girls and harmful to their well-being overall. Young girls are circumcised, bound by severe dress codes, denied property rights or killed for the sake of honour in the family. Although these and other practices constitute a form of violence, they have often avoided national and international scrutiny because they are seen as traditional practices that deserve tolerance and respect. This highlights how the universality of human rights is often denied when it comes to the rights of women and girls, and how cultural relativism can be wrongly used to allow for inhumane and discriminatory practices against women.

South Africa: Bride abductions 'a distortion' of South Africa's culture

July 12, 2012

When cows are traded for an unwilling bride, rural Zulu women lose their freedom, and more. Called thwala, the practice is often abused, activists say.

 NORTHWEST OF HOWICK, South Africa —

— She was named Democracy in Zulu, at a time when her country had none.

A few years later, the constitution born of the historic South African election that ended apartheid made Nonkululeko "free" and "equal." But the eight cows paid for her as a bride price mean that she is neither.

Remembering Cassandra Balchin

July 13, 2012

It is with deepest sadness we announce the loss of our dear friend and colleague Cassandra, who passed away peacefully on Thursday 12 July 2012. She will continue to live through her many writings and contributions to the realization of women’s human rights. 

Cassandra Balchin was with WLUML for decades, from working at WLUML's Asia office, Shirkat Gah, to helping WLUML set up its London office where she assumed the position of Deputy International Co-ordinator, and later International Co-ordinator.

Afghanistan: Execution of Afghan Woman Causes Outraged Activists to Mobilize

July 11, 2012

Women’s rights activists marched in Kabul to protest the videotaped execution of a young woman, apparently by the Taliban.

Protesters say the killing shows the Taliban has not changed—and is a harbinger of what’s to come if they return to power.

Saudi Arabia: Broken Pledge to Send Women to London Games Should Trigger Ban

July 11, 2012

(London) – Saudi Arabia’s announcementthat it would not send any female athletes to compete in the London Olympics despite its recent pledge to do so highlights the need to overturn the fundamental barriers to women playing sports in the kingdom, Human Rights Watch said today. The International Olympic Committee should bar Saudi Arabia from participating in the 2012 Games because of its clear violation of the Olympic Charter.

Pakistan: Amar Sindhu injured in attack

July 9, 2012

Shirkat Gah is deeply disturbed by the murderous attack on our General Body member Professor Amr Sindhi of Hyderabad University, Jamshoro and Dr. Arfana Mallah. This growing trend to silence dissent through intimidation and violence is indicative of the growing brutalization of our society and must be stopped immediately.

Afghanistan: Police track woman’s executioners

July 9, 2012

KABUL: A manhunt was under way Monday for Taliban militants who publicly executed a woman accused of adultery, Afghan authorities said, as outrage mounted after a video of the cold-blooded killing surfaced.

The commander of Nato’s 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, General John Allen, offered to help local security forces track and capture the men involved in what he called “an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty”.

Tunisia: Radio show host banned after station boss storms studio to confront outspoken guest

July 9, 2012

Tunisian radio journalist Nadia Heddaoui Mabkhout was denied access to the headquarters of RTCI (Radio Tunis Chaîne Internationale), suspended from work and had her radio show cancelled last Friday.

Mabkhout was on her way to host her show Café Noir, recently renamed L’invité du Journal, which is aired on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30 to 9am. She was accompanied by her guest, Neziha Rejiba (alias Om Zied), a well-known Tunisian activist and writer.

Sudan: Media and bloggers censored as protests spread across Sudan

July 2, 2012

On 17 June, when a number of female students led a peaceful protest marching from the female dormitories to the male ones at the University of Khartoum, they did not know that they would inspire protests across the country. Many inside Sudan are calling the ongoing protests an “Intifada” —  an Arabic word for  rebellion or resistance — and there is much truth in that.

Sudan: A Story of the Lives Affected When One Country Became Two

July 9, 2012

On 9 July 2011, when South Sudan became an independent country, Rose Michael, a South Sudanese woman who had lived most of her life in Khartoum, decided to stay in the city where she had a great job and owned a house. But in April 2012, Rose had to leave for Juba after her employer let her go. She planned to return to Khartoum. But then she lost her Sudanese passport and now she can't return because the war has escalated and flights are cancelled.

Lebanon: What the World Does Not Know about Us

June 20, 2012

In 2010, the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism made a series of ads to encourage people to come to Lebanon as tourists. One of these ads shows a man remembering his time in Lebanon with flashbacks of girls wearing bikinis, dancing and enjoying summer, the beach, and the partying. I did not start by telling you this small story at random— I am telling it to make a point.

Morocco: Wearing the hijab may not be an ‘Islamic duty’ says university

June 30, 2012

Casablanca, MOROCCO: Last month at Al Azhar University, Sheikh Mustapha Mohamed Rashed defended a thesis that sparked a heated debate among religious scholars.The candidate concluded that Hijab, or the veil, is not an Islamic duty.

The claim is not the first of its kind, but the mere fact that it is adopted in Al Azhar University – the Sunni Islam’s foremost seat of learning –makes it controversial.

UN: Stop Stoning Globally - Statement by Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers

June 26, 2012

Remarks by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers – Gabriela Knaul -- at the June 26, 2012 panel "Stop Stoning Globally" at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sudan: Fatma Emam on the Sudan revolts

May 28, 2012

I write this on the tenth day of the #SudanRevolts tide that has started to sweep Sudan.

Sudan is a land of revolutionaries. They started in the 20th century with the Mahdi revolution against the British occupation and the ruling Egyptian government and today Sudan is revolting against militarization, human rights atrocities, poverty, corruption and fundamentalism.

Egypt Run-Off Elections: Doaa Abdelaal’s First-Hand Account

June 15, 2012

The run-off for presidency elections in Egypt are this weekend – the first after the ongoing Egyptian revolution. The two candidates were the least expected to be at this stage: Mohamed Morsi, who represents the “political arm” of a group, the Muslim Brotherhood, that sees “Islam is the Solution,” and the other is Ahmed Shafik, who belongs to the Military that has been running Egypt for the last (60) years and still. Every one who is following the progress of events and incidents in Egypt is curious and everyone inside Egypt is worried, even if their decision is to choose one over the other or to boycott the run-off.

UN: Stop Stoning Globally - opening remarks by UNSRVAW Rashida Manjoo

May 26, 2012

At the outset, I would like to thank the Worldwide Organization for Women, Justice for Iran and the Women’s UN Report Network, for inviting me to address this panel on the stoning of women. This event is very timely as this year I devoted my annual thematic report to the issue of gender related killings of women, among which death by stoning is a severe and cruel manifestation.

UN: Sierra Leone’s health minister to serve as UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict

June 22, 2012

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Zainab Hawa Bangura, currently the Minister of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, as his new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

She will replace Margot Wallström, a Swedish politician with a long history of defending women’s rights, who had served in the position since it was created two years ago.

Bulgaria: Church asked to repudiate priest’s call to ‘throw stones’ at Pride

June 29, 2012

The organizers of Bulgaria's Sofia Pride gay parade have once again demanded that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church distance itself from the recent calls for violence against the parade. On June 5, Father Evgeniy Yanakiev from the Sliven eparchy made an outrageous statement regarding the upcoming parade, saying that "stones should be thrown" at its participants. Sign the petition demanding safety for demonstrators before June 30th here: http://www.allout.org/en/actions/bulgaria/

Pakistan: Policy Dialogue on "Monitoring Implementation of MDG5 in Pakistan"

June 21, 2012

Thursday, 21st June 2012, Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre organized a Punjab provincial Policy Dialogue on Monitoring Implementation of Millennium Development Goal 5 in Pakistan. The event was attended by Begum Zakia Shahnawaz, Advisor to Chief Minister on Women Development; MPA Rai Aslam Khan Kharal, Chairman Standing Committee on Population; Dr. Nisar Ahmed Cheema, Director General Health; Dr. Akhter Rasheed, Provincial Coordinator Lady Health Worker Programme; Dr.

International: Fatou Bensouda takes Reigns as New Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

June 14, 2012

(Brussels) - The swearing in of the new International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, comes at a time when expectations for international justice are growing, Human Rights Watch said today. Bensouda will be sworn into office on June 15, 2012, as the current prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, reaches the end of his nine-year term.

Lebanon: Boys do cry

June 21, 2012

“Feeling stressed, agitated, over the edge?” These are the slogans you read on billboards across the country. These expressions aren’t new to Lebanon’s urban dictionary – however it may be the first time they are being used constructively. The banners depict men mostly from the working class in aggravating circumstances. One billboard shows a taxi driver, raising his arm in disdain at the traffic (or so it seems), the slogan heading the picture reads: “feeling like you’ve reached the end of your line? Don’t vent out your anger on others, or your family. Call us, we are ready to listen.”

Arab states: Plan to Increase Judges' Education on Women's Rights

June 24, 2012

Plans are underway to educate more Bahraini and Arab judges on women's social and humanitarian rights.

Arab Women Organisation (AWO) director-general Dr Wadooda Badran said efforts were being made to bridge the gap between realising women's rights and enforcing them in the Arab world.

They include amending legislation, conducting awareness campaigns, sponsoring studies, speaking to young students and possibly setting up a women's studies research centre in the region.

Sudan: Activists face rape, one fights back

June 14, 2012

In many regards, Safiya Ishaq is an unremarkable 25-year-old. She is excellent at braiding hair but terrible at being on time. She studied fine arts at Khartoum University in Sudan. Not unusual for a student, Ishaq became involved with politics. She joined Girifna, a pro-democracy movement formed in 2009 on the eve of Sudan’s first multiparty elections in more than two decades aimed at mobilizing citizens to vote. Conducting mass voter registration drives, it quickly evolved into a socio-political movement demanding change in Sudan.

Lebanon: A culture of blame

June 18, 2012

Just over a week ago, female Al-Jadeed reporter Ghadi Francis was brutally beaten outside a hotel in Dhour Choueir, where an event for the Syrian Social Nationalist Party elections was being held. A day prior to the attack, she reportedly posed a question in a news report that sent a wave of intense criticism in her direction from the SSNP leadership.

Sierra Leone: Fighting for women’s right to land

June 22, 2012

FREETOWN - Shortly after her father died, Sia Bona’s husband’s family took over her father’s oil-palm plantation and rice paddies, and drove her and her mother from their home. “I came from riches, but now I am poor,” said the 45-year-old teacher from Koidu town in eastern Sierra Leone. 

Greece: Crisis hits women especially hard

June 15, 2012

Disproportionately affected by public sector cuts and expected to step into caring roles, women also face rising domestic violence.

Syria: Rights Group Reports Sex Assaults by Syrian Troops

June 18, 2012

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are using sexual violence against men, women and children in detention and during raids in opposition strongholds, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Friday.

NEPAL: The hidden costs of early marriage

June 18, 2012

KATHMANDU - Thousands of Nepali girls leave school every year to get married, missing out on their education, the government says. Parents are often unaware of the impact that trying to save the money spent on education can have on the future of their daughter. 

NÉPAL: Le coût caché du mariage précoce

June 18, 2012

KATMANDOU, 18 juin 2012 (IRIN) - Des milliers de jeunes népalaises abandonnent l’école chaque année pour se marier, ce qui leur bloque l’accès à l’éducation, selon le gouvernement. Les parents, qui ont recours à cette pratique pour économiser les frais de scolarité, n’ont souvent pas conscience de l’impact que cela peut avoir sur l’avenir de leurs filles.

Ghana: Land Tenure System and Women's Rights

June 8, 2012

Land relations are critical for women's right in Ghana. This is because of the centrality of land as a resource for the livelihoods of the majority of our population, food, water, fuel and medical plants.

Those who control lands and its resources also gain social and political power and authority. As such, women's unequal land rights affect their access to other resources and their economic, social and political status in society.

Algeria: A new trailblazer for women in politics

May 13, 2012

Now that Algeria has the largest proportion of women lawmakers in the Arab world, workmen at the national assembly building have some urgent modifications to make.

While the men's washroom just outside the debating chamber is clearly marked with the silhouette of a man, there are so far no signs for the women's. On the opening session of the new parliament on May 26, two of the newly elected female members had to ask for directions to the rest-room.

Mali: Students flee Sharia in northern schools

May 22, 2012

BAMAKO - Strict Sharia, or Islamic religious laws, imposed by the Islamist rebels controlling vast swathes of northern Mali are driving thousands of students out of schools. Dress codes have been imposed, boys and girls are forced to learn separately, and subjects deemed to promote “infidelity” have been struck off the curriculum.

Outraged parents are transferring their children and some students are opting to miss examinations rather than learn under these conditions.

Togo: Délivrer les enfants handicapés des traditions paralysantes

June 21, 2012

LOMÉ - Au nom de la peur, de la honte et de croyances anciennes bien ancrées, les enfants handicapés du Togo sont souvent la cible de railleries, ils vivent cachés dans leur maison pendant des années et sont négligés, mis à l'écart de la vie de la communauté, ce qui aggrave leur situation.

« On m'a dit que j'étais une bonne à rien. Même mes frères et sours m'ont dit que j'étais inférieure à eux, et ils se sont moqués de moi », a dit Sofia Adama*, 18 ans, qui a contracté un handicap suite à une injection mal faite lorsqu'elle était bébé.

Pakistan: Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay during her mission

June 7, 2012

Islamabad, 7 June 2012

Good afternoon, and thank you for coming.

Before giving a brief overview of my impressions during my four-day visit here, I would like to thank the Government for inviting me to Pakistan.

Egypt: Campaign in response to potential lowering of marriage age for girls

May 3, 2012

Plan is deeply concerned at new proposals by the Egyptian parliament to reduce the legal age for girls to marry to 14 – just 4 years after a successful campaign increased the age limit to 18.

Early marriage can have a devastating impact on girls’ lives – they are more likely to be forced out of school, live in poverty, have early pregnancies and endure health complications or die during childbirth.

Legal protection

Is Pleasure a Sin?

June 5, 2012

It’s hard to say what is weirder:

A Sister of Mercy writing about the Kama Sutra, sexual desire and “our yearnings for pleasure.”

Or the Vatican getting so hot and bothered about the academic treatise on sexuality that the pope censures it, causing it to shoot from obscurity to the top tier of Amazon.com’s best-seller list six years after it was published.

Just the latest chapter in the Vatican’s thuggish crusade to push American nuns — and all Catholic women — back into moldy subservience.

Indonesia: Tasikmalaya law to make Muslim women wear veils

June 4, 2012

Tasikmalaya, West Java, will soon require all Muslim women, residents and visitors alike, to wear veils to enforce its sharia ordinance.

“We are finalizing a city regulation so that [the 2009 Ordinance on Islamic-based Values of Community Life] can come into effect as soon as possible,” Tasikmalaya City Secretary Tio Indra Setiadi told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

“Hopefully, it will be finalized this month so it can be immediately promulgated.”

USA: The Truth About Religious Freedom

June 7, 2012

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) rarely lets the facts get in the way of their story.

Egypt: Women Refuse To Be Silenced By Assaults

June 10, 2012

Violence against women demonstrators in Egypt erupted again on Tuesday when a frenzied mob of 200 men sexually assaulted a female protester in Tahrir Square. Then, during a rally on Friday to protest the incident, about 50 women and their male allies were themselves brutalized and chased away by another mob.

Iran: Women banned from watching Euro 2012

June 10, 2012

Women in Iran are being banned from watching live public screenings of Euro 2012 football games because of an "inappropriate" environment where men could become rowdy, a deputy police commander said Sunday.

"It is an inappropriate situation when men and women watch football in (movie) theatres together," said Bahman Kargar, Iran's deputy police commander in charge of social affairs, according to the ISNA news agency.