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News and Views: North America

USA: Modesty in Ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Is Enforced by Secret Squads

January 29, 2013

The Brooklyn shopkeeper was already home for the night when her phone rang: a man who said he was from a neighborhood “modesty committee” was concerned that the mannequins in her store’s window, used to display women’s clothing, might inadvertently arouse passing men and boys.

 

“The man said, ‘Do the neighborhood a favor and take it out of the window,’ ” the store’s manager recalled. “ ‘We’re trying to safeguard our community.’ ”

Delhi is different from Steubenville

January 14, 2013

Nicholas Kristof has a recent op-ed titled, “Is Delhi so different from Steubenville?” which makes the case that sexual assault is an international and universal epidemic. He writes,

LGBT Uganda Fights Back: The Case Against Scott Lively

January 7, 2013

The U.S. evangelist and anti-gay crusader's trial begins January 7 in Massachusetts. Lively is being sued for crimes against humanity by the organization Sexual Minorities of Uganda, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

America’s Rape Problem: We Refuse to Admit That There Is One

January 4, 2013

It’s time to acknowledge that the rape epidemic in the United States is not just about the crimes themselves, but our own cultural and political willful ignorance. Rape is as American as apple pie—until we own that, nothing will change.

USA: SPLC Files Groundbreaking Lawsuit Accusing Conversion Therapy Organization Of Fraud

November 27, 2012

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit today accusing a New Jersey organization of consumer fraud for offering conversion therapy services – a dangerous and discredited practice that claims to convert people from gay to straight.

Canada: Forced marriage, Is it a crime? A legal issue dealt with abroad now emerges in Canada

August 31, 2012

Shafilea Ahmed drank bleach after her parents drugged her and dragged her onto a plane to Pakistan where they planned to marry her to a much older man.

The 17-year-old’s desperate ploy succeeded in getting her sent back home to Britain where she spent eight weeks in hospital. Tragically, it didn’t save her life: Seven months later Shafilea was dead, suffocated by her parents, who forced a plastic bag down her throat in front of her siblings as a warning against them acquiring their sister’s “western” habits.

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.

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.

USA: Chicago Islamic leader uses education as weapon against terrorism and discrimination

May 30, 2012

Education is the weapon of choice for an area Islamic leader in his fight against the radicalization of Islamic youth and the discrimination of American Muslims.

Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, 36, is the director of the Gain Peace project, an Islamic outreach program based in Chicago. Ahmed blames misinterpretations of the Quran and Islam for the dual extremes of Islamophobia and violent Islamist radicalism. He sees education as the way forward to both break down stereotypes and counter terrorist groups looking to recruit Muslim-Americans to commit acts of violence.

USA: The Campaign Against Women

May 19, 2012

Despite the persistent gender gap in opinion polls and mounting criticism of their hostility to women’s rights, Republicans are not backing off their assault on women’s equality and well-being. New laws in some states could mean a death sentence for a pregnant woman who suffers a life-threatening condition. But the attack goes well beyond abortion, into birth control, access to health care, equal pay and domestic violence.

 

United States: United Against the War on Women

May 1, 2012

We are not going back to the days of wide-scale domestic violence, even if 31 Republican men in the Senate recently voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it expanded coverage to the gay community and Native Americans.

When Black Women Get Hit, No One Cares

May 1, 2012

Few statements from an elected official characterize the amount of ignorance surrounding domestic violence as Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman’s loss for words when asked what the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was.  “I’m not sure what that is because I’m not serving right now,” was Steelman’s response to a reporter’s inquiry only days before a critical VAWA reauthorization vote in the Senate.

Striking at the Source of the War on Women

May 3, 2012

The generals of the opposing armies in the current political "War on Women" have had their radar and their reconnaissance patrols focused on battlefields on Capitol Hill, in state capitals from Richmond to Phoenix, from Concord to Austin, in Rome, and on the positions taken by presidential candidates. These battles over contraception, women's healthcare, violence against women, Vatican suppression of nuns, pay equity and a host of other matters, are of great importance.

Israeli Conservative Movement approves ordination of gay rabbis

April 30, 2012

Israel's Masorti (Conservative) Movement decided to approve the ordination of homosexual rabbis, in a dramatic vote on Thursday. The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, affiliated with the movement, will admit gay and lesbian students for training as spiritual leaders as of the upcoming school year. 'A very important development in Jewish law,' says President of the Israeli Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly.

Not victims of tradition: Women speak out and advocate for girls facing abusive fates

May 2, 2012

The two women met for the first time last week at a sleek Georgetown hotel, where they were speakers at a glittering charity dinner. They shook hands and hugged across a vast gulf of culture, geography and faith: one a devout Muslim from West Africa with her hair carefully hidden under a tight scarf, the other a gregarious South Asian in a stylish sari and costume earrings.

USA: White House is 'puzzling' on racial profiling

May 1, 2012

Seating was scarce at the April 17 Senate hearing on Ending Racial Profiling in America. Those left outside were directed to an overflow room. But there was one empty seat. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, who was presiding over the hearing, said that he had invited the Justice Department to testify, but “they declined.”

USA: The marginalized pay for the church's ideological battles

April 11, 2012

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported on social service groups who are being denied funding by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development because of supposed alliances with organizations that support equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender persons.

USA: Bishop urges change in 'church teaching concerning all sexual relationships'

March 16, 2012

BALTIMORE -- At the Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality, retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson called Friday for "a new study of everything to do with sexuality" -- a kind of study that he predicted "would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual."

"If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change," he said.

Ugandan LGBT Activists File Case Against Anti-Gay U.S. Evangelical in Federal Court

March 14, 2012

Lawsuit Charges Abiding Truth Ministries President Scott Lively with Persecution. Lively Also Connected to New Anti-Gay Bill Passed in Russia
 

USA: Republicans Retreat on Domestic Violence

February 9, 2012

Even in the ultrapolarized atmosphere of Capitol Hill, it should be possible to secure broad bipartisan agreement on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, the 1994 law at the center of the nation’s efforts to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The law’s renewal has strong backing from law enforcement and groups that work with victims, and earlier reauthorizations of the law, in 2000 and 2005, passed Congress with strong support from both sides of the aisle.

Should we call it ‘honour killing’? No!

January 30, 2012

It’s a false distancing of ourselves from a too-common crime: the murder of females.

Men Can Stop Rape Launches “Where Do You Stand?” Campaign

February 2, 2012

Yesterday, Men Can Stop Rape launched their new bystander intervention campaign geared towards addressing sexual violence on college campuses. “Where Do You Stand?” uses a number of tools such as trainings, posters, and media materials to encourage young men to become active bystanders to end sexual violence.

'Honour'-based violence runs deep and wide

February 2, 2012

The issue must be seen in the context of violence against women and the inequality found throughout society.

Honour killings in Canada: even worse than we believe

January 31, 2012

Do we focus on so-called honour killings precisely because the victims are Muslims, or South Asians, or Middle Easterners?

USA: Muslim College Student Reports Sexual Harassment, Gets Reported To FBI For Terrorism And Expelled

January 18, 2012

In 2008, African-American Muslim student Balayla Ahmad enrolled in Connecticut’s University of Bridgeport with hopes of becoming a chiropractor. Instead, she became of a victim of sexual harassment. Distressed by the repeated sexual advances and “graphic offensive comments” of a male student, Ahmad reported the harassment and “fears for her safety” to multiple teachers, who urged her to say nothing, and finally the university’s president and dean. The dean told Ahmad, “My hands are tied. What do you suggest I do?”

USA: The Burning of an Abortion Clinic on New Years Day and a Call to Action on Abortion Rights

January 5, 2012

On January 1st, at 1:00 in the morning, an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida was engulfed in flames. By all accounts thus far, this was a case of arson.

But chances are you have heard nothing about this.

The fact that there has not been a single politician commenting on this violent assault on an institution that is essential to women's freedom and that this act of terror has not been picked up on in the national or mainstream media should only serve as a further wake-up call to those who care about women's rights.

USA: Justice Dept. expands definition of rape to include other forms of sexual assault

January 6, 2012

The Obama administration on Friday announced a significant expansion of the FBI’s definition of rape, which will now cover several forms of sexual assault and include male rape.

Justice Department officials said the revision would make reporting of the crime more accurate and provide a better understanding of its effects on victims.

Canada: Imams Show Leadership in Speaking out against Violence Against Women

December 18, 2011

A group of Canadian imams is right to use a high-profile trial as a timely opportunity to condemn violence and abuse committed in the name of family honour.

While there is no honour in killing, honour-based violence does exist. It is a manifestation not of religion, but of culture, and is more prevalent in countries with patriarchal traditions where adultery is punishable by law such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Canada is not immune from such influences.

Israel: Women Fight Back Against Jerusalem Billboard Vandals

December 2, 2011

Jewish women in the Britain and the US are being urged to send photographs of themselves holding signs saying "women should be seen and heard" in a campaign against efforts by the ultra-orthodox to remove female images from advertising billboards in Jerusalem.

Frat suspended after surveying its members on who they would like to rape

December 15, 2011

Really, Sigma Phi Epsilon? There’s no way the University of Vermont frat really thought it was ok to send a survey to its members asking, “If you could rape anyone, who would it be?” Is there? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

Violence against aboriginal women could lead to UN inquiry

December 13, 2011

The United Nations is set to conduct an inquiry into Canada's cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women, two Canadian groups lobbying for the action announced on Tuesday. Pictured, protesters chant outside the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in Vancouver, British Columbia October 11, 2011.

Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S. Survey Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted

December 14, 2011

An exhaustive government survey of rape and domestic violence released on Wednesday affirmed that sexual violence against women remains endemic in the United States and in some instances may be far more common than previously thought.

Canada: BC Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Polygamy

November 23, 2011

A BC judge has upheld Canada's ban on polygamy, calling it constitutional and infringing on religious freedom only a little.

USA: Ending Violence Against Women is Defending Human rights and Dignity

November 14, 2011

“I was excited to come to US, but since my arrival I have not had one happy day. He needed a servant and a nanny for his kids. For everything, I had to ask for his permission. He beat me frequently (not in front of the kids) and he said bad words to me that crashed my self-esteem and self-respect. But, I think hitting is better than the words that mutilated my soul. Bruises will disappear but his words keep echoing in my minds, in my ears and even up to this day drive me crazy. He threatened to “ship” me back and revoke his application for my green card. How can I go back? In my community the woman is the one who always being blamed...”

USA: Laws "Not Enough" to Tackle Violence Against Native Women

July 25, 2011

WASHINGTON, Jul 25, 2011 (IPS) - Juana Majel Dixon, first vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, said earlier this year that, "Young women on reservations live their lives in anticipation of being raped…They talk about 'how I will survive my rape‚' as opposed to not thinking about it at all."

Mexico: Women Reject Normalisation of Gender Violence

November 24, 2011

Ninety percent of the non-governmental organisations in Mexico are founded and run by women, says journalist and women's rights activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, even as crimes against women remain cloaked in impunity.

USA: Women Ride in Back on Sex-Segregated Brooklyn Bus Line

October 18, 2011

On the morning of October 12, Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 bus in Brooklyn and sat down near the front. For a few minutes she was left in silence, although the other passengers gave her a noticeably wide berth. But as the bus began to fill up, the men told her that she had to get up. Move to the back, they insisted.

Canada: New insights on 'honour killings' in report by Ontario police

September 15, 2011

The phrase “honour killing” is a misnomer that should be shunned because it emphasizes a twisted rationale for murder rather than the murder itself, and even in Canada the notion has spawned instances of judicial leniency toward the killer, a landmark report on domestic violence among South Asian immigrants concludes.

Canada/USA: Investigation of Cross-Border Underage Polygamous Marriages

August 9, 2011

VANCOUVER — The RCMP is preparing to head to Texas to look for more than two dozen brides from Bountiful, B.C., who were allegedly sent across the border as teens to marry older men, including a polygamous leader now facing a life sentence for sexually assaulting two teenage girls.

The Mounties launched a new criminal investigation into Bountiful earlier this year after a constitutional case examining Canada's anti-polygamy law heard allegations of cross-border marriages in the 1990s and early 2000s.

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.

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.

United States: Muslim clerics sign up for evolution

May 28, 2011

The Imam Letter, launched this week in the US, is the latest challenge to Creationists of the three Abrahamic religions who reject evolution in favour of Creationism.

Creationism is the religious belief that all species were created in exactly the form they appear today.

USA: Catholic Bishops' Attack on Book Concerns Scholars

April 11, 2011


Is God male? The Old Testament uses the masculine pronoun to describe him. Jesus refers to the divinity as Father. So does that make the creator a masculine force — and mean that men are more godlike than women?

Canada: Few disagree that polygamy can cause harm

March 31, 2011


After more than two months of hearing evidence on polygamy, there’s no one in the Vancouver courtroom who disagrees that the practice can be harmful.

The most disturbing evidence the B.C. government presented is that as many as 31 under-aged girls — the youngest only 12 and 13 — were trafficked by their fathers and brothers between the fundamentalist Mormon communities in Bountiful, B.C. and the United States.

USA: The Tea Party and the new right-wing Christian feminism

July 5, 2010


Why have American women become so active in the right wing Tea Party movement? Could it be that they are drawn to the new conservative Christian feminism publicized by Sarah Palin? Without its grassroots female supporters, the Tea Party would have far less appeal to voters who are frightened by economic insecurity, threats to moral purity and the gradual disappearance of a national white Christian culture.

Religious Divorce Dispute Leads to Secular Protest

January 3, 2011


This should have been a good New Year’s for Aharon Friedman, a 34-year-old tax counsel for the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee. He spent time with his 3-year-old daughter, and could have been thinking about the influence he will have starting Wednesday, when his boss, Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, becomes chairman of the powerful tax-writing committee.

Father kills daughter for not wearing a hijab

December 13, 2007

"As he does almost every Friday, Sheik Yusuf Badat will use the noon prayer sermon tomorrow to further his message that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony. But his job will be more difficult this week, after the shocking slaying of a Mississauga Muslim teen, and the arrest of her father. Rumours that the girl clashed with her family over her objection to wearing the hijab have generated headlines from Germany to Pakistan, and fuelled a fierce - and at times arguably racist - debate about Islam and Canadian values.