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News and Views: July 2008

Husbands who kill wives can no longer claim they were provoked

Husbands who kill nagging wives will no longer be able to claim they were provoked, under a radical shake-up of the murder laws.

Suspects will also be prevented from pleading not guilty to murder by claiming it was a "crime of passion" because their partner was having an affair.

The reforms are designed to ensure domestic violence is treated as other forms of homicide.

As a result of the changes, battered wives who kill their abusers will be able to defend themselves against a murder charge by claiming diminished responsibility.

Following several years of consultation, the Government will next week announce the end of the "crime of passion" defence of provocation used by virtually all male defendants pleading not guilty to murder of a female partner.

Around 100 men a year kill their former or current partners, and provocation - such as failing to cook a meal, or persistent nagging - is the main form of defence used by barristers.

Relatives have complained that they have found it upsetting when murder suspects invoke lurid allegations about the victims' private lives.

In contrast, it is comparatively difficult for lawyers representing the 30 women a year on average who kill their partners to argue that they were provoked, as the crime tends not to take place in the heat of the moment, but is typically pre-planned.

While provocation is likely to remain on the statute book as a defence, it will be limited to the most serious instances, and will not include adultery or nagging.

The reforms are based on a 2006 review of the homicide laws by the Law Commission, and are backed by groups ranging from the Association of Chief Police Officers to Justice for Women.

At the time, the Commissioners complained that the murder laws were "a mess" and said that while appeal judges often did in practice free battered women who killed their abusive partners, this was not available as a straightforward defence in the first place.

One of the Commissioners, Prof Jeremy Holder, told The Telegraph: "The provocation laws have been a constant source of problems for the courts. To a large extent, there is a desire to be more lenient in the sympathetic cases, such as battered women, but the courts lack the laws to address this."

The proposed changes were welcomed by women's groups and law reformers.

A spokesman for Justice for Women said: "We welcome a change in the law. The women we deal with kill in desperation after suffering broken limbs, rape and constant fear. In contrast, at the moment men can get off a murder charge just because their wife is considered a nag."

Emma Scott, spokesman for Rights of Women, said: "Rights of Women has long had grave concerns that the current law continues to discriminate against women who kill and that the defence of provocation in particular is entirely inadequate in dealing with these situations."

In 1997, Joseph Swinburne was sentenced to 200 hours community service after he stabbed his wife 11 times when she told him she was leaving him for another man.

Kiranjit Ahluwalia was jailed for life for killing her violent husband in 1989 by setting his feet on fire following years of abuse. She was freed on appeal three years later, and her story made into a film.

The changes will also make it easier to prosecute gang members who join in an attack which results in murder, even if they did not wield the knife themselves.

By:Rosa Prince

22 July 2008

Source: The Telegraph UK

Eight women and a man face stoning in Iran for adultery

By: Robert Tait and Noushin Hoseiny
The Guardian,
Monday July 21, 2008

Nine people in Iran - eight women and one man - have been sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of adultery in verdicts lawyers blame on a resurgence of hardline Islamic fundamentalism.

The sentences have been imposed in courts across the country despite a supposed moratorium on the punishment, which Iran says is justified under sharia law.

Lawyers say most of the nine have been victims of violence and are mostly too ill-educated to understand the charges against them.

Activists: 9 Iranians Convicted of Adultery Set to Be Stoned to Death

FOX News:

TEHRAN, Iran — Eight women and one man convicted of adultery are set to be stoned to death in Iran, activists said Sunday.

Lawyer and women's rights activist, Shadi Sadr, said the nine were convicted of adultery in separate cases in different Iranian cities.

"Their verdicts are approved, and they may be executed at any time," she told reporters.

Nine face stoning death in Iran

At least eight women and one man are reported to have been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran.

The group, convicted of adultery and sex offences, could be executed at any time, lawyers defending them say.

The lawyers have called on the head of Iran's judiciary to prevent the sentences from being carried out.

The last officially reported stoning in Iran last year drew strong criticism from human rights groups and the European Union.

“Honor Killings” Contort Religion

July 14, 2008 – 3:43 pm

ATLANTA — As an American Muslim, I was horrified to read about the tragic death of SandelaKanwal in Clayton County, Ga., allegedly at hands of her father in a supposed “honor killing.”

According to area police, Kandwal’s father killed her because she left her husband. According to the twisted logic of “honor killings,” Kandwal ruined the “honor” of the family by leaving her arranged marriage.

USA: Pakistani man kills his daughter over forced marriage

10/07/2008: Georgia authorities are holding a man of Pakistani descent in the strangulation death of his 25-year-old daughter. (Daily Times / CNN / AHN)

A Pakistani man from Jonesboro, Georgia has been charged with murder for strangling his daughter to death to protect his family's honor.

Chaudhry Rashid, 56, is suspected of killing Sandeela Kanwal, 25, on Sunday because the daughter wanted to end her marriage to a Pakistani in Chicago, the suspect's African-American wife, Gina, told police.

Driven to Suicide: Mother of three sets fire to herself in desperate bid escape an abusive marriage.

By Darun Mohammed (ICR No. 262, 18-Jun-08)
I was just a baby in my cradle when my parents set up an arranged marriage for me.

I remained with my parents until I was 15, when I had my wedding. The year was 1999 – and it was the beginning of my miserable life.

I should have set myself on fire then.

When I got married, I was a secondary school student. From the start, my husband treated me very badly, especially when I told him that I wanted to continue school. Although he had promised me to let me carry on my education after the wedding, as soon as we got married he broke his promise.

My husband is uneducated and can’t even read and write. He is a veteran Kurdish fighter and knows about nothing but guns.

When I told him that I was ready to go back to school, he beat me. I saw no other choice but to forget about my education. Yet that was not the end of my hardships.

He was very jealous; he never let me leave the house alone to go shopping, let alone go for a walk. So my life was confined to the house. We were also living with his parents, who weren’t the nicest people.

Shortly after I gave birth to our first baby, she became very sick. My husband was not at home, and none of his brothers and sisters wanted to come with me to a hospital. I decided to take the baby on my own, and when I returned, my husband and his mother both beat me. I was 18 years old then. That was the first time I tried to set myself on fire, but one of my husband’s sisters stopped me.

Nothing changed after that, and we continued with our miserable life. I never spent one day with him without drama. His mother was even worse than him, and she was always creating trouble.

Although I thought about leaving him several times, my family never supported me. They were always telling me that I was his wife and he could control me. In the eyes of both families, I was more an object than a human being.

My husband wanted a boy, but we had three girls. He blamed me for this. He would get angry and threaten to marry another girl.

It was in the fall of 2007 when I finally persuaded him to let me go to evening classes. I wanted to get out of the house and this school was a great place to study.

But soon things turned nasty. His mother didn’t like the idea of me going to school. She is illiterate and believes that education is against family values. For people like her, a woman is the property of her husband.

One afternoon in December 2007, as I returned home from school, I saw my husband in front of our house standing with a stick in his hand. When I got closer to the house, he attacked me in front of our neighbours and he pushed me into our house. I was crying, screaming and asking why he was beating me up, but he never answered and continued hitting me until he broke my right hand.

He never let me go to the hospital for treatment. Instead, one of our neighbours bandaged it up.

After that incident, I decided that it is better to die than to live such a life. What kind of life is it when you share your house with your parents-in-law, who don’t have the slightest bit of respect for you?

What kind of life is it when you aren’t given your rights as a human being? When you are not even allowed to leave your house?

One evening, I decided to escape from my husband’s tyranny. Having no family support and not knowing where to go, my only choice was to commit suicide.

In our house, we never lacked weapons. I thought about killing myself with my husband’s AK-47 rifle, but I was hesitant. I had heard a story about a girl in our area who had tried to commit suicide by shooting herself, but she survived and was handicapped for the rest of her life.

For three days, I thought about a way to end my life. Eventually, I decided that I must set myself on fire. It was an easier choice. And I remember when I was a kid one of our neighbours set herself on fire and she died.

One night, I put my three kids to bed and kissed them as much as I could. Throughout the entire eight years that we lived together, my husband never slept with me.

That night, I cried a lot. I went to the bathroom which was a few yards from my room. I took a gallon of kerosene with me. I sat in the bathroom and cried more. I thought about every single minute of my life, about how miserable it was.

With tears pouring from my eyes, I grabbed the gallon of kerosene with my left hand and poured it over myself, from the top of my head to my toes. When all of my clothes and body were soaked, I put the container aside, closed my eyes, flicked the lighter and placed it on my chest. All of a sudden, my body was on fire. I rushed out of the bathroom, screaming for help. In a minute, everything went black.

Five days later, I woke up in a hospital in Sulaimaniyah. It was terrible to open my eyes and know that I was alive. I was so disappointed that I had another chance to live.

My husband and his family had told the police that my case was an accident; that I caught fire from kerosene while I was making bread.

As soon as I could talk, I told the police investigators the truth. My husband was detained for a short time and then freed on bail.

I spent three months in the hospital. Life was really hard there. Every day, I would see young girls and women like me who came to the hospital with burns. I would see some of them die and some of them survive.

I really envied those who died. I thought they had escaped the miseries brought on by their oppressors. It is better to die once and for all than to die every day of your life.

My husband visited me several times while I was in the hospital. Every time, he tried to convince me to change my statement to the investigators. I refused.

When my health was strong enough to be discharged from the hospital, I chose to go to a women’s shelter in Sulaimaniyah rather than going back to my husband.

At the shelter, my life is better, and I see my daughters frequently. But I’m in a dilemma. While my husband says that he will be nice to me if I go back, I just can’t believe him. I think he only says that because he is worried that he might eventually be held responsible for my failed suicide attempt.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I don’t want to go back to my husband. I know that I’m not alone. There are hundreds of women who have similar stories to mine, and it is just sad that no one is coming to their defence.

Darun Mohammed – a pseudonym used for security reasons – was interviewed by Amanj Khalil, an IWPR-trained journalist who has reported on the increase in self-immolation and suicide attempts by Kurdish women in Sulaimaniyah.

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