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News and Views: February 2011

India: Tribal Girl's Courage Award after Harassment & Torture

February 27, 2011


Birbhum (Women's Feature Service) - Sixteen-year-old Sunita Murmu is quite the celeb in her locality these days. This teenager had the courage to approach the remote Mohammadbazar police station in Birbhum, one of West Bengal's most backward districts, and lodge a complaint against the powerful criminal elements from within her community. Of course, she did not stop there - young Sunita also ensured that these men were arrested for sexually harassing, torturing and ostracising her.

Egypt: Remember the Women as Agents of Revolution Change

February 23, 2011


Women fueled the revolution, should shape future.

"I, a girl, am going down to Tahrir Square and I will stand alone." With these words, Asmaa Mahfouz put out a call on YouTube that went viral, helping to ignite Egypt's revolution. A 26-year-old business management graduate, Mahfouz helped rally Egyptians for the initial Jan. 25 protest, to "say no to corruption, no to this regime." But Mahfouz's activism had its roots in another protest led by another woman.

Israel: Ultra-orthodox Jewish women against immodesty wear full-body coverings

February 9, 2011

The movement was born six years ago to fight immodesty in Israeli. There are now hundreds of "haredi" who cover themselves from head to toe. At first, conservative rabbis were in favour, now they emit warnings, especially for young girls.

Malawi: Witchcraft Legal Aid in Africa

February 17, 2011


NEW YORK — Accusations of witchcraft in Africa have gained increasing attention because of the severe impact they can have on the lives of those accused, including imprisonment, deprivation of property, banishment from villages and in some cases physical violence.

The human-rights law program I direct recently partnered with an N.G.O. in Malawi to run a mobile legal-aid clinic focusing on witchcraft cases in two rural communities.

VNC: Secure the independence of women's shelters in Afghanistan.

February 22, 2011


Uphold the rights of Afghan women and girls to be freed from gender-based violence. Secure the independence of women's shelters in Afghanistan.

The Global Campaign to Stop Violence against Women in the Name of ‘Culture’, an international network of women’s human rights defenders and advocates, fully supports our sisters in Afghanistan in resisting their government’s attempt to put the country’s women shelters under State control.

Egypt: Women revolutionaries hope for greater say in post-Mubarak era

February 15, 2011


In the days following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians have begun to outline the characteristics of their ideal country. The “New Egypt” will be clean, it will lack discrimination, it will be corruption-free. The initiative is the beginning of a push for specific demands that were secondary to the removal of Mubarak during the 18 days of protests, and they signify the indomitable idealism and forward-thinking mentality of triumphant anti-government protesters.

Iran: Science Minister Urges Sex Segregation in Universities

February 9, 2011


TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's science minister has called for universities to enforce strict sex segregation, saying allowing men and women to mingle on campus is a sign of the influence of alien western values, media reported.

Strict laws adopted after the 1979 revolution which founded the Islamic Republic bar any contact between men and women, but implementation of those rules varies widely. Conservative politicians have often called for stricter observance.

Egypt: Women clash over Sharia law after Tahrir shows equality

February 15, 2011


Fatma Emam’s mother accused her of wanting to be a man and threatened to disown her if the 28-year- old joined the protests in Tahrir Square. She went anyway.

“There are so many women who like me defied their families,” Emam said after spending five days and four nights in downtown Cairo. “The revolution is not only taking place in Tahrir, it is taking place in every Egyptian house. It is the revolution of fighting the patriarch.”

Egypt: Nawal El Saadawi: 'We Will Not Let Egypt Burn'

February 11, 2011


Nawal El Saadawi -- an Egyptian psychiatrist, scholar, novelist, feminist and activist -- has been agitating for change in her home country for more than 50 years. An outspoken opponent of female genital mutilation, she was fired from her position as Egypt's director of health education in 1972. When President Anwar Sadat threw her in prison for her activism in 1981, she penned her memoirs on a roll of toilet paper. A committed secularist, her name appears on fundamentalist death lists.

Afghanistan: Proposal Would Clamp Down on Women’s Shelters

February 10, 2011


KABUL, Afghanistan — After her parents threw her out of the house for refusing to marry a 52-year-old widower with five children, Sabra, 18, boarded a bus that dropped her, afraid and confused, in downtown Kabul. She slept in a mosque for days, barely eating, until a woman took pity on her and put her in touch with human rights workers, who escorted her to a women’s shelter.

Saudi Arabia: Away from the cities, women take to the roads

February 10, 2011


JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Whenever Hawazen Ebrahim’s family spends an evening picnicking in the desert outside of Medina, it’s her job to jump into the car and drive to the nearest village to load up on extra supplies. During the week, she is responsible for taking the kids to school and picking them up each day.

Indonesia: Activists Criticize Clerics Over Dress Code

February 10, 2011


The Network for Civil Society Concerned with Sharia (JMSPS) in Aceh has criticized clerics and asked them not to overly interfere in enforcing the Muslim dress code, especially for Muslim women in the province. 

“Aceh clerics should not stunt their important position by dealing with trivial matters related to the daily lives of Aceh residents,” said Hendra Fadli from the Aceh Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

The Aceh LBH is one of 15 NGOs affiliated with the JMSPS in Aceh.

Indonesia: Clerics ban Valentine's Day

February 10, 2011


The Indonesia Council of Ulema has made its annual — and regularly ignored — call for Muslims to avoid celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day on Monday.

Roza’i Akbar, head of the Dumai, Riau, branch of the council, also known as MUI, said Valentine’s Day — an annual celebration of love — was a Western occasion and not permitted (haram) under Islam.

Roza’i said the celebration was inappropriate as it was identified with pre-marital relationships among teenagers.

Iraq: Toying with polygamy as solution for war widows

January 26, 2011


Years of conflict in Iraq have left the country with more than one million war widows and a shortage of young unmarried men - pressures that may be bringing about the return of polygamy.

Hanan lost eight members of her family in the war, including her husband, and was left to bring up three children alone.

The experience has not broken her. She continues to work as a hairdresser in her noisy and lively home on Haifa Street in Baghdad.

But she still needs a "man-shelter", she says - and this is why she ended up married to a married man.

Egypt: Beware of wave of rights

February 6, 2011


It behoves on governments and their religious apparatus to watch current developments in the Arab world closely.

I went to Egypt for the first time in 1981 and promptly fell in love with the country and its people. Until then, I thought I had never encountered the same warmth, generosity and hospitality as Malaysians had to offer.

And there, everyone, including strangers you just met, wanted you to visit their home, their farm, their village. They were proud of their history and their country – and wanted to feed you endlessly.

Islam’s religious pluralism in context

February 8, 2011


The question of whether Islam accepts religious pluralism depends on an understanding of the term and hinges on the Quranic verses, writes Mohamad Hashim Kamali. 

THE current debate as to whether Islam accepts religious pluralism as opposed to mere religious plurality calls for further reflection. Much would depend, it seems, on how one understands religious pluralism and then the three Quranic verses that characterise Islam.

Indonesia: Sisters in Islam (SIS) denounces controversial plans to “check” sinful activities of youth

February 10, 2011


PETALING JAYA: Sisters in Islam (SIS) has hit out at PAS Youth over its controversial plans to “check” sinful activities and play the moral police on Valentine’s Day.

Its media and communications senior programme officer, Yasmin Masidi, said moral policing was against Islamic values and fundamental liberties.

She added: “It violates personal dignity and privacy, which is for­bidden in the Quran and Hadith.”

She was responding to the movement’s planned multi-pronged approach to discourage sinful activities on Valentine’s Day, which falls on Monday.

International: UN Intensifies Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation

February 7, 2011


UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7, 2011 (IPS) - The United Nations is intensifying its global campaign to eliminate one of the most widely-condemned religious and cultural rituals in the world today, mostly in Africa and Asia: female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

The joint efforts by two U.N. agencies - the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and the U.N. children's agency UNICEF - have resulted in over 6,000 communities abandoning the physically-harmful practice in countries such as Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Guinea and Somalia. 

Tunisia: Women Play Important Role in Revolution

January 27, 2011


Female voices rang out loud and clear during massive protests that brought down the authoritarian rule of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Women in Tunisia are unique in the Arab world for enjoying near equality with men. And they are anxious to maintain their status.

In Tunis, old ladies, young girls and women in black judges robes marched down the streets demanding that the dictator leave.

Hardly anyone wears the Muslim headscarf in the capital, and women seem to be everywhere, taking part in everything, alongside men.

Pakistan: Hundreds of women die for “honour” each year

January 27, 2011


LAHORE, 27 January 2011 (IRIN) - Did 22-year-old Saima Bibi scream out as she was electrocuted at her parents’ home in their village near the southern Punjab city of Bahawalpur in Pakistan? Did she plead with her family for her life? Did she seek mercy? 

The answers to these questions will never be known. In one of the most harrowing “honour” killings reported in recent months in the country, Saima was, according to media reports, murdered by her relatives.

February 6th: International Day of Zero Tolerance on FGM

February 4, 2011


February 6 was unanimously adopted at the International Conference on Zero Tolerance to FGM organized by IAC from February 4 to 6, 2003 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Representatives at the Conference came from 49 countries including 4 First Ladies (from Nigeria , Burkina Faso , Guinea Conakry and Mali ), Ministers, and Parliamentarians. Others included Religious, Community and Youth leaders.

Syria: Stiffer punishment for honour killing

January 11, 2011

Damascus: Syria has ordered the sentence for those convicted of honour killings tripled to between five and seven years.

The local press reported on Monday that President Bashar Assad amended the current law which stipulated a jail sentence of just two years for those convicted of killing a relative for having illicit sex.

Activists say some 150-200 women are killed every year in Syria by their relatives in order to preserve conservative tribal notions of family honour. The killings, they say, are abetted by lenient punishments.

Bangladesh: Four arrested for the death of 14 year old Hena Begum

February 2, 2011


Four people including a Muslim cleric have been arrested in Bangladesh in connection with the death of 14-year-old girl who was publicly lashed.

The teenager was accused of having an affair with a married man, police say, and the punishment was given under Islamic Sharia law.

<--break->Hena Begum's family members said a village court consisting of elders and clerics passed the sentence.

The status of women in Egypt: What would the post-Mubarak era offer them?

March 3, 2010


Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa 2010 - Egypt
By Mariz Tadros

Introduction

Turkey: Headscarf Continues as Political Issue

January 31, 2011


ANKARA, Jan 31, 2011 (IPS) - A ruling by an administrative court banning female candidates for academic posts from being veiled during an admission examination has brought the headscarf back to the front of Turkish politics, and reignited tensions between secularist and religious forces.