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News and Views: March 2011

Yemen: Communities Unite Against Child Marriage

February 11, 2011

A dozen Yemeni girls sit on the floor of a diwan in Al Sawd village, giggling and smiling bashfully as they describe what they hope to be doing in 10 years. They are between 8 and 15 years old, and are fortunate to attend one of the few local schools for girls.

Combating Early Marriage from the Ground Up

February 11, 2011

At age 12, Loko, whose last name is withheld for privacy reasons, was forced to marry a man 50 years her senior. As with many child marriages in her home country of Ethiopia, it was a family member who made the decision that derailed her childhood. The 10th of 11 children, she was sold off by her older brother after their father died. Marriage brought a destitute life—her husband was too old to work, and they often went hungry.

Egypt: Women Protesters Forced to Take "Virginity Tests"

March 23, 2011

Amnesty International has today called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month. 

After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention.

Middle East: Women and the Revolution

March 25, 2011

Among the most prevalent Western stereotypes about Muslim countries are those concerning Muslim women: doe-eyed, veiled, and submissive, exotically silent, gauzy inhabitants of imagined harems, closeted behind rigid gender roles. So where were these women in Tunisia and Egypt?

Lebanon: Protesters Take Aim at Family Law System

March 24, 2011

In the third and latest major demonstration in Lebanon, protesters of the sectarian or "confessional" system took special aim at religious family laws that prevent civil marriages and discriminate against women in various ways.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (WOMENSENEWS)--The demonstrations held here on March 20 marked the third time in four weeks that protesters gathered to demand an end to the "confessional" or sectarian system that divides Lebanon's government and society along religious lines.

Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?

March 21, 2011

"Egyptian women are lucky in one way. They have witnessed the predicament of Iranian women and seen how the Islamic state has hijacked the Iranian revolution, changed the laws and reversed women’s gains. My advice to Egyptian women is “do not give way to a government that would force you to choose between your rights and Islam”. I believe that Iran was a lesson for the women in the entire region". Shirin Ebadi in conversation with Deniz Kandiyoti

Nepal: Custom & Dangers of Isolation of Women During Menstruation

March 21, 2011

The centuries old practice of chhaupadi in Nepal can cause prolonged depression in girls and women. In extreme cases it can also cause death.

Chhaupadi pratha, or ritual practice, places Nepali women and girls in a limbo of isolation. In history it is a practice that has been largely accepted. The word chhaupadi, translates in the Achham local Raute dialect as ‘chhau’ which means menstruation and ‘padi’ – woman.

Today the ritual of banishment surrounding chhaupadi still affects girls and women on all levels of Nepali society.

The Demise of “Defamation of Religions”? Human Rights Council Should Support Resolution On Religious Discrimination

March 22, 2011

ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) urge Member States of the UN Human Rights Council to support the draft resolution on combating intolerance, discrimination, violence and incitement to violence based on religious grounds, which has been proposed by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Conference instead of one on “defamation of religions”.


Zainah Anwar - In search of what Islam really says

March 8, 2011

The nation’s leading Muslim feminist activist explains what drove her to open the Quran and search for answers to what it means to be Muslim and feminist.

Transnational Forced Marriage: From the UK to Pakistan

March 24, 2011

We recall that ‘marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses’ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, Article 16(2)). Heightened media sensitivity surrounding the practice of forced marriage helped to lead to the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, implemented in autumn 2008, incorporating the Act into a new Part 4A of the Family Law Act 1996.  

Middle East: Growth of Social Networking Media

March 15, 2011

"The freedom conferred by anonymity encouraged Saudi Arabia women to embrace the Internet. Since more than half of Saudi blogs are reportedly written by women, gender issues are regularly addressed."

For more than 30 years, the subject of political reform in most of the Middle East was largely a part of covert debates. In little more than 30 days, however, it has forcibly entered the realm of the overt.

Iran: Supreme Court - No Divorce Even if Additional Wife Taken

October 12, 2010

If a wife refuses to perform her wifely duties, the wife's right to divorce from her husband is not realizable or enforceable, even if he takes another wife.

Iran Case: consensus number 716-20/7/1389
Date: 12 October 2010
Judges: Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejei, the General Prosecutor of Iran and the Majority of the General Assembly of the Iran Supreme Court

UN Human Rights Council: A Stunning Development Against Violence

March 22, 2011

Unprecedented Support for Statement
on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity<--break-> 

Saudi Arabia: Women Encouraged to Address Wide Issues in Society

March 11, 2011

RIYADH: The women's wing of the Human Rights Commission recently met with women consultants at the Shoura Council to exchange views on social development issues.

Social activist May Al-Issa, who was one of the consultants to attend the meeting, called on society to refrain from emphasizing women's issues and rights excessively, pointing out that it could alienate society further.

Al-Issa also indicated that certain council initiatives came as a result of citizens’ complaints or suggestions.

Interview: Muslim women in southern Thailand face discrimination by civil and religious law

March 14, 2011

BANGKOK (TrustLaw) – Muslim women in Thailand’s insurgency-plagued southern region face problems of discrimination under state and religious law, as well as cultural norms, that are exceedingly difficult to address, a prominent human rights activist told TrustLaw. 

“Women’s rights in Thailand, from my opinion, are OK,” said Angkhana Neelapaijit, chairperson of the Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP). “But when we talk about women in the minority groups, it’s still very poor.”

Tajikistan: Tighter Marriage Rules

March 3, 2011

Changes to the law in Tajikistan making it harder for foreigners to marry locals seem to be a move to stop Afghan and Chinese nationals entering into marriages of convenience.

The amended legislation, passed at the end of January, requires foreigners to have lived in Tajikistan for a year before they can marry locals. They must also sign a prenuptial agreement committing them to provide housing for their spouse. Since foreigners can only buy property after five years’ residence, this provision seems designed to ensure the family home is registered to a Tajik national.

The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights condemns the violations on female activists

March 12, 2011


The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights followed up the events of March the 8th on the occasion of International Women's Day in a great worry. The celebration events started with an initiative of young women and men who gathered in Al Tahrir Square in order to salute female and male martyrs of the Revolution as well as their mothers and to remind the society and decision makers with the necessity of involving women in phases of the democratic transition in Egypt.

Yemen: Women of the Revolts are Catalysts for Change

March 8, 2011

Representing all age groups and various backgrounds, they have proved to be the catalysts for change.

Dubai: The words of a mother whose son was killed by the Tunisian police in Al Qasreen area last December still ring in the ears of Hedia Belhaj Al Sebai.

"I have given my son as a martyr to Tunisia, and I still have four more sons whom I am also willing to sacrifice for the sake of my country," said the mother after her son was shot dead by the police during a protest, according to Hedia, a woman activist in her late 40s.

Child Brides Often Stop Education & Continue Poverty

February 28, 2011

In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa 38% of women marry before they are 18 years old. Child marriages, as defined by UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency, are those undertaken by women under the age of 18 and include unions where a woman and a man live together as if they were married.

Egypt: Women attacked at rally on International Women's Day in Tahrir Square

March 8, 2011

A demonstration urging Egypt to give women a voice in building its future was attacked by a group of men Tuesday, delivering a stinging slap to the women who helped propel Egypt's uprising.

“We fought side by side with men during the revolution, and now we’re not represented,” said Passat Rabie, a young woman who came with friends, after men aggressively dispersed the protest. “I thought Egypt was improving, that it was becoming a better country. If it’s changing in a way that’s going to exclude women, then what’s the point? Where’s the democracy?”

Bangladesh: Women Commit Suicide to Escape Sexual Harassment

February 19, 2011

Sexual harassment against women in Bangladesh is turning deadly. According to local human rights groups 28 women committed suicide this year to escape frequent sexual harassment. Before killing themselves most of them wrote a note demanding an end to the sexual harassment known locally as ‘eve teasing’ where boys intercept girls on the street, and shout obscenities, laugh at them, pull or touch them or worse. Afroza Begum sits at the kitchen table and hands me the note her daughter wrote before she killed herself.

Iran: International Women’s Day celebration marred by continued detention of dozens of women

March 8, 2011

Amnesty International today called on the Iranian authorities to release immediately all women detained arbitrarily in Iran, including political activists, rights defenders and members of religious and ethnic minorities.

International Women's Day Statement - Statement by UN High Commissioner Human Rights

March 8, 2011

GENEVA (8 March 2011) – On this day, I salute the women of the Middle East and North Africa, along with women all over the world who are taking great risks to stand up and fight for dignity, justice and human rights for themselves and for their compatriots. In Egypt and Tunisia, women were on Twitter, on Facebook, and on the streets. Women from all walks of life were marching alongside men, pushing boundaries and breaking gender stereotypes, just as eager for change, for human rights and for democracy.

Pakistan: Inter-University Film Festival ‘Violence is not our Culture’

March 4, 2011

Shirkat Gah (SG) organized an inter-university film festival on Thursday, 3rd of March 2011 at the Ali Institute of Education, as part of its campaign titled ‘Violence is not our Culture’. This event also marked 100 years of International Women’s Day (1911-2011). The event was attended by university students, Civil Society and NGO members as well as people from all walks of life.

Guatemala: Government must act to stop the killing of women

March 7, 2011

Amnesty International today urged the Guatemalan authorities to act to stop the high numbers of women being killed across the country and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice, ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March. 

France: Full-face veils outlawed as France spells out controversial niqab ban

March 3, 2011

From Saudi tourists window-shopping on the Champs-Élysées to Muslim women in a departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport or the few young French converts on suburban estates, any woman who steps outside in France wearing a veil that covers her face will be breaking the law from next month.

The rightful place of gender equality within Islam

February 24, 2011

An animated discussion is taking place about the relationship between Islam and equality and justice in the context of women’s human rights. How will the democratic uprisings sweeping across the Arab world affect this conversation?

DAWN Statement at the Launch of UN Women (CSW 55, NY, February 2011)

February 28, 2011

Women’s movements and women’s rights advocates have reason to cheer and celebrate the launching of the UN Women. In the entire history of the United Nations, it is the only entity that was primarily created in response to the worldwide clamor and mobilization of women’s movements!

Pakistan: Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, critic of blasphemy laws, shot dead in Islamabad

March 2, 2011

Self-described Taliban gunmen have shot dead Pakistan's minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, an advocate of reform of the country's blasphemy laws, as he left his Islamabad home.