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News and Views: April 2011

Middle East/North Africa: Journalists & Cyber Activists In the Line of Fire

April 28, 2011

Article XIX Statement: From Morocco to Bahrain, everyday people have taken on the cast iron hold of dictatorships and absolute monarchies resulting in an extraordinary collective awakening that has paved the way for epochal change in the region. The youth movement, which lies at the core of the uprisings, continues to play a prominent role in the pro-democracy and pro-reform demonstrations, which have swept through the region, unabated by government clampdowns or concessions.


Pakistan: Transexuals allowed to have own gender category on certain official documentation

April 26, 2011

26 April 2011 - Pakistan has taken the landmark decision to allow transsexuals to have their own gender category on some official documents. The country's Supreme Court has ruled that those Pakistanis who do not consider themselves to be either male or female should be allowed to choose an alternative sex when they apply for their national identity cards.

Aleem Maqbool reports from Karachi.

Afghanistan: Virginity-related penalties "extremely unfair"

April 26, 2011

KABUL, 26 April 2011 (IRIN) - The penalties that Afghan women suffer whenever allegations of pre-marital sex and loss of virginity emerge, including death, are extreme, discriminatory and not in the penal code, activists said.

“I saw a woman who was publically humiliated and tortured because she had allegedly lost her virginity before her wedding night,” said Suraya Subhrang, a women’s rights commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). Extra-judiciary penalties, she added, were prevalent and deep-rooted in the country.

Nigeria: House of Rainbow church offers underground prayer to Christians ostracised by homophobia

April 24, 2011


When Ade's aunt learned he was gay, the then 16-year-old Nigerian was made to go through an exorcism to expel "the demon of homosexuality".

"The priest came to the house with candles, holy water and anointing oils. I had to kneel down, holding candles in my hands," recalls Ade, now 25, as he sits in a cafe in Lagos. He does not wish to reveal his full name. "He kept shouting 'Come out! Come out! Come out!' in a fevered voice … I was allowed to go back to church after that but I had to pretend to be straight."

Uganda: HIV/AIDS Challenges with Child Marriages, Polygamy, Civil War

April 24, 2011

In northern Uganda, daughters with limited understanding of HIV/AIDS are married off at young ages into polygamous households still struggling with the legacy of a brutal 16-year civil war. The practice is a recipe for rapid disease transmission.

GULU, Uganda (WOMENSENEWS)--After getting married at 18, Alice Ongom, who is now 45, settled down in Gulu, a northern Ugandan city that was a battleground during the country's intermittent civil war from 1986 to 2003.

Pakistan: Women Move Beyond Traditional Roles

March 8, 2011

JALOZAI, PAKISTAN — A visit to the Jalozai camp, originally established in 1980 for Afghans fleeing the Soviet invasion, gives an idea of how the fighting between the Pakistani Army and militants has affected families in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Spain: Brotherhood includes women in Holy Week procession for first time

April 20, 2011

SEVILLE — Ana María Ruiz Copete, a sister in the oldest religious brotherhood of Seville, has been anticipating this Easter celebration for 30 years.

On Friday, the Brotherhood of Silence will include for the first time Ms. Ruiz Copete and 25 other women in one of the traditional processions of hooded penitents that have put the Andalusian capital at the center stage of Catholic celebrations of the Holy Week.

India: Supreme court calls for 'stamping out honour killing'

April 20, 2011

India's Supreme Court has told states to "ruthlessly stamp out" the so-called honour killings. The court also warned that senior officials who failed to act against the offenders would be prosecuted. In recent times, there have been many cases where people have been ostracised or killed for defying age-old notions of tradition and family honour.

Often these crimes are endorsed, or even encouraged, by village-based caste councils.

Many of the victims are young couples who marry outside of their caste or within their sub-caste.

India: Haryana widows battered to death

April 19, 2011

Two widows have been bludgeoned to death by a man in the northern Indian state of Haryana, officials say. Police arrested a 23-year-old man, the nephew of one of the women. He was on parole, having served a sentence for rape.

Eyewitnesses told police he killed his aunt and another woman in full view of other villagers, after he accused them of being in a lesbian relationship.

Haryana is a deeply conservative and patriarchal region.

Correspondents say that so-called "honour killings" are relatively common in the area.

UN Women: Bringing Widows to the Forefront in South Asia

April 15, 2011

New Delhi—UN Women has launched a three-year regional programme to address the needs of widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Funded jointly by UN Women’s Swiss National Committee and the Standard Chartered Bank, the programme will be implemented to reduce the social ostracism faced by widows. This will be done by collecting data and evidence to highlight the stigma widows face, working with widows’ coalitions so they can speak up and access public services, and by guaranteeing that discriminatory social practices against widows are reviewed and repealed.

Malaysia: Why Some Women Wear a Hijab and Some Don’t

April 18, 2011

In Malaysia, which is predominantly Muslim, some women wear the hijab, a head scarf that shows the face but covers the hair, ears and neck. And some do not. A new documentary, “Siapa Aku?” or “Who Am I?” by Norhayati Kaprawi, a young Muslim woman, explores the reasons why.

Pakistan: Rape Media Coverage Sensationalized, Politicized, Insensitive

April 5, 2011

Islamabad: Senior journalists and women rights activists chided the media for reporting rape cases like any ordinary crime, at the launching ceremony of a report on the media’s role in sex crimes.

Austria: UN cultural rights expert calls for better promotion of cultural rights and diversity

April 15, 2011

GENEVA – UN Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed on Friday encouraged the Austrian Government to approach cultural diversity as an invaluable resource and to take concrete measures to promote it. 

India: Sons Preferred by Couples, Served by Bangkok Clinics

December 27, 2010

NEW DELHI: Aamita from Delhi has a dark secret. Last year, without telling family or friends, she boarded a plane to Thailand to undergo IVF treatment. A mother of two girls by then, Aamita was perfectly fertile and would have had no problem conceiving again. But she wanted a boy. 

Algeria: Artwork on rape of women by fundamentalist armed groups censored at Sharjah Biennial

April 6, 2011

Because art is free to be impolite…

Even as the Arab spring unfolds across the region, I learned with profound astonishment that Mr. Jack Persekian, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, has been dismissed as “punishment” for allowing an artist invited to the Sharjah Biennial total freedom of expression. I am the artist in question. My installation “Maportaliche/Ecritures sauvages” [It has no importance/Wild Writings] has been censored and removed from the Biennial.

Malaysia: Nazreen Nizam of Sisters in Islam laments Malaysian regression in rights

April 13, 2011

BANGKOK (TrustLaw) – Malaysia is considered a tolerant, progressive and successful developing Muslim nation; its capital is a gleaming metropolis with one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.

Yet the politicisation of religion in recent years has led to a regression in gender rights under the country’s Islamic Family Law, a prominent women’s rights group, which is aiming to reform the legislation, told TrustLaw.

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?

Bangladesh: High Rate of Child Marriages, Warnings to Parents

April 6, 2011

DHAKA, 6 April 2011 (IRIN) - Despite various government and non-governmental initiatives to stem child marriage in Bangladesh, parents are continuing to marry off their underage daughters, health experts say. 

Pakistan: Women's Police Stations for Gender Violence

February 21, 2011

ISLAMABAD: A total number of 11,789 cases of violence against women have been registered in the country since January 2009.

According to the available data from Ministry of Interior: 8433 cases in Punjab, 680 cases in Sindh, 1656 cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 333 cases in Balochistan, 272 cases in Islamabad Capital Territory, 362 cases in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and 62 cases in Gilgit and Baltistan have been recorded since 2009.

UN: High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay - "Religion, Beliefs, and Women's Rights"

April 4, 2011

“The courage and determination of women in the Middle East and North Africa should be a source of inspiration for all of us, women and men striving to achieve full respect for human rights in general, and the rights of girls and women in particular,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on 5 April in Atlanta, the United States.

Pakistan: Forced marriage - 12-year-old seeks divorce from 35-year-old husband

April 8, 2011

FAISALABAD: 12-year-old Alina* wants a divorce from her 35-year-old husband to whom she was married against her will in January. Her parents and husband’s family are however insistent that the girl live with the man because divorced women are not respected in the society.

Palestine: Mass arrests of Palestinian women by Israeli troops

April 8, 2011

More than 100 women from a village near Nablus were held by Israeli troops searching for killers of settler family.Israeli troops have stormed Awarta village in the northern West Bank, arresting more than 100 women as they hunted the killers of an Israeli family from the illegal settlement of Itamar, officials said.

The military also used bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses in a northern farming village east of Tubas, in an area under Israeli control, according to Palestinian security officials.

Iran: Draft law undermining independent NGOs

April 6, 2011

The Iranian parliament must scrap a draft law which will seriously undermine independent non-governmental organizations in Iran, Amnesty International said today.

The bill, which has been extensively analyzed by the Netherlands-based NGO Arseh Sevom, requires all NGOs in Iran to register with a new and unaccountable body linked to the Intelligence Ministry and to the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary force, which will also be able to revoke registration.

Egypt: Film shines light on sexual harassment

April 6, 2011

A film lifting the lid on sexual harassment on the streets of Egypt is gaining plaudits around the world.

"Cairo 678" tells the story of three fictional women from different backgrounds as they search for justice from daily sexual harassment.<--break->

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.

UN: Bachelet Addresses Challenges, Provides Recommendations for Pathway to Democracy in Egypt

March 25, 2011

Cairo — During a high-level UN delegation led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Egypt 19-21 March, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet engaged with women activists, youth leaders and civil society at interactive roundtables to discuss the challenges ahead in light of the country’s recent political uprising as well as the practical and strategic role women must play to set the path for democracy and gender equality in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia: Let Women Vote, Run for Office

March 31, 2011

(Beirut) - The Saudi government's refusal to let women vote in municipal elections in September 2011 unlawfully deprives women of their rights to full and equal status under the law, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the election committee to allow women to vote and to run for seats on the municipal councils.