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News and Views: September 2011

Afghanistan: Women's Groups Secure Independence of Shelters

September 26, 2011

In Afghanistan, women's groups are claiming a rare victory. Last winter, the government was planning to bring battered women's shelters under government control.

Women's rights advocates sprang into action, complaining that the new rules would turn shelters into virtual prisons for women who had run away from home because of abuse. But after a flurry of media attention, the Afghan government agreed to re-examine the issue. And this month, President Hamid Karzai's Cabinet quietly approved a new draft that has support from women's groups.

Saudi Arabia: King Grants Women the Right to Vote

September 25, 2011

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Sunday granted women the right to vote and run in future municipal elections, the biggest change in a decade for women in a puritanical kingdom that practices strict separation of the sexes, including banning women from driving.

Documenting Violence Against Women in 10 Countries

September 19, 2011

Karin Alfredsson is spearheading a nongovernmental project to document violence against women around the world, and to highlight the shortcomings and successes of legislation and other initiatives aimed at helping to curb it.

Stockholm: Violence against women worldwide causes more deaths and injuries than traffic accidents, cancer, and malaria combined.

Dear Facebook: Rape is No Joke

September 19, 2011

According to Facebook’s terms of service, users are not permitted to post content that is hateful, threatening or incites violence. But it appears that, in the minds of the Facebook powers-that-be, pages that encourage rape don’t violate that rule.

Iran: Deputy Says Female Defendants Should Not Wear Chador In Court

September 21, 2011

Iranian parliament deputy Laleh Eftekhari has criticized female defendants who appear in court wearing the compulsory chador, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Eftekhari said the "sanctity of the chador would be blemished" if such women wear it, and the sight of women thus attired would have a "negative impact on society."

She added that most "guilty female defendants" do not believe in the full-body Islamic veil and have to be forced to wear one when they appear in court.

Iran: Social Media Gives Women a Voice

September 22, 2011

Female protesters were beaten, raped and intimidated in a post-election crackdown by the Iranian authorities. Silenced by stigma and fear, these women are now using social media to bear witness to the horror.

Iran: 500 activists condemn escalation of violence against women

July 26, 2011

Physical and sexual violence against women in Iran, including violence perpetrated by state security forces, is rapidly increasing.

News releases in official media, which usually censor such topics, have surprisingly reported on incidents of gang rape and assaults against women.

Examples include incidents in the provinces of Isfahan (where 10 women were gang raped by 14 men), Golestan (where a village doctor was raped and assaulted by 4 men and a young girl was murdered by 2 men), and Khorasan.

Pakistan: “Reclaiming Space: from victimhood to agency: State and civil society response to VAW”

September 26, 2011

Islamabad—Speakers at a conference here on Thursday urged for collective struggle and structural reforms to challenge Violence Against Women (VAW) in South Asian countries particularly. The three-day South Asian conference on “Reclaiming Space: from victimhood to agency: State and civil society response to VAW” organized by Rozan in Islamabad was widely attended by women activists from all over Pakistan who were joined by delegates from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The Islamic Veil across Europe

September 22, 2011

Countries across Europe have wrestled with the issue of the Muslim veil - in various forms such as the body-covering burka andthe niqab, which covers the face apart from the eyes.

The debate takes in religious freedom, female equality, secular traditions and even fears of terrorism.

Jordan: Interview with Leila Hammarneh - "Women's Rights Are Now On the Table"

March 10, 2011

Leila Hammarneh is the Project Director of Arab Women Organization, Jordan, and a member of the Coalition Equality without reservation.

What is your perspective on the ongoing events throughout the region? What do you think are the potential implications for women’s rights? 

Nepal: Survey of Social Norms on Violence, Culture and Gender

September 18, 2011

Kathmandu, Sep 18 (IANS) If a wife burns the food or demurs to have sex, her husband can beat her. And if she goes out without telling her mother-in-law or doesn't bring in dowry, the mother-in-law can do the same.

That is how a large chunk of women in Nepal's patriarchal society feels, a sample survey has discovered.

Between Power and Freedom: The Challenge in the Future of Islamic Feminism

September 20, 2011

Ahmad Fuad Rahmat | Research Fellow, Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)It is an evident, although often unacknowledged, fact that Islam’s long history and intellectual tradition is comprised of a rather impressive list of important women thinkers and figures. The Qur’an itself included “believing women” in its scope and statements. Further precedent was set through the leadership of Aisha and the historical significance of Fatimah.

France: With the burqa ban women are 'effectively under house arrest'

September 19, 2011

Since France introduced its burqa ban in April there have been violent attacks on women wearing the niqab and, this week, the first fines could be handed down. But a legal challenge to this hard line may yet expose the French state as a laughing stock.

Hind Ahmas walks into a brasserie in the north Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. Jaws drop, shoulders tighten and a look of disgust ripples across the faces of haggard men sipping coffee at the bar.

Kenya: Religious leaders oppose anti-abortion clerics

September 17, 2011

Two clerics yesterday dismissed doctors and religious leaders opposed to safe abortion as enemies of women rights. The christian and muslim clerics said the abortion debate in Kenya was demeaning to women. “In this society we are all at the mercy of men,” said Rev Timothy Njoya.

Egypt: The unclear future of women

September 19, 2011

CAIRO, September 13, 2011‑Egyptian women currently face numerous threats that will not only destroy the goals of equality, freedom and change voiced in the January revolution, but the advances women have made over the last century.

Because Mrs. Mubarak was extremely active in women’s issues, including the advancement of women’s rights, many Egyptians, especially men, equate women’s rights with the former corrupt dictatorship of Hosni Mubara.

Pakistan: Rights groups report rise in violence against women

September 19, 2011

A Pakistan-based women's rights watchdog says there has been a rise in the number of violent acts reported against women, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

The Aurat Foundation (AF) said 4,448 cases of violence against women were reported from different parts of the country in the first six months of this year.

That compared with the first six months of 2010, when 4,061 cases were registered.
AF Chairman Naeem Mirza told Radio Mashaal the report was prepared on the basis of information collected from all four Pakistani provinces.

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.

Are women with secure land rights less vulnerable to domestic violence?

July 28, 2011

The problem of domestic violence in the world can seem intractable. In a recent report, UN Women notes that in 17 out of 41 countries, “a quarter or more of people think that it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife.”[1]

Think about that. In almost half of the countries the report studied, more than 25% of people think that husbands have a right to hurt their wives, that they have a right to use physical violence as a punishment and a method of control.

Women's 'sex strike' a global phenomena

September 16, 2011

A collective "sex strike" launched by women in Dado, Maguindanao, to bring peace to the troubled village and nearby communities is not the first of its kind in the world.

It has its roots in Greek playwright Aristophanes' "Lysistrata."

China: Marriage law interpretation could leave many divorced women homeless

September 7, 2011

BEIJING — Millions of Chinese women, and some men, woke on Aug. 13 to discover their spouse had, in effect, become their landlord.

On that day, the Supreme Court’s new interpretation of the 1980 Marriage Law came into force, stipulating that property bought before marriage, either outright or on mortgage, reverted to the buyer on divorce. Previously, the family home had been considered joint property. Experts agree the change would mostly affect women, since men traditionally provide the family home.

Nepal Looks Set To Officially Recognize Third Gender

September 9, 2011

FRIDAY FILE: Almost four years after Nepal’s Supreme Court recognized the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, the South Asian country may get a new constitution that secures their rights.[i] By Kathambi Kinoti

Iraq: Fight for Women’s Rights Begins All Over Again

September 13, 2011

BAGHDAD, Sep 13, 2011 (IPS) - When a middle-aged mother took a taxi alone from Baghdad to Nasiriyah, about 300 kilometres south earlier this year, her 20-year-old driver stopped on the way, pulled her to the side of the road and raped her. And that began a telling legal struggle.

"She is not a simple case," says Hanaa Edwar, head of the Iraqi rights-based Al-Amal Association, established in Baghdad after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. 

Gay Rights: A World of Inequality

September 15, 2011

Gay people still live in fear in many countries around the world – prejudice, torture and execution are common. Can two new legal and diplomatic campaigns change attitudes?

The Netherlands: Transgender Law Violates Rights

September 13, 2011

VNC supports the call below by Human Rights Watch for legal reform, and believes that State imposed rule on its citizens aimed at regulating and controlling their gender identity exemplified by Article 28 of the Netherlands' Civil Code is both influenced by, and reinforces, 'cultural' or social norms that are discriminatory towards LGBT people.

Repeal Requirement for Irreversible Surgery to Change Official Gender.

Afghanistan: Government Campaign Against Self-Immolation

September 6, 2011

The Afghan government has launched a national media campaign to address the growing problem of self-immolation. Most people who set fire to themselves, on purpose or by accident, are women. Many try to commit suicide because they are victims of domestic violence and other forms of abuse.

Listen to the BBC interview with women's rights activist Horia Mosadiq on why women are setting themselves alight here

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14810719

Tunisia: Leading the way on women's rights in MENA

September 10, 2011

Last December, Tunisians rose up against their dictator, triggering a political earthquake that has sent shockwaves through most of the Middle East and north Africa. Now, Tunisia is leading the way once again – this time on the vexed issue of gender equality.

India: UNICEF report uncovers high prevalence of child marriage in West Bengal

September 10, 2011

Every second girl in the high prevalence child marriage districts of West Bengal were married off before they reach 18, the legal age for girls to get wedded, a UNICEF report said.

Murshidabad (61.04%), Birbhum (58.03%), Malda (56.07%) and Purulia (54.03%) are the districts having such dubious distinction, the report said quoting latest figures.

Though only these four districts have reported over 50 per cent child marriage cases, they are enough to pull the state figure of child marriage to a staggering 53.9 per cent.

Kenya: Law passed against FGM

September 8, 2011

Kenya has become the latest African country to ban female genital mutilation, with the passing of a law making it illegal to practice or procure it or take somebody abroad for cutting. The law even prohibits derogatory remarks about women who have not undergone FGM. Offenders may be jailed or fined or both.

Members of the Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association said it was a historic day. Linah Kilimo, its chairperson, said the move would improve school attendance. And Sophia Abdi Noor said:

Tunisia: Government Lifts Restrictions on Women’s Rights Treaty

September 6, 2011

(Beirut) September 6, 2011 ─ Tunisia’s lifting of key reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is an important step toward gender equality, Human Rights Watch said today. The Tunisian government should next ensure that all domestic laws conform to international standards and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, Human Rights Watch said. 

Saudi Arabia: Efforts to include human rights in syllabuses

September 7, 2011

JEDDAH: Chairman of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) Mufleh Al-Qahtani has said the organization is making efforts to introduce the subject of human rights in higher and general education syllabuses in Saudi Arabia. 

“The organization has put a special emphasis on this issue, held seminars and carried out activities in this regard,” he said on Tuesday. 

Al-Qahtani said a joint workshop between the organization and the Ministry of Education made specific recommendations on the issue that were currently being studied. 

UK: Parents charged over suspected 'honour' killing

September 7, 2011

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed, a suspected victim of a so-called honour killing eight years ago, have been charged with murder and are due to appear in court.

Cheshire police said a man and a woman had been charged with murder in connection with the death of Shafilea, 17, who was last seen in her home town of Warrington, Cheshire, in 2003. Her remains were found in February 2004 on the banks of the River Kent in Cumbria.

Iraq: Attacks continue on women human rights defenders

August 25, 2011

FRIDAY FILE: Women have been at the forefront of demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the recent popular uprisings, which have received much media and international attention. In contrast, coverage of attacks on women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in Iraq’s Tahrir Square demonstrations has been limited, AWID asks why.

Pakistan: Women Advocates Aid Religious Minorities

August 25, 2011

(WNN) ISLAMABAD: In spite of real dangers for those working as advocates with Pakistan’s religious minorities, a number of people have been speaking out against religious discrimination and the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws inside the country.

As internal divisions, casualties and conflict on the northern border and a growing hatred and distrust of ‘the West’ expands, a dedicated group of Pakistani women and men are leading the way on issues of human rights and religious freedom inside the country.

Nigeria: Favour Irabor - Money, religion & patriarchy pose problems for female politicians

September 4, 2011

It’s over four months now since the last general elections, but Nigerian women politicians and even stakeholders are yet to recuperate from the shock of its outcome. Unlike previous elections, women vied enmass for various political offices, but  few of them got in! As a response to this fall which has also translated into an abysmal reduction in the representation of women in political offices(apart from the ministerial offices), the question of ‘what went wrong?’  has continued to take centre-stage at most women gatherings.

Council of Europe Convention calls for hotlines, shelters, medical and forensic services

September 1, 2011

Hamiyet, a member of Turkey’s Kurdish minority, was a 15-year-old newlywed when her husband began beating her every evening after work. He hit her when she was pregnant with each of their nine children, and he raped her almost nightly. She sought help from the police, but they always sent her back home, more concerned with preserving “family unity” than with her safety.

Burkina Faso: Free Legal Aid for Women Accused of being Witches

November 19, 2010

PARIS (TrustLaw) - What links a British-based law firm to an initiative aimed at protecting women in Burkina Faso from accusations of witchcraft?

The answer's global pro bono work.

Earlier this year, a charity caring for older people, HelpAge International, asked Advocates for International Development (A4ID) to help with its work in, among others, Burkina Faso where it's been trying to raise awareness about the plight of women who've fallen victim to witchcraft allegations.

UN HRC: Witches in the 21st Century

August 24, 2009

Throughout history, people described as witches have been persecuted, tortured and murdered and the practice continues today. Statistics are not easy to come by but it is known that every year, thousands of people, mostly older women and children are accused as witches, often abused, cast out of their families and communities and in many cases murdered.

Nepal: Religious Practices, Discrimination & Gender Violence

June 28, 2011

KATHMANDU, Jul 28, 2011 (IPS) - The recent gang-rape of a Buddhist nun and her expulsion from her sect have sparked a debate about the deep-rooted religious traditions and biases that foster discrimination and violence, especially against women, in this South Asian state.

 The public outcry against the nun’s expulsion forced the Nepal Buddhist Federation to reconsider, saying now that once she recovers, the victim can return to her nunnery. 

Indonesia: Sharia police in Aceh dissolve lesbian marriage

August 25, 2011

Islamic police in the Indonesian province of Aceh have forced two women to have their marriage annulled and sign an agreement to separate.

The women had been legally married for a few months after one of them passed as a man in front of an Islamic cleric who presided over their wedding.

But suspicious neighbours confronted the couple and reported them to police.

The two women are now back with their families, forcibly separated and under surveillance by the Islamic police.

Afghanistan: Women in Media Reveal Risks & Challenges

July 5, 2011

KABUL (Reuters) - Farida Nekzad has faced threats of kidnapping, acid attacks and a plot to blow up her apartment since she founded her first news agency in Afghanistan seven years ago.

Members of the Taliban e-mailed some of the warnings; others arrived over the phone. One caller warned she would be murdered and disfigured so horrendously that her family would not be able to recognize her body.

UN: Due Diligence Obligation to Address Violence against Women

September 13, 2011

 

The 2013 annual report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms Rashida Manjoo, will be devoted to a study on the "Due Diligence Obligations to address Violence against Women." The Special Rapporteur is seeking information in preparation of a global study that analyses the interpretation and implementation of the due diligence obligation by States to be submitted to the Human Rights Council.