Archive for September 29th, 2010

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the appointment of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to head a new U.N. body that will seek to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.

The body will be known officially as the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, but officials say it will be referred to as U.N. Women.

The General Assembly voted in July, after years of difficult negotiations, to set up the entity, which will merge four separate U.N. divisions now dealing with women’s and gender issues.

“Ms. Bachelet brings to this critical position a history of dynamic global leadership, highly honed political skills and uncommon ability to create consensus,” Ban said in a statement to media. I am confident that under her strong leadership we can improves the lives of millions of women and girls throughout the world.”

Bachelet, 58, headed a center-left administration in Chile from 2006 until March of this year, when she was replaced by conservative Sebastian Pinera. Last year, Forbes magazine rated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.

Bachelet, who attended two years of high school in the United States, was arrested in Chile in 1975 along with her mother by the rightist military junta that took over the country in a 1973 coup. Exiled to Australia, she later moved to former East Germany before returning in 1979 to Chile where she studied medicine, specializing in pediatrics.

Ban told reporters that 26 candidates had been considered to head the women’s entity, but diplomats said Bachelet had been a front-runner from the start.

Ban has often spoken of his policy of promoting women’s causes and the selection of Bachelet follows his appointment earlier this year of Margot Wallstrom of Sweden as his first-ever special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

U.N. diplomats said four years of negotiations on the new women’s entity between Western developed nations and developing countries had been tough because of varying views on women’s rights and gender equality.

U.N. Women will focus on supporting inter-government bodies like the Commission on the Status of Women and ensuring that all U.N. agencies and organizations live up to their commitments to gender equality, the United Nations says.

U.N. Women will become fully operational on Jan. 1, 2011.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N14255994.htm

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Michelle Bachelet New Head of UN Women: Where There Is Poverty ‘the State Cannot Be Neutral’

The choice of Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, to develop and then head a new and potentially powerful United Nations agency for women may well be the most important and smartest appointment Ban Ki-moon makes in his tenure as UN secretary-general.

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The fight against human trafficking in Latin America is ineffective and has led to the emergence of intra-regional markets for the trade, according to experts and activists meeting in the Mexican city Puebla.

450 academics and activists took part in the Second Latin American Conference on Smuggling and Trafficking of Human Beings, under the theme “Migrations, Gender and Human Rights”, Sept. 21-24 in Puebla, 129 kilometres south of Mexico City.

In Mexico some 20,000 people a year fall victim to the modern-day slave trade, according to the Centre for Studies and Research on Social Development and Assistance (CEIDAS), which monitors the issue.

The total number of victims in Latin America amounts to 250,000 a year, yielding a profit of 1.35 billion dollars for the traffickers, according to statistics from the Mexican Ministry of Public Security. But the data vary widely. Whatever the case, the United Nations warns that human trafficking has steadily grown over the past decade.

Organisations like the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC) estimate that over five million girls and women have been trapped by these criminal networks in the region, and another 10 million are in danger of falling into their hands.

The United Nations today defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

Smuggling of persons, again according to the U.N., is limited to “the procurement of the illegal entry of a person into a state party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.”

Latin America is a source and destination region for human trafficking, a crime that especially affects the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia.

The conference host, David Fernández Dávalos, president of the Ibero-American University of Puebla (UIA-Puebla), said in his inaugural speech that human trafficking is a modern and particularly malignant version of slavery, only under better cover and disguises.

On Aug. 31, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states to implement a Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, because it is “among the worst human rights violations,” constituting “slavery in the modern age,” and preying mostly on “women and children.”

The congress coincides with the International Day Against the Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women and Children on Thursday, instituted in 1999 by the World Conference of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).

Government authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Mexico concur that criminal mafias in this country have been proved to combine trafficking in persons with drug trafficking, along both the northern and southern land borders (with the United States and with Guatemala, respectively).

Most Latin American countries have established laws against human trafficking, and have ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, in force since Sept. 29, 2003.

In Mexico, a federal Law to Prevent and Punish Trafficking in Persons has been on the books since 2007, but the government has yet to create a national programme to implement it, although this is stipulated in the law itself.

The Puebla Congress, which follows the first such conference held in Buenos Aires in 2008, is meeting one month after the massacre of 72 undocumented migrants in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which exemplified the connection between drug trafficking and trafficking in persons, and drew International attention to the dangers faced by migrants in Mexico.

IOM investigations and research have found that Nicaraguan women are trafficked into Guatemala and Costa Rica, and Honduran women are trafficked into Guatemala and Mexico.

Women from Colombia and Peru have been forced into prostitution in the southern Ecuadorean province of El Oro, according to a two-year investigation by Martha Ruiz, a consultant responsible for updating and redrafting Ecuador’s National Plan against Human Trafficking.

Out of the 32 Mexican states, eight make no reference to human trafficking in their state laws. Mario Fuentes, head of CEIDAS, wrote this week in the newspaper Excélsior that the country is labouring under “severe backwardness and challenges in this field, because it lacks a national programme to deal with the problem, as well as a system of statistics.”

Part of a longer article at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52940

Heartened by the passage of a same-sex marriage law in Argentina, women’s organisations in this South American country stepped up their demands for the legalisation of abortion, on the Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Some 1,000 members of the Juana Azurduy Women’s Collective, better known as Las Juanas, filed a “collective and preventive” writ of habeas corpus at different courtrooms around the country, demanding that the criminalisation of abortion be declared unconstitutional.

They also asked the courts to press the legislature to bring the law that penalises abortion into line with international norms that recognise a woman’s right to make decisions about her body.

In Argentina, abortion is a crime punishable by prison, except in cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape, the expectant mother’s life is in danger or she is mentally ill or disabled.

But every year some 460,000 to 600,000 women resort to abortion in this country of 40 million people, according to the report “Estimate of the Extent of the Practice of Induced Abortion in Argentina”, prepared by experts from the University of Buenos Aires and the Centre for Population Studies.

In Latin America, abortion is only legal in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico City. With the exception of Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua, where abortion is illegal under any circumstances, in the rest of the countries in the region “therapeutic” abortion is legal in certain cases, such as rape, incest, fetal malformation or risk to the mother’s life.

Nevertheless, more than four million illegal abortions a year are practiced in the region, according to different sources, and 13 percent of maternal deaths are caused by abortion-related complications.

In Argentina, unsafe abortions are the main cause of maternal mortality, the Juana Azurduy Women’s Collective reports.

Against that backdrop, Las Juanas presented their legal action on Tuesday Sept. 28, observed as the Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion by the women’s movement in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1990.

For years, women’s groups in Argentina have been campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion, but have continually run up against the fierce resistance of the powerful Catholic Church and other conservative sectors of society.

However, this year the situation looks more favourable. Since March, the lower house of Congress has been studying a draft law that would decriminalise abortion, which has the backing of around 50 lawmakers from different parties.

The bill, which may be debated in October, was introduced by Cecilia Merchán, a legislator with the left-wing movement Libres del Sur, and would legalise first-trimester abortion on demand, similar to the law in effect in the Federal District of Mexico City.

None of the nearly 20 earlier bills on abortion introduced in the Argentine legislature over the years progressed. But the current draft law has already made it through several committees and is on its way to a full session debate in the lower house.

However, while the legislators are preparing their offensive in the lower house, another bill has been presented in the Senate, which would merely expand the circumstances under which therapeutic abortion is legal.

The idea underlying the initiative by several women senators is that legal abortion would also be made available to women facing risks to their health, a concept that would be broadly defined as physical and mental health.

The women’s organisations do not have the support of President Cristina Fernández, who has spoken out against the legalisation of abortion. But Merchán is confident that the president’s position will not impose itself in the legislative debate. (END)

Part of a longer article at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52989

Judges and other judicial officers in Argentina have begun to receive training on gender equality and women’s rights, as part of a broad programme that could serve as a model for similar initiatives in the rest of Latin America.

The plan, launched last week, will train facilitators to raise awareness on gender questions and promote the incorporation of a gender perspective among judges, prosecutors, court officers and administrative employees of the justice system.

Carmen Argibay, the first woman named to the country’s Supreme Court, said they found instances of discriminatory treatment of women victims as well as trials and sentences that failed to take into account the disadvantages suffered by many women because they live in a “sexist, patriarchal system.”

As an example of a discriminatory sentence she cited a judge’s decision this year that forced a woman to obtain permission from her spouse to get her tubes tied.

But there are also judges who have begun to adopt a gender perspective, based on legal instruments that are available to everyone but have not yet been applied consistently and across-the-board.

For instance, in a ruling this year, six doctors were sentenced for refusing to provide chemotherapy to a 20-year-old woman with cancer because she was pregnant. Her request for a therapeutic abortion was also denied. The young woman died without receiving treatment, and the baby also died.

In, addition, there are judges who are in the vanguard on gender issues and set legal precedents with sentences that help promote specific laws to expand rights to marginalised groups.

One illustration of this phenomenon are the judges who ordered civil registry offices to register gay marriages. The sentences, which were upheld, were backed up this year by a law on same-sex marriage.

In 2004, Argibay became the first woman justice on the Supreme Court. She was joined that same year by Elena Highton, who is currently vice president of the seven-member Court.

Highton was behind the establishment in 2009 of the Supreme Court Women’s Office, which is tasked with training and research on gender issues, and of the Office on Domestic Violence, which provides attention around the clock every day of the year.

As part of the work of the Women’s Office, Argibay presented the start of a series of workshops this month to train gender facilitators within the judicial system, an initiative that has United Nations support.

The participants receive a manual on how to hold their own workshops on justice with a gender perspective, with different training modules involving both theory and practice, which were designed with the participation of experts on justice and gender.

United Nations resident coordinator in Argentina Martín Santiago told IPS that the programme has everything necessary “to become a best practice for replication in all judicial systems in the region.

Taking part in the launch of the workshops were representatives of the Women’s Office as well as Argibay and Highton themselves, in order to underscore the support the programme has at the highest levels of the judiciary. The facilitator training workshops will be held in Buenos Aires.

According to the Supreme Court magistrate, the international conventions and other commitments that enshrine the rights of women, which have been signed by the Argentine state, are not sufficient to guarantee enforcement of these rights.

In the workshops, the future facilitators review the tools and instruments offered by the right to equality before the law and the rights of women, and engage in exercises that allow them to reflect on how gender-based social and labour roles are assigned. They also analyse sexist language and discuss how to avoid discriminatory terms.

“Violence against women is a consequence of seeing the world from an absolutely machista point-of-view,” Judge María Laura Garrigós, one of the women selected to be a gender facilitator, told IPS.

“The judiciary has not yet incorporated that perspective, it’s something we still have to accomplish — a shift in paradigm that will enable us to see crimes in that context,” she said.

Part of a longer story at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52930

More than 70 gay rights activists were detained in the Nepali capital earlier this month in a crackdown on a rally to demand government identification papers for transgender people, police and activists said.

Nepali men and women who identify themselves as transgender are seeking citizenship certificates with their gender marked as “third sex” instead of male or female.

Sunil Babu Pant, lawmaker and founder of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights group, said more than 70 people were detained near the prime minister’s office and parliament.

“We are running out of patience and are demanding our rights,” Pant told Reuters from a detention centre.

“Without the citizenship papers, the sexual minorities are unable to get a job, enrol in schools or colleges, seek treatment in hospitals and travel,” he said. “They cannot even inherit parental property.”

In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to amend laws to end discrimination against homosexuals, and give them the same rights as other citizens.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Kathmandu police chief Ramesh Kharel said the activists were detained for “violating the norms” by gathering at a place where demonstrations were not allowed.

Hindu-majority Nepal has become more gay-friendly over the last few years, but homosexuality still remains taboo for many people in this conservative Himalyan nation.

Same-sex marriages have taken place in public and gay beauty contests are held.

A travel agency run by gay people is offering to organise same-sex weddings at Mount Everest in a move to promote the scenic mountainous nation as a gay-friendly tourist destination.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DEL430265.htm

The Polish minister for equality has been accused of homophobia for outing a gay man on television and saying Catholic schools should have the right to sack gay teachers.

Elżbieta Radziszewska made the remarks about gay teachers to Catholic newspaper Gosc Niedzielny. She said that Catholic schools should be allowed to sack or refuse to employ gay or lesbian teachers, although she later said she would defend a teacher sacked from a state school for his or her sexual orientation.

She appeared on a breakfast show on TVN24 but provoked further anger when she apparently outed Krzysztof Śmiszek, the deputy president of the Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law (PSAL).

The pair were arguing about her remarks on gay teachers when Ms Radziszewska used Mr Śmiszek as an example of why cases should be treated individually.

According to the Warsaw Business Journal, she said: “If, for example, Mr Śmiszek, in a situation when we know that he is a member of the homosexual society and an activist for the Campaign Against Homophobia and it’s no secret who his partner is…”

Ms Radziszewska was asked by the programme’s presenters whether she should be on the other side of the argument but she apparently said that was the way she saw it. She later apologised but said Mr Mr Śmiszek’s sexual orientation could easily be discovered on the internet.

Mr Śmiszek has reacted furiously to her comments and intends to sue.

“This is pure homophobia,” he told daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Tuesday. “In no other EU country would such a person still hold their post. I do not hide my sexual orientation, but it’s my private business. My personal rights have been violated.”

Several members of Ms Radziszewska’s Civic Platform colleages in the coalition government have criticised her, although others on the right claim she is the victim of a witch-hunt.

She has also been criticised by women’s groups, who accused her of not doing enough for women’s equality.

Homosexuality is legal in Poland but couples cannot adopt children and there is no legal recognition of their relationships. The Polish capital Warsaw hosted EuroPride this year.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/09/23/polish-equality-minister-outs-gay-man-on-television/

Chechen women said the holiday, established by the region’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov a year ago, was marred by rules he had previously imposed, restricting their rights by enforcing traditional Muslim customs in the volatile region.

Dark-haired women in floor-length satin gowns, their faces framed by white hijabs, were given prizes for motherhood and awarded medals for sons lost to war in a concert hall decorated with Chechen flags in the republic’s capital Grozny.

Outside the building a group of bareheaded women, prevented by guards from entering, tried to catch a glimpse of the Chechen folk dances inside while pink fireworks illuminated the Grozny skyline.

A spate of recent attacks on Chechen women for not wearing headscarves, which rights groups and assailants alike said were orchestrated by authorities, led to accusations that the celebrations were laced with hypocrisy.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rely on Kadyrov to maintain order in Chechnya, where separatists were driven from power a decade ago after two devastating wars with government forces.

Analysts say Kadyrov has tried, sometimes contrary to Russian law, to impose an increasingly radical vision of Islam in Chechnya, where alcohol sales are highly restricted and authorities encourage polygamy.

Many women said that during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended on Sept. 10, they had been harassed by men for not wearing headscarves, in street raids that some of the assailants said were ordered by religious authorities.

Kadyrov, a devout Sufi Muslim, had previously praised such activism, telling state TV he was grateful to men who shot women with paintball pellets in June for going bareheaded.

Analysts say that while 90 percent of Chechnya’s 1.1 million people are Muslim and the majority identify themselves as believers, applying Islamic rules by force could raise tension.

Part of a longer article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE68J1QE.htm

A Jewish widow ran into an unexpected snag when she was planning to remarry. A rabbi said that according to ancient law, she would need to marry her brother-in-law unless he freed her in a ceremony known as halitza.

In order to marry, the couple, who are not particularly religious, had to register at the stringently religious Rabbinate, the sole government agency with the authority to grant Jewish marriage permits. No civil marriage exists in Israel and non-Orthodox marriages performed in the country are not recognized by the state.

When the widow presented the registrar with her late husband’s death certificate, he asked if her deceased husband had any children. When she said no, he asked whether her late husband had any brothers. When she said yes she was told she needed to do the halitza ceremony otherwise she wouldn’t be able to marry, ever.

According to the Torah, if a man dies without leaving children, his brother must marry his widow in a ceremony called yibbum. To prevent such forced marriages–which reportedly still occur, though very rarely, in highly traditional Sephardic Jewish communities–most rabbis strongly encourage halitza, in which a man’s brother relinquishes all claims to his sister-in-law.

In the ceremony, which is meant to be public, the woman kneels before her brother-in-law and removes a special handmade shoe from his foot. She is then required to spit on the ground next to him and recite several verses.

The plight of agunot–women whose husbands cannot or will not grant them a “get,” a Jewish divorce–is fairly well known because it affects thousands of women.

Halitza impacts far fewer. Each year halitza only affects about one or two Jewish women in the United States and between 15 and 20 in Israel, estimates the Rabbinate.

Although Jewish law requires all widows in this position to do halitza, some cases fall through the cracks and the ceremony isn’t performed, said Rivka Lubitch, a rabbinical court advocate whose articles often challenge the rabbinic status quo.

Rare as it is, halitza continues to evoke feelings of helplessness in the women it touches.

Lubitch, who also works at the Center for Women’s Justice in Jerusalem, said that marrying a brother-in-law protected some women in the old days. But she said the commandment became a practice that could be used against women by forcing them to marry against their will.

The custom also creates opportunities for abuse. Although less common than in the past, there continue to be stories of men who have no intention of marrying their brothers’ widows but extort money from them in return for their freedom.

Even in cases of goodwill, halitza is fraught with anxiety.

Lubitch, who is an Orthodox Jew, has urged influential rabbis to find ways to free both men and women from the burden of halitza.

Part of a longer article at http://www.womensenews.org/story/religion/100921/remarry-jewish-widow-first-kneels-custom

Hamas police ordered a Gaza hotel restaurant closed on Wednesday for allowing a woman to smoke a water pipe on its premises, one of its owners said.

It was believed to be the first time that Hamas Islamists who run the Gaza Strip have enforced their ban, announced in July, on women smoking the traditional tobacco-infused pipes in public.

“They acted as if they caught her red-handed committing a crime,” the hotel’s co-owner said of the encounter between Hamas police and the woman.

The man, who asked not to be identified, said the police “accused us of violating tradition and Islamic values” and ordered the hotel closed for three days. The order was later amended to cover only its restaurant.

A Hamas police spokesman denied the closure stemmed from a violation of the water pipe ban but said the hotels’ owners “committed some violations”, which he did not detail.

The water pipe ban has drawn criticism from human rights groups, which have accused Hamas of limiting public freedoms. Hamas leaders have denied any intention to impose Islamic law in the territory. (Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi)

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE68E1NN.htm

See also:

Closing of tourist places in Gaza for non-compliance with Islamic customs
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned over the unjustified intervention of the Ministry of Interior into public freedoms, closing a number of tourist places in Gaza City, imposing restrictions on their work and arresting one of these places’ owners under the pretext of gender mixture and non-compliance with the Islamic customs. PCHR calls upon the government in Gaza to take all necessary measures to ensure and respect public freedoms which are constitutionally guaranteed under relevant international standards.

Israeli and West Bank women risk jail for day at the beach
The day starts early, at a petrol station alongside a roaring Jerusalem road. The mood among the 15 Israeli women is a little tense, but it’s hardly surprising – they’re about to break the law and with it one of the country’s taboos. They plan to drive into the occupied West Bank, pick up Palestinian women and children and take them on a day trip to Tel Aviv.Today’s is the second such trip – another group of women went public with a similar action last month. It is hoped that these will become regular outings, designed to create awareness of the laws that govern movement for Palestinians, and to challenge the fears that Israelis have about travelling into the West Bank.

Afghanistan’s army got its first female officers in decades last week when 29 women graduated in a class of new recruits who hope to help take the lead role in national security from foreign forces by 2014.

President Hamid Karzai, NATO and the United States have been pushing to expand and train Afghanistan’s army, police and other security forces to allow them to take over during a planned drawdown of foreign troops.

The United States has said it will start its withdrawal in July 2011, although the process may take years.

“I am fully committed to serving my country, the same way as my Afghan brothers currently serving in the army. That is why I decided to join,” said female officer Mari Sharifi after the graduation ceremony at the Kabul Army Training Centre.

The women will not be sent to the frontline of the fight against the insurgency, which is raging at its strongest since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban government, and instead will largely be doing administrative work.

Women served in the army of Afghanistan’s communist-backed regime in the 1980s but retreated from military service during the civil war and hardline Taliban rule that followed the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan in 1989.

The British officer who oversaw their training said all the new recruits were good and enthusiastic soldiers.

“(They are) all keen as mustard to join the Afghan National Army, and I think you will have seen today a very professional display — and that is the bottom line,” said General David Peterson, Commander of the Army Training Centre.

Afghanistan’s armed forces and police number roughly 300,000, serving alongside about 150,000 foreign troops.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SGE68M0F0.htm

A group of women’s rights activists delivered a petition with five thousand signatures to the Iranian parliament urging the legislative body to “bar polygamy.” ILNA reports that the petition was delivered by 40 women who called on the parliament to halt al efforts in “promoting temporary marriages and polygamy.”

One of the activists announced that their efforts in the past week to meet with the parliament’s Legal and Judicial Commission had failed but the secretariat of the parliament had finally accepted the petition.

According to this report, efforts to collect more signatures continue and other women’s groups will deliver them to the parliamentary office in the coming days.

The Legal and Judicial Commission of the parliament is set to review the controversial articles of the Family Protection Bill regarding temporary marriages, polygamy and lump-sum alimony (mehrieh) on Tuesday.

Women’s activists along with a group of former women parliamentarians pushed the parliament to review these articles last month.

Women’s rights websites also published a letter signed by over 330 “men defending equal rights.”

The signatories state that the articles of this bill are discriminatory and “while they degrade women, they are also an insult to men because the proposed law presumes that men are only motivated by their sexual desires.”

The statement goes on to add that they believe men must struggle alongside women for equal gender rights.

The Family Protection Bill was introduced into the parliament three years ago at which time protests from women’s groups forced the lawmakers to shelve it. However, in the past months, Iranian hardliners have managed to re-introduce it into the parliament and re-ignite the controversy.

Source http://www.eurasiareview.com/201009268539/iranian-parliament-receives-petition-to-scrap-polygamy.html

Libya’s new nationality law granting women married to foreign spouses the right to pass their own nationality to their children is a significant move forward for women’s rights, Human Rights Watch said earlier this month. But the law still contains some contradictory provisions that could be interpreted to perpetuate discrimination, Human Rights Watch said.

The General People’s Committee (GPC) – the executive arm of Libya’s government – made public in July Law no. 24 of 2010 on the Provisions of Libyan Nationality, which it had adopted on January 28. Article 11 of the new law extends Libyan nationality to children born to Libyan mothers and foreign fathers, but leaves the interpretation of the provision to implementing regulations that the committee has not yet issued.

However, article 3 of the law appears to contradict article 11, and to perpetuate gender discrimination. Article 3 continues to define a Libyan as one who is born to a Libyan father or to a Libyan mother and a father who is stateless or whose nationality is unknown. There is no mention in article 3 of children born to a Libyan mother who is married to a man who has a nationality other than Libyan.

“The new nationality law will make it easier for some Libyan women married to men with other nationalities to pass on their citizenship to their children,” said Nadya Khalife, Middle East and North Africa women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But whether women gain full equality is going to depend on how fairly the new law is carried out.”

Officials should make sure that forthcoming regulations to implement the changes in nationality rights make clear that there is no difference between the rights of women and those of men to pass on their nationality, Human Rights Watch said.

The previous nationality law, Law no. 18 of 1980 on the Provisions of the Nationality Act and its Amendments, allowed Libyan women married to non-Libyans to retain their own nationality but not to pass it on to their children. Families in this situation found themselves denied the official documentation they needed to obtain some state services, such as medical care and subsidized food. They were also ineligible for the payments the state makes to families following the birth of a child.

In 2007 the government issued a decree ruling that children born to Libyan mothers and fathers of different nationalities were required to pay 800 dinars (around US$654) per year for their children to attend public schools. The GPC later ruled that fees could be waived for families that could not afford them.

In its first annual report on human rights for 2009, the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, an international non-governmental organization chaired by Saif al Islam al Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s leader, called for giving Libyan women married to men of various nationalities the right to pass on their nationality to their children. The report cited the issue as one of the country’s main human rights concerns.

Libya ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1970 with no reservations relevant to nationality or gender. The UN expert body that monitors implementation of the ICCPR has stated that to fulfil its treaty obligations, a government must ensure that women and men have equal capacity to transmit to children the parent’s nationality.

Libya has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but filed formal reservations to exempt itself from an obligation to comply with several provisions. It registered reservations to articles 2, on combating discrimination in all its forms, and 16, on equality in the family.

The UN expert body that monitors the convention says, however, that reservations to these articles are not permitted under the treaty. Â When the expert group reviewed Libya’s compliance with the treaty in 2009, it urged Libya to grant equal citizenship rights to men and women, including by amending the nationality law.

Libya is the only country in North Africa that has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which affirms equal rights for men and women with regard to the nationality of their children.

Numerous other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have nationality laws that continue to discriminate against women. These include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

“Authorities should amend Article 3 of the nationality law so that all Libyan women – just like all Libyan men – can pass on their nationality to their children, regardless of the nationality of their spouse,” Khalife said. “The forthcoming implementing regulations of the law should also guarantee identical rights for Libyan men and women in all nationality matters – with no exceptions.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/f3b3684ff3f3e571451c83e3d6799c4c.htm