Archive for the ‘Family Marriage Partnership’ Category

Campaign in Turkey about Women’s paid & unpaid labor

We would like to inform you about a campaign started in Turkey, in 5 different cities including Istanbul. The campaign will take one year and will be run by Socialist Feminist Collective http://www.sosyalistfeministkolektif.org/

Main theme of the campaign is to highlight women’s double shift between unpaid and paid labor and clarify our demands from men, capitalists and state. Below you may find the video of preparations and the public announcement in English http://picasaweb.google.com/filizfilizkk

We want back the hours, Days and Years we have spent on housework! We want back our due in the house!

We are calling on women to stop doing any housework until we are paid back our due. We want housework to be men’s work. Cooking, laundry, ironing, dish washing… Let men do the housework, day in and day out, for hours on end.

Let the fathers care for their children: Prepare them for school in the morning, prepare their meal in the evening and help them with their homework. When the kids are ill, let the fathers leave work and run home to look after them.

On the weekend, let the fathers take the kids to their leisure activities, go searching in the markets for cheap, healthy, nourishing food, go back to pick them back with their arms loaded.

Let sons care for their elderly mothers and fathers. Let them look after their parents when they are ill; let them remember to remind them when to take their pills; let them remember to give them baths…

While we women are watching TV in the evening, let men put the kettle on, put the kids to sleep and make the necessary preparations for he next day.

Let men learn how to share other people’s problems and to establish proper relations with their own fathers and sons.

We want back our due in the house!

We are calling on women to stop doing any housework until we are paid back our due. We want housework to be men’s work. Cooking, laundry, ironing, dish washing… Let men do the housework, day in and day out, for hours on end.

Let the fathers care for their children: Prepare them for school in the morning, prepare their meal in the evening and help them with their homework. When the kids are ill, let the fathers leave work and run home to look after them.

On the weekend, let the fathers take the kids to their leisure activities, go searching in the markets for cheap, healthy, nourishing food, go back to pick them back with their arms loaded.

Let sons care for their elderly mothers and fathers. Let them look after their parents when they are ill; let them remember to remind them when to take their pills; let them remember to give them baths…

While we women are watching TV in the evening, let men put the kettle on, put the kids to sleep and make the necessary preparations for he next day.

Let men learn how to share other people’s problems and to establish proper relations with their own fathers and sons.

We demand from the bosses!

We refuse to work exclusively in low paid, insecure and flexible jobs. Women also have the right to be unionised and to have access to social security.

Are men better in weaving, cutting out, sewing and designing? We want equal pay for equal worth!

We know very well that when parental leaves are transferable and optional, men prefer not to use them. We want non-transferable leaves for fathers.

We want crèches in all work places which hire more than fifty workers irrespective of sex! We want our children to go the crèche in their father’s work place.

We also demand neighbourhood crèches. Bosses hiring less than fifty workers should make financial contributions to the neighbourhood crèches in proportion to the number of their workers.

You have been privileging men for centuries. We want positive discrimination when we apply for jobs, while we work and in professional training courses. We demand quotas in “male jobs”!

The streets are not safe for women. We want safe transportation for 24 hours to and from work.

We demand from the state!

We demand the right to retirement pension at fifty, in return for the domestic labour we have spent on our husbands and companions. Retirement pension for housewives!

Although we run our households for years on end, when we go out to look for work, we are counted as unqualified labour.

We want to be paid unemployment fees once we start looking for a job, until we get one.We are only offered training courses in “female skills”.

We demand quotas for women in technical skill courses.We refuse to be deprived of social security when we do home-based work, work as care workers or cleaning ladies, or when we work on land for practically nothing.

We don’t want to have to count on our fathers or husbands when we are ill; we do not want to live on the street with an empty stomach. The right to individual health security and a decent shelter for all women!

We work both at home and in the work place. We do double shifts. We want early retirement!

When we say “enough is enough” and want to get a divorce, we want unconditional alimony payment: We refuse to be preached on decency, virtue and morals. The state should pay the alimony when the divorced husband fails to do so.

Is it only our responsibility to care for the elderly? We want professional public care for old people if they prefer to go on living in their own homes. We also demand good quality homes for old people.

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Research into ‘honour-based’ violence (HBV) and killings in Iraqi Kurdistan and the UK by Professor Aisha Gill (Roehampton University) with colleagues from Bristol University has earned plaudits from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UN.

Criminologist Dr Aisha Gill has called for an urgent consolidation of the legal provisions for robust legal, policing and prosecution procedures in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The new research by researchers at University of Bristol and Roehampton University, has found a need for dedicated service and policy development to demonstrate that the issue is taken seriously and that ‘honour’ based violence (HBV) and killings are no longer acceptable in the way that they may have been in the past.

Researchers from the Centre for Research on Gender and Violence, University of Bristol and Roehampton University are calling on the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq and the Coalition Government in the UK urgently to address violence against women in the name of ‘honour’ in response to a growing concern about alarming levels of violence against women and girls in Kurdish communities.

Dr Gill, Project Manager for the UK section of the research, said: “States across the world have duties under international law to respect, protect and support women’s rights, including taking steps to tackle violence against women.

“Although abuses that occur in the private sphere, such as so-called ‘honour’ killings, are crimes under the domestic laws of most countries, many states around the world continue to fail to demonstrate due diligence in this regard. Even now in the 21st Century, they still fail to prevent or investigate all such crimes, and fail to hold perpetrators to account.

“Thus, although legislation exists to protect women in theory, social tolerance of violence, cultural norms and a lack of political will often combine to nullify the law in practice. Further, cultural practices that have the effect of rendering women “invisible” create the conditions in which they suffer “invisible violence”, and may allow violators to act with impunity.”

Research from women’s organisations working closely with victims and survivors of HBV in Northern Iraq and in the Kurdish Diaspora, highlights the need for ongoing training and support, improved prosecution of individual perpetrators and support projects for victims, together with comprehensive awareness-raising and public education in culturally sensitive ways.

Dr Aisha Gill said: “Our findings call for improved international response. Globally, all states must ensure that victims who have encountered this form of gendered violence and those who have been threatened with or experienced HBV, receive immediate, confidential and comprehensive assistance, including access to legal help, and psychological and social support.”

Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt joined Dr Gill in Iraq to discuss her research and said he was pleased to add his support to this comprehensive study on the honour-based violence (HBV) and honour-based killings in Iraqi-Kurdistan and in the Kurdish Diaspora in the UK.

“Honour crimes have no place in a modern society and I have been heartened by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to crack down on them. No matter how unacceptable, traditions will always be difficult to change. Dealing with these crimes requires courage and determination and I welcome the KRG’s leadership and commitment to bring an end to impunity in this area. I am proud that, through Roehampton and Bristol Universities, the UK is supporting such crucial work,” he said.

“This report marks an important step. The recommendations offer a roadmap to combating honour-based violence in Iraqi Kurdistan. The UK will continue to work with the Kurdistan Regional Government in realising this goal.”

Details of the project in both English and Kurdish are available from Dr Aisha Gill.

http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/news/aishairaq.html

‘Control and Sexuality’ by Ziba Mir-Hosseini & Vanja Hamzić

The International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is pleased to announce the publication of Control and Sexuality: The Revival of Zina Laws in Muslim Contexts by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić. Copies can be purchased in the WLUML webshop for £12.00, and if you follow the link, you can download a sample chapter (the introduction) here: http://www.wluml.org/node/6869

Control and Sexuality by Ziba Mir-Hosseini and Vanja Hamzić examines zina laws in some Muslim contexts and communities in order to explore connections between the criminalisation of sexuality, gender-based violence and women’s rights activism. The Violence is Not Our Culture Campaign and the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network present this comparative study and feminist analysis of zina laws as a contribution to the broader objective of ending violence in the name of ‘culture’. It is hoped that the publication will help activists, policy-makers, researchers and other civil society actors acquire a better understanding of how culture and/or religion are invoked to justify laws that criminalise women’s sexuality and subject them to cruel, inhuman and degrading forms of punishment.

“It is most timely that this publication should emerge when issues of culture and human rights are being debated in many venues in the international arena: within the United Nations; in national and transnational, mainstream and alternative media outlets; and across social and political movements. Some cultural practices may be particularly detrimental to the rights of women and girls. All harmful practices, regardless of provenance and justification, must be eliminated. All human rights are universal, indivisible and inter-related. It is my hope that by building upon the progressive, equitable and just aspects of culture which are inherent to all, this book can make a substantial contribution towards the promotion of rights, under law and custom.” Farida Shaheed, UN Independent Expert on Cultural Rights

In solidarity,
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
International Solidarity Network
http://www.wluml.org
wluml@wluml.org

Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said 14 was too young, and someone that age would not be able to live up to the expectations of such an institution.

“A marriage is not just about having a wedding. It is more than that. At 14, one is too young to understand what marriage is all about. There is responsibility and a lifetime of commitment, as a wife, and later on as a parent. The syariah court must be more cautious when granting approvals in such cases,” she said when contacted.

The New Sunday Times had front-paged the picture of 14-year-old Siti Marham Mahmod, and husband Abdul Manan Othman, who participated in a 1Malaysia wedding celebration at the Federal Territory Mosque on Satueday.

The couple had tied the knot in July after getting the consent of the Syariah Court.

The couple’s union has also sparked concern among women’s organisations who have called on the government to address irregularities in the Child Act 2001 and the civil and Islamic family laws if it was serious in preventing child marriages.

Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah said the government should amend both the civil and Islamic family laws and set the minimum age for marriageability at 18 years for both genders. “There must be no exceptions,” said Josiah.

Under civil law, girls between 16 and 18 years old can marry, but it must be endorsed by the menteri besar or chief minister.

The minimum age under the Islamic Family Laws is 18 for men and 16 for women. However, the law also allows those younger to marry but with permission from the syariah judge under special circumstances.

“The Child Act 2001 defines that anyone under 18 years old is a child. We must stop using culture or religion as an excuse if the government is serious about protecting children from child marriages,” she said.

Empower Malaysia’s executive director Maria Chin Abdullah said permitting child marriages contravened the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the government had an obligation to uphold.

“Why be a part of the CRC or CEDAW if we are going to do things differently? Marriage is too big a commitment for a 14-year-old,” she said.

Maria said an early marriage would force the child to go straight into adulthood and enter a union, depriving him or her of a complete intellectual and emotional development.

Women in Action Malacca (WIM) president Rachel Samuel said it was unlikely a child understood what a marriage entailed when even adults needed time to adjust to being married.

“Those who are married and studying in universities, for example, see how different their lifestyles are compared to their single peers. It will be very tough for a child to juggle between being a wife and having to attend school, and later becoming a mother at an early age,” she said.

Samuel was all for raising the minimum age to 18, to enable a child to get the basic education and some experiences which will better prepare him or her for married life.

http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles//06mmb/Article/

The Violence is Not our Culture Campaign (VNC) and Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) are gravely concerned over the recent announcement made by the official Iranian television channel on alleged self-incriminating statements by Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and several others on state TV last 15 November. We join the rest of the international community in denouncing this latest move by the Iranian authorities which adds more injustice to the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani.

In her third TV appearance to be stage-managed by the Iranian official media, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani described herself as “a sinner”, and described her supporters abroad as “defending me without any reason. I do not even know these people.” Her son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, was also shown confessing to lying about his mother’s treatment in prison. Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kiyan, in an audio narration also ‘confessed’ to having told Sajjad to lie about the case. Both Sajjad and Javid have yet to be seen or visited by their families and lawyers since their arrest.

The two German journalists who were also arrested with Sajjad and Javid have allegedly also admitted, through a Persian voiceover, that they had been deceived by Mina Ahadi, a Germany-based Iranian woman campaigning on Sakineh’s case, who instigated their trip to Iran.

The journalists are currently detained in Tabriz and are facing charges of espionage.

Our human rights concerns

The following are our specific concerns on this latest development on the case of Sakineh in addition to what we have already stated in our previous statement issued last 12 November. http://www.wluml.org/node/6773

1. We are convinced that these ‘confessions’ shown on Iranian TV were made under duress and should not be accepted as evidence in court against Sakineh and others implicated in her case. Non-admission of evidence taken under duress is in accordance with Article 14(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Iran is a state party.

2. We affirm that peaceful means of exercising the rights to freedom of expression and association, such as campaigning for the freedom and right to life of prisoners like Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, are to be upheld. Those who were implicated in the case of Sakineh and detained by the Iranian authorities without reasonable charge should be released immediately and unconditionally. If they have committed a criminal offence under Iranian law they should be tried promptly and fairly and in a manner consistent with the standards set forth by the ICCPR. They should be granted immediate access to lawyers of their choice and to their families.

3. We reiterate our call for the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure that best practices of due process and the rights to a fair trial are protected in all cases, and especially those punishable by the death penalty. We also call for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s death sentence to be dropped on humanitarian grounds, and for the government of Iran to consider implementing a moratorium on the death penalty for adultery cases.

We urge our allies and supporters to continue their actions by telephoning, emailing and/or sending a letter to the Iranian authorities as described in our previous Call to Action: UPDATE: Iran: Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani case: another test of Iran’s flawed justice system.

http://www.wluml.org/node/6792

Federal Supreme Court Ruling Effectively Endorses Wife Beating

A decision by the United Arab Emirates Federal Supreme Court upholding a husband’s right to “chastise” his wife and children with physical abuse violates the right of the country’s women and children to liberty, security, and equality in the family – and potentially their right to life, Human Rights Watch said today. The ruling, citing the UAE penal code, sanctions beating and other forms of punishment or coercion providing the violence leaves no physical marks.

Human Rights Watch called on the government urgently to repeal all discriminatory laws, including any that sanction domestic violence.

“This ruling by the UAE’s highest court is evidence that the authorities consider violence against women and children to be completely acceptable,” said Nadya Khalife, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Domestic violence should never be tolerated under any circumstances. These provisions are blatantly demeaning to women and pose serious risks to their well-being.”

The October 5, 2010 court ruling, a copy of which Human Rights Watch obtained, states that, “Although the husband has the right to discipline his wife in accordance with article 53 of the penal code, he must abide by conditions setting limits to this right, and if the husband abuses this right to discipline, he shall not be exempt from punishment.”

Article 53 of the UAE’s penal code acknowledges the right of a “chastisement by a husband to his wife and the chastisement of minor children” so long as the assault does not exceed the limits prescribed by Shari’a. Similarly, article 56 of the UAE’s personal status code obligates women to “obey” their husbands.

The case was initiated with a trial of a man for kicking and slapping his 23-year-old daughter and slapping his wife at the Sharjah Court of First Instance in December 2009. According to the judgment, “medical reports confirmed the evidence of wounds to the daughter’s right hand and right knee, and evidence of wounds to the wife’s lower lip and injuries to her teeth.”

This court found the man guilty of violating article 2/339 of the penal code and fined him 500 dirhams (US $136). This penal provision on crimes against persons states that whoever assaults another person, if the assault did not reach the degree of seriousness to cause illness or disability, shall be sentenced to prison for a term not exceeding one year and a fine not to exceed 10,000 dirhams (US$2,722)

The Sharjah Court of Appeals upheld the decision on February 14, but the man appealed to the Federal Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found the man guilty of abusing his daughter because she is no longer a minor and too old to be disciplined by her father. The court also found the man guilty of “abusing his Shari’a rights” when disciplining his wife because of the severity of that attack. The judgment states that, “The court, convinced of the appearance of injuries on the bodies of the plaintiffs, has overridden the defendant’s right to discipline due to his use of severe beatings.” In effect, the Supreme Court validated the penal code’s legalization of domestic violence, but found that in this case the abuse went too far.

In 2004, the UAE signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The convention’s General Recommendation on Violence against Women regards gender-based violence as a form of discrimination between men and women and calls on governments to take effective measures to combat all forms of violence against women, regardless of whether the act is private or public. The UAE also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1997. Article 19 of the CRC states that parties shall take all appropriate measures to protect children from all forms of violence, whether physical or mental.

“The UAE Supreme Court’s ruling lets stand a law that is degrading, discriminatory, and outright dangerous for women and children,” Khalife said. “The UAE needs to come to grips with reality of domestic violence, repeal all discriminatory provisions sanctioning violence against women and children, enact laws that criminalize such behavior, and provide appropriate services to victims.”

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/10/19/uae-spousal-abuse-never-right

Nine American mothers whose children died fighting in Iraq were embraced last week by dozens of Iraqi women who lost their own children during decades of war and violence in a meeting participants said brought them a measure of peace. The gathering in Iraq’s mostly peaceful northern Kurdish region was far from the sites of the roadside bombings or battlefields that accounted for the vast majority of the more than 4,400 U.S. military deaths since the 2003 invasion, but it was still a powerful experience for some mothers to even step foot in Iraq.

Some kissed the ground during their arrival Saturday.

“I was overwhelmed at touch down. We were really on the ground in Iraq. I was almost in disbelief that it was real. This is where my son spent the last days of his life, and now, I was there,” said a blog entry by Amy Galvez of Salt Lake City, whose son, Cpl. Adam Galvez, was killed in 2006.

In another web post she said she would return home a “different person.”

“I will be in the country where my son spent the last days of his life,” she wrote. “I’ll have visited the land where a piece of my heart will remain forever.”

The beginning of the Americans’ three-day trip — organized by a Virginia-based women’s aid group, Families United Toward Universal Respect — was attended by officials from State Department and Kurdish regional government.

Nawal Akhil, deputy chief of the group’s Baghdad office, said the goal was to “talk about their suffering to find a way to ease it.”

“We share the same ordeals and suffering — the American mothers who lost their children and the Iraqi mothers who lost their loved ones during the Saddam Hussein-era and in the violence since 2003,” said Akhil.

Elaine Johnson, of Cordova, South Carolina, said the trip allowed her to come to terms with the loss of her son, Spc. Darius Jennings, killed in November 2003 in Fallujah as the insurgency that went on to rip the country apart gained strength.

“Before making this trip, I was angry for my child’s death,” she said. “But after making this trip, I feel peace, peace, peace.”

The dozens of Iraqi mothers included Kurds whose family members were killed in Saddam’s 1980s scorched-earth campaign to wipe out a Kurdish rebellion in the north that claimed at least 100,000 lives, including thousands in poison gas attacks.

“When I hugged an American woman we couldn’t express ourselves in words, but what helped us to express our feelings and understand each other were our tears. We found them as a true expression to our grief and suffering,” said Peroz Nasser, a 55-year-old Kurdish woman who lost her parents and two brothers and two sisters during Saddam’s attacks.

Part of a longer report at http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/iraqi-women-embrace-american-633055.html

A global campaign that aims to save the lives of 16 million mothers and children over the next five years was being launched by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday with as much as $40 billion in commitments from world governments and private aid groups.

The so-called Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health was being announced at the end of a three-day summit to review efforts to implement anti-poverty goals adopted at a summit in 2000. These include cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring universal primary education, halting and reversing the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and cutting child and maternal mortality.

“Women and children play a crucial role in development,” Ban said in a statement prepared for the event that was released by his office. “Investing in their health is not only the right thing to do — it also builds stable, peaceful and productive societies. ”

Ban has made the reduction of maternal and child deaths a personal campaign, and it has been a key topic during the summit. Worldwide every year, an estimated 8 million children die before reaching their 5th birthday, and about 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth.

Even before the details were announced, the international aid organization Oxfam expressed skepticism about how much money was truly new, and how the program would be administered and held accountable.

“That kind of money would go a long way toward reaching the child and maternal health goals, but we have a big concern,” said Oxfam spokeswoman Emma Seery. “Where will that money come from?

“Half of the donors cut their aid last year” amid the global economic crisis, she said. “We’re just nervous that it will be governments bringing together a lot of previous commitments, and that won’t mean much for poor people.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expected at the afternoon “Every Woman, Every Child” event, along with world leaders including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the prime ministers of Ethiopia, Norway, and Tanzania. Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was also on the advance roster of speakers.

“When we first started talking about this five years ago, there didn’t seem to be any interest, very little commitment,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, a pediatrician who heads the World Health Organization’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Geneva, Switzerland.

“But with the help of many, and the leadership of the Secretary General, this week is like a dream come true,” said Bustreo, whose organization has worked with Ban’s office on the strategy in recent months.

WHO will chair the global strategy, with a progress report delivered annually to the U.N. General Assembly, she said.

Bustreo said some money could be used to pay for simple, inexpensive tools and practices that could save millions of the world’s children each year.

She said the 1 million newborns who die each year through aspiration — literally drowning from fluid in the breathing passage — could have been saved with a tool that has a bulb like a turkey baster that uses suction to clear away liquids.

The lives of older children can be saved with re-hydration liquids to combat diarrhea, immunizations for childhood diseases like measles, and vitamin supplements to fight malnutrition, she said.

Improving maternal health is more difficult — and costly. Bustreo said half of all maternal deaths are caused by complications of delivery, such as obstructive labor, that require surgery.

In 2000, the U.N. set “Millennium Development Goals” that included reducing child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jEjj_XD4L21sQLY3DEogHXxLXQHAD9ICPTGG0

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

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

It is a tragedy, a horror, a crime against humanity. The details of the murders – of the women beheaded, burned to death, stoned to death, stabbed, electrocuted, strangled and buried alive for the “honour” of their families – are as barbaric as they are shameful. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and South-west Asia suspect the victims are at least four times the United Nations’ latest world figure of around 5,000 deaths a year. Most of the victims are young, many are teenagers, slaughtered under a vile tradition that goes back hundreds of years but which now spans half the globe.

A 10-month investigation by The Independent in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank has unearthed terrifying details of murder most foul. Men are also killed for “honour” and, despite its identification by journalists as a largely Muslim practice, Christian and Hindu communities have stooped to the same crimes. Indeed, the “honour” (or ird) of families, communities and tribes transcends religion and human mercy. But voluntary women’s groups, human rights organisations, Amnesty International and news archives suggest that the slaughter of the innocent for “dishonouring” their families is increasing by the year.

Iraqi Kurds, Palestinians in Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey appear to be the worst offenders but media freedoms in these countries may over-compensate for the secrecy which surrounds “honour” killings in Egypt – which untruthfully claims there are none – and other Middle East nations in the Gulf and the Levant. But honour crimes long ago spread to Britain, Belgium, Russia and Canada and many other nations. Security authorities and courts across much of the Middle East have connived in reducing or abrogating prison sentences for the family murder of women, often classifying them as suicides to prevent prosecutions.

Over 10 years ago, Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission was recording “honour” killings at the rate of a thousand a year. But if Pakistan seems to have the worst track record of “honour” crimes – and we must remember that many countries falsely claim to have none – Turkey might run a close second. According to police figures between 2000 and 2006, a reported 480 women – 20 per cent of them between the ages of 19 and 25 – were killed in “honour” crimes and feuds. Other Turkish statistics, drawn up more than five years ago by women’s groups, suggest that at least 200 girls and women are murdered every year for “honour”. These figures are now regarded as a vast underestimate. Many took place in Kurdish areas of the country; an opinion poll found that 37 per cent of Diyabakir’s citizens approved of killing a woman for an extramarital affair. Medine Mehmi, the girl who was buried alive, lived in the Kurdish town of Kahta.

British Kurdish Iraqi campaigner Aso Kamal, of the Doaa Network Against Violence, believes that between 1991 and 2007, 12,500 women were murdered for reasons of “honour” in the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq alone – 350 of them in the first seven months of 2007, for which there were only five convictions. Many women are ordered by their families to commit suicide by burning themselves with cooking oil. In Sulimaniya hospital in 2007, surgeons were treating many women for critical burns which could never have been caused by cooking “accidents” as the women claimed. In 2000, Kurdish authorities in Sulimaniya had decreed that “the killing or abuse of women under the pretext of cleansing ‘shame’ is not considered to be a mitigating excuse”. The courts, they said, could not apply an old 1969 law “to reduce the penalty of the perpetrator”. The new law, of course, made no difference.

In Jordan, women’s organisations say that per capita, the Christian minority in this country of just over five million people are involved in more “honour” killings than Muslims – often because Christian women want to marry Muslim men. But the Christian community is loath to discuss its crimes and the majority of known cases of murder are committed by Muslims.

And, of course, we should perhaps end this catalogue of crime in Britain, where only in the past few years have we ourselves woken to the reality of “honour” crimes.

Scotland Yard long ago admitted it would have to review over a hundred deaths, some going back more than a decade, which now appear to have been “honour” killings.

Part of a longer article at http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-the-crimewave-that-shames-the-world-2072201.html

This is part of a series of articles in UK newspaper the Independent:
* One woman’s nightmare, and a crime against humanity
* Relatives with blood on their hands
* The lie behind mass ‘suicides’ of Egypt’s young women
* A place of refuge from fear and guilt
* The truth about ‘honour’ killings

The war has had any number of hidden costs for Iraqis. One that few outside Iraq might notice or even consider a significant problem: More women are finding themselves over 30 and single after seven years of bloody turmoil that made marriage more difficult, killing many young men and blowing apart social networks.

In Iraq’s conservative society, women are expected to be married in their teens or early 20s. Women who cross the 30-year threshold and are single face powerful social stigmas and live under heavy limitations.

Generally, they must continue living with their parents or other family. If they are not wealthy, educated or employed, they are often reduced by relatives to servitude — cleaning, washing, cooking and watching over small children.

Work opportunities are limited. At jobs or in public, unmarried women are sometimes seen as vulnerable, without the protection of a husband. Some almost never leave their houses.

There are no figures available for the number of single females in their 30s in Iraq, but women’s rights activists say it is beyond question that a disproportionately large number of them exists.

Being female, single and over 30 was already common because of Iraq’s decades of conflict, including the bloody Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. But their number is believed to have significantly grown since 2003. Besides the young men killed in violence, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — many of them fighting-age males — fled the country.

Also, suicide bombings, sectarian slayings, death squads and gunbattles disrupted social networks for marriage. People feared leaving their homes, so young people had little chance to meet potential spouses.

Family visits, traditionally an opportunity for the men to meet future spouses have become rare during the height of the violence.

The Shiite-Sunni violence also meant that cross-sect marriages have become much less frequent.

Economic woes have also left many young men unable to afford the heavy expenses they must traditionally pay for marriage — including buying or renting and furnishing a home.

Jinan Mubarak, the head of a leading non-governmental women’s organization in Baghdad, said the problems unmarried women face get little attention as the government focuses on helping the hundreds of thousands of widows left by wars.

“Single women are constantly harassed at work and at home because of their perceived vulnerability,” she said. “They are exploited by their families too.”

Women’s activists are publicly debating solutions to promote marriage, like having the government offer cash incentives to men prepared to marry older women or take second wives, allowed under Islamic law.

Mubarak cautiously backs one proposal for the government to pay a one-off sum of money to men who marry a woman over the age of 35. But she recognizes such a policy has its dangers for women.

“Women are not merchandise for sale, there must be guarantees of good intentions on the part of the men if we allow this to go ahead,” she said.

To encourage marriage amid economic hard times, authorities and charities often organize mass weddings free of charge for couples unable to afford private parties and offer them wedding presents of cash or domestic appliances.

But another women’s rights activist, Hanaa Adwar, says such gestures won’t solve the deeper problems for unmarried women. “The real solution is in security, the revival of the economy and tackling unemployment,” she said.

Unmarried women “must be given vocational skills to earn a living and get help to start small projects and be integrated in society,” she said.

Part of a longer article at http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Female-single-over-30-Iraqis-count-cost-of-war-646740.php

As soon as the divorce bill was filed, it immediately generated a lot of emotional reactions from different sectors, especially the Catholic church. Unable to shy away from the debate on the divorce bill, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III recently declared that he is against divorce but is for legal separation with the option to remarry, which some sectors say is tantamount to divorce.

In the Philippines, which has a predominantly conservative Roman Catholic population, divorce is frowned at in public, although a lot of married couples have been living separately. Couples from wealthy families travel abroad to get divorced and to remarry. The Philippines is only one of two countries that do not have a divorce law yet. Gabriela said Malta, a Mediterranean island, has yet to legislate a divorce bill, too.

Women’s group Gabriela and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) are pushing for the passage of House Bill 1799, “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines.” Filed recently by GWP Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmie de Jesus in Congress, they said this would give couples particularly women the option to terminate a marriage that is no longer working, is already beyond saving and already detrimental to their well-being.

“The absence of a law on divorce is a crucible that will help us move forward from the lowest global ranking on this matter, as globally the Philippines remains as one of just two countries that has no divorce law yet,” Ilagan said in a statement.

Between January and May this year, 204 of the 294 cases of violence against women (VAW) reported to Gabriela were cases of domestic violence, Montes said. She said that aside from emotional abandonment, many of these women complained of financial neglect as they are left on their own to eke out a living for the whole family.

“Wife battery is a reality we cannot turn a blind eye to. When a woman is beaten up by her husband, she must have the freedom to leave the marriage; but at present women do not have this option because existing laws on legal separation and annulment miserably fail to address this reality,” explained Montes.

Culturally and traditionally the burden of making the marriage work and keep it intact lie on women, said Gabriela. Women are prescribed by society to sacrifice themselves to save the marriage. “But we would like to remind the state that it is its policy to ensure fundamental equality, before the law, of women and men; and where a woman is confined to a marriage where she only knows suffering, there is nothing of that equality,” Montes said.

This is the reason why GWP actively supports HB 1799; they called on their colleagues in Congress to make the divorce bill a living proof that it is a “progressive and forward-looking House”.

Ilagan said she believes Congress would allow for intelligent and rights-based discourse on the bill as that is consistent with House Speaker Sonny Belmonte’s call for each and every representative to “overcome self-interest to raise Filipinos and the Philippines to a proud stature in the global ranking of nations”.

The Philippines is a conservative country that thinks a divorce law will only create more broken families because a couple with problems could easily opt for divorce. Some believe that if the divorce bill is passed it will make a mockery of marriage.

Rep. De Jesus stressed that in other Catholic countries like Spain and Italy where a divorce law is in force, it did not necessarily resulted in an increase in divorce cases filed in court.

De Jesus added that as early as on the first week after the divorce bill was filed and tackled by media, some sectors are already forwarding biased and unfounded fears. She said Gabriela has counselled a lot of married women who have been abused or battered, but who considered leaving their husbands only after years and years of repetitive and cyclical battering.

“A couple who is in a happy or satisfactory marital relationship would definitely not seek divorce just because it is legal. It is not easy to build a quality marital relationship. We at Gabriela would be the first to advice couples to work more on their relationship as this redounds to their holistic well being and promotion of the rights of both partners in the relationship,” she said.

Part of a longer article at http://www.bulatlat.com/main/2010/08/21/women%e2%80%99s-groups-push-for-divorce-bill/

The move follows a decision by the state government of Malacca to allow under-age marriages as a way of preventing the abandonment of babies, and unwanted pregnancies.

Under Malaysian law, Muslim couples wanting to marry must first be tested for the HIV virus.

Ivy Josiah from Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation, says it is this examination that alerted women’s groups to the number of under-age girls getting married.

“There was, shockingly, 32 girls under 10 years of age (who) undertook the premarital HIV test in 2009,” she told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific program. “In the 15-19 year old group, 1,911 boys and 6,815 girls were tested.

“This is not right, even though it’s allowed for in the Islamic shariah law.”

The organisation recently established Malaysia’s first “baby hatch” to accept abandoned infants, following an increase in the number of reported cases of babies being abandoned.

Datuk Haji Harusanni Zakaria, Head of the Mufti Council in Perak state, says he understands why Malacca’s Islamic Religious Council decided to relax conditions for young Muslim girls to marry.

“This is according to our religion, this is to save her and the child.”

But Yasmin Masidi, of the Sisters of Islam, says the move is a kneejerk reaction to what is primarily a health and education issue.

She said: “I think it’s necessary to understand there is already a clause within shariah law in Malaysia that allows Muslim girls under the age of 16 and Muslim boys under the age of 18 to marry but with the permission of the Shariah Court.

“What the Malaccan Islamic Council did was to relax the conditions for these minors to marry.

“As far as Sisters of Islam is concerned, we feel the absolute minimum age to marry is 18 years . . . Our position really is that in the Koran, marriageable age is linked to sound judgement and maturity of mind. Puberty alone is really not sufficient.”

The Malaysian Government has issued a statement saying under-age marriage is morally and socially unacceptable.

While it says child marriages should not be encouraged as they are detrimental to the development and wellbeing of the child, the government has so far refused to change the law.

Women’s groups say the law contravenes UN human rights treaties ratified by Malaysia.

http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/stories/201008/2976234.htm?desktop

Thirteen of every 100 married Kenyan women have co-wives. This means they are married to men who have at least one or more other wives, according to the latest official statistics on population trends.

Although the figure represents a drop from the 16 of every 100 married women who had co-wives in 2003, the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), 2008/2009 says Kenyan men should restrain themselves from taking more than one wife.

Polygamy means multiple spouses; polygyny means multiple wives; and polyandry means multiple husbands. Experts believe that in Kenya polygyny is one of the social practices fuelling the spread of HIV/Aids.

It also perpetuates large families, frustrating campaigns to control population growth estimated at 2.3 per cent per year. Results of last year’s national population census — now scheduled to be released next month— are expected to show that Kenya has a population of 40 million people, a number so high that it will dominate today’s World Population Day official celebrations being held in Mombasa.

“We get worried by polygamous marriages because they increase the
likelihood that co-wives will compete among themselves at having more children and end up contributing to the average number of births per women,” said Samuel Ogola, a programme officer at the National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development.

The situation, he said, was worse among less educated women, an observation confirmed in the KDHS report. It shows that educated women were less likely to practice polygamy, a practice that was common in past centuries when having more women and children was considered to be a status symbol and a source of pride for men.

Having more daughters in the past was seen as a source of wealth from the dowry paid to their families when they were married.

http://thecitizen.co.tz/news/2-international-news/2932-polygamy-ups-hiv-infection-risk-in-kenya.html

Earlier this month, Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardotti married her longtime partner Jonina Leosdottir, making her the first head of government in the world to marry a same-sex partner. The couple married last Sunday, which was both the international day for gay rights and the day that a new law legalizing same-sex marriage in Iceland went into effect. Sigurdardotti called the new law “cause for celebration for all Icelanders”, according to the Examiner.

The legislation is particularly notable because it goes one step beyond being gender neutral and explicitly states that “woman and woman” and “man and man” are included in the definition of marriage, according to On Top Magazine. The bill, first introduced in March of this year, was voted in by 49 of 63 members of the parliament on June 12. The remaining 12 members of the Icelandic parliament abstained, making the vote unanimous. The law replaces a 1996 law that allowed registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Sigurdardotti and her partner had this type of union prior to their wedding. Married partners will now have all the legal benefits and responsibilities that heterosexual married couples have.

In 2009, Sigurdardotti became the first woman and openly gay Prime Minister in the nation’s history. Sigurdardotti became interim prime minister when Former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned in January as a result of Iceland’s economic collapse. She was then appointed by Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and had previously served as the welfare minister under Haarde. She is currently the only openly gay national leader in the world.

The Scandinavian countries are often recognized internationally for their socially progressive policies and overall tolerance of differing lifestyles. In 2009, for instance, Iceland had the highest gender equality index of the 134 countries that were analyzed in a World Economic Forum study. Frederick Federley, a highly respected Swedish attorney, is openly gay, according to the Associated Press. Denmark started to register same-sex partnerships over 20 years ago and was the first to do so.

Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six other European countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Portugal).

http://www.feminist.org/news/newsbyte/uswirestory.asp?id=12485

At least 245 million women around the world have been widowed and more than 115 million of them live in devastating poverty, according to a new study launched Tuesday night by Cherie Blair, wife of the former British prime minister.

The most dire consequences are faced by 2 million Afghan widows and at least 740,000 Iraqi widows who lost their husbands as a result of the ongoing conflicts; by widows and their children evicted from their family homes in sub-Saharan Africa; by elderly widows caring for grandchildren orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis, and by child widows aged 7 to 17 in developing countries, the report said.

“Across the world, widows suffer dreadful discrimination and abuse,” Blair said. “In too many cases they’re pushed to the very margins of society, trapped in poverty and left vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.”

She said many are cheated out of their husbands’ assets and property and expelled from their family home — and since they have no money they can’t support their children, “so misery is heaped on grief.”

Blair was in New York to launch the report entitled “Invisible Forgotten Sufferers: The Plight of Widows around the World,” commissioned by the Loomba Foundation which works in a dozen countries to help widows and educate their children.

“The plight of widows — in the shadows of the world — is a human rights catastrophe,” said Blair, the foundation’s president. “It’s really a hidden humanitarian crisis.”

She said the foundation had been working on the basis that there were about 100 million widows but decided to do a study from published sources to get a more accurate figure. She said the foundation was surprised to discover there were at least 245 million widows worldwide, almost half living in poverty.

The report stressed that persecution against widows and their children is not limited to the developing world, noting that large numbers of widows are also found in Europe and Central Asia.

According to the report, the countries with the highest number of widows in 2010 were China with 43 million, India with 42.4 million, the United States with 13.6 million, Indonesia with 9.4 million, Japan with 7.4 million, Russia with 7.1 million, Brazil with 5.6 million, Germany with 5.1 million, and Bangladesh and Vietnam with about 4.7 million each.

Blair said women become widows when their husbands are killed in conflicts, die of diseases including HIV/AIDS, or are killed because they work in dangerous conditions, the only jobs available to many poor men.

When their husbands die, she said, some women are required to be “cleansed,” some are erroneously accused of murder or witchcraft, some are required to marry another member of the family, many are disinherited and forced out of their homes and many are raped.

According to the report, over 500 million dependent and adult children of widows are caught in a vicious underworld in which disease, forced servitude, homelessness and violence are rampant and youngsters are denied schooling, enslaved or preyed upon by human traffickers.

The foundation was established in 1997 by Raj and Veena Loomba in honor of Loomba’s mother, who was widowed at the age of 37 in India when her husband died of tuberculosis and raised her seven children by herself.

“There are few resources in the world available to help widows achieve a safer, more comfortable existence and to promote their equality and pursue justice on their behalf,” Loomba said.

He said that’s why the foundation is campaigning to put the plight of the world’s widows on the U.N. agenda and to have June 23 — his mother’s birthday — declared International Widows Day to raise awareness of the crisis.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gNgKvlVIH_8PRBJMtkMkfBHe1-fQD9GGR8NO0

The rising number of honour killings in the capital reflects the “Talibanisation” of society, say women’s rights groups, adding that the central government should enact a law to put down the pernicious practice.

“This is absolutely inhuman treatment for any society. This is not honour killing…it is caste killing. Moreover, whose honour are they talking about? Killing your own sons and daughters in the name of honour is wrong. This is Talibanisation, if you defy the so-called rules you are killed,” Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research (CSR), told IANS.

The organisation has started an online signature campaign requesting President Pratibha Patil to ban such extremist justice.

“India cannot afford to have a parallel justice system, which undoes all the good that was ushered in by its founding fathers. Also, the tyranny unleashed by khap panchayats on the pretext of safeguarding tradition needs to be quelled under threat of severe punishment,” the petition said.

“We were already worried after the Khap panchayat’s diktat because we were afraid that others will follow. These people should be punished severely. But the sad reality is that this hierarchical caste mindset is present even in our law agencies,” she said.

The national capital has reported two honour killing cases within a week’s time.

A 19-year-old girl and her boyfriend were tortured to death by the girl’s uncle and father in north Delhi’s Swaroop Nagar area June 14.

On Monday, a man and woman who were married four years ago against the wishes of the girl’s parents were found murdered in north Delhi’s Ashok Vihar amid speculation that it might be a honour killing.

Several honour killing cases were recently reported from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana as well.

The “Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat” (all community council congregation) in Haryana is demanding amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act to ban same-gotra (sub-caste) marriages.

“These incidents are shocking and a big blot on any respectable society. The government should not accept the demand of khap panchayat to amend the Hindu Marriage Act. It should be on the individual (girl or boy) to decide about their partners,” said Kanta Singh, senior programme officer with WomenPowerConnect.

Following a spurt in honour killing incidents, the Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the central government and some states on the risisng incidents being reported across the country.

“Earlier such incidents were limited to Haryana and now its in Delhi. I think it is the responsibility of the state governments to curb such events,” said Moushumi Basu of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Honour-killings-Talibanisation-of-society-Women-s-groups/Article1-561630.aspx

Kurdistan Regional Government Should Outlaw the Practice

A significant number of girls and women in Iraqi Kurdistan suffer female genital mutilation (FGM) and its destructive after-effects, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report. The Kurdistan Regional Government should take immediate action to end FGM and develop a long term plan for its eradication, including passing a law to ban the practice, Human Rights Watch said.

The 73-page report, “‘They Took Me and Told Me Nothing’: Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan” (download from http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/06/16/they-took-me-and-told-me-nothing-0 ) documents the experiences of young girls and women who undergo FGM against a backdrop of conflicting messages from some religious leaders and healthcare professionals about the practice’s legitimacy and safety. The report describes the pain and fear that girls and young women experience when they are cut, and the terrible toll that it takes on their physical and emotional health. It says the regional government has been unwilling to prohibit FGM, despite its readiness to address other forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence and so-called honor killings.

“FGM violates women’s and children’s rights, including their rights to life, health, and bodily integrity,” said Nadya Khalife, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s time for the regional government to step up to the plate and take concrete actions to eliminate this harmful practice because it simply won’t go away on its own.”

Human Rights Watch researchers conducted interviews during May and June 2009, with 31 girls and women in four villages of northern Iraq and in the town of Halabja. Researchers also interviewed Muslim clerics, midwives, healthcare workers, and government officials. Local nongovernmental organizations say that FGM may also be practiced among other communities in the rest of Iraq, but there are no data on its prevalence outside the Kurdish region.

The prevalence of FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan is not fully known as the government does not routinely collect information on the practice. However, research conducted by local organizations indicates that the practice is widespread and affects a significant number of girls and women.

The evidence obtained by Human Rights Watch suggests that for many girls and women in Iraqi Kurdistan, FGM is an unavoidable procedure that they undergo sometimes between the ages of 3 and 12. In some cases documented by Human Rights Watch, societal pressures also led adult women to undergo the procedure, sometimes as a precondition of marriage.

Human Rights Watch met Gola, a 17-year-old student from the village of Plangan. Gola told Human Rights Watch, “I remember my mother and her sister-in-law took us two girls, and there were four other girls. We went to Sarkapkan for the procedure. They put us in the bathroom, held our legs open, and cut something. They did it one by one with no anesthetics. I was afraid, but endured the pain. I have lots of pain in this specific area they cut when I menstruate.”

Young girls and women described how their mothers had taken them to the home of the village midwife, a non-licensed practitioner. They were almost never told in advance what was going to happen to them. When they arrived, the midwife, sometimes with the help of the mother, spread the girl’s legs and cut her clitoris with a razor blade. Often, the midwife used the same razor to cut several girls in succession.

Doctors in Iraqi Kurdistan told Human Rights Watch that the most common type of FGM believed to be practiced there is partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or prepuce, also known as clitoridectomy. Health care workers said that an even more invasive procedure was sometimes performed on adult women in hospitals. The practice serves no medical purpose and can lead to serious physical and emotional consequences.

The previous regional government took some steps to address FGM, including a 2007 Justice Ministry decree, supposedly binding on all police precincts, that perpetrators of FGM should be arrested and punished. However, the existence of the decree is not widely known, and Human Rights Watch found no evidence that it has ever been enforced.

In 2008, the majority of members of the Kurdistan National Assembly (KNA) supported the introduction of a law banning FGM, but the bill was never enacted into law and its status is unknown. In early 2009, the Health Ministry developed a comprehensive anti-FGM strategy in collaboration with a nongovernmental organization. But the ministry later withdrew its support and halted efforts to combat FGM. A public awareness campaign about FGM and its consequences has also been inexplicably delayed.

The new government, elected in July 2009, has taken no steps to eradicate the practice.

The origins of FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan are unclear. Some girls and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were told that it is rooted in a belief that anything they touch is haram, or unclean, until they go through this painful procedure, while others said that FGM was a traditional custom. Most women referred to FGM as an Islamic sunnah, an action taken to strengthen one’s religion that is not obligatory.

The association of FGM with Islam has been rejected by many Muslim scholars and theologians, who say that FGM is not prescribed in the Quran and is contradictory to the teachings of Islam. Women and girls interviewed said they had received mixed messages from clerics about whether it was a religious obligation. Clerics interviewed said that when any practice interpreted as sunnah endangers people’s lives, it is the duty of the clerics to stop it.

Health care workers interviewed gave mixed responses both about their concerns about the harm FGM causes and about their obligation to raise awareness about the dangers of FGM.

Two studies have been conducted recently to try to determine the prevalence of the practice. In January 2009, the former Human Rights Ministry conducted a study in the Chamchamal district with a sample of 521 students ages 11 to 24. It found that 40.7 percent of the sample had undergone the procedure – 23 percent of girls under age13, and 45 percent of those ages 14 and older.

In 2010, the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation (WADI), a German-Iraqi human rights nongovernmental organization, published the results of a study conducted between September 2007 and May 2008 in the provinces of Arbil and Sulaimaniya, and the Germian/Kirkuk region. Interviews with 1,408 women and girls ages 14 and over found that 72.7 percent had undergone the procedure – 77.9 percent in Sulaimaniya, 81.2 percent in Germian, and 63 percent in Arbil.

The wider age range of girls and women interviewed may account in part for the higher overall percentages. The percentage was 57 percent for those ages 14 to 18 in this study.

Human Rights Watch called on the regional authorities to develop a long-term plan that involves government, health care workers, clerics, and communities in efforts to eradicate the practice. The strategy should include a law to ban FGM for children and non-consenting adult women; awareness raising programs on the health consequences of FGM; and the mainstreaming of FGM prevention into policies and programs for reproductive health, education, and literacy development.

The government also should work closely with communities and people of influence in those communities to encourage debate about the practice among men, women, and children, including awareness and understanding of the human rights of girls and women, Human Rights Watch said.

“The government not only needs to take action to end this practice, but to work for public affirmation of a new standard – not mutilating their girls,” Khalife said.

“FGM is a complex issue, but its harm to girls and women is clear,” Khalife said. “Eradicating it in Iraqi Kurdistan will require strong and dedicated leadership on the part of the regional government, including a clear message that FGM will no longer be tolerated.”

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/06/16/iraqi-kurdistan-girls-and-women-suffer-consequences-female-genital-mutilation