Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Joint Action Group For Gender Equality (JAG) is greatly concerned with recent announcement in Star (Dec 29) that the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) intends to take action against Azwan Ismail for posting a video on YouTube entitled “I’m Gay, I’m OK” as part of a video campaign launched in response to accounts of suicides and attempted suicides by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) teenagers and adults.

We are appalled that government authorities have not condemned the threats of murder and violence against Azwan Ismail and other members of Seksualiti Merdeka who were involved in the campaign, but instead have fanned violence and hatred with homophobic and discriminatory statements.

Women have never been strangers to discrimination. That is why women’s groups seek to uphold Article 8 of the Malaysian federal constitution that clearly guarantees that, “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law.”

JAG stands by Seksualiti Merdeka’s attempt to reach out to Malaysians who face overwhelming feelings of loneliness, fear or hopelessness resulting from the stigma and discrimination against them for being LGBT. They should not be persecuted for trying to address a human issue with understanding and compassion.

JAG is deeply concerned with the culture of hatred and intolerance bred in Malaysian society today against those who are different, be it on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This demonisation of the “other” goes against the true inclusive and tolerant spirit of being Malaysian.

As Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated:

“Neither the existence of national laws, nor the prevalence of custom can ever justify the abuse, attacks, torture and indeed killings that gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender persons are subjected to, because of who they are or are perceived to be.

“Because of the stigma attached to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, violence against LGBT persons is frequently unreported, undocumented and goes ultimately unreported and unpunished. Rarely does it provoke public debate and outrage. This shameful silence is the ultimate rejection of the fundamental principle of universality of rights.”

Azwan Ismail is not the first gay Muslim man in Malaysia nor will he be the last. Being gay is not a crime, however, hate speech as per Sections 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and making threats to commit acts of violence as stated in Section 503 of the Penal Code are crimes under Malaysian laws.

We urge Malaysians to stand up to such hatred and violence and reach out to all those who are discriminated against in peace and compassion.

Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) comprises Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) and Perak Women for Women Society.

http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/152034

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Domestic violence among North Korean defector couples is much more serious than that among South Korean couples, according to the Gender Equality and Family Ministry, Tuesday.

The frequent violence in marriages is because of the patriarchal custom back in North Korea where domestic violence is connived, it said.

The ministry’s research based on 302 defectors from the North — 102 men and 200 women — showed that 85.2 percent of defector families experienced some sort of violence between husbands and wives over the last 12 months.

Most of the couples are comprised of both a North Korean defector wife and husband, while the rest are made of a defector wife and a South Korean husband, or vice versa. In most cases, violent acts were carried out by men on women.

The percentage of domestic violence was much higher than the 53.8 percent for average South Korean couples.

When multiple replies were allowed, 51.3 percent of the defectors said they had suffered physical violence, and 75.5 percent suffered from emotional violence, meaning verbal abuse, threats of physical violence or destruction of the spouse’s property.

It showed 43.8 percent had endured “economic violence” — not giving living costs to a spouse or disposing property without the partner’s consent; 33.6 percent suffered from sexual abuse; and 59.5 percent suffered from negligence.

“Compared with average couples, every type of domestic violence took place more frequently between North Korean defector couples. The frequency of physical violence between those couples was three times higher than the average,” Kim Kwang-yun, the ministry official, said.

“The frequent violence stems from North Korea’s patriarchal custom. The society accepts violence especially towards women,” he said.

At the resettlement center of Hanawon, defectors receive education on South Korean etiquette, but Hanawon instructors say it is not easy to change North Korean men’s macho character, according to Kim.

“Those from the North, especially women, learn about the wrongfulness of domestic violence after coming here. But only about half of them are aware of the law preventing domestic violence and other ways to help them. We’ll try to boost the awareness and propose Hanawon educate the women more on domestic violence,” Kim said.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/12/117_78788.html

Sexual harassment against Pakistani women, particularly rape and gang rape incidents have increased to an alarmingly rate of over 13 percent across the Punjab with the provincial capital and the Gujranwala regions the most vulnerable.

According to statistics, available with TheNation, about 110 women out of total 271 and 358 out of 2,427 women were victimized of gang rape and rape respectively in the Lahore region with an increase by 12.5 and 13.5 percent during the first 11 months of current year as compared to the corresponding period of 2009.

By analysing the official documents, it seemed that the provincial police comprising on above 1,80,000 police officers/officials have nothing to do except to secure their own skins in front of judges and senior offices if any case was discussed.

Gang rape: About 271 incidents of gang rape took place in 35 districts of the Punjab in 2010 with the difference of 13 percent as compared to 2009 in which only 136 unpleasant incidents had occurred.

In the DG Khan region – the districts of Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Layyah remained at the lowest level as only two incidents of gang rape took place in Layyah during this span of time.

The pathetic situation regarding gang rape was observed in Lahore with 49 incidents, 30 in Sheikhupura, 25 in Kasur, 16 in Gujranwala, 11 each in Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

The provincial police however claimed to apprehend only 385 rapists out of 643 while 48 cases of gang rape are still under investigation. About 125 challans were sent in the courts and the Punjab police cancelled 47 cases besides furnishing different pleas.

Rape: About 2,427 women/girls were victimised of rape during the 11 months of 2010 with 12.5 percent increase as compared to the same era of the last year in which above 2,184 women were raped, with the Bahawalpur region the most susceptible as many as 496 incidents occurred there.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Lahore/27-Dec-2010/Rape-incidents-up-13pc-in-2010

The government has proposed a cash-incentive plan to encourage families to have girls.

As India’s middle class grows, more families are using modern technology to ensure they have a boy, according to gender and population experts. Confronted with a decrease in the number of girls born, the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has decided to crack down on the illegal practice of so-called female feticide.

India outlawed the practice of doctors using technologies like ultrasounds to tell patients the sex of their unborn child in 1994. Abortion based on certain grounds is legal, but having one based on sex is not.

Despite the law as well as gains in girls’ education and employment opportunities across India, the practice has continued and even grown as more people have access to ultrasounds. The child sex ratio, the number of girls to every 1,000 boys in the 0 to 6 years age group, dropped from 945 girls in 1991 to 927 girls in 2001, according to data from the United Nations Population Fund based on the census. When just looking at the sex ratio at birth [2], for the period 2006-08, the ratio drops to 904 girls per 1,000 boys.

Sex determination leads to a missing 500,000 to 700,000 girls across India each year, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

The state government has since announced a proposal to encourage families to have girls [4] by providing cash incentives. On the birth of a girl child, 5,000 rupees ($114) will be deposited into a bank account under her name, according to local media reports. Once the family ensures the girl completes her schooling and does not marry before the age of 18, she will have access to the money. The finance department has not yet approved the program, which would initially be for families living below the poverty line, according to the Times of India.

Cash incentives have similarly been used in India to encourage women to give birth in hospitals or other medical institutions and have been credited with an increase in institutional deliveries.

However, social activists in Mumbai question the effectiveness of providing cash incentives to encourage women to have a girl child when the families that need to be targeted are not the poor but rather the middle class and affluent.

Poor families ensure they have a boy by having large families, whereas the middle and upper classes now want fewer children and therefore resort to sex determination, according to Sayeed Unisa, a professor with the International Institute for Population Sciences, a Mumbai-based training and research center in the area of population studies.

There is a long-held belief in many Indian communities that at least one boy is needed to support the parents when they can no longer work and to light their funeral pyre. Girls, on the other hand, can be viewed as a burden given the rising costs of dowries and weddings.

Social activists say the skewed sex ratio shows how little girls and women are valued in many segments of Indian society. Many families still invest less in girls, affecting everything from their nutrition to their education and employment opportunities.

Discrimination occurs throughout a girl’s life in India, and sex determination represents the worst form of it, said A.L. Sharada, program director of Population First, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization working on population and health issues.

Studies have shown that female feticide is not a result of families being against having a girl child, but more that they feel they must have at least one boy. Birth order therefore has a deep impact on female feticide as the sex ratio becomes more skewed when a family already has one or two girls and is trying for a final boy child.

A study by the Christian Medical Association of India found that if a family already had two girls, the chance the third child would be a girl reduced to 219 girls for every 1,000 boys. The study was based on births at a public hospital in Delhi for the year 2000-2001.

The skewed sex ratio has become so bad in certain communities that families have resorted to buying wives from poorer areas. A young bride was bought for less than $25 in Haryana, one of India’s worst affected states, according to a recent report in London’s Daily Telegraph.

Such trafficking for marriage is becoming more common as sex ratios worsen. Some families, she added, can only afford one bride and share her among multiple family members.

To combat female feticide, social activists say there must be more monitoring of clinics and implementing the law against sex determination, the judiciary and medical professionals need to be sensitized to the issue, and an environment must be created where people can come forward to complain about non-compliance with the law. In addition, there must be more spaces and opportunities in communities to question gender stereotypes.

Extracts from a longer article at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/101216/female-feticide-sex-selective-abortions-gender-ratio

Over the past couple of months Delhi, has been witnessing an average of one rape case almost everyday and experts have attributed the alarming trend to two major factors – a low conviction rate and lack of better and preventive policing.

Citing rape to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the county, they say it takes an enormous amount of time to bring to book the guilty.

According to police records, over 400 rape cases have been reported in the capital in the year 2010 alone.

“There is a problem in policing here. Police do not register crime freely and there is rarely adequate investigation done in cases of molestation,” says Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman IPS officer.

“People do not become rapists all of a sudden. Rapists have a history in molestation and other petty crimes. But since complaints against them are not registered by police early on, they go on to become bigger criminals and rapists,” she says.

The conviction rate in rape and molestation cases in India is a dismal 27 per cent. Long drawn trials and pressure on the families of victims are some of the major reasons for this. Police norms and behaviour are a deterrent to many rape victims who do not lodge any complaint against the crime at all.

Senior CPM politburo member Brinda Karat favours “time bound judicial process” to deal with rape cases.

“Conviction rate in rape cases and policing in general is poor in Delhi. It can be better. Also, we need more social awareness not only in Delhi but all over the country against crime against women,” she says.

The Delhi Women’s Commission has written a letter to the chief justice of India to set up fast track courts for rape cases.

“We have requested the CJI to deliver the verdict in a rape case within six months through fast track courts. It will be a deterrent for the criminals,” says its chief Barkha Singh.

The commission is also set to launch an awareness programme through its ‘MahilaPanchayats’ to raise awareness regarding crimes against women in the capital and ask people to help the victims of molestation and rape.

“We are also trying to get cars with tinted glasses banned in the city. Such vehicles are breeding grounds for crime while on the move,” adds Singh.

Last week, a teenage girl was abducted and gang raped in a moving vehicle after she protested their lewd remarks in the Sultanpuri area of northwest Delhi.

Days earlier, a BPO employee was abducted and raped by four men in south Delhi and a 22-year-old woman was abducted and raped by six men in northeast Delhi.

Psychiatrist Samir Parikh blames the increasing number of rapes on the mentality of “getting away with anything”.

“The rising number of cases suggest that the fear of consequence of action is on decline and the perception of ‘get away with anything’ is growing. Why is it that in Delhi young girls in buses don’t find any support when they are harassed?” he asks.

Kiran Bedi, who has set up her own NGO and says that in matters relating to crime against women, the bail should be conditional.

“Guarantee should be high in case of bail in rape cases and in case of repeat crimes, the guarantor should also be punished,” adds Bedi.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_rise-in-rape-incidents-due-to-low-conviction-poor-policing-experts_1481867

Reactions to the steady stream of headlines about unwanted babies have ranged from an expansion of sex education in schools to calls for stiffer penalties and the opening of the country’s first “baby hatch,” where infants can be left to be cared for by others. One state government has offered financial support for younger teenagers to marry, angering women’s groups that have been campaigning against child marriage.

Under the Shariah, or Islamic, law that applies to the Muslims who make up 60 percent of Malaysia’s population, premarital sex is forbidden, with penalties including up to three years in prison, a fine of up to 5,000 ringgit, about $1,600, or six strokes of the cane. Premarital sex is not punishable for non-Muslims, but it remains socially taboo.

Abortion is illegal unless the woman’s physical or mental health is endangered. Anyone who abandons a child under 12 faces up to seven years imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Despite recent news media attention to the issue, the number of babies being abandoned in Malaysia has not shown a significant spike this year. The police have recorded 76 cases from the beginning of this year through Oct. 1, compared with 79 cases in 2009 and 102 in 2008.

But in August, the cabinet asked the attorney general’s office to look more closely into cases where babies died after being abandoned, to determine whether those responsible should be charged with murder, a crime that carries the death penalty in Malaysia.

Taking another approach, Mohamad Ali Rustam, chief minister of Malacca State, south of Kuala Lumpur, recently announced plans to give 500 ringgit to couples under the age of 18 if they marry.

In Malaysia, Muslim girls under 16 and boys under 18 may marry with permission from a Shariah court. Non-Muslims must be at least 18, unless they have permission from their state’s chief minister, in which case they may be as young as 16.

From 2000 through 2008, 1,654 marriages were registered involving girls aged 16 and 17, although women’s rights advocates believe the incidence of child marriage may be higher.

A Unaids report released this year showed that 7,176 Muslim girls and 2,029 Muslim boys aged 19 and below underwent H.I.V. screening in 2009, which is compulsory in most states for Malaysian Muslims who are applying to marry.

Mr. Mohamad said he hoped that providing teenage couples with money to help pay for a wedding ceremony would discourage premarital sex and thus reduce the abandonment of children born out of wedlock.

Groups that advocate raising the marriage age to 18 for all Malaysians, regardless of gender or religion, have condemned Mr. Mohamad’s move.

Ivy Josiah, executive director of the Women’s Aid Organization, a nongovernmental group, said that allowing those under 18 to marry contravened Malaysia’s obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the country’s own legislation. “Child marriage is against every right of the child,” she said.

Both the U.N. convention and Malaysia’s Child Act define a child as anyone under the age of 18.

The Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development is investigating reports that a 14-year-old girl was recently given permission to marry by the Shariah court, but there are no plans to raise the marriage age to 18 for Muslim girls.

“We hope that the Shariah judges will continue to exercise their discretion judiciously,” said Heng Seai Kie, deputy minister for Women, Family and Community Development.

Other efforts are focused on education and logistical support.

The number of teenage pregnancies, regardless of marital status, has risen slightly in Malaysia in recent years, with 16,207 live births registered in 2007, compared with 15,752 in 2005.

Nongovernmental organizations have long called for schools to provide students with more knowledge about sex and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Currently, students learn only the basics of anatomy and reproduction in biology and physical education classes, and abstinence outside marriage is promoted.

Starting next year, however, primary school students will spend 30 minutes a week and high school students will spend 40 minutes twice a month in “Reproductive Health and Social Education” classes.

The lessons will continue to emphasize abstinence before marriage, but secondary students will also learn about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

Ms. Heng, the deputy women’s minister, said that while the government wanted to discourage premarital sex, it did provide support for unwed women and girls who became pregnant. It operates four shelters for unmarried girls under 18, and two for pregnant women 18 and older, at which free food and accommodation are provided. She said the country also maintained up to 60 welfare centers that offered assistance to unwed mothers and their babies.

The government’s response has failed to impress advocates like Ms. Josiah of the Women’s Aid Organization. While she welcomed the greater focus on sex education, she deplored the attempts to encourage young teenagers to marry and said punitive measures, like charging people with murder if the baby they abandoned died, would not help address the problem of child abandonment.

“If the message is that you might get caned for having sex outside marriage, or you might even be executed because you have abandoned a baby and the baby dies, or we will force you to get married — never mind if you are under 18 — if these are the messages that are going out, then certainly no one is going to come forward,” she said.

To increase the chances of survival for abandoned babies, Malaysia’s first “baby hatch,” a place where mothers can leave their unwanted babies, opened in May. Fifteen babies have been left so far.

The hatch, based on a design already in use in Germany and Japan, features an alarm that is activated when a baby is placed inside. It is located on the premises of Orphan Care, a nongovernmental organization that arranges for the babies to be placed in children’s homes or adopted.

Orphan Care is hoping to open another baby hatch in Kuala Lumpur and a third at a government hospital on the outskirts of the capital. “I think if more hatches open, if they are more accessible and in different cities, we can save a few more lives,” said Adnan Mohammad Tahir, the organization’s president.

Part of a longer article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/world/asia/09malay.html?_r=1&src=twrhp

Democrat MP for Rayong Sathit Pitutecha has proposed that a bill on “consensual and necessary abortion” be drafted to give women more options when dealing with unwanted pregnancies.

Mr Sathit said he would begin drafting the bill and campaign for support in the hope of submitting it to the House during the next parliamentary session starting in February.

The proposed bill would call for the setting up of a committee to consider an abortion request from a pregnant woman or her guardians. An applicant with “necessary qualifications” would be allowed to end her pregnancy, he said.

The law permits an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if it endangers the mother’s life.

The Democrat MP said the law should be broadened to include other cases including pregnancy among minors or pregnancies among women who have insufficient mental capacity to rear the baby.

Only registered clinics would be allowed to perform the abortions, Mr Sathit said.

Democrat leader and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has insisted that there is no need for a change in the law to solve illegal abortions, as the law is based on Medical Council regulations which, in his view, are “good enough”.

Mr Sathit said he was trying to convince the prime minister that relaxing the law would reduce fatalities and accidents among pregnant women who undertake unsafe illegal abortions.

It would also put an end to the illegal abortion business and reduce family problems.

“Let me make it clear that legalising abortion is not liberising abortion,” Mr Sathit said. “The bill will not make it easier for a mother to end her pregnancy. Each case must be considered carefully by a committee of experts and social workers.”

Maytinee Bhongsvej, of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW), said social workers and women’s aid groups had been pushing for an abortion law for more than two decades. Ms Maytinee does not think the discovery of foetuses at Wat Phai Ngern Chotanaram will be a turning point.

“People’s attitudes are the major obstacle. For Thai society, abortion is a sin,” she said. “But as a person working in this area, I think the bill will give mothers more options to deal with the problem of unwanted pregnancy.”

The sensitivity of abortion law has resulted in the exclusion of clauses that set criteria for legal abortions from a bill on reproductive health which has gone to public hearings, she said.

The APSW-run emergency home for women receives an average of 140 women with unwanted pregnancies every year, she said.

The APSW and 44 other state and non-governmental organisations working on women’s issues on Saturday issued a statement calling on the government to provide safe abortions for women to prevent them from using unsafe services at unhygienic, illegal premises.

“Abortion should be permitted if the woman has been raped, is younger than 15, and could be mentally and physically affected if the pregnancy is continued,” they said.

Kanrawee Daoruang, coordinator of the Choice Group which helps women with unwanted pregnancies, said a 2005 Medical Council regulation on ending pregnancies allows doctors to perform abortions under certain conditions.

However, no doctor dares perform them under this regulation because they fear criminal action.

She said the government should provide facilities to care for women with unwanted pregnancies. “If a woman knows that she still has somewhere to go and someone to help take care of her and the baby, she might choose options other than aborting the baby.”

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/207498/democrat-mp-mounts-bid-to-legalise-abortion

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 World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the relaxation of the Vatican’s stance against condom use.

Pope Benedict XVI said the use of condoms is acceptable to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

“The Pope’s statement is in line with evidence that condoms are highly effective in preventing infection with the HIV virus. If used correctly and consistently, the male condom is the most efficient protection against the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” said WHO director for Western Pacific region Dr. Shin Young-soo.

Shin said the papal statement would help ease the reluctance of several sectors to use condoms. He acknowledged, however, that the pope was not endorsing the use of condoms as a means for birth control.

WHO records show that the prevalence of HIV in Asia Pacific had reached 20 percent among sex workers and up to 30 percent among men having sex with men.

“The truth is there for everyone to see. Unprotected sex is a central driver of the AIDS epidemic in Asia,” Shin said.

In a report of the Asia Commission on AIDS in 2008, it was estimated that some 75 million men in the region patronize sex from 10 million sex workers and, at the same time, have sex with 50 million regular or casual partners.

WHO had warned that in Western Pacific, HIV infection will continue to rise if countries will not focus on people with “risky lifestyles.”

WHO said 130,000 to 150,000 new infections related to high-risk lifestyle occur every year in the Western Pacific region.

These include infections through unprotected sex, sharing drug needles, and men having sex with men.

“While condom use remains the core strategy for preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among sex workers, essential and affordable sexual and reproductive health services should also be made available to sex workers to address a host of other issues,” it said.

These services include voluntary HIV counseling and testing, STI diagnosis and treatment, cervical cancer prevention, prevention of parent-to-child transmission, contraception counseling, abortion and post-abortion care, as well as specialized support to the transgender community.

It is estimated that some 1.4 million people in Western Pacific were diagnosed with the AIDS virus. Ten years ago, the number of cases was 680,000.

Worldwide, some 33.4 million people are living with HIV.

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman also welcomed the new papal statement on condom use, saying it supports his advocacy of family planning through the use of contraceptives.

“This is a very welcome development as it signals the liberalization of the stand of the Catholic Church when it comes to condom use to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Lagman, principal author of the highly contested Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.“The moderation of the Church’s position on condoms to prevent the spread of a deadly disease may ultimately evolve to include the use of condoms and other contraceptives to prevent high risk pregnancies,” he added.

Lagman then said the use of contraceptives is a lesser evil than committing abortion and having increased incidents of maternal death. “Family planning and contraception save lives by helping women avoid high risk pregnancies which often end in maternal and infant death or morbidity,” he said. Citing data from the National Statistics Office, he said maternal deaths in the Philippines account for one out of every seven deaths of women of reproductive age. He noted that a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund showed that one in three deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth could be prevented if women who want to use contraception are given access to it.

The study also showed that helping women plan their families can prevent one million infant and child deaths every year worldwide because closely spaced pregnancies threaten infant survival.

Lagman also cited another study showing that regular and proper use of contraceptives reduces the incidence of abortion by 85 percent.

“Clearly, a pregnancy that is planned and wanted will not be aborted. It is therefore only logical to conclude that the more women can avoid unintended and mistimed pregnancies through effective family planning, the less the incidence of abortion will be,” he said. Despite the endorsement from the Vatican, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) vows to continue opposing the RH bill “because that is our moral duty,” said Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, vice chair of the CBCB Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL). With Jess Diaz, Evelyn Macairan

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=633505&publicationSubCategoryId=63

Chinese marriage law experts have called for legislation on domestic violence.

“National legislation to combat domestic violence is badly in need, because existing articles of law do not provide a sufficient legal basis for timely and effective judicial intervention,” Li Mingshun, deputy head of the marriage and family board of the China Law Society, said at a conference in Beijing marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The conference was jointly hosted by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) and the United Nations in China.

“We have been receiving more and more complaints about domestic violence in recent years, despite 27 provincial-level governments having made considerable effort to enact local regulations against this problem,” said Meng Xiaosi, vice-president of the ACWF.

The ACWF has annually received 40,000 to 50,000 complaints about domestic violence since 2004.

According to research by the China Law Society, 85.4 percent of these cases involve husbands acting violently toward their wives.

These women suffer physical, psychological and sexual abuse an average of 7.4 times a year, according to data from women’s organization in Henan, Beijing, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hubei, Liaoning and Hebei.

The reasons for the abuse range from infertility, giving birth to a daughter and husbands engaging in excessive drinking.

“The main difficulty in suing a family member for abuse is producing the evidence,” said Jiang Yue, a professor of marriage and family law at Xiamen University.

To obtain a divorce for domestic violence in China, civil law requires a wife to be able to prove in court that her husband beat her, though any injuries that she may have sustained have usually healed by the time the hearing is held, Jiang pointed out.

“In some cases, a victim submits a certificate from a hospital confirming her injuries, but the husband is still able to argue that his wife was injured in another way,” she said.

Current laws and regulation are also unhelpful to women who do not want to divorce their husbands, said Xia Zhengfang, a judge who presides at the No 1 civil law court of the Jiangsu Provincial Higher People’s Court.

“For most women who suffer domestic violence, divorce is not their first choice, since they may lose financial resources or be forced to leave their children if the marriage breaks up,” Xia said. “So it is crucial to be able to restrain violence.”

However, the Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security do not specify domestic violence, so the police are unable to act proactively to prevent abuse.

“As the law currently stands, national regulations on constraining domestic violence are contained in eight areas of the Marriage Law, the Law on the Protection of Minors and the Law on the Protection of Women and Children,” Li Mingshun said. “But only two of them are of practical help to victims.”

Thirteen law experts in China, including Li, drafted a proposal in June on the prevention and punishment of domestic violence, which covers areas like compelling an aggressor to submit to re-education at a public security facility for 30 to 90 days.

http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20101126-249333.html

Graph of statistics http://news.asiaone.com/A1MEDIA/news/11Nov10/others/20101126.122506_domestic.jpg

A nationwide campaign against domestic violence dubbed “1 in 3” was launched Thursday by the Maldivian Network on Violence Against Women, a loose coalition of NGOs and individuals who came together to advocate for pioneering legislation on domestic violence (DV) currently before parliament.

The campaign title reflects the findings of a milestone 2007 study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences, which found that 1 in 3 women aged 15 to 49 experience either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, including childhood sexual abuse.

While a draft for domestic violence legislation had existed for several years, the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP’s) women’s wing announced the development of a bill to be submitted to parliament earlier this year.

The announcement was welcomed by President Mohamed Nasheed, who argued that a bipartisan effort to pass the legislation was more likely to succeed.

The DV bill, supported and facilitated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), aims to “make DV illegal, to prevent DV from occurring in our society, to provide justice to survivors of domestic violence and abuse as well as to ensure state responsibility in providing services to address DV-related crimes in society,” reads a press statement by the NGO Network.

The network was formed in October when a group of 30 advocates came together in Bandos to plan support for the bill.

On November 22, the bill was accepted by MPs and sent to committee for further review.

In her keynote speech at the campaign launch, former DRP MP Aneesa Ahmed surveyed the history of government efforts against domestic violence.

As recently as the turn of the century, said Aneesa, domestic violence was a taboo subject in Maldivian society.

“It was not spoken about,” she said. “[People] didn’t want to speak about it. Perhaps because of the immensity of the problem, nobody wanted to talk about it; or because nobody wanted to believe how much it had spread in our society.”

She added that the hesitancy to openly acknowledge the problem was probably borne “out of fear.”

The former Women’s Minister revealed that a pilot survey planned by an NGO with support from the government was scuttled when it encountered resistance from societal attitudes, which held that the government should not “enter into family matters.”

“So we couldn’t carry out that survey,” she said. “The NGO I mentioned was very disappointed and we were very disappointed, but we did not give up.”

While the former government then attempted to foster public dialogue through workshops aimed at different groups of society, Aneesa said that she was “very encouraged” to see a campaign launched by a network of NGOs with high youth participation.

A video testimonial of a DV victim was also presented at the function, featuring a harrowing story of a woman who came to Male’ seeking a divorce but was refused by the judge who counseled reconciliation with her abusive spouse.

“I thought how am I going to make peace?” she asked. “I am finding it hard to endure. They didn’t consider in the least the abuse I was getting.”

The testimonial ended with a plea to MPs “to save women from abusive husbands.”

Aneesa said that while the passage of the DV bill, with recommendations from the NGO network, would be “a beginning” to tackling gender based violence, she cautioned that the campaign “will not be easy” as the small size of close-knit communities “could be an impediment.”

However, she urged the NGO network and its affiliated advocates not to become discouraged and to continue their efforts.

Aneesa is a founding member of the ‘Hope for Women’ NGO which aims to “eradicate sexual violence against women and girls.”

President Nasheed meanwhile dedicated his weekly radio address yesterday to the subject of domestic violence, noting that “some women don’t even speak about it with their closest friends and family members” and consequently do not report abuse to the authorities.

Men taking advantage of physical superiority to abuse or subjugate women “amounts to the rule of the jungle,” he said.

As women make up half the country’s population, said Nasheed, greater participation of women in the workforce and in national affairs was crucial to ensure economic development and progress.

He added that sexual harassment in the workplace, “even subtle forms of harassment that we may otherwise think are trivial, should be deplored,” adding that “such things should never happen in the workplace.”

President Nasheed expressed gratitude for members of the DRP involved in the drafting of the legislation and pledged the government’s full support for the bill.

Statistics from the Family Protection Unit (FPU) reveal that since 2006 the unit has attended to an average of 145 patients per year – 87 per cent of whom were women – with a noticeable upward trend in the number of cases reported each month.

While sexual abuse was the most common form of abuse suffered by FPU patients, in 83 per cent of cases the perpetrator was a friend or family member, and was known to the victim.

Half of abuse victims reported that the perpetrator was a boyfriend or husband.

The “1 in 3″ campaign – launched to coincide with the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, the beginning of the annual global event supported by the UN: ’16 Days of Activism Against Violence’ – aims to raise awareness of the issue through a sustained media campaign over the next two weeks.

At the ceremony, which was attended by Health Minister Aminath Jameel and UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox, the campaign was officially launched by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Shafeeq with the unveiling of the campaign song “Geveshi Hiyaa”.

http://minivannews.com/society/1-in-3-campaign-launched-to-break-domestic-violence-taboo-13762

Abortion will be tackled anew by the National Human Rights Commission (Korea), putting the most ethically-controversial “fetus removal” issue under the spotlight once again.

The human rights watchdog will hold public hearings, discussions and conduct media monitoring next year before it decides whether or not to advise the government to revise a pertinent law which imprisons women who get abortions.

If so, the administration may have to revise its policy, which they believe will help address the low birthrate.

According to the commission, the decision was made in response to a petition filed by Korean Womenlink that the law violates the rights of women and their freedom of choice. Currently, except for several restricted circumstances, women who get an abortion are subject to up to one-year imprisonment or up to a 2 million won fine. Doctors who perform the practice are also subject to prosecution.

The petition reads, “The current law shows no understanding of the circumstances of women who are forced to abort. Penalization is the last thing a government should consider because it could drive women to receive the practice in the dark. The regulation violates not only the rights of women to choose but also the right to live a healthy life.”

The commission explained that the United Nations also advises governments with such laws to make a revision. “It is true that the law does not reflect the social, economic and individual conditions of a pregnant woman. Some women go abroad for the practice, which could risk their lives,” an official of the commission said. “On the other hand, we need to have discussions to look into the rights of a fetus to live. It is a tricky issue.”

Indeed, abortion is a difficult and thorny issue in Korea as in the rest of the world. In the latest report by gynecologists here, there were reportedly 342,233 cases of abortion in 2005 while the number of births stood at 476,000 in the same year. Some birth experts said the actual number of abortions could be double or treble the reported figure.

The administration, which has been extremely concerned about the falling birthrate, set out to regulate abortions. The regulation was part of its plan to boost the birthrate, which marked 1.18 in 2008, one of the lowest in the world. Some doctors joined in by revealing the names of gynecologists and the clinics performing the illegal practice.

But some experts refuted that the prohibition has adversely created a black market, allowing incompetent doctors to perform operations that could put women’s lives at risk and charge them rather inflated prices.

In a seminar held to discuss the possible legalization of abortion, Prof. Kim Hae-jung of Korea University said some countries with looser regulations such as Japan, Australia and Canada have a lower rate of abortion than Korea, meaning that legalization does not lead to an increase in abortion. “Education on contraception should also be included as a measure,” he said.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/11/113_76733.html

The International Solidarity Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is deeply shocked that a court in Nankana Sahib, Pakistan, has sentenced a 45-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, to death on the charge of having committed “blasphemy”. Although illiterate, she has been accused of denying the institution of prophet-hood by citing copious examples from the key texts of Islam. We join local human rights organizations, international women’s groups and religious minorities in calling for Pakistan to urgently repeal its Blasphemy Laws. We also appeal to the authorities to guarantee the safety of Asia Bibi and her family from the rage of local extremists, as well as investigate the violent persecution of the Christian community in the Punjab.

Asia Bibi is a farm worker in a village of Ittanwali in Nankana, about 75 kilometres west of Lahore. By Asia Bibi’s own account, her women co-workers tried to force her to embrace Islam on 8 June, 2009. This led to a discussion on the religious beliefs of the two communities and following a heated exchange between her and three Muslim women, the complainant Qari Muhammad Sallam, with the testimonies of these women, lodged a First Information Report (FIR) on June 19, 2009, under sections 295-B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code. Both sections state punishment by life imprisonment or capital punishment. Following the judicial process, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by an additional sessions court in Nankana district. Mrs Bibi was also ordered to pay a fine of 300,000 Pakistani rupees (£2,180). Now the family is appealing against the judgment in the Lahore High Court. SK Shahid, Asia Bibi’s counsel, said that he has filed an appeal with the Lahore High Court against the lower court’s judgment. “How can we expect from a non-Muslim to follow beliefs of the Muslims?” he asked. Various human rights groups are also likely to become party to the appeal, calling for the repeal of the judgment.

Mrs Bibi said that during the investigation held by Special Prosecutor Muhammad Amin Bokhari, she begged for pardon as she had never heard of the crime of blasphemy before. Mrs Bibi explained that she has not had access to a lawyer in jail and even on the day of her final verdict she was not accompanied by a lawyer. In court she was made to put a thumb print on the papers she was unable to read.

The Blasphemy laws have not only curtailed citizens’ freedom of expression, but have also been misused by violent religious extremists to commit grave acts of violence against others and to spread religious intolerance. In several cases the law has been used to settle personal scores and rivalries. Incidents of mob violence against non-Muslims, especially Christians, have also increased in this part of Punjab over the last few years, engineered by local extremists groups to give impetus to their religious and political base.

Blasphemy Laws in their present form were promulgated arbitrarily by the military dictator, Zia al-Huq, more than twenty years ago. Those who have worked to overturn false charges of blasphemy have themselves become the target of violence. A former Lahore High Court judge, Justice Arif Hussain Bhatti, was murdered by a religious extremist in 1996, reportedly because he acquitted a blasphemy case. A number of lawyers and journalists have also been harassed for defending people accused of blasphemy and campaigning against the Blasphemy Laws.

Take action here: http://www.wluml.org/node/6789

Women Living Under Muslim Laws
International Coordination Office
http://www.wluml.org
wluml@wluml.org

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

The Women’s League of Burma (WLB) warmly welcomes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi back into active political and public life and we hope to soon celebrate the reinstatement of her inalienable rights, especially her freedom of movement. Though her release brings us joy and hope, we also clearly recognize that this alone does not fully ensure democratic progress for the country unless all political prisoners are released unconditionally.

In 1990, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won the country’s first election in decades by a landslide. The military regime did not honor the election result and she has been kept under house arrest for 15 of the last 20 years. Even while under house arrest, she has demonstrated unwavering and determined political leadership, provided inspiration and garnered respect from the people of Burma and democracy-loving people around the world. The recent expression of public support leading up to her release shows that although she was kept out of the publics’ eye, she is always in their hearts. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a true role model of the kind of leadership Burma is desperately yearning for; someone who can facilitate trust building, cooperation, dialogue, and progress.

WLB calls for her release to be unconditional but final and her security must be guaranteed. Though her liberty rekindles hope, the SPDC must meet other essential benchmarks of democratic progress. She is one of many political prisoners, and one of millions of women in Burma struggling against military rule.

The recent election is a clear example that the military regime’s focus is to ensure power through all methods of manipulation and control, and this election must not be recognized. The military regime’s ongoing attacks against civilians, even in recent days, are a clear sign they do not mean to bring peace to the country and this is unallowable. We urged the SPDC to cease all hostilities and stop fighting in the ethnic areas. The international community must continue to firmly call for the release of all political prisoners, an end to crimes against humanity, and genuine national reconciliation with effective action until the SPDC response the calls.

WLB believes that all women in Burma will continue to face injustice and violence as long as the junta is holding on to power. Therefore, we urge all the people of Burma to work together and rise up using peaceful means to end the military dictatorship in Burma.

WLB honors Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her tireless work in pursuit of democracy in Burma and will continue to work alongside her until our mutual aims are achieved.

For More Information:
Lway Aye Nang: + 6680 115 9598
Tin Tin Nyo: +66810322882
Thin Thin Aung: +91-9891252315

http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3314:the-womens-league-of-burma-welcomes-daw-aung-san-suu-kyis-release-and-demands-ongoing-action-to-ensure-freedom-for-all-of-burma&catid=mailbox&Itemid=279

See also:
* Aung San Suu Kyi: Undiminished by years of house arrest – interview with BBC
* Video of BBC interview
* Aung San Suu Kyi calls for dialogue with Burma’s junta – Various videos via Guardian web site

Plus:
* The victory of the junta-backed party in the Nov. 7 elections for Burma–which the military government calls Myanmar–comes as no surprise to Charm Tong.
It only reiterates the belief that she and many others hold that the polls were conducted to legitimize the military regime. That means the continuation of military rape and sexual violence in conflict-affected areas of eastern Burma that Tong has been trying to stop for more than 10 years.

Hundreds of supporters of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi have gathered at the headquarters of her political party in Yangon after one of its leaders revealed an order for her release had been signed by the ruling junta.

About 300 people gathered at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) as news of her possible release was made public.

Ms Suu Kyi’s house arrest officially ends on Saturday, but rumours have that she might be freed a day earlier have swept the city.

“My sources tell me that the release order has been signed,” said Tin Oo, vice chairman of the NLD party. “I hope she will be released.”

He did, however, not say when she would be freed or when the order had been signed, but her lawyer, Mr Nyan Win, believes her release is imminent.

He added: “There is no law to hold (Ms Suu Kyi) for another day. Her detention period expires on Saturday and she will be released.

Jailed or under house arrest for more than 15 of the last 21 years, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has become a symbol for a struggle to rid the south-east Asian country of decades of military rule.

Her current detention began in May 2003 after her motorcade was ambushed in northern Burma by a government-backed mob. The detention period was extended in August this year when a court convicted her of briefly sheltering an American intruder who came to her house uninvited.

If she is released, Ms Suu Kyi, 65, plans to help her disbanded party probe allegations of election fraud, according Mr Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman for the party.

Meanwhile, state media announced on Thursday that the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party had secured a majority in both houses of parliament.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5i94CcFBnRRVTkG-XD_0LwgHOBqQw?docId=N0025721289547083847A

Sussan Tahmasebi, recipient of the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism for 2010, dedicated her award to the imprisoned lawyer and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh and other detained women activists on November 10, 2010. Human Rights Watch is presenting the award to Tahmasebi for her courageous work to promote civil society and women’s rights in Iran.

Tahmasebi expressed her concern about Sotoudeh’s deteriorating health. Sotoudeh has been on a “dry” hunger strike since October 31, 2010, refusing to eat or drink anything to protest being held in solitary confinement since her arrest on September 4. Prosecutors charged Sotoudeh with various national security crimes, but have not made public any information regarding the basis for these charges.

“Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending the rights of the accused, often at great risk to herself and her family,” Tahmasebi said. “Now she is behind bars, for no other reason than being unwilling to compromise with authorities when it comes to safeguarding her clients’ due process rights.”

Prison officials have prevented Sotoudeh from meeting with her husband and lawyer. Sotoudeh’s health is in serious decline and she is in critical need of emergency intervention, Tahmasebi said.

Since 2005, and especially since the disputed presidential election in June 2009, Iran has stepped up repressive measures against Iranian civil society activists, including those who advocate women’s rights and speak out against discriminatory laws. The government has arrested scores of volunteers and members of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grass-roots campaign aimed at overturning discriminatory laws.

“Iranian women in prison today include human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, and students,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “What they have in common is their relentless pursuit of justice, at great risk to themselves, their families, and their reputations.”
Tahmasebi expressed particular concern about three other women sentenced to prison for their work:

* Bahareh Hedayat, the first secretary of the Women’s Commission of the Office to Foster Unity (Tahkim-e Vahdat), and the first – and so far only – woman elected to the national student organization’s central committee. Authorities arrested her on December 30, 2009, and charged her with various national security crimes, including “propaganda against the system,” “disturbing public order,” “participating in illegal gatherings,” and “insulting the president.” In May, Judge Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Hedayat to nine and a half years in prison in relation to her student and women’s rights activities. In July, an appeals court upheld the sentence. She has remained in prison since her arrest and is currently serving her term.

* Jila Baniyaghoub, an award-winning journalist and women’s rights activist. Security forces arrested her and her husband in their home on June 20, 2009. Prosecutors charged her with “propaganda against the regime” for her journalism and released her on bail after she spent two months in detention. Her husband, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, is currently serving a five-year sentence on various national security charges related to his journalism. On June 8, a revolutionary court sentenced Baniyaghoub to a year in prison and barred her from working as a journalist for 30 years. In late October an appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. She has not yet begun her sentence.

* Shiva Nazar Ahari, a human rights activist who worked with the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. Security forces arrested her on December 20, 2009, as she and several colleagues were preparing to take a bus to Qom to attend the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a dissident cleric who long criticized the government. Prosecutors charged her with “assembly and collusion to commit a crime,” “propaganda against the regime,” and moharebeh, a vaguely defined offense meaning “enmity against God” that carries the death penalty and is often reserved for people accused of belonging to an organization that takes up arms against the state. On September 18, a revolutionary court sentenced Ahari to six years in prison, to be served in Izeh prison, 500 miles from Tehran, her home town. Ahari’s lawyer has appealed.

Tahmasebi also referred to the situation of several other women activists and journalists who have been sentenced to prison terms. These women include:

* Aliyeh Eghdamdoust, a women’s rights activist serving a three-year sentence for national security crimes after taking part in a peaceful women’s rights gathering at Haft-e Tir square in Tehran on June 12, 2006.

* Shabnam Madadzadeh, deputy chair of the Tehran Council of Tahkim-e Vahdat, the national student organization. Authorities arrested her and her brother on February 20, 2009. Prosecutors charged the two with moharebeh and “propaganda against the regime” in connection with their student activities. In February, after they spent a year in detention, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, headed by Judge Moghiseh, sentenced them to five years in prison. Prison authorities transferred her to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, where conditions are notably poor, on August 2. They have denied her family’s requests for medical leave though she reportedly suffers from numerous physical ailments.

* Mahdieh Golroo, a student activist and member of the Committee to Defend the Right to Education, a group dedicated to restoring the rights of students prohibited from continuing their college education because of their political activities. She has been in prison since November 3, 2009. A revolutionary court convicted her of national security crimes and sentenced her to 28 months in April 2010. Although she reportedly suffers from intestinal problems, prison authorities have refused to grant her temporary medical leave.

* Jila Tarmasi, a member of a group of mothers protesting their children’s detentions, who was arrested on October 9, along with her daughter, when security forces raided her home in Tehran. Tarmasi’s daughter was released after 12 days, but Tarmasi still remains in prison and has not been allowed visits by her family. She joined the “Mourning Mothers,” now called the “Mothers of Laleh Park,” to protest her son’s detention. “Mourning Mothers” was established in June 2009 by mothers whose children lost their lives in state-sanctioned violence following Iran’s disputed June 12 election. They used to conduct silent protests in Tehran’s Laleh Park, but security forces now prevent them from holding the protests.

* Akram Zienali, another member of “Mourning Mothers,” was also arrested on October 9 along with her daughter when security forces raided her home in Tehran. Her daughter was released after 12 days, but Zeinali remains in custody. Her son, Saeed Zeinali, was a university student arrested 11 years ago after protests erupted at Tehran University. He has since disappeared, and his mother has been trying for years to discover his fate.

* Fatemeh Masjedi, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign from Qom who worked to promote women’s rights. She was charged with “spreading propaganda against the state” and supporting a “feminist group which works in opposition to the regime” and sentenced on August 29 to a year in prison. Her lawyer is filing an appeal, and she has not yet begun serving her term.

* Maryam Bidgoli, another Qom resident who is a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign and who worked for women’s rights. She was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison along with Masjedi, on the same charges. Her lawyer is filing an appeal and she has not yet begun serving her term.

* Mahsa Amrabadi, a journalist who sent a public letter to the head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, criticizing the arrest and detention of journalists, including her husband, Massoud Bastani. Judge Moghiseh of Branch 28 of Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced her to a year in prison in October for “acting against national security” in connection with her interviews and reports regarding the post-election crackdown on journalists. She has not yet appealed the decision in her case nor has she begun serving her prison term.

* Hengameh Shahidi, a journalist and women’s rights activist sentenced to six years in prison on November 15, 2009, by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court. Security forces arrested her on June 30, 2009, in Tehran and charged her with various national security crimes, including “participation in illegal gatherings,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “insulting the president.” After persistent requests from her family, authorities temporarily released her from Evin prison on October 28 so that she could undergo medical treatment for a variety of physical ailments, including heart problems.

Tahmasebi called on the Iranian authorities to release those who are serving prison terms or are in “temporary detention,” including Nazanin Khosravani, a journalist who was arrested by security forces last week, and to overturn the convictions of all of the women whose cases she highlighted.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/1d84c46050de6c2e8e50e7d52489b2f2.htm

On the 8th November we sent a World March of Women (WMW) declaration denouncing the deportation of activists (including a WMW activist, Nice Coronación) who were trying to enter South Korea to take part in events parallel to the G20 meeting in Seoul. A Korean visa was also denied to Bushra Khaliq, Pakistani activist who was also going to represent the WMW in Korea.

Since then, the South Korean government, on behalf of the other G20 countries, has once again acted to supress criticism and democratic debate, by refusing the entry of our IC member, Jean Enriquez from the Philippines, into the country. She was deported back to Manila on the 10th November, very early in the morning.

We denounce the humiliating treatment to which Jean and other Philippines activists have been subjected by the South Korean government. We will continue to struggle against the G20 and the capitalist, sexist, racist system which it represents.

Women on the March until we are All Free!

Click to read Jean Eriquez’s account on her deportation http://www.marchemondiale.org/alliances_mondialisation/mobilisations/deported-journal/en and the paper of the presentation she would do in Seoul http://www.marchemondiale.org/alliances_mondialisation/mobilisations/jeans-presentation/en.

World March of Women Declaration: Deportation of activists acting against the G20 summit in South Korea

On the 11th and 12th November the fifth meeting of the G20 takes place in Seoul, South Korea. Made up of 19 “developed” and “emerging” nations (United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, South Korea, Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey) and the European Union, the G20 emerged in 2008 as a new “power structure” aiming to fix the capitalist system shaken by the financial crisis, without the participation of majority of “developing” and poor countries.

But people know there’s no solution for the crisis without real wealth and power distribution. In this framework, social movements around the world have been organizing G20 Counter Summits since 2008.

On the 8th November, the Korea Women’s Alliance (KWA) and Korean Women’s Association United (KWAU), national reference groups of the World March of Women, organized the Gender Justice Action against the G20 Seoul Summit in order to debate the gender blindness of the G20’s agenda, and feminist alternatives to the current global financial architecture. The WMW organized a representative delegation with activists from Pakistan, the Phlippines and Japan.

But the G20 – through the South Korean government – has swung into action to avoid any democratic debate, by unjustifiably denying visas for progressive activists from Asian and African countries, including our sister Bushra Khaliq from Pakistan. They also deported 7 Philippines activists, including our sister Nice Coronacion.

“These deportations and the denial of visas of many our colleagues signifies the failure of the G20 and cowardice of the G20 governments. Refusing to listening to women’s voices is not acceptable, so we cannot accept any legitimacy of the G20″, said Fumi Suzuki, from the World March of Women in Japan.

As Jean Enriquez, member of the WMW’s International Committee stated, “the South Korean Government and the G20 have exposed themselves as violators not only of economic rights, but of political rights as well”. The last G20 summit, held in Toronto, Canada, last June, is still fresh in our minds, where over 900 activists were arrested to avoid the expression of critical voices.

We, activists from the WMW, denounce G20 efforts to create and give authority to this new “power structure”, in an attempt to hide the illegitimacy of the multilateral institutions, especially the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). We raise our voices against the false solutions to the economic, financial, social, political crises and affirm that democracy is impossible as long as wealth is concentrated to such an extent in the hands of the few.

Our minds and hearts will be turned to Seoul, where we know that our sisters will be struggling to change women’s lives and to transform the world!

Women on the March until we are All Free!

Source http://www.worldmarchofwomen.org/news/mmfnewsitem.2010-11-08.5675494454/en

A new Amnesty report launched in Jakarta on Thursday 4 November details the fatal consequences of denying access to sexual health services for women in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world.

Left Without a Choice describes how government restrictions and discriminatory traditions threaten the lives of many Indonesian women and girls by putting reproductive health services out of their reach.

Amnesty International’s research shows discriminatory practices and problematic laws are prohibiting access to contraception for unmarried women and girls, and endorsing marriage for girls younger than 16. The law requires a woman to get her husband’s consent to access certain contraception methods, or an abortion even in the event that her life is at risk. Amnesty International also found that health workers frequently deny the full range of legally available contraceptive services to unmarried women and also to childless married women.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“Restrictions on sexual and reproductive rights are placing severe and potentially deadly obstacles in the way many women and girls can access reproductive health information and services.

“Indonesia must do more to ensure that old stereotypes and mindsets are replaced with a more forward-looking recognition of the problems and needs facing their wives, sisters and daughters.”

Interviews with Indonesian women and girls, as well as health workers, highlighted how restrictions increase unwanted pregnancies and force many women and girls to marry young, drop out of school, or seek an illegal abortion. An estimated two million abortions are performed in Indonesia every year, many of them in unsafe conditions.

Key statisitcs:

Indonesia’s Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is amongst the highest in the East-Asia Pacific region.

At 228 per 100,000 live births, Indonesia’s MMR is overall at least four times higher than in neighbouring countries, such as China (56), Malaysia (41) and Thailand (44).

According to official government figures, unsafe abortions are responsible for between five and 11 per cent of maternal deaths in Indonesia.

A woman or girl seeking an abortion (the legal age for criminal responsibility in Indonesia is eight), or a health worker providing one, may be sentenced to up to four and 10 years’ imprisonment respectively

Domestic violence in Indonesia is a serious problem. In 2010, Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence against Women reported a 263 per cent increase in the number of reported cases (143,586 cases) of violence against women compared with the previous year (54,425 cases).

Part of a longer article at http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19068

See also: Abortion is about balancing rights – religious medics don’t get the final say
The religious rights of a small group of medical professionals do not trump those held by the remainder of the citizenry

An immediate and worldwide public outcry followed an urgent press release by the International Committees against Stoning and Execution giving notice of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s imminent execution. Shortly thereafter more than half a million people sent letters of protest, there were two million tweets on Sakineh, and rallies and events were held in a number of cities.

The International Committees against Stoning and Execution issued the press release after receiving credible information attesting to the plan to execute her on 3 November. Reliable sources within Iran confirmed having seen the actual execution order sent from Tehran to Tabriz prison’s office of sentence implementation and also seen Sakineh’s name on a blacklist of those to be imminently executed.

The Islamic Republic of Iran often executes people without any public warning or notice and even without informing lawyers and family members in order to avoid local and international condemnation. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights, at least 23 people have been executed these past few days alone without any official announcement.

Nonetheless the regime persists in concealing the real danger Ms Ashtiani’s life is in. Its Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, told his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner that ‘the final verdict in the Sakineh Ashtiani case has not been announced by the Iranian judiciary.’ Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of the justice department in East Azarbaijan province, where Ms Ashtiani is imprisoned, also said that her case was under judicial review and she was in ‘perfect health.’

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, a ‘judicial review’ often effectively means that the regime is waiting for the opportunity to carry out its executions. The regime has executed many people whilst their cases were ‘under review.’ One well known case was that of juvenile ‘offender’ Delara Darabi who was executed in 2009 during a two month reprieve.

Whilst Sakineh has been held incommunicado since 11 August and her son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, and lawyer, Houtan Kian, been imprisoned and tortured since 10 October, the International Committees against Stoning and Execution will continue to act as their voice and their defence. And we will continue to raise the alarm when necessary until Ms Ashtiani’s stoning and execution orders are rescinded and she, her son and lawyer are unconditionally and immediately released.

International Committee against Execution
International Committee against Stoning

KEEP THE PRESSURE ON!

1. Contact government officials, MPs, MEPs, and the UN asking them to intervene urgently. Governments must immediately summon the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ambassadors and demand that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s execution and stoning orders be rescinded and that she along with her son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, and lawyer, Houtan Kian, and the two German journalists be immediately released.

2. Sign on to a petition at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/24h_to_save_sakineh/?cl=820762599&v=7497 and http://stopstonningnow.com/sakine/sakin284.php?nr=50326944〈=en.

3. Send letters of condemnation to the Islamic regime of Iran:

Head of the Judiciary
Sadeqh Larijani
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Email: info@dadiran.ir or via website: http://www.dadiran.ir/tabid/75/Default.aspx
First starred box: your given name; second starred box: your family name; third: your email address

Head of the Judiciary in East Azerbaijan Province
Malek-Ashtar Sharifi
Office of the Head of the Judiciary in Tabriz
East Azerbaijan, Iran

Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Iran
Email: via website: http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php?p=letter (English)
http://www.leader.ir/langs/fa/index.php?p=letter (Persian)

Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights
Mohammad Javad Larijani
Howzeh Riassat-e Ghoveh Ghazaiyeh
Pasteur St, Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhuri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Fax: +98 21 3390 4986
Email: bia.judi@yahoo.com

For more information, contact:

Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Execution and International Committee against Stoning: minaahadi@aol.com; Tel: +49 (0) 1775692413, http://stopstonningnow.com, http://notonemoreexecution.org

Maryam Namazie, Iran Solidarity, iransolidaritynow@gmail.com, +44 7719166731, http://www.iransolidarity.org.uk, http://iransolidarity.blogspot.com

See also: Tehran regime starts to split over Ashtiani death by stoning verdict