Elaheh Fedaei's favorite subjects at school are
English and physical education, and she loves playing basketball. (Mari
• New Law in Saudi
Arabia Stipulates Pre-18 Marriage to Have Court Nod
Daughter Denied Education in Chiba Because Of Short Skirts
Mosque Opens Doors to Women After 23 Years
Fourteen Women Murdered in Turkish Homes Since Lockdown
More Indonesian Teens Are Giving Up Dating
Woman Lured to Become ISIS Nurse Via The Internet
Homage to First Woman Gynecologist in Arab World
Muslim Women Became My Savior
Women Trapped Between the Virus and Domestic Abuse
Fuels Domestic Violence in The Middle East
Specifies Separate Days for Men, Women to Go Out Amid Lockdown
Pakistani Feminists’ Fight for Rights
UN Special Envoy For Yemen Consults With The Yemeni Women’s Technical Advisory
By New Age Islam News Bureau
Law In Saudi Arabia Stipulates Pre-18 Marriage To Have Court Nod
Fatima Al Debais
– Only a competent court will have the right to issue permission for the
marriage of young men and women under the age of 18, according to the draft
regulations for underage marriage approved recently by the Ministry of Justice.
Gazette has learnt from well informed sources that this ends the jurisprudence
of licensed marriage officials to endorse marriage contracts.
to the sources, the competent court will work to ensure that several conditions
are met before concluding the marriage contract, the first of which is that the
request shall be submitted by the young man or woman or their legal guardians
or mother of either of them.
is another condition that the judge must ascertain the consent of the young man
or woman through an explicit statement in front of him, in addition to
listening to what their mothers have to say.
conditions also include that the judge must ensure the full physical and mental
growth of the would be bride and bridegroom through a medical report, and a
psycho-socio report, approved by Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Human
Resources and Social Development.
report must also include a clarification about the extent of psychological and
social parity between the proposed husband and wife.
sources stressed that the regulations stipulate that the relevant authorities
have to take necessary measures against any violations and will apply
provisions of the Child Protection Law against the offender. It also grants the
minor or any of his parents the right to file a case in the event of a dispute
between the spouses or harm caused to either of them.
is also a provision that these regulations are also applicable to Saudi young
man in the event of his marriage with non-Saudi woman within the Kingdom.
daughter denied education in Chiba because of short skirts
20-year-old Afghan woman who lives in Chiba Prefecture recalled crying in her
room with her younger sister when their brothers were allowed to go to school.
came to Japan when she was 16, but her father was vehemently against the idea
of letting her attend classes. Among the reasons he gave were that boys and
girls sit side by side in class and school uniform skirts are too short.
this were Europe, administrative officials would intervene to make sure I could
develop my academic skills,” she said. “How can I live my life from this point
on if I can’t go to school?”
issue of foreign families denying girls a chance to attend school has not
received much attention partly because foreign children are not subject to
compulsory education in Japan.
to an education ministry survey, about 124,000 foreign children of elementary
and junior high school age live in Japan. An estimated 20,000 of them do not go
to school, but the percentage of girls in this group has not been confirmed.
parents’ religious beliefs could be blamed for denying their daughters a chance
to go to school, experts say that is often not the case.
Islamic thinking, men and women are isolated from each other on certain
occasions, but there is no problem for women to play active roles in society,”
said Masanori Naito, a Doshisha University professor well-versed in Islam.
“Only some Islamic conservatives have negative feelings about women’s
of attending classes, the Afghan woman said, she prepared three meals a day for
her family of six, washed the dishes and cleaned up.
developed a love for South Korean and Chinese TV dramas shown on the internet
in between her chores, and she went to a mall on weekends to look at clothes
was finally allowed to attend a nongovernment-run free school when she turned
19. But she felt even more empty because of the age difference; her classmates
were studying to move on to senior high school.
said all her female relatives who have immigrated to the United States and
Canada attend colleges and senior high schools.
guardians among first-generation immigrants in Japan have worked to support
their families rather than receiving a higher education.
seems that many of them want their children to help run their shops and do
household chores sooner rather than letting them study,” said Noriko Hazeki,
68, president of the nonprofit organization Multicultural Center Tokyo.
Matsuzawa, 71, head of an association that supports Kurdish people in Saitama
Prefecture, said that type of thinking was also prevalent in Japan until just a
Kojima, an associate professor at Aichi Shukutoku University, said the
government should inform foreign parents about Japan’s way of thinking toward
education while respecting and guaranteeing their right to religious beliefs.
Fedaei, 18, a Muslim from Afghanistan, attends the Chiba prefectural Oihama
Senior High School. She says that she knows no Muslims around her who would
deny a girl’s right to receive an education.
mosque opens doors to women after 23 years
officials said women will also be allowed during Eid prayers.
historic Sunehri Masjid has opened its doors to female worshippers for the
first time since 1996, a move warmly welcomed by women of the city.
15-20 women offered prayers on Friday after the administration of the mosque,
located on main Saddar road in Cantonment area, announced the move, reports
mosque's imam, Muhammad Ismail, said the decision, which comes days ahead of
International Women's Day observed on March 8, was taken to facilitate women
living in Saddar and other areas.
1996, women were allowed to attend Friday prayer congregations in the upper
portion of the mosque," he recalled, adding that in 1996, females were
barred from praying in the mosque due to growing militancy.
we have opened the upper portion again so that women can offer Friday prayers
alongside males in a separate section and listen to Friday 'khutba'
(sermon)," Ismail said.
women who attended the prayers at the mosque on Friday along with her
daughters, told Dawn news: "I am really happy, and this is a really good
Fourteen women murdered in Turkish homes since lockdown
rights groups in Turkey have called for better protection for women facing
violence during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, as new figures revealed that
over 20 women had been murdered in a three-week period in March.
We Will Stop Women’s Murder Platform reported on Wednesday that 21 women had
been killed in the space of 20 days since 11 March, when the government advised
the country to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus
of them have been killed at home,” the group, which takes its figures from
media reports, said in a statement. It added that many women who had contacted
the group were scared to report violence by husbands or partners, which had
grown under the domestic lockdown conditions.
of them have given up," the group reported. "Some have realised that
the violence against women had increased, upon returning home following the
closure of the universities. Women also had a hard time to file for injunction
orders because the offenders are elderly or sick.”
Turkey has focused on the coronavirus pandemic, with 63 deaths from the virus
reported on Thursday, the near-daily murder of women has still made headlines.
March as a whole, 29 women were killed, with a further nine whose deaths were
recorded as suspicious, according to local media.
week, Hatice Kurt, 46, was shot and killed in the street in the Black Sea
resort of Rize by her ex-husband Ali Riza Havuz, 61, for allegedly posting a
picture of herself online.
same week, Dilek Kaya was shot and killed by her military officer boyfriend at
home in the eastern city of Diyarbakir after a heated argument.
Oygur, the chair of the Republican Women’s Association, told local media
outlets that there should be TV campaigns against domestic violence during the
are worried that the lockdown would cause domestic violence not only against
women but also children, and abuse,” she said.
association has also asked the government to make it easier for women in the
current climate to obtain court injunctions against their abusers. On 13 March,
Turkey's Judges and Prosecutors Board decided to postpone all court cases
except those deemed urgent.
government has not announced any urgent measures [regarding violence against
women],” the statement said. “The right to life for women and children
shouldn’t be delayed. It should be guaranteed with urgent steps.”
has made moves to combat the murder of women during the last year. An estimated
55,000 police officers have been now trained on how to handle violence against
women, while the process for women to take out court injunctions against their
attackers has been made easier.
Turkish Interior Ministry said in a statement in March that femicides had
decreased by 32 percent year-on-year during the first two months of 2020.
also reported that 24,000 women had downloaded the Women Emergency Support
application, through which they can apply to take out an injunction. During the
same period, injunctions increased 71 percent, according to the ministry.
have long been warning of an epidemic of femicide across Turkey, with We Will
Stop Femicide reporting 440 women killed by men in Turkey in 2018.
Wednesday, Turkey had recorded 63 coronavirus deaths in a single day - the
highest since the beginning of the pandemic, taking the overall death toll to
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a TV statement that 2,148 people had
tested positive during the last 24 hours, 600 less than the day before.
"Sixty percent of the cases are in Istanbul," he added.
more Indonesian teens are giving up dating
was love at first like. When Natta Reza, a dashing Indonesian busker,
discovered the young woman’s account on Instagram, he knew he’d found the one.
He liked one of her posts, and they started chatting. Within hours he had
proposed via an Instagram message. They married soon after, in February 2017.
then Mr Natta and his wife, Wardah Maulina, have become celebrities on
Instagram. They are the poster couple for a social movement sweeping Indonesia,
home to the world’s largest population of Muslims. Its champions encourage
single Muslims to renounce dating, lest they succumb to the temptations of
premarital sex, which is barred by Islamic law. Better to marry young, and
swiftly, and leave the matchmaking to a parent, cleric or the Islamic internet.
Islam in Indonesia has traditionally been a moderate affair. Yet the eagerness
with which teenage and millennial Muslims have embraced abstinence shows how a
purist strain of the faith has tightened its grip.
woman lured to become ISIS nurse via the internet
Canadian woman opens up about her experience about joining terrorist group ISIS
as a nurse.
interview with Anne Speckhard of Homeland Security Today, Kimberly Pullman, 46,
said she joined the terror organization because she wanted to help children.
was going to die at least I could die helping children,” said Pullman, who left
Canada in 2015 to travel to Syria. “(It’s) illogical that you are entering a
war zone that you don’t know anything about … I felt if I did something good it
would overwrite the bad that had happened.”
to Homeland Security Today, western women join ISIS for a variety of reasons,
including wanting romance, adventure seeking, escaping bad family situations or
rejecting Western society to name a few.
joining ISIS, these women hope to find a relationship, a purpose, dignity and
maybe a new life based on Islamic ideals. But they end up being disappointed by
said she left Canada running from a troubled family life and thinking she can
help Syrians with her nursing skills during a war. The nurse was recruited on
said she met her ISIS recruiter on Twitter and ended up marrying him online,
later following him into the terror organization.
teen, the Canadian woman said, her leukemia-stricken father had asked her to
help assist with his suicide. She was also raped more than once while in
troubled relationships, which led to three children by the time she was 20.
said she was drawn to the conservative nature of Islam and looked for safety in
Islamic communities to protect her kids. After converting to Islam, she married
a Kuwaiti man who brought her and her children overseas.
husband allegedly subjected her and her children to violence. After escaping
that relationship and divorcing her husband, Pullman looked to Canada for help
from an imam, who ended up raping her as well.
became known to CSIS thanks to her online chats with ISIS. She claims the
Canadian government tried to prevent her from travelling to Syria. In
hindsight, Pullman said she would have told CSIS what the recruiter was doing.
under ISIS influence, Pullman was told to either “work or go to prison.” As a
nurse, she chose to work at hospital in Raqqa, Syria, with Western doctors, tending
to patients in an underground ICU.
didn’t like what she was seeing in ISIS and didn’t want to stay. But she
couldn’t just up and leave. She tried to escape once, but was thrown in prison,
sexually assaulted and later accused of being a spy, she claimed.
she wasn’t visited by Canadian authorities, Pullman said the FBI interviewed
her, stating she didn’t have charges against her.
has since escaped ISIS, but is stuck in a Syrian camp, feeling abandoned by the
Canadian government. She now wants to aid in the fight against the terror
now works with the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project, an online campaign to
prevent and disrupt ISIS recruitment.
homage to first woman gynecologist in Arab world
APRIL 2 - The new 10-dinar banknotes that have started circulating in Tunisia
portray the image of a woman - a novelty in the Arab world. The woman is Doctor
Tawhida Ben Cheikh (1909-2010), a fundamental figure in Arab modern medicine, a
pediatrician and the first woman to become a gynecologist in Tunisia and North
Africa. The doctor is well-known for her stance in favor of sexual education
and birth control and for promoting women's rights.
graduating in medicine in Paris in 1936, she returned to Tunisia where she
worked in the public sector for a long time, visiting poor women in Tunisian
villages for free.
MUSLIM WOMEN BECAME MY SAVIOUR
the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and National
Population Register dharna at Ghata Ghar was symbolically withdrawn on 23 March
morning, I happened to visit the dharna site on 21 March evening with the purpose
of sitting their with my spinning wheel or Charkha in support of the women.
Immediately the police arrived and wanted me to leave the site citing that it
was a women's protest. I've been here earlier and have spun a couple of times
outside the area marked for women protesters. By that time some women also
arrived from the main dharna site. I informed them of my intention to spin on
my Charkha and sought their permission. I told the police that if the women
would tell me not to spin then I'll go away. The women were in a fix and
meanwhile the police was building pressure on me to leave. One of the women
advised me to leave after which I got up. By that time police had spoken to
their higher officials and decision was taken to detain me. Police asked me to
we were heading towards the police jeep some women who knew me well but were
unaware of the developments came to know about my presence there. They came
rushing towards the police, with a crowd of them following, and asked the
police how could they arrest me? They literally snatched me from the police and
two women grabbed my two hands and took me right inside the main dharna site. I
was offered a chair and drinking water pouch. My grey hair and beard gives an
impression that I'm older than my age. Some of them began advising that I
should leave from the rear of the dharna site so that the police wouldn't be
able to arrest me. I told them that my purpose to come there was to spin and if
they would permit me I would like to spin on my Charkha at the place I had
chosen earlier. They were apprehensive of the police detaining me again. I told
them not to worry about it as even if they did they would take me to the police
station and leave me after some time or register a case against me in some
lighter sections which would require me to take a bail.
this I sat down to spin on my Charkha. The police had surrounded me and wanted
me to wind up. This time they did not make an attempt to detain me because of
the alert women present there. I told them that if they allowed me to spin for
some time I would go away on my own. Then they cited the threat of coronavirus
and asked me to stop spinning. I told them that if they were not surrounding me
it would not attract so much attention and crowd. Then some journalists also
requested me to wind up because of the corona threat. This time I complied with
their request but told the Station Officer of Thakurganj Police Station that I
would be back after the 'janata curfew,' the next day, and then police should
not interfere, to which he agreed.
days before this on 19 March the administration asked the women to reduce their
strength in the wake of threat of coronavirus. However, when their numbers went
below 50, the administration tried to forcibly remove the dharna. At that point
the number of police and security personnel was more than the protesters but as
soon as the word spread that police was trying to commit atrocity, the numbers
of protesters swelled. Because of the scuffle some women got injured and had to
be admitted to hospital. But the women stood their ground so stoutly that in
spite of policemen entering the main dharna area of women to terrorise them
they were not able to move the women. I had just heard of this courage and seen
it from a distance. But I directly experienced it on 21 March to my welcome
Vivekanand had said that a true Indian is one who possesses the depth of
Vedanta, courage of Islam, spirit of service of Christianity and compassion of
Buddhism. Even he identified Islam with valour. I saw this spirit in Muslim
women on 21 March.
can defeat such brave women? Now I'm convinced that this movement will succeed
and government will have to withdraw in spite of the fact that it has used the
excuse of coronavirus to wind up the dharnas with a vengeance. It is shameful
that when the protesters had taken a decision at Jamia Millia and Shaheen Bagh
to reduce their protests to only symbolic ones, the police has used high handed
methods like lodging First Information Reports, detaining and painting over the
graffiti on walls to forcibly remove all symbols of dissent. The intention of
the government is clear, it was not to protect people from coronavirus but to
completely wind up the protests. It took them an international crisis to be
able to do that. Once the corona threat subsides the government will have to
either remove the discrimination in the name of religion and country from CAA
or take back the amendment itself. If democracy and Constitution survives in
this country we'll have to thank the Muslim women for waging the fight.
a matter of shame that the Secretary General of United Nations Ban Ki-Moon has
written in an article that 'There is no way that India can overcome its
development challenges by pitting one religious group against another and
turning some Indians into second class citizens....If India were to go further
down this path of nationalist and religious discrimination, it would be a
political and social catastrophe that could set back the country's development
for generations.' He further suggests that the vision of founding fathers of
India should remain at the heart of our future to achieve lasting peace,
justice and prosperity. What can be more scathing indictment of our present
leadership than this.
another article by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, he has written that
coronavirus reminds us how for nature we are all equal and how this little
virus has erased all human created differences in the society. If he sincerely
believes in this then he should recommend to the government to withdraw the CAA
which discriminates among human being on the basis of their religion and
writer is Vice-President of Socialist Party (India)and can be reached at
Women Trapped Between The Virus and Domestic Abuse
households across the world on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, many
women are finding themselves trapped between the virus and domestic abuse.
the Middle East, the story of Jordanian domestic abuse victim Eman al-Khateeb
went viral after she sent an online plea for help when she was almost killed by
her brother during quarantine after dealing with years of abuse by her family
her plea, she said she is divorced with a 13-year-old son and was made
redundant after the coronavirus outbreak, but her ex-husband refuses to pay
alimony to cover her and her son's expenses.
Ayman kicked her and her son out of their home, without money or their personal
belongings, and told her never to return. He said that she will be killed if
she comes home without cash.
Eman's story being the first and only high-profile case of heightened domestic
abuse under quarantine in the region, it shows that fears of lockdowns causing
a rise in violence against women are very much real.
women having no choice other than staying home and no means to escape, we
expect that violence against women will increase," Suad Abu Dayyeh, a
women's rights campaigner for Equality Now told The New Arab.
women having no choice other than staying home, and no means to escape, we
expect that violence against women will increase
against women in the Arab world is already high. According to the UN, 37
percent of "ever married women" in the East Mediterranean region –
which encompasses most Arab nations – have experienced physical or sexual
partner violence, but even they acknowledge the statistic may be much higher.
study by the World Bank showed that the Middle East and North African region
has the lowest number of laws protecting women from domestic violence in the
of the sensitivity of the topic, it's difficult to come up with official
statistics on how the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the rise of domestic
violence, but we are expecting the number to skyrocket," Suad explained.
Begum, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that
the increase in abuse women are likely to face is exacerbated by already
patriarchal structures that deem women's lives unworthy.
need to remember that the rise in abuse will not happen in a vacuum – women
will be more likely to be abused in a context of existing patriarchal context
where gender-based violence is largely accepted as an internal household
issue," she said.
expressed worries that the stress, boredom and anxiety of being under lockdown
can even prompt abuse in households that may not be typically abusive.
abuse could even start small, such as a woman's husband or male relative
entering the kitchen and harassing her about the food and house, out of
boredom, which could unfortunately escalate," Suad explained.
story provoked mixed reactions. Despite there being some who condemned her for
"publicly humiliating her family" by "exposing their
behaviour", the majority of the Jordanian public has been supportive of
Eman for speaking out.
is now in a shelter and she's safe and because of this, she has a
responsibility to speak up that things do get better after pleading for help
for those still too scared to do so," Suad said, updating The New Arab on
needs to be remembered is that she is amongst those who actually have internet
access to use their personal platforms for help."
a Palestinian women's rights organisation based in Haifa, released a WhatsApp
hotline for victims of domestic abuse to contact them.
explained that despite the internet being a prominent tool to alleviate victims
of domestic violence, there are many who do not have the luxury of internet
worry is there are many vulnerable women in remote areas or villages who do not
have access to the internet, let alone have a smartphone to live broadcast
are also many girls and women who despite coming from affluent or middle-class
families, will be cut off from the world by force.
will be many cases of women being forced to hand over their devices to men who
claim to need it more, or who are intentionally trying to stop them from
seeking escape from abuse."
may also be a rise in depriving young girls of education where online learning
facilities are limited and will have to give up their time on the internet or
laptop for their brothers to study instead, she explained.
traditional methods of actively looking for women in remote areas, or allowing
them a safe space to speak up against abuse in NGO-run health clinics, are
being diminished as an effect of the response to coronavirus.
lockdowns imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, women will be less
able to escape to already under-resourced shelters.
some countries in the region, for example Morocco, there are as little as 10
shelters in the whole country, and the majority of them are run by NGOs,"
has a population of over 36 million people. Despite enacting a law to protect
women from physical and sexual violence in September 2018, its infrastructure
to protect fleeing women remains evidently weak.
are running low on employees because they aren't able to leave their own
families alone," Saeeda al-Atrash, director of Safe House in Palestine's
occupied city of Bethlehem, told The New Arab.
also found a drop in women approaching the shelter for help, which she predicts
may be because of the lockdown measures imposed in Bethlehem, along with them
fearing contracting the deadly disease.
worse cases, in some Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, women are not even in
control of whether they feel safe enough to stay and leave, according to
Rothna. This leaves women at the mercy of the state and their male guardians to
deem them in a safe enough environment if their guardians agree to stop abusing
the deadly disease spreads, authorities are more likely to prioritise ensuring
lockdown measures are adhered to rather than deal with domestic violence.
police are usually partners in referring victims of domestic abuse to our shelter
but most of their officers are being deployed to ward streets for those who are
breaking lockdown rules," Saeeda explained.
need to pressure governments in remembering women's rights and that women are
now more vulnerable than ever," Suad urged.
said it could potentially even be a wake-up call if civil society puts enough
pressure on authorities, and they start to coordinate.
to Rothna, governments need to become more creative in spreading the message
using localised ways of contact to reach out to women and encourage them to
seek help. For example, using phone lines instead of leaflets for the Amazigh
community in the Maghreb region, where many women are illiterate.
fact that no government in the region has even spoken about domestic violence
in the face of this pandemic is very telling. They may even use coronavirus as
another excuse on top of the patriarchal fabric to dismiss women," Saeeda
both possibilities are likely, and may even happen simultaneously in different
parts of the two-continent region, the coronavirus pandemic will continue to
highlight the detrimental effects of patriarchy as victims will have even less
of a support system.
fuels domestic violence in the Middle East
many women in the Middle East and North Africa, physical violence is a part of
everyday life. In countries such as Yemen, Morocco and Egypt, at least a
quarter of all married women say their husbands have physically abused them,
according to a Princeton University study published last year.
nearly half of the countries that make up the Middle East and North Africa
region have passed laws to combat domestic violence, they have proven
ineffective at tackling the problem and curbing abuse, according to Human Right
violence has become a part of my life," said Laila, whose name has been
changed. "It's as familiar as the air I breathe. I know nothing
did not want her name published or her country of origin mentioned for fear of
any reprisal from her husband or the wider community. The woman, who is in her
50s, said she married a young distant relative more than 30 years ago and has
suffered physical abuse ever since.
times, Laila would return home to find her children — seven daughters and one
son — with bruises on their face, arms or back.
had only found solace in the times that her husband would travel for work,
saying it gave her a chance to escape the normality of violence that had become
her life. "When my husband was away, it was like a party for me and my
government restrictions to curb the novel coronavirus have meant that her husband
no longer takes those work trips and is forced to stay at home.
Laila isn't the only one. Aisha, an Arab woman who was forced to flee from her
country to Turkey, said her husband beats her and her children every day. DW
has also changed her name to protect her.
fears that Turkey could impose further restrictions to curb the coronavirus
pandemic, including a curfew. That would prevent her from working and keep her
locked indoors with her husband.
domestic violence is not unique to the Arab world, it appears especially dire
due to patriarchal notions of women's roles, especially at home. Lebanese
social worker Rania Suleiman said women face additional pressure as a result of
tight-knit family structures and multigenerational living conditions in
these conditions, women are forced to react to the needs of the family to a
large extent," Suleiman said. "This means highly stressful situations
daily. If they don't meet the demands the way their husband wants them to, they
run the risk of being physically abused."
Aknes, a social worker at an emergency clinic in the Gaza Strip where victims
of domestic violence are treated, recommends always carrying official identity
documents, having available phone numbers of aid organizations and identifying
trusted persons that could help in an emergency.
specifies separate days for men, women to go out amid lockdown
combat coronavirus outbreak Panama has implemented a new measure specifying
certain days of the week when men and women will be allowed to leave their
houses to buy necessities.
to reports in CNN, starting on Wednesday, only women will be allowed to go out
to buy necessities on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. While men can go out only
on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Even on designated days both men and women
will only have two hours to shop.
rule requires all families to stay home on Sundays. Government officials said
these restrictions will last for at least 15 days, making it easier for police
to limit the number of people going out in public.
great quantity of people circulating outside their homes, despite the
obligatory national quarantine, has led the national government to take more
severe measures," said a statement by Panamanian President Laurentino
"Nito" Cortizo on Twitter.
Pakistani Feminists’ Fight for Rights
Kaukab Tahir Shairani
Women’s Day in Pakistan this year was disrupted by religious and moral policing
by hardliner Islamic groups. On March 8, Pakistani women took to the streets in
the country’s largest-ever women’s day demonstration. Feminists and members of
civil society — including both urban and rural populations — boisterously
chanted slogans against sexual harassment and domestic violence and called for
bodily rights, equal wages, and safer public spaces.
Islamabad, clerics from Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), which appears to be the
vanguard of radical Islam, disrupted the march. The mosque also contains a
seminary for women characterized by its Taliban-style moral policing. The
hardliners hurled stones and shoes at the protestors, a show of condemnation of
their demands for equality. Across the road, women from Islamist groups
executed a military-style demonstration in protest to the slogans.
the march, a slogan stating “mera jism, meri marzi” (“my body, my choice”) was
the subject of heated debate over its seemingly un-Islamic character.
Conservatives on mainstream and social media disregarded the demand as
“promiscuous” and launched a smear campaign. One of Pakistan’s leading
religious groups, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), initiated an organized effort
to forcibly stop a march in Sukkur — a city in southern Pakistan notorious for
forced conversions, child marriages, and honor killings. Party stalwart Maulana
Fazlur Rehman, during his speech, said that his workers will not tolerate the
march and its “vulgar slogans in the name of freedom.”
is what this resistance suggests: Pakistani women are fighting not just the
country’s patriarchal mindset, but also deep-rooted religious extremism. Over
the last few decades and as a result of the Afghan war, politicization and
Islamization have remained hand-in-glove. But the roots long pre-date the
in 1953, a series of threats were made against the Ahmadiyya sect, a community
of marginalized Muslims declared apostates by the Pakistani state. The clergy
also demanded the removal of Zafrullah Khan, a Pakistani diplomat and jurist,
from public office over his association with the sect. Later, under the rule of
former military dictator and President Zia-ul-Haq in 1973, the Pakistani
Constitution restricted the freedom of religion for the Ahmadiyya. Its
followers were then punishable by a prison sentence if they claimed to be
President General Ayub Khan’s era saw the promulgation of the Muslim Family
Laws Ordinance 1961, which empowered women especially in areas of divorce and
marriage. The new laws discouraged polygyny and required a man to seek consent
from his first wife if he wanted to remarry. However, Khan soon retracted those
rights and caved to religious orthodoxy in order to extend his control over
power. With pressure ramping up from extremists, Jamaat-i-Islami, an Islamist
political movement, sought to abolish the country’s family planning program.
Signs of deepening intolerance emerged when Khan and Fatima Jinnah, the sister
of Pakistan’s founder popularly referred to as the “Mother of the Nation,”
stood in conflict over claims that she had diverted from Pakistan’s ideology.
The propaganda continued as Islamic hardliners debarred women from holding
position as the head of the state, further injecting patriarchy into the
political fabric. (The laws were amended in the years after, however, and the
forward to the Soviet-Afghan face-off. Islamabad proved to be Washington’s
ally. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) helped train troops to
resist the Soviets. Fanatics, in the process, engineered the glorification of
jihad to prepare thousands of mujahideen who participated against the Soviet.
9/11, Washington and Islamabad joined hands, again. This led to a gradual
influx of militants across the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border and, in turn,
may have fueled extremism. Nearly 20 years later, while matters between the
United States and the Taliban may be settling, hardline splinter groups
continue to impose Islamic morality in Pakistan. Jamia Hafsa, an Islamic
university for women located next to the Lal Masjid headquarters, stays concerted
in its efforts to keep the spirit of radical Islam alive, making young
burka-clad girls and women party to the cause.
vigilante groups openly defied the state, the Pakistani government in 2014
launched several military offensives to eliminate proscribed outfits including
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that claimed to be an off-shoot of
the Afghan Taliban, and Jaish-e-Muhammad, a banned outfit then known as pioneer
of suicide bombings in the region.
and religious polarization has resulted in religious terrorism, sectarian
clashes between Shia and Sunni Muslims and attacks on minorities’ places of
worship. Nonetheless, the March 8 ruckus appears to be a watershed moment as it
challenged the male-dominant political elite and the entrenched religious
ideology. Despite the threats lurking, Pakistani women dared to protest. Those
who stand in opposition are religious fanatics but also surprisingly come from
educated segments of society and include both men and women. The battle for
women’s rights will not be won without defeating the hardline religious
Tahir Shairani is an Erasmus Mundus Journalism scholar and a multimedia
journalist from Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter: @_shairani
UN Special Envoy for Yemen consults with the Yemeni women’s Technical Advisory
31 March 2020 - The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, met with the
Yemeni women’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) today in a video conference over
is a network of Yemeni women formed in 2018 by the Office of the Special Envoy
of the Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY) from diverse backgrounds, including
economics, human rights, governance, as well as women with political party
the meeting, Mr. Griffiths consulted with the TAG members on how to resume the
political process as soon as possible to end the war. The TAG was also briefed
on his engagement with the parties to work out the specifics of how to
translate their stated commitments to end hostilities into a tangible reality.
TAG members and Mr. Griffiths discussed as well a number of economic and
humanitarian measures that would alleviate the suffering of Yemeni people,
build confidence between the parties, and enhance Yemen’s capacity to respond
to the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak, including the release of all
conflict-related prisoners and detainees.
high risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen alongside continued military
escalation poses potentially catastrophic consequences for the men, women and
children of Yemen,” Mr. Griffiths said, “We must move urgently towards an end
of the war, not only because it is imperative for an adequate response to the
pandemic, but because this is what Yemenis demanded clearly and publicly.”
Griffiths thanked the TAG members and all Yemeni women’s groups and networks
for their support to the peace process and their vital advocacy to end the war.
voices and concerns of all Yemenis are critical to raise awareness, encourage
cross-party cooperation, exert pressure, provide context-sensitive solutions,
and mobilize all efforts to respond to the current crisis in Yemen,” Mr.
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