Maryam al-Balushi, female Emirati prisoner
• Saudi Women's Golf Tournament Provokes Protest In Saudi Arabia
• Rape, Torture, and Exploitation: Woes of a Female Migrant Worker in Saudi Arabia
• Malaysian Women Share the Joy Of Going On Girls-Only Trips
• Newly Strengthened In Knesset, Arab Women Seek To Expand Their Voice
• Four Women at Forefront of Israel's Arab Political Surge
• International Women's Day Caused a Scene in Pakistan
• How To Make 'Aurat March' Effective In Pakistan?
• Democracy and Empowered Women Launched
• International Women's Day 2020 in Yemen and Tajikistan
Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau
Female Emirati Prisoner Activist Balushi Attempts Suicide in A Detention Centre In The United Arab Emirates
13 March 2020
Female Emirati prisoner Maryam al-Balushi has attempted suicide at a detention center in the United Arab Emirates by cutting a vein in her arm, months after she reported being subjected to various forms of torture and threatened with rape.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said in a statement that Balushi carried out the suicide attempt earlier this week at al-Wathba Prison, just outside the capital Abu Dhabi, due to the deterioration of her psychological state after being threatened by the public prosecution office as she refused to record confessions to be published via official channels.
“We are shocked and upset by these recent developments. If the UAE government is in any way serious about addressing the issue of women’s rights, a good place to start would be to stop the state-sanctioned torture and abuse of female prisoners of conscience pushing them to try to take their own lives,” ICFUAE stated.
The rights group highlighted that Balushi had complained of torture, degrading conditions of detention and endemic racism in the UAE prison system in a letter from prison last year.
The 21-year-old woman was arrested on November 19, 2015, and was charged with financing ‘terrorism’ after donating money to a Syrian family. She insists the donation was done in good faith, according to the ICFUAE.
The activist denied all charges against her, but was sentenced to five years in prison in February 2017.
Human rights sources, requesting not to be named, also revealed that Balushi had been denied medical treatment over the past few months for liver cirrhosis and kidney stones.
The UAE authorities have similarly denied care to another female detainee, identified as Amina al-Abdouli, who suffers from anemia and liver disease.
In May 2019, female detainee Alia Abdel Nour passed away from cancer after being denied access to urgent medical care by prison officials.
In 2018, the Geneva-based International Center for Justice and Human Rights shared recordings in which Balushi said she had told her investigator that once she was released, she would file a complaint with Mohammed bin Zayed, only to be told that the Abu Dhabi crown prince himself had ordered her torture.
Saudi Women's Golf Tournament Provokes Protest In Saudi Arabia
By Rayhan Uddin
13 March 2020
When it comes to women’s sports in Saudi Arabia, there have been a lot of recent firsts.
Last year, the conservative kingdom held a women’s wrestling match for the very first time. That was followed in February by the launch of a Saudi women’s football league. Just last week, the country hosted its first women’s cricket match.
The breakthroughs will continue next week with the inaugural Saudi Ladies International golf tournament.
The Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, 120km north of Jeddah, will welcome the biggest stars in women’s golf from 19-22 March. A prize fund of $1m will be up for grabs.
In a country where women were only recently allowed to merely spectate at football matches, efforts to encourage participation in sports have been welcomed.
British professional golfer Carly Booth said: “I have visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and been lucky enough to spend some time teaching local women and girls how to play.
“They have been so enthusiastic and I am sure that seeing professional golfers compete in their country will inspire them to take up the game and strive for their dreams.”
Despite the positive steps, some have accused Saudi Arabia of double standards.
In Brussels, Amnesty International activists used next week's tournament as an opportunity to raise awareness about women’s rights and highlight the human rights activists who have been jailed in the kingdom.
To do so, they dressed up in golf attire and delivered 500 golf balls to the Saudi embassy, with the name of women who have been locked up written on them.
. @amnestyvl had a clear message to the #Saudi embassy in #Brussels: #FreeSaudiActivists NOW.
Free @LoujainHathloul, @nasema33 & @samarbadawi15 @KingSalman hosting a women's golf tournament while jailing women activists doesn't look good.
Take action: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/saudi-arabia-specialized-criminal-court/ …
3:21 AM - Mar 12, 2020
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Among the names featured were Loujain al-Hathloul, who campaigned against the ban on women driving before being detained in May 2018, and human rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, who have both been held since July 2018.
“While the Saudi authorities are trying to give themselves a reformist image by organising international sporting events in particular, they continue to persecute human rights and women's rights defenders,” said Philippe Hensmans, director of the Belgian French-speaking section of Amnesty International.
Next week’s golf tournament is the latest of a host of sports and entertainment events being held in Saudi Arabia as part of its Vision 2030 strategy, which aims to make the economy less reliant on oil.
This is not the first golf tournament in the country - the men’s Saudi International was held in the King Abdullah Economic City for the second time in February.
Rory McIlroy, currently the world's number-one ranked golfer and four-time major champion, rejected a reported $2.5m fee to compete at the tournament, saying that it did not “excite him” and that “100 percent there’s a morality to it as well”.
Not all sports stars have followed McIlroy’s lead. Football icon Lionel Messi was among a host of footballers to compete in the Spanish Super Cup tournament in Saudi Arabia, despite protests in Madrid.
Meanwhile, boxer Anthony Joshua not only competed in a heavyweight boxing clash in the country, but also posted a picture of himself with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the fight.
Rape, Torture, and Exploitation: Woes of a Female Migrant Worker in Saudi Arabia
March 13th, 2020
'At midnight, one of the older brothers covered my mouth with his hand and raped me'
Parveena Begum (not her real name), a 26-year-old migrant worker, burst into tears as she described her life of torment and sexual exploitation at the hands of her employer in Saudi Arabia.
Parveena went to the kingdom around four and a half years ago with a domestic worker visa but today is an illegal migrant worker, working as a house help.
She has been raped, abused, tortured and sexually assaulted. And she misses the life she used to live in Bangladesh.
This correspondent met with her at Hafar Al Batin area near Alexander Language Schools, Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia and listened to her story.
Parveena broke down talking about her six-year-old daughter Kulsum (also not her real identity). She said she wanted to give her daughter a better life by earning some money abroad. To that end, she had taken some help from a “manpower agency” in Fakirapool, near the Panir Tank, in Dhaka.
Parveena had to spend Tk20,000 in order to get to Saudi Arabia. When she reached King Abdulaziz International Airport, a Bangladeshi man received her and took her to an office. The next day a Saudi man came and took her to work in his house.
Parveena said she was happy to get a good job and started dreaming about how she would help her family.
She thought that she would send some money to her husband to buy a rickshaw van that he could rent out, but within a month, her dream was shattered when she came to know that her monthly salary was only SAR 1000 (approx Tk23,000), and that she would only get the entire sum after one year.
“The Saudi family had six members, including three unmarried adult males. Often they tortured me when they got drunk and sometimes made forcible sexual advances,” she said through her tears.
“I was sleeping in the store room near the kitchen. At midnight, one of the older brothers covered my mouth with his hand and raped me. I tried to resist with all my force but I failed.”
Growing up in a small village in Gouripur upazila of Mymensingh, nearly five years ago Parveena decided to go to Saudi Arabia for a better life in order to help her family out. Her husband, Siddik Ali, 45, works as a van puller for a school in Azimpur, Dhaka.
She said she did not receive any salary from the Saudi employer for more than three years. She had cried and asked for a phone to contact her family, but was refused any help.
Even before she arrived in Saudia Arabia, she had landed herself in debt.
“My father borrowed Tk10,000 from local NGOs and my husband provided the rest of the money so I could come to Saudi Arabia,” she added.
“At first my agent told me that I would only need to cook for two members of a family – a husband and a wife – but later I found out that the family had six members and my duties included all kinds of household chores, including cooking, washing, cleaning and others.
“It was hard for me to understand their language. I also could not cook to their taste,” she said.
“When I left that house I thought I was a free bird.”
One day, through a stroke of luck, she found some Bangladeshis who agreed to help her. With their help, Parveena went to the Bangladesh Consulate in Jeddah and was sent to a safe house.
But the safe house was far from safe, said Parveena. Some of the consulate staff at the safe house tried to get her to work in their houses and offered her shady deals.
Dhaka Tribune reached out to Kazi Salahuddin, second secretary (labour wing), Jeddah Consulate, but he declined to comment.
When she was forced to leave the safe house, she managed work in Bawadi area near Madinah Road for a family in a Bangladeshi neighbourhood.
Parveena said: “Now I am so happy, because I am working for a good family which has only two members and they are nice people. They are treating me like a human being and not a slave.”
Now Parveena is earning SAR 2100 (approx Tk47,600), and an additional SAR150 (approx Tk3,400) for mobile and conveyance. Every month, Parveena sends around BDT 45,000 to her family via hundi or bKash.
Responding to a question about this illegal mode of transaction, Parveena said she had no legal papers and visa. She further said that when she had legal papers, she earned SAR 1000, adding: “So why would I need papers now?”
She said that she would return to Bangladesh after two years.
Abuse and exploitation
According to government figures, more than 270,000 female workers have travelled to Saudi Arabia since 1991, but many of them have returned home with stories of abuse and exploitation.
In the last five years, at least 70 Bangladeshi female workers died in Saudi Arabia, 55 of them committing suicide.
In the last five years 22,000 women workers returned home with allegations of sexual harassment, low pay, physical torture and other allegations, said Golam Moshi, ambassador of Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia.
Golam Moshi also admitted to the ill-treatment of some of the female migrant workers at the hands of Saudi employers.
Malaysian Women Share the Joy Of Going On Girls-Only Trips
14 Mar 2020
One of the best holidays for women is a good ol’ girls’ trip. Nothing beats being with your girlfriends as you bond over new experiences, see new sights and maybe even meet new people.
There are actually studies done that conclude that female-only travel – especially with your best friends – can improve wellness and happiness in many women.
Three women share their perspectives as well as some misconceptions about girls-only holidays.
Women can plan a holiday just as well as men, if not better. This is what Norhidayah Abdullah believes, as proven by the numerous trips she has organised with her female varsity friends in the past three years.
“We can do the budget too, ” she says.
Norhidayah adds that when it comes to the topic of women and travel, there are simply too many misconceptions.
Some of these are that women struggle with navigation, are too weak for adventure-based activities or that women spend too much money on shopping.
“Not to forget, sometimes women are said to be clingy during a holiday. That is not true. There are many girls out there who are independent, ” says Norhidayah, 24.
The fresh graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia says she enjoys the planning process as it brings everyone together.
“We will list out the places we want to visit, the price and check the distance to other nearby attractions. We even save everything on Google Maps to make sure our trip runs smoothly, ” she details.
Norhidayah and her friends prefer to keep their girls trips close to home. To date, they have travelled together to Langkawi, Ipoh and Penang.
There are several things that the young women want to check off when they travel together.
“The itinerary must include places with the best shopping experience, especially places that sell cute souvenirs. We also look for the best eateries as well as unknown spots for photo sessions, ” she says.
Norhidayah adds that she carefully plans her travel clothes.
“The outfits are important when we go on our holiday, ” she says, adding that the perfect trip would usually include some #OOTD (outfit of the day) posts on social media.
Being young Muslim women, they stress the importance of halal travel too. Norhidayah also makes sure the hotel or hostels they stay at have a private bathroom.
“We also look out for hotels with complete amenities and facilities such as iron, hairdryer, towel and parking spots, ” she explains.
Safety, of course, is a major concern for a group of women travelling, even in Malaysia.
“Safety is something we struggle with, especially during road trips. There might be road bullies who will try to annoy you with their dangerous driving skills. When some drivers see a woman behind the wheel, they can be very rude, ” she shares.
Norhidayah hopes that the authorities and travel operators will create a travel landscape that is more women-friendly. On the top of her wishlist is more female-friendly rooms with hairdryers and sanitary bins.
Moving forward, she will be planning more trips with her close girlfriends.
“The best way to bond with your best friend is to go on holiday together and enjoy every moment, ” she says.
Some rest and relaxation for herself – away from the kids and house chores. That is what Eileen Cheah looks forward to whenever she goes for holidays with her schoolmates.
The entrepreneur has been going on women-only holidays with her classmates from Penang’s St George’s Girls’ School almost yearly now, since 2014.
“My girls-only trips have been rejuvenating. I always come back from these holidays feeling refreshed, ” says Cheah, 43.
Personal well-being aside, Cheah notes that her time away from home teaches her young sons – Joel, Gabriel and Adriel – to be more independent.
Cheah’s flexible work hours means she’s able to spend most of her time with her kids. The only time her children would be at home with dad is when she goes on her annual girls trip.
“It will teach my kids to be more appreciative of the chores their mother does at home – and that life is hard without mum to help them, ” she reveals with a laugh.
“I felt guilty about leaving my family behind the first time I went for my trip, but it wasn’t like I was gone the whole week. The most I have been away is four days, ” she says.
Cheah counts herself lucky as her mother or in-laws would come over from Penang and Perak respectively, to keep an eye on the kids when she is away. Sometimes, her husband would take time off from work to be at home.
After the first holiday to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with over a dozen classmates, Cheah has gone on other girls trips to Chiang Mai and Bangkok (in Thailand), and Bali, Indonesia.
She now prefers to keep the trips more intimate with just a few close friends.
“It’s easier to manage a smaller group. You need to travel with people with the same interests. Only then will there be less dispute and drama, ” she reveals with a laugh.
There are other advantages to going on an all-girls holiday, Cheah says. One of it is the sharing sessions.
“We will spend some time just sitting down and talking to each other. We chat about family life, things that we would like to do and things that we haven’t done. Sometimes, we talk about the good old days in school, ” she shares.
Since her friends are working professionals, Cheah says they don’t mind splurging for more quality holiday experiences.
“Travelling in your 40s is different from travelling in your 20s. When you are a bit more affluent, you can afford to stay in places that are more convenient or feels safer.
“I feel that travel for women would be a bit safer when budget is not an issue, ” she says.
In general, though, Cheah thinks travel is much easier and safer for women now.
“In the past, I could only rely on guide books and friends’ recommendations, ” she says, adding that she has not encountered any untoward incidents.
That being said, Cheah thinks all women – especially mothers – should recharge on a holiday with their close female friends.
“Take the time to create good memories, eat some good food and do some shopping. When you come back to your family, you will feel better and be more refreshed.”
Taryn Foo and her best friends Jocelyn, Millicent and Sharon have travelled to over 20 countries together in the past two decades.
They have seen the Aurora Borealis in their pyjamas, almost missed a flight to Vancouver (Canada), tried haggis (a Scottish savoury pudding) and once dragged their luggage through thick snow in Hokkaido, Japan.
“We are comfortable travelling together because we can be our true, authentic selves while enjoying each other’s company, ” says Foo, the mastermind behind most of the group’s excursions.
She adds that their holidays deepen their friendship. While travelling, they spend plenty of time with each other, to the point of knowing each other’s habits and pet peeves.
For the career-driven ladies, travelling lets them get away from their hectic workplace.
“We will go window-shopping, try out the local onsen, treat ourselves to good spa and high tea sessions. We just relax and watch the world go by, something some men may not like to indulge in, ” she says in jest.
“We formulate our full itinerary based on the places we want to go to and then work around it by looking for the best accommodation. We then book transportation, either by trams or trains, ” Foo adds.
The ladies opt for accommodations that satisfy three things: safety, convenience and reasonable pricing.
“We all agreed that it is alright to pay more for better accommodations, ” she says.
Foo, however, says that disagreements may occur and some plans might not work out as expected.
“Sometimes even when the schedule is planned out perfectly, we need to make adjustments. Since it’s inevitable, you need friends who can adapt to changes, caring enough to notice if anyone is not feeling well and adventurous enough to try new things, ” she says.
On another note, Foo says technology has made travel more seamless and safer for women.
“Modern technology like Google Translate and GPS make it easier for us to communicate when in foreign countries and allow women to find their hotels without needing to ask around, ” she says.
The biggest hurdle is moving around with heavy items. Some hotels do not have lifts so they need to carry their luggage up several flights of stairs.
“Travel operators can provide a better travel experience for women by being more sensitive to their needs, such as making sure there are sufficient toilet breaks during long-distance (ground) journeys, ensuring that the accommodation has elevators, providing detailed maps as well as a portable weighing scale that would help women who tend to over-buy things, ” Foo shares.
Above all, Foo thinks the people you travel together with can make or break a trip.
“As travel mates, you have to have an easy-going attitude and take into consideration all views and opinions, ” she says.
Foo adds that there is also a misconception that women tend to quarrel easily or are often too noisy when they travel together.
“These aren’t true if you travel with your best friends whom you know well. Every conversation and every trip with great friends will lead to a deeper and more meaningful friendship.
“Travelling can be fun when you are travelling with the right people, ” Foo concludes.
Newly Strengthened In Knesset, Arab Women Seek To Expand Their Voice
13 March 2020
Newly elected MK Iman Khatib-Yassin, greeting supporters in Nazareth, shook hands with women but tapped her heart with her right hand for men.
The gestures signaled the Muslim identity of the woman who is about to become Israel’s first hijab-wearing MK and part of a group of Arab women poised to expand their voice in Israel’s male-dominated politics.
All major parties in the Jewish state are currently led by men, with women making up only 25 percent of lawmakers in the Knesset.
But in the March 2 elections, one party managed to double its female representation, albeit from a low base: The predominantly Arab Joint List won 15 of the Knesset’s 120-seats, the alliance’s best-ever performance and up from 13 during stalemate elections last September.
The Joint List also counts four women among its incoming MKs, up from two in September.
Khatib-Yassin will be part of the Knesset’s largest ever contingent of Arab women, including three Joint List colleagues and a Druze woman from the centrist Blue and White party.
The Joint List draws most of its support from Israel’s roughly 20-percent Arab minority.
Israel’s Arabs complain of discrimination and accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of treating them as second-class citizens. Netanyahu counters that his government has invested more in Arab neighborhoods than any in the history of the Jewish state.
The Joint List’s elected women told AFP that while they will focus on their constituent’s concerns, they also care about wider issues in Israeli society.
“Do not make the veil a barrier. Look at the capabilities of the veil’s wearer — their ethics, work, skills and attitudes,” said Khatib-Yassin, a 54-year-old mother of four.
There are “religious Jewish women in the Knesset,” she added. “We didn’t hear any comment about them. We must deal with people first as human beings.”
Khatib-Yassin studied social services at Tel Aviv University, specializing in women’s support. In parliament, she wants to tackle issues ranging from violence in Arab neighborhoods to poverty and housing.
In the Arab population, she said, “Sixty-four percent of women are excluded from work, not because they don’t want to work but due to conditions and lack of travel options.”
Inflexible hours mean Arab women often need to leave for work before their children go to school, she said. “These issues must be put on the table at the Knesset.”
The new parliament will be sworn in next week but some fear it will last only a few months. No bloc has a 61-seat majority, a repeat of inconclusive polls from the April and September 2019 elections. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud won 36 seats and controls a total of 58, counting its allies.
Netanyahu’s main rival Benny Gantz, who heads Blue and White, needs the Joint List’s support to even consider forming a government. The Joint List’s head Ayman Odeh has indicated he could back Gantz under certain conditions.
Aida Touma-Sliman, a Christian Arab-Israeli reelected on March 2, is on the Joint List’s four-person team negotiating with Gantz.
A women’s activist before entering parliament in 2015, Touma-Sliman stressed that the Joint List’s incoming female MKs “are from all walks of life and are capable and serious representatives of the whole of society.”
The Joint List is an alliance of parties representing both Muslim and Christian Arab Israelis, as well as some Jewish leftists. Though it has been broadly painted by the Israeli right as a party of “terror supporters” for its members’ backing of Palestinians and sometimes failure to condemn terror attacks, its politics are more complex, with MKs ranging from Islamists to communists.
One member, Sundus Salih, is at 34 about to become Israel’s youngest lawmaker. The mother of three is from Al-Mashhad town near Nazareth and has a masters in science and technology.
“There are differences between the [List’s] parties… but we four women unite and agree on most things,” Salih told AFP. “As a mother and a teacher I am worried by the proliferation of violence and guns.”
The fourth member of the quartet almost didn’t make it on the ballot.
Heba Yazbak, also from Nazareth, was blocked as a candidate by the Central Elections Committee over Facebook posts allegedly supporting terrorism. She denied the charges and was cleared to run by the Supreme Court. Now she is determined to use her Knesset seat to fight for Arab rights.
“We intend to translate our great electoral strength into political positions that reinforce our position as Arabs in this country and confront the right-wing and its agendas,” she told AFP.
Four Women at Forefront of Israel's Arab Political Surge
13 March, 2020
Newly elected Israeli MP Iman al-Khatib, greeting supporters in Nazareth, shook hands with women but tapped her heart with her right hand for men.
The gestures signaled the Muslim identity of the woman who is about to become Israel's first hijab-wearing MP and part of a group of Arab women poised to expand their voice in Israel's male-dominated politics.
All major parties in the Jewish state are led by men, with women making up only 25 percent of lawmakers in the Knesset, or parliament.
But in March 2 elections, one party managed to double its female representation, albeit from a low base.
The predominantly Arab Joint List won 15 of the Knesset's 120-seats, the alliance's best-ever performance and up from 13 during stalemate election last September.
The List also counts four women among its incoming MPs, up from two in September.
Khatib will be part of the Knesset's largest ever contingent of Arab women, including three Joint List colleagues and a Druze woman from the centrist Blue and White party.
The List draws most of its support from Israel's roughly 20-percent Arab minority -- who have Israeli citizenship but are Palestinian by heritage.
Israel's Arab minority complain of discrimination and accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of treating them as second-class citizens.
Netanyahu counters that his government has invested more in Arab neighborhoods than any in the history of the Jewish state.
The List's elected women told AFP that while they will focus on their constituent's concerns, they also care about wider issues in Israeli society.
"Do not make the veil a barrier. Look at the capabilities of the veil's wearer -- their ethics, work, skills and attitudes," said Khatib, a 54-year-old mother of four.
There are "religious Jewish women in the Knesset", she added. "We didn't hear any comment about them."
"We must deal with people first as human beings."
- 'Lack of options' -
Like other Arab-Israeli MPs, Khatib speaks fluent Hebrew.
She studied social services at Tel Aviv University, specializing in women's support. In parliament, she wants to tackle issues ranging from violence in Arab neighborhoods to poverty and housing.
"Sixty-four percent of women are excluded from work, not because they don't want to work but due to conditions and lack of travel options," she said, referring to the Arab population.
Inflexible hours mean Arab women often need to leave for work before their children go to school, she said.
"These issues must be put on the table at the Knesset."
The new parliament will be sworn in next week but some fear it will last only a few months.
No bloc has a 61-seat majority, a repeat of inconclusive polls in April and September 2019.
Netanyahu's right-wing Likud won 36 seats and controls a total of 58, counting its allies.
Netanyahu's main rival Benny Gantz, who heads Blue and White, needs the Joint List's support to even consider forming a government.
The List's head Ayman Odeh has indicated he could back Gantz under certain conditions.
- Israel's youngest lawmaker -
Aida Touma, a Christian Arab-Israeli re-elected on March 2, is on the List's four-person team negotiating with Gantz.
A women's activist before entering parliament in 2015, Touma stressed that the List's incoming female MPs "are from all walks of life and are capable and serious representatives of the whole of society".
The Joint List is an alliance of parties representing both Muslim and Christian Arab Israelis, as well as some Jewish leftists.
Its members range from Islamists to communists.
One member, Sundus Salih, is at 34 about to become Israel's youngest lawmaker.
The mother of three is from Al-Mashhad town near Nazareth and has a masters in science and technology.
"There are differences between the (List's) parties... but we four women unite and agree on most things," Salih told AFP.
"As a mother and a teacher I am worried by the proliferation of violence and guns."
The fourth member of the quartet almost didn't make it on the ballot.
Hiba Yazbek, also from Nazareth, was blocked as a candidate by the Central Elections Committee over Facebook posts allegedly supporting terrorism.
She denied the charges and won an appeal. Now she is determined to use her Knesset seat to fight for Arab rights.
"We intend to translate our great electoral strength into political positions that reinforce our position as Arabs in this country and confront the right-wing and its agendas," she told AFP.
International Women's Day Caused a Scene in Pakistan
March 12, 2020
International Women’s Day came and went on March 8 with barely a stir in most countries. But in Pakistan, the women’s rights debate took the country’s social media by storm.
Activists like Marvi Sirmid, Amal Rathore, Tahira Abdullah and Iman Mazari suffered vitriol simply by standing up for moderate entitlements for women. Not only did the organizers face strident ideological opposition, but participants in the march also faced violence in the capital, Islamabad.
The main bone of contention seemed to be a somewhat literal rendition of the English pro-choice slogan “My body, my choice”. Most observers interpreted this in purely sexual terms, calling it offensive to the conservative norms of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Yet, as the organizers of the march repeatedly explained, this is a reasonable reaction to women being considered mere baby factories for centuries. The mullahs and their lackeys are naturally proponents of the patriarchy and therefore cling desperately to the status quo, which has consistently and systematically denied the humanity of women.
In Pakistan it is politically correct to oppose Western ideals, so many women – not only religious conservatives but even some from the educated class – also opposed the spirit of the protest, perhaps not wanting to be seen to support imported, secular norms in a country that prides itself on embodying the very essence of Islam.
The women’s march organizers were acutely aware of the cultural practices among the various strata of Pakistani society, in all of which religious sensibilities play at least some role. Those objecting to the demands of the march complain that the organizers were too influenced by the West and that these demands cannot be met in a country where social norms and even laws are shaped by religion.
But religion as seen by which lens: that of the mullahs and of General Muhammad Zia ul Haq, who took the country back centuries when he introduced archaic sharia law, or the lens of open and progressive campaigners?
No demand for fairness needs contradict Islam if it upholds Islam’s principles of justice and benevolence over its literalist and doctrinaire interpretations.
In any case, the protesters’ demands go deeper than culture. What can be a more fundamental right than women seeking control over their reproductive cycles? There are other issues too. Women have every right to demand stricter penalties for domestic and sexual violence, including marital rape, and acid throwing. Even a fair division of housework is a reasonable goal.
Some have argued that the tenor of the march was too hostile towards men, with slogans like “Heat up your own dinner” or “Find your own pair of socks”.
Really? This is a culture in which women have suffered centuries of abuse primarily at the hands of men but also of compliant women who supported the patriarchy. This is a society in which most women suffer abuse at home, where girls are married off to men as old as their grandfathers, and where the Hadood laws incarcerate women for adultery when in fact they have been violently raped.
How were the organizers of the march being too militant mentioning dinner and socks when Pakistani women can be divorced on a mere whim and then thrown out on the streets?
Pakistani conservatives are so regressive that even moderate campaigns to reform the most obvious iniquities provoke such responses.
How To Make 'Aurat March' Effective In Pakistan?
Syed Irfan Mehdi
March 12, 2020
The issues of women rights and violence against the female gender are a genuine concern in our country. Undoubtedly, there is a need for an effective movement to highlight these rights and violence. It will be better if oppressed women themselves take part in this movement and join this movement as front line representators of women rights.
In this way they can address the real issues because they belong to such class which is suffering and facing most of the violence. These women are real and prime victims. Any class, which has an easy excess to education, having freedom in their choice of dressing, independent to go anywhere, can not make this movement meaningful and effective. No body can deny this fact that the women and girls of "Aurat March" had all these privilegs; they were educated; most of them were college or university students; dressed up according to their choice and could go anywhere they want. They don't have any restrictions and there shouldn't be any coercive restriction upon them. They have the courage to report sexual harassment case in their campus and job sectors. They have ability to establish a bond of mutual understanding with their husbands.
In order to make this movement effective, they should work to bring the real victims of abuse and violence in "Aurat March", along with them they should put their own demands with their consent and consensus. The presence of real victims in the march will make people realize the gravity of the issue of woman subjection. When the real victims will join the protest and tell their stories themselves, the people who do not believe that women suppression takes place would be able to reconsider their statements and will be made to believe that matters pertaining to women are not made-up stories, but are existing issues.
Media should play its role to highlight each and every case of violence in a comprehensive way.
Legal course of action should also complement these social movements. In other words, such social movements have already resulted in making laws such as Protection of Women Against Harassment at Work Place and Protection of Women Against Violence Act, etc. All we need is to get these laws implemented. The brave women should come to the forefront to actually make suppressed and oppressed ones avail such legal remedies, so that a real change can take place.
Democracy and Empowered Women Launched
March 14, 2020
LAHORE: South Asia Partnership (SAP) and Women Action Forum (WAF) launched ‘Democracy and Empowered Women’ (Jazba Programme) here at a local hotel on Thursday.
This initiative aims to empower women in 40 districts of the country, including Gilgit Baltistan. Women from minorities, transgender persons and differently-abled persons are also among those the programme wants to enable to participate in the democratic process. This was said by Muhammad Tahseen, Executive Director of SAP Pakistan. Jazba is one of the five programmes supported by the Canadian government and gender equality is at the heart of their interventions.
The event was chaired by veteran human rights champion and intellectual I.A Rehman, spokesperson for Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and attended by women parliamentarians and women representatives at union council level, Minister of Human Rights and Minority Affairs Ijaz Alam Augustine and Minister for Livestock Husnain Bahadur. A number of activists, media persons, transgender persons and differently-abled persons were present on the occasion.
I.A Rehman said 2m women still don’t have identity cards. The programme aims to reach out to them as well. There are voters whose ID cards are with MNAs, even in Lahore city, there are police stations on second floor where people with physical handicaps cannot reach, minorities that are neglected. All these need to be addressed. There will be democracy when women will vote of their own free-will, he said.
International Women's Day 2020 in Yemen and Tajikistan
Mar 12, 2020
International Women's Day in 2020 is a milestone in acknowledging the different impact that conflicts have on women, men, boys and girls. This year marks the 20th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which recognises the importance of women's role in peacebuilding. But there is still a lot to do to ensure women's participation, and reduce the risks that women and girls face during conflict.
To mark this day, we, Saferworld, spoke to partners and communities in South Sudan, Yemen and Tajikistan to see how women are breaking down barriers, and supporting women's participation in peacebuilding Yemen: women's participation in the face of conflict 'My message to young women is that active participation in their communities is not only their right but also their duty, to take part in building their communities.'
Ashgan Shuraih is the president of Saferworld partner Alf Ba Civilization and Coexistence Foundation, a Yemeni-led organisation working to strengthen civil society and promote equality, respect and inclusion. Ashgan rehabilitates and educates women and young people about international laws and human rights, to build peace and renounce violence. 'Because of Aden's geographic location* and the diversity of its social fabric, my city is characterised by coexistence.
But Aden was one of the conflict fronts between the parties, which has had a direct effect on my life and my role in society as I chose to focus on relief work. Even after the withdrawal of Ansar Allah from Aden, we witnessed chaos and the spread of armed groups. There was an urgent need to work for the community and reintroduce a culture of that is accepting of others.'
During the conflict in Yemen, women's roles and experiences have changed. Increased insecurity and hardship has affected women's social, political and economic opportunities. 'Generally, Yemeni society is described as a closed tribal society in most of its regions. This brings social standards that restrict the role of women and impose specific roles. Socially, women are often restricted to housework and raising children.
There are also places where women are deprived of their inheritance such as Yafe'a in Lahj governorate. Outside the home, usually women are only allowed to work in education and nursing.' Alf Ba and Saferworld work together to support community initiatives that tackle security and safety concerns. We work to make sure women play an active role in community action, from attending skills training, to advocating with local authorities and leading initiatives. Initiatives have included reviving public spaces like the Khor Makser walkway in Aden, setting up street lighting to reduce incidents of harassment particularly against women, and finding solutions for unequal electricity and water distribution that were causing local conflicts.
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