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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 19 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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France's Burqa Ban Gets New Scrutiny in European Court

New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Dec 2013

Afghan female prisoners sit on their bed at Herat's prison for women, western Afghanistan, December 8, 2013


 Fiqh Academy of Maldives Reveals Opinion on Abortion

 Bali Gears Up To Be Top Wedding Destination

 Two Arab Women In List Of ‘Leading Global Thinkers’

 Alarm Rises For Afghan Women Prisoners After Western Troops Leave

 Women Are the Real Victims of the Arab Spring

 Tanzania: 'TV Plays Greatly Contribute to Marginalisation of Women'

 Saudi Women Employed As Janitors at SR1, 500

 Desi Entertainers Proudly Tribute 'Women Of Today'

 Afghan Woman Flown To Turkey after Husband 'Slices Off Her Nose'

 Uganda Commended For Fighting Gender Based Violence

 Aisha's Story - How Grassroots Education Can Change Perceptions of HIV/Aids in Nigeria

 Yemen: 'Nothing Much Has Changed For Women'

 Yemeni Dad Demands 1 Mln Facebook Likes As Dowry for His Daughter

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





France's Burqa Ban Gets New Scrutiny in European Court

December 19, 2013

Another conflict between the European Union and one of its member states has come to a head over France's prohibition of women wearing the naqib, or the full-face veil. The European Court of Human Rights is considering a case brought by an unnamed Muslim woman who says the French mandate that she remove her veil in public is an infringement on her religious, free speech, and privacy rights. On the same day that the case was brought before the Court, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that a private day-care center had been within its rights to fire Fatima Afif for refusing to remove her headscarf, reversing a decision by the French Supreme Court that said the day care center's actions amounted to religious discrimination. Afif's lawyer said he is willing to take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

Two competing characteristics of contemporary France set the stage for this escalating conflict. The French state is deeply secular, and has some of Europe's most restrictive laws about public expressions of faith. France also has the largest Muslim minority in Europe, due in part to an influx of immigrants from North Africa when the French lost their colonial empire there in the 1960s. It is this population most affected by France's most recent prohibition on religious expression - colloquially known as the "burqa ban."

In 2010, the French government passed "Loi interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l'espace public," which prohibits full-face coverings in public, including veils worn by some Muslim women. To be "caught" wearing the veil carries a penalty of up to 200 euros. The law enjoys broad support in the French public, and bans elsewhere, including on university campuses, are under discussion.

The law has been contentious since its implementation in 2011. Last summer, riots consumed the Paris banlieue of Trappes during the middle of Ramadan when the police ticketed a woman wearing a full veil. In perennial simmering tension, the state says naqibs are demeaning to women and can pose security threats, while opponents say the law amounts to religious discrimination.

Some opponents invoke feminism to defend the ban. "Wearing the full veil ... makes [a woman] indistinguishable from other full-veil wearers, and effectively erases the woman who wears it," said Edwige Belliard, a lawyer for the French government to the European court. International League for Women's Rights president Annie Sugier agreed, writing in a letter to the court, "The full-face veil, by literally burying the body and the face, constitutes a true deletion of the woman as an individual in public."

It's an odd criticism to levy at the headgear of a woman who is bringing her fight for the right to do so all the way to the European Court, making international news in the process. While opposition to burqas might seem like an obvious position for feminists, the ban can have negative practical and psychological implications for Muslim women. The sad irony of a ban meant to give women a voice is that the ban makes them choose between their religious codes and their public lives. The very women and girls whose voices and agency would be most strengthened by access to education and civil society remain shut away. In practice, the ban more isolates Muslim women than it does infuse them with the spirit of liberté, egalité, fraternité.

It also seems obvious that a feminist shouldn't refute a woman's self-determination because of the way she's dressed. In written evidence, the woman in the European Court's case testified that she is not ordered to wear the burqa by a man, and her lawyer said the veil was "as much a part of her identity as our DNA is of ours." Would Sugier say the woman's agency is not to be believed because she chooses to express it from behind the veil? Or does she believe the woman chooses her veil because her faith tells her she should be invisible to men? If so, the feminist contention is with the faith the veil connotes rather than the veil itself, and the veil is just a stand-in for a more impolitic and difficult conversation.

Despite Belliard's claim that the veil makes women indistinguishable, forbidding Muslim women from wearing the veil in France actually just forces them to be like all other French women. And it's hard to believe this homogenization isn't the point. As globalization dissolves national borders, the French impulse to remain distinct has increasingly turned to xenophobia. French politicians decry the dress of recent al-Qaeda captives for not looking "French enough" after thirty-seven months in the Malian desert. Ordinary citizens say the call to prayers echoing through Paris' Haussmannian boulevards foretells a Muslim attempt to "conquer a part of French territory." French Interior Minister Manuel Valls called the burqa ban "a law against practices that have nothing to do with our traditions and values." Is it really possible to dissociate the ban from this backdrop?

France's discomfort with Muslims living in their country in ways that rub against their culture has a particular historical irony. The North African countries where many of these Islamic women have come from were French colonies where the French not only refused to conform to local customs, but also violently imposed their own.

Until the world's religions all define the role they will allow women, and until globalization shakes out the xenophobia it can engender, the burqa ban is just making it harder for French Muslim women to achieve educational, economic, and cultural parity with their secular counterparts. A society that bans modes of expression in the hopes of mitigating its discomfort with gender, race, and religion will need to search for ever more points of restriction if the underlying issues are not addressed. Europe is growing increasingly heterogeneous, and if France is to thrive in it, the state needs to consider its immigration policies more important than a piece of cloth in a day care center.



Fiqh Academy of Maldives reveals opinion on abortion

By Ahmed Nazeer

December 19, 2013

The Fiqh Academy of Maldives has today issued its opinion on abortion, stating that the situations in which they believe abortion is allowed under Islam.

According to the academy, if a woman gets raped – regardless of whether marriage to the man is allowed under Islam – abortion is allowed if it is carried out within the first 120 days.

The academy further stated that if a woman whose medical conditions is not good enough to hold a baby in her womb gets raped by a man then abortion is allowed if it is carried out in the first 120 days.

The academy was first established in 2009 under President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, and was dissolved and then re-established by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

The current nine-member academy is composed of two councils – the Shariah Council and an Advisory Council. Members are appointed by the president and the academy’s main function is to act as an advisory body on issues of Islamic jurisprudence and Shariah law.

The fourth situation stated in which they viewed abortion as being allowed was if the doctors are sure that the baby might have serious health conditions such as thalassemia, sickle cell, or any other serious medical condition that cannot be cured by medicine.

The only situation where abortion is allowed after the first 120 days was if the mother’s health condition was critical and doctors were forced to save either the baby or the mother.

The Fiqh Academy also said that abortion is allowed in the first four situations, if carried out within 120 days of pregnancy because the fetus would not have soul inside but after 120 days the soul will enter the fetus and thereafter it should be considered as living.

The Academy has issued eight rulings since it’s establishment and also suggested amendments to the draft Penal Code while it was open for public comments.  People’s Majlis’  Penal Code drafting committee rejected all but one of the proposed amendments.

Since 2011 there have been an increase in the amount of abandoned babies reported by the media.

On May 5, 2011, a dead infant was found in a plastic bag in the swimming track area of Male’. A medical examination later concluded that the baby had sustained cuts, bruises and other wounds.

On May 21, 2011, the corpse of a premature baby boy was discovered inside a Coast Milk tin on the island of Villingli.

Police Sub-Inspector Shiyam at the time told told Minivan News that the dead child, believed by forensic examiners to have been born three months premature, was discovered in a discarded container near the power house area of the island.

On May 22, 2011, the body of a newborn baby boy discovered in a park in Hulhumale’ was found with underwear tied tightly around his neck.



Bali Gears Up To Be Top Wedding Destination



Bali’s tourism stakeholders have agreed to work more on wedding events as an alternative tourism focus, saying that the market had potential to entice more tourists to the island.

Bali Tourism Agency’s promotions head, Nyoman Wardawan, revealed Tuesday that wedding tourism was not yet on the promotions list. In fact, he said, this program had potential as it was supported by the resort island’s natural beauty.

Hotels in Bali have been starting to offer wedding packages for the last couple of years. Related businesses, such as event organizers, florists and catering, are also embracing the increasing demand.

“This alternative tourism product has prospects, but we have yet to promote it,” Wardawan said. “With the stakeholders, we will discuss the possibility of establishing some sort of association and guidelines to set a standard so that the ceremonies don’t run counter to local customs and religious and cultural values.”

A 2002 tourism by law stipulates that tourism activities are forbidden from using religious and sacred symbols. However, guests sometimes wanted to use these in their own ceremonies, although they were not from that religion.

“Therefore, we need a guideline on all religious weddings, especially Hindu, over what can be allowed for commercial use,” Wardawan said.

“That’s why we need to sit together with religious leaders and tourism businesspeople to talk about this,” he said.

Bali Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB) said that a specific discussion on wedding tourism and religious values was needed.

“Weddings and tourism are two different things, and we don’t want to mix them for commercial use,” forum member I Gusti Made Ngurah said.

“We need to sit together to produce a regulation on which rituals are allowed for commercial use and which aren’t,” he added.

A wedding organizer, Deden, revealed that the demand to organize weddings and pre-wedding photo shoots on the island increased from year to year, while some people also celebrated their wedding anniversary in Bali.

“Bali is a world favourite for its outdoor wedding concept, as it can use the sunset, beaches and mountains as backgrounds,” Deden said.

Deden cited Hawaii as the top wedding destination, while in Asia, Bali was levelling with Thailand’s Phuket.

“If we can be more creative and increase promotions, I’m sure Bali will be at the top,” said the owner of Bali Exotic Wedding.

Meanwhile, Bali Shuka Wedding manager I Made Darma said that the domestic market had helped boost Bali’s image as a favorite wedding destination, as many actors and actresses held their ceremonies in the province.

The highest demand for weddings came from countries such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, the US, Russia, the UK and the Netherlands.

According to Darma, Indian weddings often brought large groups of guests.

“They can come to Bali with up to 300 family members. Other countries have relatively smaller groups, sometimes even only the couple,” he said.



Two Arab Women In List Of ‘Leading Global Thinkers’

December 19, 2013

BEIRUT — Alongside notable global figures such as Iranian President Hassan Rohani and US Secretary of State John Kerry, two Arab women are in the list of 100 people chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as the "Leading Global Thinkers of 2013."

A Saudi film director, and a UAE media executive, who has “built an Arabic-language media empire,” are part of the long list, which is created through a voting process by readers.

Saudi director Haifa Al-Mansour had her 2012 film “Wadjda” premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

The film made her the first person to ever shoot an entire movie in Saudi Arabia.

Mansour was touted by Foreign Policy “for quietly breaking the Kingdom’s gender barriers.”

In her film, “Mansour produced a gently moving portrait of one girl’s quest to buy a bicycle in a country where she isn’t allowed to ride one.”

Her ability of depicting a strong message in a non-confrontationist tone has won her government support.

Saudi Arabia recently submitted her film — which was released to American audiences in 2013 — for an Oscar nomination.

According to Foreign Policy, Mansour was able to “accommodate Saudi customs while filming Wadjda by directing from inside a van while dressed in an Abaya.”

Narrowing the gap

Another woman listed by the magazine is UAE citizen Noura Al-Kaabi, who is the CEO of twofour54, an Emirati-funded company that offers education and training to media producers.

While Arabic is one of the world’s 10 most spoken languages, it is only used in a very small percentage of global media content. Kaabi has expressed her wish to narrow that gap.

Since Kaabi took up her position in 2012, “the company has expanded its work in video game development and has introduced a literary award for Emirati novelists.”

Kaabi was also included on Forbes’s 2013 list of the 30 most influential Arab women in government, as well as on the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the 25 most powerful women in global television. — Al Arabiya News



Alarm rises for Afghan women prisoners after Western troops leave

December 19, 2013

(Reuters) - After Farida's husband sold their three-year-old daughter to support his drug habit of several years, she took a knife and stabbed him to death in their house in the western Afghan province of Herat.

The young mother of three then dragged his body into the street and called the police. Farida is now serving a 20-year sentence in Herat's prison for women.

"I do not agree with the sentence," she said, her gaze steady from beneath a green headscarf. "They didn't consider the bad situation I was in."

Farida, 31, expected the police to kill her rather than send her to prison where the first four years of her term have been relatively comfortable. Foreign aid donors have ensured regular meals, heating and healthcare.

But those arrangements are now at risk and fears that women like Farida may be abandoned are growing as the prison's main benefactor, the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team, winds down operations alongside most foreign troops.

The government has shown little interest in protecting hard-won rights for women and most of its limited funds will be devoted to fighting a growing Taliban insurgency.

"If the government doesn't feed them they don't eat," said Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"The government has an important role after the provincial reconstruction team leaves and it's hard to imagine they will have the will, or the ability, to continue maintaining the conditions in prisons as outside funding declines."

With 169 inmates, the Heart jail is Afghanistan's second-largest prison for women after a jail in the capital, Kabul, that holds around 230.

The prison also offers training in English and computer classes, skills that inmates jailed for fleeing abusive or forced marriages might never otherwise have acquired.


The best hope for women in Afghanistan was for foreign aid donors to tie cash to progress, said Suraya Pakzad, who runs women's shelters in several provinces.

"The budget allocated for women's activities is nothing," said Pakzad. "The year 2014 - everybody is talking about that. It creates fear among women in the community."

She attributed the fear to the fact that many Afghans' age-old attitudes towards women have not changed. The judicial process invariably punishes women, whatever their defense.

Farida, for example, said she killed her husband in reaction to years of beatings and watching him drain the family's funds to feed his drug habit.

Many fellow inmates said they had fled abuse and been accused of "zina", or sex between unmarried people, by angry husbands or family. Upon arrest, they faced intrusive virginity tests and imprisonment for attempted adultery even if the test results were negative, Pakzad said.

Rape victims are also routinely jailed for "zina" and left to give birth in prison. Ten babies were born at Herat's jail this year and more than 70 are growing up behind bars.

Concern about a future without foreign support is all the more acute now that the United States has threatened to pull out all its troops over a crucial security deal Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign.

"We still hope for more aid," said Herat prison chief Sima Pazhman, who has worked there for more than 25 years, including during the harsh days of the Taliban regime.

But if the United States pulls out, others are expected to follow, along with the bulk of foreign aid.

Pazhman didn't ask herself whether the women belonged in jail in the first place.

"I don't question the courts," she said. "I see the sentences as though the crimes had really been committed."



Women Are the Real Victims of the Arab Spring

DECEMBER 19, 2013

The Arab Spring, with the rising tide of hope for democracy and change it ushered in, has turned to autumn. For women it has become an Arab Winter, dark and cold and growing more perilous by the day. And nowhere is the situation worse than it is in the country where hopes for democracy and freedom were the highest: Egypt.

Such are the findings of a new Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, which showed that women are worse off today in all the “Arab Spring” countries than they were previously. Moreover, throughout the Arab region, violence against women, sexual abuse, and political oppression remain generally the worst in the world.

These findings are tragic, not only for what they reveal about the plight of women in the region, but for what they tell us about the future of the “Arab Spring” countries. “Despite hopes that women would be one [sic] of the prime beneficiaries of the Arab Spring,” note the Reuters report’s authors, “they have instead been some of the biggest losers, as the revolts have brought conflict, instability, displacement and a rise in Islamist groups in many parts of the region.”

The poll questioned more than 300 “gender experts” in all the 21 Arab League member states plus Syria (which lost its membership in 2011) during August and September. In drawing their conclusions, researchers “assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society, and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.”

That Saudi Arabia did not come out as the worst of the list was surprising to many, but so was the fact that Iraq ranked as the second-worst – a long distance from where those supporting the removal of Saddam Hussein from power expected the country to be today.

Egypt’s numbers are the most telling, however, exposing not just the rise in power of Islamic fundamentalist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, but how very inevitable this result was from the start – and certainly once Hosni Mubarak was displaced. This, after all, is the country where a shocking 91 percent of all women are victims of genital mutilation, a practice clearly endemic (especially in rural areas) even under Mubarak’s so-called secular reign. Since the rise of Islamist factions, however, the situation has become even grimmer, the poll indicates, with rising rates of trafficking and forced marriage.

“There are whole villages on the outskirts of Cairo and elsewhere where the bulk of economic activity is based on trafficking in women and forced marriages,” Zahra Radwan, Middle East and North Africa Program officer for the Global Fund for Women, told Reuters.

That outcome might have been expected, given the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that followed Mubarak’s fall. It was the Brotherhood that opposed a UN declaration on women’s rights that would allow women to travel and use contraception, arguing that such a move, which “contradicts established principles of Islam,” would essentially destroy society. (Russia, Iran, and the Vatican also opposed the measure.)

How bad are things in Egypt and Iraq? As No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, they are worse, evidently, even than Saudi Arabia, which is notorious for its abysmal record in its treatment of women. That ranking alone is shocking: but it also provides an insight for Westerners into the undercurrent and power of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism in those Arab Spring countries, and the decreasing likelihood that democracy will take hold in the next decade. In fact, not only do these two countries pose greater threats to women’s lives than even Somalia and Sudan, but the poll finds that the Saudis are beginning to make small strides towards opening doors to women. Saudi women, for instance, will have the right to vote in municipal elections for the first time in 2015; they recently were granted the right to practice law; and thanks to forceful activism, the right to drive may also soon be within their reach.

Indeed, listed as the survey’s third worst country for women, Saudi Arabia scored “better than many other Arab states when it came to access to education and healthcare, reproductive rights and gender violence,” according to the poll’s authors. But even more important was their observation that thousands of younger Saudis who had traveled abroad were returning “with very different ideas about their relative places in the world.”

Contrast this development with Syria, which follows Saudi Arabia as the fourth worst country for Arab women. Here, too, Westerners once hoped for a new, democratic, progressive state to rise in place of Bashar al-Assad’s cruel dictatorship. “Many Syrian women worry about the influence of militant Islamists who have taken control of some rebel-held areas,” Reuters reports. Young girls in refugee camps also suffer, the researchers found, where even 12-year-olds have been forced into marriage.

The report also describes a “spike in honor killings” in Syria, rising to about 300 a year, though it is unclear whether that number is a significant change from previous years. A 2007 article in the Christian Science Monitor put the number at 200 to 300 annually.

In Libya, too, where the world once held so much hope for a free and democratic future, women now face kidnappings along with random arrest, rape, and physical abuse, Reuters found. It is worth noting, however, that the physical abuse numbers may result from a rise in the reporting of such events, rather than from an increase in incidents.

The sad thing is that much of this violence could have been anticipated – and at least in part prevented. Certainly it was naïve to believe that the majority of the women who fought for Mubarak’s removal were any more westernized than the majority of the men. With an illiteracy rate of 35 percent (45 percent of women), in a country where two-thirds of women between the ages of 15-49 support the practice of genital mutilation, the proverbial writing was clearly on the wall.

But far more disturbing is the picture that this paints for the future, particularly with a new Egyptian constitution that, for all its lip service to democracy, holds sharia law supreme. If Saudi women are advancing, it is thanks to a new willingness by their government to support (western) education. But such opportunities may be lost to Egypt’s women, and increasingly, to their sisters in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and even the Palestinian Territories (which scored a miserable 15 out of 22 in the Thomson Reuters study).

The inevitable result will not only be a deterioration of women’s rights in these countries, but too, a growing Islamic conservatism as the curtains surrounding the windows to the West – and to the Enlightenment – begin to close. As they do, the threats will continue to grow stronger, not just to Egyptian women’s lives, but to our own.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.



Tanzania: 'TV Plays Greatly Contribute to Marginalisation of Women'


Zanzibar — WHILE many people spend part of their time to watch plays on television, Khamis Hamad Nassor, is not happy with the comedians because they 'abuse' women and encourage Gender- Based Violence (GBV).

A comedian is a person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations. In recent years, comedians have been popular in both local and international television stations.

Such groups have been formed and normally entertain via televisions. "It is a fact that comedians entertain us in different ways but some of their actions are abusing women. A man dressing like a woman, sometimes badly and imitates a woman's voice is degrading women," argues Khamis Hamad Nassor. Nassor presented his feelings at a forum organized by the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) to discuss violence against women and children in Zanzibar.

The forum was part of the 'Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GEWE) project being supported by Denmark through DANIDA to help combat the problem.

"There are different ways of abusing women even through gestures. Why should we laugh and enjoy comedians' actions which clearly undermine and abuse women? Activists should not remain silent," he said.

Participants of the forum dominated by anti-GBV village animaters (a person who coordinates or facilitates something) from South Unguja District, West Unguja District and Wete District, heard Khamis from Wete in Pemba argue that it is possible to minimize violence against women and children if everyone including comedians take the issue seriously.

Despite the forum facilitator Ms Saada Salum Issa asking participants to respond to their colleague's argument about TV plays, most of them replied by laughing and nodding that some comedy shows contain elements of abuse.

Some of the issues they complained about during the forum were women battery, sexual violence, family abandonment, divorce and the ongoing practice of underage marriage linked to Islam. Mr Omar Hassan, a participant attributed the problem to misinterpretation of Islamic teachings as some men think their religion allowed them to beat or divorce their wives anytime they want. What does Islam say about domestic violence?

Facilitator Sheikh Abdullah Talib, a Muslim cleric in Zanzibar, said that it is wrong according to Islamic teachings for some men to harass women on the pretext of religion.

"Let's differentiate between a Muslim and Islam teachings which promote all the rights of women and children to the highest degree. Islam does not allow any abuse on women," said Abdullah. Islam condemns domestic violence.

Once a number of women came to the prophet to complain that their husbands had beaten them, the prophet said that men who beat their wives are not good men. The prophet also said: Do not beat the female servants of Allah (GOD).

Sheikh Talib also said Islam does not allow underage marriages since they may cause health problems to the young girls. "I believe other religions do not allow any violence against women and children," he said.

Activist Ms Jamila Mahmoud said that ZAFELA is working together with Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA) to implement the two-year project which include making women know their rights and protect themselves against violence.

"We expect GEWE II project will bring change to the people because the target is to end all forms of gender violence affecting women and children in the society," she said.

She said that the knowledge being provided to members of the public, including women, is inevitable because GBV is linked to a combination of patriarchal gender norms, lack of law enforcement, lack of knowledge of rights and economic and social discrimination that give privilege to men over women.

Marginalisation of women has also proved to reinforce patterns of gender inequality that tend to make girls and women more vulnerable to GBV. Also being a victim of GBV is a great mental and physical obstacle towards initiating a income-generating activity and thus empower oneself financially. On this ground, there is a clear connection between economic marginalisation and sexual, physical and mental abuse.



Saudi Women Employed As Janitors at SR1, 500

December 19, 2013

RIYADH — A number of Saudi women employed by a private company as cleaners at the college of Science and Arts in Onaizah (part of the Qassim University), are complaining of inhumane treatment including low pay and arduous work. "We have no medical insurance, housing allowance or any other fringe benefits. Our need has obliged us to accept these low-pay jobs," said a cleaner who did not want her name published.

Local daily Al-Watan quoted her as saying that that the contract she signed with the service providing company has no fixed duration and she may be terminated at any time without any prior notice.

The newspaper did not name the company, but said it was providing service to Qassim University.

She said many of the Saudi women working as janitors are holders of secondary school certificates.

"There is nothing wrong in doing this basic job as long as it provides us with sustenance, but the problem is that the company exploits our financial needs to make us subservient to women supervisors who have no administrative or vocational qualifications," another female janitor said.

She said their salaries were SR1, 000 until very recently, when they were raised by SR500 after many complaints. "Where is the Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf), which said it would support the salaries of Saudis working for the private sector by 50 percent?" she questioned. The woman also asked why the labor office was not doing its job of supervising and inspecting the operational companies.

A third Saudi female cleaner said the company was using them as camouflage to show the Ministry of Labour that it has Saudised many of its available jobs. She said expatriate women are receiving higher salaries and are also given housing allowance and medical insurance.

A fourth Saudi woman said the company often asks them to perform difficult tasks, such as carrying furniture and moving heavy stuff. "The company has no consideration even for pregnant or sick women," she added.

A fifth one said when a Saudi woman resigns from the company, she will not be given a certificate of experience. "Many Saudi women have quit their jobs because the company was too harsh on them and asked them to do impossible work. They were not given any certificate of experience," she said.

Meanwhile, legal consultant Dr. Ihab Al-Solaimani described the company’s treatment of its Saudi women staff as akin to human trafficking. "The behaviour of this company is disgraceful. The Saudi female employees should file a complaint to the Labour Ministry or the governorate," he said.

Al-Solaimani was surprised that Saudi women were being paid SR1, 500 while the minimum wage for Saudis has been fixed at SR3, 000.

"The records of the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) will show the exact salaries of these women," he said, adding that when this happens, women should ask to be paid the difference in retrospective.

He questioned the silence of Qassim University over the practices of the operational company and said the Labour Ministry should closely watch the work of the service-providing companies.

Fadl Al-Boainain, an economic expert, said the Ministry of Labor should not allow private companies to employ Saudi men or women at a salary less than SR3,000. "This is the minimum wage decided by the government and therefore, should be respected," he said.

The expert asked the ministry and Qassim University to find an immediate solution to the problem of Saudi women cleaners with the operational company.



Desi Entertainers Proudly Tribute 'Women of Today'

December 19, 2013

JEDDAH — Female expatriates had an eventful night filled with extravagant performances, hosted by Desi Entertainers recently, to honor the "women of today."

There was also a "Meena Bazaar" comprising 42 stalls, including dresses, henna art, and jewellery, organic and natural makeup among others.

Food stalls, offering a mouth-watering Indian and Pakistani dishes, with popular among the ladies.

Games, riddles, quizzes were also organized for ladies and children; the winners received gift vouchers sponsored by Centre Point, Golds Gym and Al Kabeer cheese kebabs.

The highlights of the event were the singing, dancing and modelling performances by various artists belonging to different cultures and countries.

Performances by a Filipino dance group, a modelling show representing different cultures and traditions, traditional Indian dance called "Kathak performed solo by an artist, and belly dance by Egyptian national Nuha won praise from the crowd.

Rehna lent her voice to some popular Indian songs and a Filipino duo belted out some of their hits. The crowd also paid tribute to "Motherhood."  An animated story prepared by Salman Al Mohammadi, animation artist, was also screened at the event, bringing the ladies to tears

Kahkashan Siddiqui hosted the event.  Guests at the event included Captain Yasmeen Al Maimani, the second Saudi female pilot after Hanadi Zakaria Al Hindi, Dr. Amreen Munshi, a leading gynaecologist from India, and Nilo Haq, makeup artist, among others.

The show would not have been successful without the organizing team which comprise Mohammad Al Mohammadi, Yousra Jawed, Kahkashan Siddiqui, Waheed Al Idrees and Asim, Mysra Ahmad, Maryam Kalim, Sundus Mubasshir, Syed Qaiser, Marina Kalim and Maryam Masood.



Afghan woman flown to Turkey after husband 'slices off her nose'

December 19, 2013

An Afghan woman has been flown to Turkey for emergency surgery after her husband sliced off her nose and lips apparently in punishment for refusing to sell her jewellery.

Sitara, 30, was found lying unconscious in her home on Friday when neighbours in Herat province were alerted by the cries of her four children.

The attack has been seized on by women’s rights campaigners as evidence that not enough is being done to protect fragile progress made since the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001.

It also revives memories of Aisha Mohammadzai, who was featured on the cover of Time three years ago after being mutilated in a similar way after fleeing her brutal husband an in-laws.

Details of the attack emerged soon after David Cameron, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, said British troops would be leaving the country next year having delivered a basic level of security: “That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission and so our troops can be very proud of what they have done.”

On Wednesday, police in Herat said they were searching for Sitara’s husband, Azim, in connection with Friday’s attack.

Her mother Naseema said he was addicted to heroin and had regularly beaten her daughter in the past for failing to give birth to a son. On Friday evening she said he asked her daughter – who was engaged at the age of 11 - for money and then demanded her gold ring when she said she had no cash.

“She told him that this ring was given to her by her father - Azim did not buy it for her,” she said.

He turned violent, knocking the mother-of-four unconscious with a rock collected from outside before taking a knife to her nose and top lip, said Naseema. It was all witnessed by her four young daughters, aged three to 12.

She spent five days in Afghan hospitals before being flown to Turkey on Wednesday.

The attacked has sparked outrage in Afghanistan. Demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand justice and the case taken up by human rights groups.

Fereshta, Sitara's 14-year-old daughter, said her father had a history of drug abuse and violence.

“Every time my mother refused to give money to my father, he would beat her,” she told local.

The attack comes amid fresh fears for women when Nato-led forces end combat missions next year. Activists wonder whether the rest of the world will forget Afghanistan, leaving it at the mercy of the Taliban and other hardliners.

A United Nations paper published earlier this month showed reported violence against women was on the rise – an increase of 28% in the past year.

In November, officials floated the idea of reintroducing stoning for the adultery before quickly withdrawing it amid an international outcry.



Uganda commended for fighting gender based violence

December 19, 2013

THE UN Women country representative, Hodan Addou has said that Uganda is to be commended for setting the policy frameworks and structures for gender based violence (GBV) prevention and response which includes the Domestic Violence Act of 2010, the prevention of Trafficking in Person Act (2009), and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2010).

She also added that the National Development Plan seeks to address GBV as a core strategy for achieving the goal of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The amendment of the Police Form 3 (PF3) also allows other medical workers to treat survivors of GBV, thus increasing access to justice for the affected.

Addou note that GBV is still a challenge. According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2011, 56% of women in Uganda have experienced physical violence at some point since the age of 15 years.

28% of women aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence and 16 % have experienced violence during pregnancy.

“Police records show high numbers of defilement and rape which make girls vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, sexually transmitted infection including HIV. Harmful cultural practices like early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation are serious GBV issues in Uganda (UDHS 2011),” she added.

According to the recent study by the Economic Commission for Africa and UN Women, domestic violence imposes significant costs to the victims, communities and to countries in Africa.

This includes cost to survivors for medical fees, transport and fees for legal and other support services provided by the government and non-governmental organizations, as well as costs related to high absentee rates of girls and women in education, absence in the labour market and productive economic activities as a result of gender based violence.

Although the date for Uganda is still preliminary, it was estimated that the direct costs (out of pocket expenses) of VAW in Uganda was at $6.3million or 0.03% of GDP as per 2012.

UNFPA Executive director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said that violence against women and girls is a violation of their fundamental human rights, an affront to human dignity and serious threat to their health and well-being which impedes their civic engagement and role in development and generates instability making peace harder to achieve.

Osotimehin said; “we will continue to engage men and boys to help change social and cultural norms so that gender equality is upheld, the status of women and girls elevated, and violence rendered socially unacceptable.”

“We will not stop until the world upholds the inherent dignity and rights of every woman and girl,” he added.

According to Gender and Women Affairs Commissioner, Elizabeth Kyasiimire, Ugandans had been living in violent families until 2006 when the Ministry of Health had to come out and out a module that put out statistics and extent of violence against women.

“That demographic survey gave us a baseline for addressing gender based violence” she added.

Article 33 is about rights of women and Article 34 of the Uganda constitution is about rights of children. We also have also that prevents human trafficking.

Kyasiimire also noted that Uganda has a national gender policy which guides stakeholders in promotion of gender protection services.

“This policy is going to be the minister’s first activity and we need to support her, if we disseminate this policy it will help in the prevention of GBV,” she said.

Commissioner of Ministry of Health, James Mugisha, says that GBV remains a public health problem and 59% of GBV is physical violence and has had physical consequences on the victims; some have lost arms, legs, others are burnt with acid and this also causes psychological trauma while the economy loses manpower.

“Equally when violence takes place, victims eventually end up in our hands (medical officers). We have the role to take forensic evidence, give it to police or courts of law and also give comfort through counselling,” he added.

Mugisha says that filling the police forms is free of charge, so one should be forced to pay for the service. Sometimes staffs ask for money under pretext that they will use it as transport to go to court to give evidence but this is illegal because the court is supposed to refund this money.

Assistant Commissioner of Uganda Police, Christine Alalo said that, “in 2008 the Children and Women's Protection Unit was elevated to full department with structures up district level. Despite very little resources we have managed to handle GBV cases.”

The department handles cases on sexual offences like rape and defilement. In a day, a police station addresses about 10 case of GBV.

Alalo says that, “as police they have some achievement to celebrate in the fight against GBV; we have police ambulances and also conduct medical examinations for free. Even though some people in villages still complain about being charged a fee, we are going to work on that issue.”

A modern forensic laboratory is being put in place; before we had so many issues about paternity, but now we can help solve them before they become violent.

Alalo said that the police is still facing some challenges.

“Many times people report cases but later get afraid and are not willing to continue with the cases. Attitude is also a major concern. For example Karamoja region has the highest number of rape and defilement cases but girls only report such cases if they are forced to marry an old man they do not like.”

“Since we do not have shelter or social centres, it becomes hard for us to protect the victims so their lives are in danger when they are left to continue staying in their homes where the crime took place.

Head the political Commissar desk in the UPDF, Colonel Felix Kulaigye, said that it makes him so sad when the state laments.

“I remember when Hon. Miria Matembe said that rapists should be castrated and everyone was against her but now I support her,” he added.

Kulaigye said that in the UPDF, if you are guilty of rape, the penalty is death.

“If the government hangs about three or four rapists in public, something will change. We cannot afford to continue massaging these guys. Rape my child and I will personally hang you,” he warned.

Kulaigye added that next to battering wives, are the children being mistreated by step-mothers and no one cares to protect those children.

“Men are not always at home and will always protect their wives from the hands of the law and the children will continue to suffer.

He also added that men who beat wives do have low self-esteem.

“We use the scripture to prevent Gender Based Violence; by talking to people during marriage ceremonies, burials and religious gatherings,” Carol Idembe the Program officer at the inter-religious council said.

Idembe added that when good people do not talk, evil increases.

“We want to have peace from a home then to the nation. As many people are rushing into marriages, others are afraid because of GBV,” she noted.

According to a survey conducted by the Inter-religious Council, the major causes of GBV include increased cases of drug abuse while poverty leads to economic violence which ends up in homes.



Aisha's Story - How Grassroots Education Can Change Perceptions of HIV/Aids in Nigeria

December 19, 2013

Being a 16-year-old girl, facing daily poverty and growing up in a polygamous family in a town in central Nigeria, I could never imagine how much overhearing what a peer educator said to a group of young girls about alcohol abuse and it's link to HIV/AIDS would change my life and my family's behaviour.

Despite having scores of chores to do, as I had every day - including hawking goods to help support my family's income - I stopped and listened to the discussion. What I heard were the answers to some of the questions I had not dared to ask anyone, including my mother.

These are all issues that are considered taboo in my community and many believe just talking about them can lead girls 'astray' or make them 'loose'. But on me it had the opposite effect

. I finally had the chance to hear the right information about HIV/AIDS, risky behaviour and how to protect myself - rather than myths and rumours I had heard from others. And knowing that HIV infection rates are very high in my state, it is life saving information.

Having the privilege of attending a number of these group sessions, I decided to go home and tell my mum about what had been discussed. Sadly she reacted badly and warned me not to attend these kinds of groups again.

Despite telling her some of the things I had learned that applied to her as well - especially about the risks of multiple partners as my father had other wives and drank a lot - she was so furious that she paid a visit to the facilitator of the group to ban me from attending again.

Her visit led to something I could not have expected. After the discussion with the group head Mary, who, with skill and patience, explained the risks of HIV/AIDS and how to help all of us protect ourselves, my mother, father and the entire household went for an HIV test.

The impact of this experience has now extended even beyond my household. We are now approached for information and advice, and have become agents for change in our own community as others have begun to realise the need to access HIV testing and counselling services.

In a community where once no-one was allowed to talk about the fact that adults and young people were having multiple sexual relationships, abusing alcohol, getting pregnant and dropping out of schools, being part of this peer education group has changed my life, my family's behaviour and brought changes to our community.

The Peer Education Plus programme Aisha benefitted from is organised by the Nasarawa State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA), and supported by Enhancing Nigeria's Response to HIV and AIDS (ENR), a six-year programme funded by the UK's Department for International Development.



Yemen: 'Nothing much has changed for women'

December 19, 2013

Yemen was one of the first countries to be caught in the Arab Uprisings which swept the Middle East three years ago.

There, women were part of the protests against unemployment, economic conditions and corruption that saw President Ali Abdullah Saleh toppled from power.

Yet how much has changed for women since the uprising? Yemen is still ranked the worst in the world in terms of gender balance, and is classed as the worst place in the world to be a woman. It is also a country where over half all all girls are married off before their 18th birthday.

Shaimaa Khalil reports from the Yemeni capital of Sana'a.



Yemeni Dad Demands 1 Mln Facebook Likes As Dowry for His Daughter

December 19, 2013

Money can’t buy love. But “likes” can. At least, that is true for one Yemeni father who has demanded a million thumbs up to his Facebook page as a dowry for his daughter’s hand.

Salem Ayash, a poet from the city of Taiz, did not outline any deadline for his daughter’s suitor to fulfill this, strange for the Yemeni traditional society, request and raise a million Facebook ‘likes’ for the father’s profile page. However, that is rather a lot for a country with a population of about 24 million, and a far lower number of web users.

“It's the first time we've heard of something like this,” said Bashraheel Bashraheel, a journalist with Yemen's Al-Ayyam newspaper, cited BBC.

The unusual story has gone viral in Yemeni social media, with bloggers calling on people to help the couple get married. So far, Ayash’s page has got about 35,000 ‘likes’. However, slowly but surely the number of supporters keeps growing.

The poet’s weird payment demand for dowry has reportedly divided the web community and sparked some bitter criticism from users accusing him of using the occasion to simply gain popularity.

Ayash, though, claims that his stunt is aimed at drawing public attention to the social situation in impoverished Yemen, which has been going through a turbulent transition period since the pro-democracy protests against former President Abdullah Saleh broke out in 2011.

“No-one in Yemen can afford dowries anymore,” Ayash said explaining why he did not ask the would-be husband for gold or money.

The father also wants to see that his daughter’s future life partner, identified in the media as Osama, is making an effort to get his sweetheart. However, he is ready to soften the demands.

“He can take a month, a year, or even two years to collect the requested number of likes. If I see that he's worked hard, I'm willing to be flexible to see them happily married,” Ayash is cited as saying.

Meanwhile, the poet’s supporters welcomed his effort to put the dowry issue in the spotlight.