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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Girl Students Take Part in Marathon on Low Child Sex Ratio in Odisha, India

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Dec 2013

Domestic Violence: Setara's husband cut off her nose and lips in a drug-induced rage [Al Jazeera]


 Lack of Women Empowerment Contradicts Quranic Vision

 USAID Awards $6 Million to Empower Women Affected By Conflict

 Brotherhood Leader's Wife Says Police Removes Her Veil

 Women's Education in Afghanistan Threatened

 Turkish Film Exposes Violence against Women

 Ethiopian Maid Gets Death for Killing Girl in Saudi Arabia

 Domestic Violence on the Rise in Afghanistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau






Girl Students Take Part in Marathon on Low Child Sex Ratio in Odisha, India

 December 25, 2013

In Odisha, four districts — Ganjam, Angul, Nayagarh and Dhenkanal — have a very low child sex ratio

Young girl students of the city took part in a marathon with the theme ‘save the girl child’ on Tuesday morning.

It was an effort to create awareness regarding declining girl child ratio in Ganjam district. It may be noted that in Odisha, four districts — Ganjam, Angul, Nayagarh and Dhenkanal — have a very low child sex ratio . The average child sex ratio in Odisha has reached an all-time low at 941 girls per 1,000 boys. The child sex ratio in Ganjam district was lower than that at 908 girls per 1,000 boys as per the last census in 2011.

The Ganjam Zilla Swasthya Samity in collaboration with the Directorate of Family Welfare of Odisha and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had organised this marathon for girls to create awareness regarding importance of girls in families and society and to promote birth of girls.

This marathon was flagged off from the Khallikote Autonomous College Stadium in the presence of officials of the Health Department, representatives of the UNFPA, dignitaries of the city. Principal of MKCG Medical College flagged off this marathon. The marathon was run up to the play ground of the government ITI in the city.

Before the flag off, speakers elaborated on the vagaries of declining sex ratio in Ganjam district, Odisha as well as in the country. As per annual health survey of 2010-11, in Ganjam district the sex ratio at birth stands at only 877 girls for 1,000 boys. According to the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) of Ganjam, Lalit Mohan Rath, during the decade the number of girls has got reduced continually in the district.

As per 2001 census, the child sex ratio in Ganjam district was 939 girls per 1,000 boys. It got reduced to 908 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011.

The CDMO Dr Rath said although the administration and the Health Department have resorted to several measures including strict vigil on prenatal testing centres to check female foeticide, unless people themselves become conscious about importance of girl child, real changes cannot happen. According to him, traditional mindset where boys are thought to be successors and prevalence of social evils are reasons behind female foeticide, a major cause behind declining sex ratio in the Ganjam district.



Lack of Women Empowerment Contradicts Quranic Vision

December 25, 2013

"No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live" -- Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan

Gender Equity Gap Across the Muslim World

Not much seemed to have changed since Jinnah uttered these words about six decades ago. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap 2013 Report shows wide disparity in Muslim majority countries between men and women across for key areas of health, education, economics and politics. No Muslim majority country cracks the top 10 in gender equity. At the bottom end, nine out of 10 countries are Muslim majority. According to a study by the World Bank, despite some progress in education and health, women across Middle East and North Africa are not empowered either economically or politically. Women account for only a quarter of the labor force and hold only 9 percent of seats in parliaments.

The anti-modern attitudes of hardline preachers and the less than egalitarian vision of the Islamists only exacerbate the problem of gender inequity. The fundamentalist Darul Uloom Deoband seminary in India issued a fatwa barring women from working as receptionists. While in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood, prior to its ouster, tried to undermine the work of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in stopping violence against women. This in a country where lack of women's rights is endemic, as evidenced by eight in 10 Egyptian women reporting being sexually harassed. In Pakistan, after a video surfaced showing a teenage girl being flogged by the Taliban, Jamaat-e-Islami dismissed such reports as being a "Western conspiracy" and the beating incident a "small thing."

Islam and Gender Equity

Normative Islam, taken holistically, supports gender equity despite the presence of isolated texts that are mistaken as relegating women to subservient roles. Chapter 4, Verse 1 from the Quran notes, "People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate." This verse along with 7:189 and 42:11 assert without any ambiguity that men and women have the same spiritual nature and they are created out of a single soul (nafsin wahida) and as our mates (azwaja) they are a part of us (min anfusikum). Given that both men and women have the same spirit thus it is only natural that the Quran obligates them to the same religious and moral duties and responsibilities.

The Quranic message was transformative with respect to gender equity, at least among the first generation of Muslims. The first person to believe in the message of Prophet Muhammad was a woman, his first wife Khadija. Two of Prophet Muhammad's wives, Ayesha along with Umm Salama are among the greatest narrators of Prophetic traditions. Much of what Muslims practice today is transmitted via the scholarship of these two great women.

Another female companion, Nusayba bint Kaab, was celebrated for her military skills for taking part in many battles. As a combatant in Uhud, she is said to have sustained wounds on her body while defending the Prophet. Praising her valor, Prophet Muhammad said her position on the battlefield that day was unsurpassed by anyone else, man or woman.

The most sacred place on earth for Muslims, Makkah (Mecca), was founded by Hajar, the wife of Abraham. Her diligence and faith were as remarkable as that of her celebrated husband. The first martyr in Islam was also a woman, Sumayah. The world's first academic degree-granting institution of higher education, which is still in operation today, the University of Qarawiyyin in Morocco, was established by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri.

Contested Readings

Dr. Jamal Badawi, in his short book Gender Equity in Islam, makes the following observation, "Nowhere does the Qur'an state that one gender is superior to the other. Some mistakenly translate "qiwamah" in 4:34 as superiority, when in reality it implies a greater degree of responsibility." At-Tabari, who lived only two centuries after the Prophet, conceptualized the relationship of "qiwamah" as being conditional upon the man being able to take care of the socio-economic needs of his wife. This cannot be generalized as any inherent superiority of men over women. In the Quran, "qiwamah" is used three times and in all three occasions it is conjoined with the idea of justice and fairness.

Later in the same verse, 4:34, another word "waribuhunna" also has contested meanings. The verse reads, "And as for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them, then forsake them from physical intimacy, and then waribuhunna." The word waribuhunna is derived from the triliteral root ad ra ba, from which 55 verb forms result in the Quran. These verbs have wide variations in their meanings - from strike (idrib) to travel or put forth (darabu).

Literally and parochially translating waribuhunna as "beating" contradicts the central Quranic message of fairness and mercy. In addition, there is no report that Prophet Muhammad ever struck or beat of his wives, even though he like most mortals encountered marital challenges.

Classical scholars such as At-Tabari and Ar-Razi both viewed 4:34 as a staged way to reduce marital conflicts in a culture where violence against women was rampant. At-Tabari went on to note that waribuhunna means striking without hurting. But Ar-Razi did not even allow that in his exegesis. He quoted Prophet Muhammad as stating that men who hit their wives are not among the better men.

The Vision of Islam

Treating women with the inherent dignity that she was created with, ensuring that their rights are preserved and advocating that they are given equitable opportunities to succeed is necessary to uphold the Quranic vision, "O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding justice," (4:135). The way forward requires leveling the playing field, by changing hearts and minds, if possible, or by instituting affirmative actions, when antiquated cultural norms prove too intransigent.

The World Economic Forum asserts a simple truth, "Countries and companies can be competitive only if they develop, attract and retain the best talent, both male and female." Not only governments need to do more, but so do businesses, civil society and media. Empowering women should be as much a man's responsibility, as it is a woman's aspiration.



USAID Awards $6 Million to Empower Women Affected By Conflict

24 DECEMBER 2013

Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded more than $6 million for programs aimed at protecting and empowering women in areas affected by crisis, conflict and transition.

USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Sarah Mendelson announced the awards during a December 19 event at which participants discussed USAID's implementation of the two-year-old U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

Since the plan was established, USAID has "enhanced and accelerated long-standing efforts to bring women's participation, perspectives and skills to bear on the challenges facing societies threatened by crisis, conflict and insecurity," according to Making Progress, USAID's report highlighting its implementation of the plan.

The new funds are intended to help USAID offices build on already successful programs and start new activities to benefit the following populations:

- In Papua New Guinea, USAID programs will aim to increase the capacity of women's civil society organizations that can provide recovery services for survivors of conflict-related trauma and domestic and sexual violence, and advocate for the implementation of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville's National Action Plan.

- In Kenya, USAID funding will strengthen the ability of female leaders to participate in decision-making at local and national levels of government by defining resources and needs, and by building a network of women leaders to mentor and provide peer-to-peer teaching.

- In Sierra Leone, USAID programs will provide effective services for survivors of gender-based violence by improving existing referral systems and police-response procedures, and by developing a network of safe shelters.

- In Libya, USAID will aim to expand the potential of women entrepreneurs through business skills training, improve women's access to financing through brokered relationships with financial institutions, and offer matching grants and technical assistance to accelerate business growth and job creation.

Elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, USAID will support the development of regional television programs designed to promote positive shifts in attitudes and behaviors related to women's participation in politics and governance.

Additionally, USAID supports efforts to build an international roster of experts in investigating and prosecuting conflict-related sexual violence.

Looking ahead, USAID says it plans to expand successful programs that focus on women and peace and security, and to coordinate with host governments on advocacy for women's increased participation in high-level decision-making. It also aims to link protection and empowerment activities in crisis and conflict settings in ways that recognize women's and girls' diverse capabilities.

USAID says it will focus on women and girls in its efforts to combat illicit activities and gang violence, and increase its focus on women's engagement in economic recovery after conflict. The agency also says it will increase its efforts to engage men and boys in preventing violence and in championing women's and girls' social, political and economic empowerment.

The report Making Progress is available on USAID's website.



Brotherhood leader's wife says police removes her veil

World Bulletin / News Desk

December 25, 2013

The wife of detained Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Beltagi has accused Egyptian police of assaulting her during a visit to her husband at Cairo's Tora Prison – a charge denied by security officials.

Sanaa Abdel-Gawwad told Anadolu Agency that prison guards had attacked her and removed her veil following a verbal altercation over new rules governing prison visits.

"We've been prevented from visiting him for over one week now," Abdel-Gawwad said. "We had lined up outside the prison every day for over ten hours but to no avail, until we learned of his hunger strike, when – to our surprise – we were finally allowed to enter."

On Monday, al-Beltagi and other Brotherhood leaders declared a hunger strike to protest alleged mistreatment by Egyptian prison authorities.

The prisoners cited a new system for family visits that would only allow jailed Brotherhood leaders to see visitors through glass dividers and talk to them via phone handsets instead of face-to-face meetings.

"We were surprised by the new system, so we turned down the visit," said Abdel-Gawwad. "And my husband told me that he was on hunger strike because of the poor treatment he's receiving in prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement."

Abdel-Gawwad added that al-Beltagi had also complained that his cell entirely lacked ventilation.

"When I left him, I was in [a state of] shock; we shouted at security officials against injustice and the mistreatment of my husband," she said. "But they forced us into a room and said they would take my son, Anas."

"When I refused to leave my son, a female officer came, assaulted me and removed my veil in the presence of senior security officials, including the prison warden," she added. "She started to beat me to force me to leave my son, but I resisted."

Abdel-Gawwad said she had been held in the room for two hours before a security official entered, verbally abused her and forced her to sign a statement that she had attacked the guard.

Mother and son, in handcuffs, were then taken to a police station where they were held for three hours before prosecutors released them on bail.

Abdel-Gawwad and Anas were both released late Tuesday on bail set at 5,000 Egyptian pounds (roughly $715) each pending investigation into assault charges.

A security official, however, dismissed Abdel-Gawwad's assertions, claiming the pair had attacked guards and tried to foment a riot inside the prison.

"She declined the visit via the glass booths, which have been adopted for visits to Al-Aqrab Prison," the official, who asked not to be named, told AA.



Women's education in Afghanistan threatened

December 25, 2013

As international forces leave Afghanistan, much of the aid allocated to improving women's education is disappearing.

mproving women's education is considered one of the stand-out successes in Afghanistan since the invasion of international forces in 2001.

But as foreign troops prepare to leave, that legacy is looking less certain.

Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson reports from Kandahar city.



Turkish film exposes violence against women

World Bulletin / News Desk

December 25, 2013

Ramin Matin, the director of 2013 Golden Orange Award winning movie "Kusursuzlar (Flawless Life)", has said that his movie aims to show that violence against women in Turkey occurs not only in small towns or villages in the east but also in big cities.

The movie, which won the award in October in Turkey's popular southern resort province of Antalya, is a gripping thriller that follows two sisters vacationing and how a pleasant holiday turns dark with the appearance of a young man.

Ipek Turktan, one of the leading actresses of the movie, told AA that "violence against women is becoming ordinary" and this is what the film aims to show, that women are exposed to both physical and psychological violence in each day of daily life, Turktan added.

Talking about the impacts of violence on her character, she said "Lale is a doctor and she has status. She is a woman who can take control of her own life. However, she begins to make mistakes because of the trauma she is going through."

"Violence makes a woman get changed into a character totally different than hers. It is a kind of self defence. There are various kinds of violence and manipulation over females," added Turktan.



Ethiopian Maid Gets Death for Killing Girl in Saudi Arabia

 December 25, 2013

RIYADH — The General Court has sentenced to death an Ethiopian housekeeper who admitted murdering a child.

She killed her victim, Lamees Al-Salman, last May in a murder that shocked the country.

The child's father said the housekeeper has repeatedly admitted to killing his daughter.

The maid had also admitted to the crime during the investigation conducted by the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP).

The maid was informed of the sentence by a translator, but did not show any emotion and the judge granted her a month to appeal the sentence.

If the court does not receive an appeal within this time, the sentence becomes final.

The father said he was satisfied with the sentence, adding it would help in relieving his family’s pain.



Domestic violence on the rise in Afghanistan

December 25, 2013

Kabul, Afghanistan - Nasima always knew trouble surrounded her daughter's marriage.

The signs of a strained and violent relationship were apparent, but it wasn't until her phone rang on the morning of December 13 that Nasima understood the degree to which Setara, her daughter, had been suffering.

The voice on the other end of the phone was Setara's neighbours in Injil district, only a few kilometres from Herat City.

"Your son-in-law beat your daughter, come to the hospital."

When Nasima and her son, Mir Agha, arrived at Herat's central hospital they saw her daughter's face bruised, battered and her arms were covered in white bandages.

The perpetrator, her husband and a drug addict, had told Setara to hand over her jewelry so he could feed his decades-long addiction to heroin. When she refused, he dragged the 33-year-old woman to another room where he proceeded to beat her with a stone.

But he didn't stop there. When she was in and out of consciousness, Setara's husband took out a knife and stabbed her repeatedly before cutting off her nose and lips.

Hearing the commotion, the couple's four children rushed to surround their mother.

"As a man, I never thought he would do this to me. I always did good things for him, I never imagined he would try to kill me," Setara told Al Jazeera.

Domestic violence widespread

According to a recent UN report, which cited a 28 percent increase in violence against Afghan women, Setara's case is not rare in the Central Asian nation.

This was the third incident in a 48 hour period. Soon after the news broke, everyone from Sayed Faziullah Wadidi, the governor of the Western province - to Abdullah Abdullah, a  presidential candidate  and the ministries of interior and drug control were issuing statements about the case.

Though the reports of violence against women have increased, Setara's case is unique for its international attention and combination of drug use and spousal abuse.

Like many of the estimated 70,000 drug addicts in Herat, Setara's husband was introduced to drugs while residing in neighbouring Iran.

Laila Haidari, who runs a drug treatment centre in Kabul, said 90 percent of the addicts she treats first picked up the habit in the Islamic Republic.

Haidari said all of the addicts she treats at the Mother's Camp in the Dasht-e Barchi neighbourhood of the Afghan capital turned violent at some point.

"When someone is an addict, they have no control. They're dangerous. He could have easily killed his whole family," Haidari told Al Jazeera.


Zarghuna Ahmadzai, a Kabul-based psychologist who has treated dozens of abused women like Setara told Al Jazeera that addicts, "lose sight of everything. Nothing, not even their families hold value to them".

Still, women's rights activists say Setara's husband's addiction should not serve as an excuse for the "horrifying" case.

"Her husband's addiction of course plays a role, but in my view it's secondary," Orzala Ashraf Nemat, a women's rights activist who helped pass Afghanistan's 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women law said.

The primary reason, according to Nemat, is impunity.

According to a December UN report, of the 650 reported incidences of violence against women and girls across 18 provinces between October 2012 and September 2013, the Elimination of Violence Against Women law was only applied in 109 cases.

"When a man feels he is above the law, or in the worst case he will bribe his way out of prison, then he allows himself to act however he sees fit."

Nassima, sitting by her daughter's bedside, agrees.

"If I knew this was what she faced, I would have killed him with my own hands."

When Setara's husband, who fled the scene before police arrived, is caught, Setara said she wants him to be brought to justice.

"The government should arrest this man and stone him to death. He stabbed me in my hands and my chest, he cut my nose, my lips. I want the government to punish him in the most severe manner possible."

"I have never done anything wrong to him in his entire life," Setara told Al Jazeera.

Seeking justice

A nationwide effort by the Ministry of Interior and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) - Afghanistan's spy agency - is under way to find Setara's husband.

But Ahmadzai, the psychologist who has treated dozens of women abused by their addicted husbands or sons, said NDS must seek advice on how to properly treat the trauma faced by Setara's family.

"If he is still high, the jail time is unlikely to have much of an impact", Ahmadzai said. The entire family is in need of psychological care, she said.

Wadidi, the Herat governor, agrees.

"Herat is a cultural and historic province - these things should no longer happen here. Doctors have to run tests to see if he is healthy or not; no healthy person would do such a thing."

At a civil society meeting in Kabul, which included representatives from the Afghan human rights commission and women's rights activists, many people said investigations into Setara's case must explore what led her husband to commit such an act.

Alka Sadat, a female documentarian from Herat, said Setara's case is indicative of a startling increase in violence against women even in provinces that are often thought to be among the Afghanistan's safest.

Sadat said women actually are more prone to domestic abuse in peaceful areas, where the pressures of the nation's double digit unemployment rate are more easily felt.