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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 13 Nov 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Girls In Iraq ‘Could Be Married At Nine’ If Draft Law Is Approved

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 Nov 2017 

Dosari uses this initiative in urging women to adhere to traffic appropriate behavior, accurately and carefully (Al Arabiya)



 Girls In Iraq ‘Could Be Married At Nine’ If Draft Law Is Approved

 Kurdish Activists Denounce Iraq’s Child Marriage Bill

 Bihar Muslim Girls Are No Stereotypes

 This Young Saudi Woman Offers To Teach Women To Drive ‘For Free'

 First Lady Wear A Hijab, Attends Malawi Muslim Women Convention

 Woman Says Husband Wanted To Sell Her To IS, Moves Kerala HC To Nullify Marriage

 Alternative Schooling Opens Doors For Afghan Girls And Women

 UK Ministers Accused Of Hurting Case Of Woman Jailed In Iran

 Body Formed To Increase Coordination Among Arab Women In Maritime Sector

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Girls in Iraq ‘could be married at nine’ if draft law is approved


By Chris Harris

Iraq has moved a step closer to allowing girls as young as nine to marry, human rights campaigners have claimed.

The proposal is part of a draft law recently approved by 40 MPs that would see the restoration of religious courts, says Equality Now (EN).

Government courts have, since 1959, ruled on such matters, setting the official age of marriage to 18, although a judge can allow it at 15.

But the proposed legislation – which will have to be approved by a full parliament to go ahead – would instead see religious courts decide.

“The nine-year-old thing comes from the different interpretations of the wife of the Prophet Muhammad,” said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, EN’s Middle East consultant.

“Some interpretations say she was married at the age of nine. That is why some religious sects in Iraq are following that.”

UNICEF says one-in-five girls are married as children in Iraq and that the practice often sees them abandon education and fall pregnant. If the mother is under 18 when she gives birth her infant’s risk of dying in the first year is 60% higher. Underage marriage also puts the girl at greater vulnerability to domestic violence, the NGO says.

“Iraqi women are outraged,” Abu-Dayyeh told Euronews. “We’re very concerned and it will affect all women’s issues in their daily lives.

“I think we will see an explosion of child marriage in Iraq if it’s passed. It’s not logical, we’re in 2017 and we’re still going backwards in terms of women’s rights.”

Any move from government to religious courts could also see changes to laws regarding divorce, custody and inheritance, as well as marriage, added Abu-Dayyeh.

“Some religious sects say women should not inherit real estate and custody of a child, in cases of divorce, should be with the man, not the women,” she said.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq has urged a consultation to “ensure the protection and respect for women’s rights”.

Abu-Dayyeh said no date had yet been set for a vote on the draft law.



Kurdish activists denounce Iraq’s child marriage bill

November 13, 2017

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region -  A group of activists from civil society organizations gathered in Sulaimani on Sunday and strongly criticized attempts to change Iraq’s Personal Statues Law that would allow marriage of girls as young as nine years.

"Raising this petition comes when some blocs inside the Iraqi parliament are trying to pass sectarian laws which violate human rights and children’s rights," read a petition from the activists.

The petition also read: "This new bill to amend the Personal Statues Law will authorize religious men to enforce illegal marriages and force girls under 18 to live with their in-laws. This is a setback to the achievements Iraqi women made and struggled for half a century ago."

The House of Representatives voted "in principle" on Nov. 1 to approve amendments which could allow 9 year old girls to marry. The draft is based on the Jaafari school of Shiite religious jurisprudence.

If passed, the law would only apply to the country's Shiite citizens and residents.

"The participants of the gathering throw their full support behind girls and women, the civic and democratic parties and those who demand equality, justice and freedoms against such laws which place Iraq in terms of lawmaking alongside the backward countries," the petition read.

The law will do the future generations a great harm, the activists warned.

"Parliament members will come under a historical and moral responsibility if they turn this bill into a law," they said.

The United Nations in Iraq, UNAMI, women's rights campaigners and some other rights organizations slammed the bid wanting women's rights fully respected and protected.

"I call upon the Council of Representatives to seize this opportunity of the process to amend the Personal Status Law," said Jan Kubis, the special representative to Iraq of the UN Secretary-General through a statement on Thursday.

Versions of the bill, also proposed in 2014, have included provisions that prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, legalize marital rape by stating that a husband is entitled to have sex regardless of his wife's consent, and prevent women from leaving the house without permission from their husbands, according to Human Rights Watch.

The suggested changes could violate child protections enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The 1994 treaty defines a child as any human being under the age of 18 unless the age of majority is decided through national legislation. Iraq is a signatory of the Convention.



Bihar Muslim Girls Are No Stereotypes

Nov 12,2017

For Ghazala Tasneem, October 31 was not a normal day. It was the day her dream came true and she was rewarded for her hard struggle of three years. She was selected for the Bihar Judicial Services Competitive Examination with 65th rank and can soon aspire to be a judge.

"Indeed, it was difficult, but thanks to Allah, due to the continuous support and motivation from my husband and other family members, I have achieved what I deserved," says Tasneem, a housewife from Katihar district of Bihar with two sons.

There is a general perception that Muslim women rarely pursue higher education, or go for competitive exams, and the social odds are stacked even higher once they get married and have kids. But women like Tasneem challenge such stereotypes.

"The situation is changing now and there are many more Muslim girls going to school," Tasneem said. Zebun Nisa Khan, associate professor at the Department of Education in Aligarh Muslim University, says that situation has already changed. "The trend is not changing, but it has already changed.

For the last few years, the number of Muslim girls in schools has increased massively," Khan said. Muslim women's literacy rate is on the increase in Uttar Pradesh, but the situation in states like Bihar and West Bengal needs to further improve.

Moonisa Bushra Abidi teaches Physics at Maharashtra College of Arts, Science and Commerce in Mumbai. She also thinks that educating the girl child is an increasing trend among Muslims.

"One can see a larger number of girls with hijab in many institutions now. In the early 1990s, when I was pursuing my M.Sc. from the University of Mumbai, I was the only girl in the entire university with a hijab," Abidi explains.

She says that during her days in the same college, at the Intermediate level, there used to be one division of girls against four of boys, but now there are four divisions of girls against one for boys. At UG and PG levels, there are hardly 8 to 10 boys in each class against 80 to 90 girls.

Khan lists poverty and lack of awareness as some of the major problems in the path of girl child education. Sadia Rahman, PhD scholar of International Relations at National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, thinks that widespread poverty and financial constraints are the major causes that prevent Muslim girls from accessing modern education.

"Also, the poor quality schools in Muslim populated areas is also responsible for it," says Rahman who hails from Kolkata and completed MA from Presidency University.

According to Islamic teaching arrangements of classes, male and female students should be separated and many people believe that it is also one of the important reasons for the low literacy rate of Muslim women in various places.

"I think the biggest obstacle for girls' education was co-education and less availability of Muslim-management colleges. Sometimes a girl with a hijab becomes the butt of jokes, because of which religious-minded girls are hesitant to go to colleges run by non-Muslim managements," Abidi added.

Abidi believes that Muslim girls from conservative families don't feel comfortable in the co-education system and the community should think about opening more separate colleges for them. "In rural areas, even Hindu girls prefer girls-only colleges and avoid co-education," Khan pointed out.

Neyaz Ahmad Daudi, who runs Fatima Girls Inter College in Daudpur village in Azamgarh district of eastern Uttar Pradesh, has another story to tell. Daudi, who has doctorate in Psychology from Banaras Hindu University and served at Shibli National Intermediate College as principal, says that in places like Azamgarh, where most of the guardians away in the Gulf countries or in metro cities earning a livelihood, people are cautious about the security of girls and don't allow them to be sent too far; they also seek a safe and secure transportation system from home to school.

At 73.01 percent, Azamgarh has the highest Muslim female literacy rate in Uttar Pradesh. But being a small place, it is still difficult to gain higher education here. "Now girls are educated but they have less opportunity for higher studies and competitive exams because usually it is available only in bigger cities," Daudi explained.

There is another misconception that some people think that educating a girl child -- especially modern education -- is against the religion, but Khan believes that getting an education is a religious duty. "Islam and Muslims are not against education. Islam teaches one to gain knowledge from cradle to grave, but some people misinterpret Islam," says Tasneem.



This young Saudi woman offers to teach women to drive ‘for free'

12 November 2017

Behind the steering wheel of her own car, the Saudi young woman, Noura al-Dosari, is driving around in the residential compound she lives in in the eastern city of Dhahran, as her daily routine.

Dosari learned how to drive since 2010, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and she was encouraged by her family. She has an international driving license.

After Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive, Dosari launched a voluntary initiative to teach women to drive cars.

Much more than just allowing women to drive


The initiative was widely accepted and welcomed by women, and around 15 Saudi women came forward to learn driving.

Noura spent more than five hours daily training them on driving lessons, using her private car.

In her interview with Al, Dosari said she seeks through this initiative to enable the “new women drivers” with the required skills for proper and safe driving in a modern scientific manner and help them to recognize the dangers of the road and to understand the traffic to maintain their lives and others.

She also trains them to deal with emergency situations, be aware of simple maintenance issues, and how to deal with different traffic situations and dangers, within the training curriculum she had prepared for her trainees.

Traffic behavior and simulation

Dosari added that the training program includes, besides the theoretical aspects, mock experiments to simulate real situations.

These may range from a sudden obstacle in the way, such as wheels, bags, or infants, bicycles, and speedy drivers who suddenly deviate from their tracks, blocking the road, or the passage of a police car or ambulance.

She highlighted the importance that the woman driving the car should be aware of the basics of the maintenance of a car. It does not need a technical specialist, she said.

The woman driver also should be aware of how to be safe on the road and how to deal with malfunctions and emergencies.

Dosari uses this initiative in urging women to adhere to traffic appropriate behavior, accurately and carefully.

She pointed out her interest in ensuring that the trainees are capable of driving and get over their fear of taking the wheel, and praised the enthusiasm of the Saudi women.

They are learning how to drive quickly and efficiently as they are eager to get their driving license, added Dosary.

Social change

She concluded that allowing women to drive cars is one of the necessities of social change. It helps women to rely on themselves, run their errands without waiting for a taxi, or hiring a driver. It will also allow women to join the labor force and attain economic independence, thus empowering women to strengthen the labor market.

Dosary praised the Saudi women who crossed broke the rules and stereotypes of women in the local community, and she wishes she can encourage more women to learn to drive cars.



First Lady Wear A Hijab, Attends Malawi Muslim Women Convention

November 12, 2017

Thousands of Muslim women across the country on Saturday gathered at Bua Community Day Secondary School ground in Mchinji to celebrate this year’s Muslim Women convention (Ijitmah).

The convention is held annually and is aimed at sharing Islamic teachings and women issues among other things.

Speaking when she presided over the official launch, First lady Madam Gertrude Mutharika said women in the country play a vital role in the development of the country.

“For the country to move forward, it needs the participation of women in all spheres of life be it religion, development activities and taking care of families,” she said.

Madam Mutharika said this year’s women Ijitmah theme “the role of women in development” is in line with President Mutharika’s government stance of ensuring that women are promoted in the country.

“I am glad that Islam takes women as an important part of the religion, and women should learn from one another during such forums,” she said.

The First Lady commended the Muslim women for organising the convention, saying the platform should help uplift women and help them, and share experiences on how they can improve their livelihoods.

Madam Mutharika also called for women to take care of their health issues by among other things, ensuring that they go for cervical cancer screening and attend pre-natal services to prevent maternal complications.

She then stressed the need for women to uplift one another and not pull each other down.

In her remarks, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Cecilia Chazama, called on the Muslim women to educate their children, especially girls.

She said educating girls would help them to be self-reliant in future, hence support their families and end poverty.

National Chairlady of Muslim Women Organisation of Malawi (MWO), Fatima Ndaila, said contrary to people’s opinion that women in the religion are oppressed; the Muslim women are respected and play a big role.

She said the Muslim women should be hardworking and loving to others, irrespective of their religion.

Ndaila called on government not to allow people who take pictures for identity cards to order Muslim women to remove hijabs (Head covers), saying this is an infringement to their rights.

“A Muslim woman is identified by her dressing and removing the hijabs for identity cards is therefore unfair to the women,” she said.

The convention was also attended by Muslim women from Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.



Woman says husband wanted to sell her to IS, moves Kerala HC to nullify marriage

Nov 12, 2017

Even as the love jihad debate continues to rage in Kerala, a woman approached the state high court on Saturday to seek the nullification of her marriage with a Muslim man who had “converted” her and was allegedly planning to sell her as a sex slave in Syria.

The woman claimed that her husband, Mohamed Riyaz (26), forcibly flew her to Saudi Arabia with forged papers and was planning to smuggle her into Islamic State-controlled territory. Though the complainant was reportedly locked up in a room in the middle-eastern nation, she managed to procure a mobile phone with which she contacted her parents back home. She was rescued last month with the help of some NRIs, after which she was flown back to India.

She also alleged that her husband – a native of New Mahe in north Kerala – is an active worker of the Popular Front of India, a fundamentalist outfit suspected of carrying out conversions in Kerala.

Riyaz, who is still in Saudi Arabia, could not be contacted for his version of the incident.

The 23-year-old woman, who hails from Pathanamthitta in central Kerala, was brought up in Gujarat. It was when she was studying in Bengaluru that she came in contact with Riyaz. She said they had sex on a certain occasion, during which he secretly shot videos of the act and began blackmailing her.

The complainant alleged that she was later admitted to a madrassa in north Kerala by force, where she was tutored in Islamic tenets. Their marriage was solemnised by a cleric in May 2016.

According to the woman, she had even managed to escape from her husband’s clutches on a certain occasion. Riyaz filed a habeus corpus petition in the high court alleging that she was illegally confined by her parents, following which she was forced to return to him. He took her to Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa in August.

Interestingly, the case has surfaced only a few weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to hear Muslim convert Hadiya Jehan’s testimony on November 27. The case made nationwide headlines after the 24-year-old woman – originally called Akhila Ashokan – converted to Islam and married one Shefin Jehan from Kollam in south Kerala. Her father approached the Kerala high court in May, claiming that his daughter was forcibly converted after being indoctrinated. The judicial body annulled their marriage, following which Shefin moved the apex court.

After meeting Hadiya last week, National Women Commission chairperson Rekha Sharma alleged that indoctrination and forced conversions were being carried out in many parts of the state. The Kerala government has rejected her statement.

Women and children stranded in Syria

Police have reportedly intercepted messages indicating that many women and children hailing from north Kerala are still stranded in Syria.

In one of the audio clips, a woman is heard telling her kin that her husband was “martyred” recently and she now has nowhere to go. She goes on to say that there are many other women and children like her, some of whom were even ready to return.

Kannur deputy superintendent of police PP Sadanandan, who is investigating these cases, said it was likely that over 100 people hailing from north Kerala had joined the Islamic State over the last few years.



Alternative schooling opens doors for Afghan girls and women

Ruchi Kumar

November 11, 2017

A group of girls and women pore over their books by the light of the weak winter sun pouring in through a window. The tiny classroom has neither electricity nor heating and the students huddle close together on toushaks, cotton-stuffed mattresses popular in Afghan households, to keep warm.

“When it starts to be more cold, we will have to stop classes for a few months,” Maryam, their teacher, tells The National as she sits at the head of the classroom in Markaz-e-Amozish — Local Centre for Learning — a community-based school in Kabul’s destitute Dasht-e-Barchi district with more than 250 female students.

The students in the classroom range in age from 12 to 40. Zakia, the oldest and also the most enthusiastic, recalls the day she decided to go back to school.

“I was in the market and lost my way, and I couldn’t even read any of the sign boards. I was so embarrassed and scared to have to ask for directions back to my own home,” she says.

She says she now realises the importance of education for women.

“Working women should be literate so they are not cheated out of their hard-earned [money] just because they can’t count or keep record.”

For many of the older women at Markaz-e-Amozish, their education was cut short during the war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s. The younger ones were born into communities that upheld conservative patriarchal views and opposed women’s education. Schools such as Markaz-e-Amozish, have provided these women with safe spaces to learn and develop.

“When I moved back to Afghanistan from Iran in 2003, I knew I wanted to work with Afghan women and help improve their lives,” says Masouma Qambari, the school's founder, as students recite their Dari lesson from tattered second-hand books.

Ms Qambari’s family fled to Iran when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, just before she was born. With her parents’ support, she returned to Afghanistan with skills in midwifery and maternal health care.

“However, once here, I realised that the women needed more basic assistance, like literacy and vocational training,” she says.

She worked at an aid organisation for a few years until she had enough money to launch Markaz-e-Amozish in 2011.

According to recent report released by Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan, schools such as Markaz-e-Amozish, known as community-based education centres, or CBEs, have been effective in increasing enrolment and improving test scores, especially for girls. One study in Ghor province found that these schools has succeeded in eliminating the gender gap in enrolment and in dramatically reducing the gender gap in test scores.

“The main reason many girls attend a CBE rather than a government school is often distance,” says Heather Barr, a senior researcher on women’s rights at HRW.

Girls are also denied admission to government schools if they are considered too old, she says.

Other challenges include unsafe routes to school, lack of female teachers and high tuition fees. CBEs are often supported by foreign donors and the community.

Ms Qambari says one of her early students was 12-year-old girl from Bamiyan who was being forced to drop out because of her marriage to an older man who did not approve of her getting an education.

“The community, including neighbours and relatives of the husband, stepped in and counselled him to allow her to attend my school, and he reluctantly gave in,” she says. “Today, six years later, this girl is preparing to enrol in university.”

It has been a long road for Ms Qambari and her school, which has survived attempts to shut it down by people who do not believe girls and women should have an education.

“In 2009, when I was still trying to register the school, a parliamentarian, who I won’t name, held a gun to my face asking me not to work on this project,” she says. “I, of course, went to the courts and persisted [with my project], and he is in prison today for different crimes."

Corrupt officials assumed she wanted to set up the school to siphon aid money, and so they tried to extort from her.

“They were not very pleased when they realised that my intentions were genuine,” she says with a laugh.

Her face turns solemn as she pleads for support to keep the school going. Funding is starting to dry up, and there is little help from the government.

“We need trained teachers, equipment and other resources, but most of all we need something as basic as an electricity connection,” she says.

“Recently, Unesco [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation] donated four computers to our school, but we don’t have an electric connection to operate them.”

Government officials say they recognise the benefits of community-based education but cannot afford to support it.

“There is not enough for the existing formal schools — we can’t add more. We need to be honest,” a provincial education official told HRW researchers. “There is no government plan to fund CBEs. The foreigners pay for them.”

Ms Barr accepts that government is overwhelmed, but says gender discrimination continues in the state school system "in terms of the number of girls’ versus boys’ schools”.

There is also a clear gap in the allocation of resources, and a failure to prioritise infrastructure vital to girls' schools, such as toilets and boundary walls.

“These are disproportionately affecting girls’ access to education; so resistance to supporting CBEs, which we know are particularly effective at reaching girls, may be another form of discriminatory decision-making,” she says.

The Afghan government did develop a policy in 2012 that was supposed to facilitate community-based education in the government school system. However, it was never implemented.

“The government is now in the process of revising that policy, and the key will be to see whether the new policy is an effective one that prioritises girls and is implemented,” Ms Barr says.

Meanwhile, Ms Qambari’s school continues to foster hope among the young girls and older women from Dasht-e-Barchi. When asked if they see a future president of Afghanistan among them, the students in Maryam's class responded: “Why not?”



UK ministers accused of hurting case of woman jailed in Iran

12 November 2017

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke Sunday to the husband of a British woman imprisoned in Iran as pressure mounted on the Conservative government to step up efforts to free her.

The Foreign Office confirmed that Johnson and Richard Ratcliffe spoke by phone, but did not elaborate further.

Ratcliffe has previously urged Johnson to travel to Tehran to press for the release of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian citizen in her 30s, is serving a five-year sentence for plotting the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government.

Earlier this month, Johnson told lawmakers that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “teaching people journalism” when she was detained last year. Her family and her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, insist she is innocent, and was on vacation taking her toddler daughter to meet relatives in Iran.

Johnson later apologized for his comment, but Iran’s state broadcaster said it was an implicit admission of guilt.

On Sunday, British Environment Secretary Michael Gove said “I don’t know” when asked what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran.

Family and friends say the confusion has put Zaghari-Ratcliffe at risk of a longer prison sentence.

Johnson’s blunder has triggered calls for his resignation.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Prime Minister Theresa May should fire Johnson for “embarrassing and undermining our country with his incompetence and colonial throwback views and putting our citizens at risk.”



Body formed to increase coordination among Arab women in maritime sector

13 November 2017

ALEXANDRIA: Saudi Arabia participated in the Regional Conference for Arab Women in the Maritime Sector with a high-ranking delegation of Saudi women headed by Wijdan Al-Suhaibani, manager of branding and communication at the shipping and freight company Bahri.

The conference is the most prominent event organized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and was held at the headquarters of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria on Oct. 15-19.

The participation of Saudi women in the conference was a major step that reflects the Kingdom’s continued progress and sustained efforts toward achieving gender equality at workplaces and empowering women. It also showed that Saudi women have occupied leadership positions in the public and private sectors.

The event assessed the representation of women in various areas and sectors, including maritime and port administration. In addition, the conference saw the launch of the Arab Women in Maritime Association (AWiMA), a platform to bring together women working in the industry in the region, with a vision that aims at “an effective Arab woman who promotes a strong maritime sector.”

Al-Suhaibani is the chairwoman of the newly formed association, which emphasizes the efficiency and excellence of Saudi women and their ability to play important roles in leading specialized bodies and organizations at all levels — local, regional and international.

“It was an honor to be invited by the IMO to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at this prestigious conference,” said Al-Suhaibani. “Our nation’s participation in these important events truly reflects the social transformation the country is going through, and more so as we are representing the maritime industry, which has historically been male-dominated.”

The participation of the Saudi delegation at the conference shed light on the practical steps taken by the Kingdom to achieve the ambitious Vision 2030, which envisages increasing the participation of women in the workforce from the present 22 percent to 30 percent.

The conference’s most important recommendations given to the IMO Arab member states included the provision of effective support to the establishment of AWiMA and working on the provision of an appropriate mechanism to help overcome the challenges of implementing the Vision 2030 and aligning its objectives with the goals of sustainable development.




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