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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 17 March 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Iraqi Prisons Leave Women Doubly Vulnerable

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 March 2013 

Photo: Sabah Hassan Hussein, who says she suffered physical and psychological abuse and sexual assault in jail after investigating prison conditions. Photograph: Peter Beaumont


 Muslims Join Pledge on Women's Rights

 When Australian Girls Are Sold Into Marriage

 Woman in Pakistan Gunned Down For ‘Bad Character’, Another Injured

 Indian Women Leaders Scale Records in Piloting Political Parties

 The Walking Dead: The Girl That Was Sentenced Before She Was Born

 Battling Stigma of AIDS in Morocco’s Religious Heartlands

 Somalia: Circumcision Wars, Child Custody, Culture and the Girl Child

 Where Have All The Iraqi Women Gone?

 Prince Charles commends women’s participation in the Shoura Council

 Nigeria Ranks Too Low in Women Representation in Parliament

 ‘Marriage Has Given Me a Sense of Responsibility’ – Nigerian Actress

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Iraqi prisons leave women doubly vulnerable

Wives of suspects are held as 'hostages', while others are jailed over family grudges or on specious charges to extract bribes

 15 March 2013

Sabah Hassan Hussein is still not certain which powerful person or interest she offended. An Iraqi journalist and human rights activist, she says she had been investigating the serious abuse of female prisoners in Tikrit. Although she had not published her allegations she did raise them with Iraqi ministries.

Last year, in events she believes may be connected, Hussein found herself incarcerated in the same jail and suffering similar abuse to the other women.

Tricked into visiting an army barracks in Baghdad, she was arrested and transferred to Tikrit on a trumped-up charge involving the murder of the brother of an Iraqi MP and one of her colleagues who had been kidnapped and killed.

The 12-month ordeal that followed, by her account, involved physical and psychological abuse, and included sexual assault.

She says she finally cracked when she was told her 20-year-old daughter, who was brought to speak to her in Tikrit, would be raped if she did not "confess".

At one point a judge accused Hussein of a completely different crime – of delivering suicide vests for an attack on a government building, a capital offence.

Hussein, who leaves her hair uncovered, smokes cigarettes and wears trousers, is still incredulous. "I said to the final judge I saw in Baghdad, look at me. Do I look like someone from al-Qaida?"

Her case is not unique in a country where both physical and procedural mistreatment of prisoners is commonplace.

Women, however, are doubly vulnerable. According to international and local human rights organisations, women have been detained without charge as "hostages" to persuade husbands wanted in serious crimes to surrender.

In other cases women have fallen victim to grudges launched by vengeful family members, including husbands. There have been allegations of rape, violence and other serious assaults.

Vivian al-Tai is one of those who claims she was jailed because of a marital dispute. Her husband lodged a complaint after she sought a divorce because of allegations of domestic violence. He accused her of kidnapping him and forcing him to marry her, according to her aunt, Lubna Ismail. He is thought to be willing to drop the case if his wife withdraws charges of assault and her claim for alimony.

There is a final category of female prisoners: those who are arrested and in effect held hostage to force male relatives suspected of terrorism to give themselves up.

This tactic has become one of the complaints of Sunni protesters in the country's northern and western provinces.

Even then the real reasons for holding the women can be specious. Three months ago Human Rights Watch reported claims of families saying security officers and judges had collaborated to keep women detained on "suspicion of terrorism" charges, then demanded bribes to secure their release.

In the same report HRW gave details of one of the most notorious recent cases. In November federal police raided 11 homes in the town of al-Taji, north of Baghdad, and detained 41 people, including 29 children, overnight in their homes.

The report stated: "Sources close to the detainees, who requested anonymity, said police took 12 women and girls, ages 11 to 60, to 6th brigade headquarters and held them there for four days without charge.

"The sources said the police beat the women and tortured them with electric shocks, and plastic bags placed over their heads until they began to suffocate."

Those claims appear consistent with allegations made in September to representatives of the Iraqi government's human rights ministry and to the Hummurabi Human Rights Organisation, an Iraqi NGO, during a visit to women's prison 42 in Baghdad's Al-Resafa district. In this jail female inmates reported that they had suffered torture and sexual abuse.

In Iraq's parliament Atab Jasim Nasif al-Duri, a female MP, raised the issue of the security forces' practice of detaining the wives or other female relatives of wanted suspects.

A week later, according to a report by Amnesty International, the head of the parliamentary human rights committee expressed concern that female detainees were liable to harassment and abuse when put in the custody of solely male guards while being moved between detention facilities.

While that led to the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, issuing pardons in January for a few female detainees, human rights activists believe hundreds more women remain in detention.

Mohammed Hassan al-Salami, of the National Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights, argues that Iraq's draconian anti-terrorism legislation has created a culture of impunity in the country's judicial, policing and judicial system, which has made life easy for unscrupulous individuals who are motivated by either corruption or by sectarian antipathy.

The legislation includes the 2005 article 4 which, critics argue, in effect holds other family members culpable for the crimes of those accused of terror.

Salami said: "One of the issues is the power given to security forces to do what they want to defeat terrorism, which is then used for personal advantage. The rule in these places where women are being detained is that these officers are above ordinary citizens.

"Sadly many people who are victims of abuse are afraid to speak out in public because they are afraid they will be paid back.

"Some of these women are victims of personal vendettas. Someone hates them and uses the system against them. In these cases we see fake cases and fake warrants. In other cases it is because of political views, designed to shut them up."

Hussein was released last month with all charges dropped. But her ordeal is not over. She doesn't go out much and is too afraid to return to work.



Muslims Join Pledge On Women's Rights

Hardliners defied as historic blueprint to tackle violence against girls and women is agreed at the United Nations


 17 MARCH 2013

A remarkable coalition of Conservative Muslim, Roman Catholic, and liberal Western countries have joined together to approve a historic United Nations blueprint to combat violence against women and girls. In doing so, they ignored strong objections from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood that it clashed with Islamic principles and sought to destroy the family.

But within hours of it being agreed came news of a crime which emphasises how badly action on violence against women is needed: the second gang rape of a woman in India, this time a Swiss tourist on a cycling trip. The country is still grappling with the legal and political aftermath of the gang rape and murder three months ago of a woman on a New Delhi bus. That outrage set off nationwide protests about India's treatment of women and spurred the government to hurry through a new package of laws to protect them.

The UN agreement should encourage changes of attitude and new laws in nations where women's access to rights and freedom from institutional discrimination need substantial reform. It came after two weeks of tough and often contentious negotiations, but, in the end, on Friday night, 131 countries achieved consensus on a 17-page document. Michelle Bachelet, head of the UN women's agency, called the document historic because it sets global standards for action to prevent and end "one of the gravest violations of human rights in the world, the violence that is committed against women and girls". She added, to loud applause: "People worldwide expected action, and we didn't fail them. We did it!"

The final text urges all countries "to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition and religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination."

The document reaffirms that women and men should enjoy all human rights "on an equal basis", recommits governments to comprehensive sex education, calls for sexual and reproductive health services such as emergency contraception and safe abortion for victims of violence, and calls on governments to criminalise violence against women and punish gender-related killings. Françoise Girard, president of the New York-based International Women's Health Coalition, said: "This is the first time we have an agreed document recognising emergency contraception as a necessary service to preserve women's health."

Terri Robl, the US deputy representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, called the agreement an important step but said the text is "only a beginning." She expressed regret at its failure to state that ending violence must apply to all women, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, or to refer specifically to "intimate partner violence". While the document is not legally binding, Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said "it sets a certain standard by which all member states can monitor their performance and can be monitored by others".

A number of Muslim and Catholic countries, including Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Honduras, and the Holy See, expressed reservations about elements of the text – but Libya was the only country to dissociate itself from the final document, though it did not block consensus. Libya's top cleric raised similar concerns as those of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejecting the document for violating Islamic teachings. The Libyan delegation objected to paragraphs calling for sex education for all adolescents and youth, and for priority to programmes for girls' education.

At the start of the meeting, Ms Bachelet said data from the World Health Organization and other research shows that an average of 40 per cent – and up to 70 per cent of women in some countries – face violence in their lifetimes.



When Australian Girls Are Sold Into Marriage


 March 17, 2013

DEEP in Sydney's west there is a pretty suburb called Fairfield, and deep in Fairfield there is a little village of brick units in which lives a true warrior for girls.

When Dr Eman Sharobeem opens the door, there is a waft of perfume. She is wearing a figure-hugging animal-print dress. Her fingernails are beautifully manicured and polished, and her heels are high, with peep-toes. "Come in, come in," she says, gesturing towards the soft couches and the low coffee table where she is serving Arabic tea flavoured with mint and honey, with caramel cake on a silver platter.

I am here to talk about an issue close to Sharobeem's heart: the forced marriage of confused and frightened Australian girls to men they don't know, and might never have met, who are usually much older, who live abroad, and to whom they might already be related. It's an ugly topic to be discussing in this room, decorated with every conceivable feminine touch: there are fairy lights, candles and platters of fruit, even an exquisite chess set made entirely of glass. Many of the artworks and sculptures are from Egypt, where Sharobeem was born in 1965.

"Marriages between girls and their older relatives, they were common when I was a girl," she says. "I saw them in Egypt, and later across the Middle East, and now of course we see it in Australia. Just recently, one of my clients, she was a girl, just 15 years old, and her parents came to me saying, 'She is pregnant', and now they are worried, what will the [Australian] government say?

"I said to them, 'But how did this happen?' And they said, 'Don't worry, she is married!' I said, 'How can she be married?' and they said, 'We took her overseas, she is married to her cousin, that is the way.' "Of course, I knew that was happening, because we also see it in schools, where girls tell the teachers, 'I won't be coming next week because I am going overseas to be married to my cousin.' And we see it on Facebook, where a girl will put up a picture of her sister, still a child, getting married in a traditional ceremony, perhaps in India, or in Iraq."

Like many who work closely with newly arrived communities, Sharobeem, general manager of the Immigrant Women's Health Service in Sydney's west, believes that forced marriage is more common than is acknowledged in Australia, that it is deliberately hidden by religious leaders, and that it co-exists with family violence and the subjugation of women. That this is so has been proved in court: three times in the past 18 months the Family Court has been asked to urgently step in to prevent the forced removal of Australian girls - one aged just 13 - to ports abroad for the purpose of marriage to older men they didn't know. On a fourth occasion the same court was asked to annul a forced marriage that had already taken place.

In all four cases Legal Aid lawyers told the court that the girls had been subjected to violence or threats of violence, including being dragged around by their hair or hit on the back when they tried to refuse the marriage that had been planned for them; or taken out of school and locked in their bedrooms until they agreed to go through with the ceremony; or told that their female relatives would be kidnapped and raped if they continued to resist the wedding plans made for them.

The courts are not catching every case: child brides, some still with the wedding henna on their hands, are also turning up at Australian hospitals to give birth.

That forced marriage has come to these shores with certain immigrant groups that still practise the custom is perhaps not surprising, but what does horrify Sharobeem is that there is essentially nothing in place to assist Australian-born girls who want to escape the situation. Unlike the UK, there is no Forced Marriage Unit in the police force; no poster or pamphlet program in any Australian school to educate girls about their rights; no hotline for girls who need advice, and therefore no clear path for them to follow if they want to run away.

Forcing a child, or even an adult, into marriage against their will is not even a crime in Australia, and there is no punishment for those people who seek to arrange it or indeed facilitate it. That situation is likely to change later this year when the new federal Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon (the first woman to hold the post), introduces a bill into parliament, perhaps in the autumn session, that will criminalise forced marriage. The offence is likely to carry serious penalties, with up to 15 years' jail for community leaders and parents who arrange marriages for children. Roxon says the aim is to "send a strong message that the practice is not acceptable ... [and] make it absolutely clear that forced marriage has no place in Australia".

As is almost always the case when the government attempts to interfere in what some may see as a cultural problem, there is debate about whether this law should be allowed to pass, with some academics, lawyers and representatives of various migrant groups arguing that to criminalise the practice is to "use a sledgehammer to crack a nut". But from her new home in Sydney's west, Sharobeem waves that argument away. "This is a growing problem in Australia, and it should be a crime," she says. "And that is from somebody who knows, because of course I have been through it myself."

THERE is little doubt that Eman Sharobeem's parents loved her dearly when they promised her to a cousin who was much older, whom she barely knew, when she was barely 14 years old. "Ours was an orthodox Coptic Christian family with conservative views on marriage," Sharobeem says. "I was 14 when my mother came to me with gold and said, 'You are to be married to your cousin.' He was 12 years older than me, and later he told me, 'I chose you because you were young, and I thought I could mould you.'" Sharobeem accepted the proposal "because what does a girl of 14 really know about these things? She does not know her own mind. She knows only what her family tells her. And he seemed quite sophisticated to me, and I was starry-eyed about everything he said."

She began wearing a ring on her right hand, meaning "I was promised, and really I was in half a marriage, because I could not look at any other man". At age 15, she began to have misgivings - the couple were not suited, and Sharobeem thought her cousin cruel - but when she raised her concerns with her family an uncle came to visit and said, "Who are you to say that you will not marry your cousin? You will marry him whether you want to or not."

"The pressure, the expectation, was unbearable," she recalls, "but when you are young, you do not have the ability to say no, and especially not in a family where traditions, and religion, are so important." The wedding took place when Sharobeem was 18, not a minor, "but not really free to give consent. To explain it to you, I would say that by the time I knew my own mind, I was already a wife, and then a mother, and it was too late to resent what had happened."

The feeling of being trapped in the marriage intensified when Sharobeem's husband became ill. She nursed him for 11 years - during which time the family emigrated to Australia, where two sons were born - before he died, leaving Sharobeem a widow at 29. Her life since then has been one of commitment: to her sons, but also to the right of girls not to be forced into marriages they do not choose. She left Australia in 1997 to work on programs promoting the empowerment of women in the Middle East, holding positions with the United Nations in Egypt, alongside the former first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, and in Jordan, alongside Queen Rania. Upon her return to Sydney in 2004 she began working closely with women in Sydney's west where the issue of forced marriage, and the violence that accompanies it, was becoming more prevalent.

"Years back, when we were talking about female genital mutilation, we had the same argument," she says. "I heard people saying, 'We cannot ban it because that would be interfering too much, so let the community handle it,' and so it was not until the Australian government came down hard and said, 'No, this is a crime, and we will not tolerate it' that we started to see even girls who were being taken overseas standing up, and saying, 'No, you cannot do this to me.'" An examination of those forced marriage cases that have made it as far as the Family Court shows how difficult it can be for children, including those born and raised in Australia, to refuse the plans made for them by their parents. One of the first cases to reach the court is known as Department of Human Services & Brouker. It concerned a girl who told her teacher at a Melbourne high school that she wouldn't be attending classes anymore because she was due to travel overseas to be married. She was just 13. According to court documents, the girl's teacher contacted Victoria's Department of Human Services, which sent two officers to the girl's home while her parents were at work. The girl let them in, telling the workers that "she was not attending school because her father had said that he did not like her going to school" and because she was "engaged to be married and was planning to travel overseas in two or three weeks' time in order to meet her fiance ... she had only seen a photograph of this man".

When asked how she felt about getting married, the child said she "did not know what to say as she had not met her fiance". When asked if she understood whether she was expected to have sex, she indicated that she did not know what that really meant.

Although forced marriage is not itself a crime in Australia, the Department was able to use the Family Law Act to head off the wedding (the Act prevents parents from acting in ways that are contrary to a child's best interests). It took the matter before a Federal Magistrate, who agreed to place the girl's name on the Airport Watch List so that her parents would not be able to remove her from Australia.

Just two months later, a judge in Sydney was asked to take similar action on behalf of a 17-year-old girl whose parents had told her that she was to fly to Lebanon to marry a man she had never met. In that case, known as Kandal & Khyatt, the child herself called the Australian Federal Police saying "words to the effect that she was being taken against her will by her mother to Lebanon to be married".

Khyatt (all the names are pseudonyms given to the girls by the court) told police that she might have to "hang up at any time" because she didn't have much freedom to use the phone. She wanted to be placed on the Airport Watch List so she could not be taken out of the country against her will. As in the first case, the order was granted without the girl having to attend court.

In a third case, known as Madley & Madley, a girl aged just 16 confided to a teacher that her parents were planning to take her abroad to marry a man she did not know. Federal Magistrate Joe Harman, sitting in Sydney's Parramatta, noted that the application to have the girl's name put on the Airport Watch List was "becoming increasingly common before the court. The wedding has been planned to take place in a little under two weeks' time and would involve the child flying from Australia [to Lebanon] for the purpose of marriage". He was able to put a stop to it, only because the girl had "betrayed, or at least bucked the authority of her parents" in approaching her teacher, but she was fearful for her personal safety once her mother became aware of the proceedings. Adding to the sense of urgency, there was some risk that if the girl's parents got wind of what was going on, she might be "spirited out of the country over the weekend" and nothing could be done to preserve her rights.

And therein lay the problem: all three cases were caught only because the girls, or teachers working on their behalf, had the courage and the resources to get the attention of authorities who were able to use provisions of the Family Law Act in an ingenious way to stop the parents taking the girls out of the country.

"It's not ideal," says Judy Small, who is director of family, youth and children's services at Victoria Legal Aid, which last year handled a separate case involving a 16-year-old girl who was being sent to Pakistan to get married, "and even where the law can help, it's a blunt instrument. The 16-year-old girl that we assisted in Victoria, for example, she is doing well, but it has been very difficult for her. There have been ramifications for her in her own family, and she has been ostracised in her own community."

In the wake of the court cases the Federal Government drafted a discussion paper on the issue not only of forced marriage, but also servile marriage - where women are brought to Australia on spousal visas, only to find themselves trapped in marriages that more closely resemble domestic or sexual slavery. The legal age for marriage is 18 (although if one party is at least 18, the other may be as young as 16 as long as a court order from a judge or magistrate has been obtained, allowing the marriage); but a marriage is invalid if there has not been consent from both partners.

The discussion paper acknowledges that some parents who try to force their children into marriages abroad may do so for cultural reasons (the forced marriage of children to relatives or to other children in the same community is common in some parts of Iraq, and among some groups in India, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey, but is condoned by none of the major religions) or to settle debts; but such parents also "often justify their behaviour as protecting their child" and in particular, her virginity, outside wedlock.

Sharobeem agrees that the arrangement is often not done from a position of malice. "In my own situation, my parents naturally thought: 'Who better to take care of our daughter than our nephew? How better to protect my reputation, and the family's property, and wealth?' And the parents need not always threaten the child. It might be the opposite. They might offer gifts, or jewels. The girls might be living in a strict religious home and the parents will say, 'When you get married, you will be free, and you can do whatever you want', or else they might say, 'You have a cousin and he is in Afghanistan, and if he stays there, he will die, and you must marry him, or else you will carry his death on your conscience.'" In releasing the discussion paper, the government was interested to know how widespread the problem of forced marriage had become: had it reached the point where a new criminal law might be necessary, to stamp it out? As the submissions flowed in, it became apparent immediately that there was indeed a problem.

One young researcher, Valerie Gaimon, who interviewed support workers in migrant resource centres, gave the example of a "young Iraqi woman who was sent here and forced to marry her first cousin ... she wasn't allowed to leave the house ... her family in Iraq said if she didn't return to her husband, they'd kill her for the dishonour". One worker in a migrant resource centre in Tasmania told Gaimon that local families were "exchanging dowries before girls are even 14 ... we have cases of a girl's family in Australia pinning her down while a new husband rapes her to seal the deal. She continues to live with her family until she's 18, but is sent over to the man when he wants sex. These marriages are rarely registered and very hard to prove."

Women's Legal Services in NSW provided the example of "Yasmin" (not her real name; she was described in the submission as "based on the experiences of several clients") who was of Lebanese background, who was "very religious, and adhering to her religion is very important to her ... she was forced to marry Ahmed, her cousin from Lebanon, when she was 18 years old ... Her parents and Ahmed's parents had discussed and agreed to the marriage when she was 12. Yasmin was unaware of this arrangement until she was 15."

The submissions made it clear that forced marriage is also an issue for vulnerable women who were over the age of 18 but not yet independent because they had fiercely controlling parents. Several cited the case known as Kreet & Sampir, which came before Justice Paul Cronin in the Melbourne branch of the Family Court in January last year.

The young woman in that case, known only as Kreet, was born in Australia to Indian-born parents of a certain caste, who were "strict, and strongly against much of Australian culture". Tensions between the old world and the new came to a head in 2007, when Kreet was 16 years old and met a man known as "Mr U" online. The relationship remained a secret (Kreet was in Sydney and Mr U was in Melbourne) until June 2008, when Kreet's father told her he was taking her to India to find a husband. She quietly slipped out of the house and moved to Melbourne to be with Mr U, prompting her enraged parents to report her to police as a missing person, and then to travel to Melbourne where her father threatened to kidnap Mr U's mother and sisters and have them raped if Kreet did not return to the family home. He also slapped her across the face and hit her on the back, and he later tricked her into flying to India, saying he had organised her wedding to Mr U, only to confiscate her passport when she got there, refusing to give it back until she agreed to marry a man whom she'd never met. Kreet went through with the wedding but upon returning to Australia applied to have the marriage annulled, and her wish was granted. She now lives with Mr U.

THE overwhelming evidence of the existence of a problem has not brought consensus on the way forward, however. Several groups are concerned about the plan to criminalise forced marriage, not because they think the practice is acceptable, but because they doubt the deterrent value of punishment - in particular, prison for parents and religious leaders who organise it.

"Putting aside those cases where children are involved, we are cautious about making forced marriage a crime," says Judy Small, "and that's because we would emphasise the importance of education, of reminding the various communities that the girl must be fully consenting for the marriage to be valid. There is also the problem of what becomes of the girls once their parents are charged with a criminal offence."

Sydney University academic Dr Ghena Krayem, who is president of the United Muslim Women Association in NSW, says forced marriage "is not a practice that is condoned by the Muslim community, and community leaders do not consider this to be a major problem, and where it does exist, we don't need a sledgehammer to crack the nut. The intervention needs to be appropriate ... Is it necessary to break the relationship between the girl and her parents [by charging the parents with a crime]? If the issue does arise, the best approach is a holistic one involving the girl, the parents and respected community leaders."

Krayem is cautious about the propensity of the media to confuse an "arranged" marriage with a "forced marriage" and to assume that consent is absent simply because the marriage has been arranged. "In many cultures, people are recommended to each other," she says. "That is common around the world. But there still needs to be consent."

As part of her doctoral thesis, Krayem interviewed about 30 Islamic religious leaders on the issue of consent and says the imams "went to lengths to ensure the legitimacy of the marriage. They wanted to meet the girl, especially if she is young, and if there is a visa issue [one spouse coming from overseas] to make sure that she truly consents."

The Muslim Legal Network raised similar concerns in its submission, saying "a marriage in Islam requires the full and free consent of both parties" and that forced marriage in Australia is rare. It favours civil rather than criminal provisions to address those forced marriages that come to the attention of authorities, believing it is better to encourage victims to seek protection rather than punish the parents.

Associate professor Jennifer Burn, director of Anti-Slavery Australia, favours a "hybrid" approach, where forced marriage is clearly banned but where there is also a "suite of measures to educate and assist the community, rather than coming down on people with a blunt, harsh punishment".

The Federal Government's draft legislation, released for public discussion last December, does call for an offence of forced marriage to be introduced (with an aggravated offence carrying the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for the forced marriage of children) and Pru Goward, for one, supports it. Goward, a former sex discrimination commissioner and now a NSW MP, says "we must make it explicit that forced marriages for a woman of any age is illegal" even if "it will be hard to enforce - a key difficulty with this problem is under-reporting. It is so hard for us to find these people before the damage is done."

Sharobeem agrees that the problem is often identified too late, when the girls are already married, pregnant or being held in intolerable positions. She says there should also be education programs in schools "from when girls are 10, 11 and 12, because that is the ideal time to introduce the idea to girls that they have rights and freedoms, especially to say no to marriage and to sexual acts that come with it".

She notes that some men who arrive in this country are "immediately told by others in the community that Australia is a country where women are powerful. Women run the government, and you are going to be led by women, and you will lose your balls, basically, and forced marriage is one way for these men to show that, no, I still have control over my wife, and my daughter.

"And so it is frustrating to me, when I hear that a marriage has been arranged, and a girl is to be sent away - and I have to go to the father and say, 'Give me your daughter! I will mentor her, and take care of her, and she will keep her virginity, I promise you that, but give her to me just for a few more years, let her get older before she has to get married', when what I want to say is, 'No, you can't do this. It's against the law.'"



Woman in Pakistan Gunned Down For ‘Bad Character’, Another Injured

 March 17, 2013

PESHAWAR: Unidentified assailants on Saturday opened fire on two women on GT Road near Hashtnagri, leaving one dead and the other seriously injured.

The women were standing on the roadside when armed men rode up on a motorcycle wearing helmets and opened fire at them in broad daylight.

They also reportedly tossed a letter next to the victims, which read: “those involved in immoral activities will be dealt in the same manner.” The assailants managed to flee following the attack.

The body of the deceased woman was shifted to Hashtnagri police station, but could not be identified as yet. The injured woman has been identified as Yasmin, wife of Namet, and a resident of Regi village. She was taken to the Lady Reading Hospital following the incident.

A Hashtnagri police official said the letter left by the attackers blamed the women for prostitution. Both victims are said to be at least 45 years old, he added.

“We are trying our best to establish the identity of the deceased woman. Yasmin said she knew nothing about the other woman,” maintained the police official, adding this was the first attack targeting women in the city this year.

Previously, several women were killed by Taliban militants in Michani in Yakatoot, Khazana and suburban Chamakani for possessing ‘bad character’.



Indian Women Leaders Scale Records in Piloting Political Parties

 Mar 17 2013

New Delhi: Women leaders across the political spectrum are on a roll as they scale records in piloting their parties.

Ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections due in 2014, Sonia Gandhi has just created a record 15 years at the helm unparalleled in the 127-year history of Congress, the oldest political party in the country.

Jayalalithaa has already celebrated silver jubilee as head of the AIADMK of which she became General Secretary way back in 1987 after the demise of actor-turned politician M G Ramachandran.

Full report at:



The Walking Dead: The Girl That Was Sentenced Before She Was Born

 March 17, 2013

She was the product of a rape when her mother was raped by an elder brother who was under the influence of drugs at that time. She almost died at birth were it not for the woman that helped in delivering her to life. She then became a victim to an abusive husband who wanted to separate her from her children and deport her to a country she never saw before.

This is the tragic story that was published recently in Okaz of a woman who went under extremely difficult circumstances. She is the walking dead. She is a victim of society and is to pay the price of the mistakes of others.

Full report at:



Battling stigma of AIDS in Morocco’s religious heartlands

March 17, 2013

SALE, Morocco — “I don’t have anything,” said Asmaa with a sigh as she stepped out of the mobile clinic offering free AIDS tests in Sale, a conservative city in Morocco where the veiled young woman lives.

Around 29,000 people are infected with HIV in a country of 33 million, according to estimates by the Pan African AIDS Organization (OPALS), a relatively low figure compared with other Arab countries.

Full report at:



Somalia: Circumcision Wars, Child Custody, Culture and the Girl Child

 March 17, 2013

Aden and Aly met through a Muslim dating website. Aden was a trained nurse, originally from Somalia but living in Minnesota, while Aly was an Egyptian engineering student living in Canada. Despite the hurdles of visas, borders and immigration hassles, their relationship blossomed and in April 2011, they married. The newly married couple began their life together, with Aden commuting across the border to the United States to work as a nurse and Aly continuing his studies in Ontario.

Full report at:



Where Have All The Iraqi Women Gone?

March 17, 2013

Ten years have passed since the US invasion of Iraq, yet the country still remains in tatters. The massive destruction caused by foreign occupation and internal struggle has taken its toll on its people, especially Iraqi women.

Women in the country once had a place in society and held prominent and important roles across the public and private sectors. But after two wars, an authoritarian administration and UN sanctions, Iraq has been left crippled with most women struggling to meet their most basic needs; most living in poverty.

Full report at:



Prince Charles commends women’s participation in the Shoura Council

17 March 2013

Prince Charles, who wrapped a day’s visit to the capital yesterday, commended the progressive move made by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in allowing women to become members of the Shoura Council.

Prince Charles made the statement during his visit to the headquarters of the Shoura Council here. The visiting British crown prince held talks with the Shoura Council Chairman Abdulah Al-Asheikh and senior members of the council during his brief visit to the Shoura headquarters here.

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Nigeria Ranks Too Low in Women Representation in Parliament

17 Mar 2013

Senator Helen Esuene was  Minister of State for Health and later Minister of Environment in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In this interview with Omololu Ogunmade, Esuene who currently represents Akwa Ibom South senatorial district in the Senate, speaks on a wide range of issues including oversight function of the legislature, executive-legislative conflicts and male and female relationship in the Senate,among others

About a month ago, you led the Senate Committee on Women Affairs to Suleja Prison where you promised to help some people who were in prison because they could not pay the fines imposed on them by the court. The visit was well reported in THISDAY. Have you fulfilled your promises to the inmates?

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‘Marriage Has Given Me a Sense of Responsibility’ – Nigerian Actress


Uche Elendu Igweanyiba, is one of Nigeria’s foremost and brightest actresses, who has starred in over 50 movies.  Uche is married and blessed with a lovely daughter. In this exclusive interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM she speaks on her life, marriage and other sundry issues

You are one of the most prominent and influential faces in Nollywood. Tell us more about yourself and how you started in the movie industry?                          

I stumbled into the movie industry in 2002, when I featured in the movie, ‘Fear of the Unknown,’ which was my first movie. I used the word stumbled because I only went to deliver a message to my friend Lisa, whose father is incidentally Larry Koldsweat.

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