Legalized Spousal Abuse Is Coming to Afghanistan, Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Gett
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Sect Accused of Marrying 13 Year-Old Girls
500 Women Killed Every Year in Name of Honour in Pakistan
Hopes Float: Marriage Still Key to Saudi Women
Bangladesh 'Rises Up' To End Violence against Women
Boko Haram: US Expresses Concern over Abduction of Girls in Borno
Pru Goward Child Brides Claim a Surprise to NSW Police
Campaigners Brave Rain at London Event Calling For Justice for All Women
Breastfeeding Law Designed To Improve Health of Child, Not Punishment of Mother
Neglecting Children – An Issue We Cannot Be Lenient About
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Legalised Spousal Abuse Is Coming to Afghanistan
February 15, 2014
A proposed law would ban relatives of accused child abusers, rapists and murderers from testifying against them in court—and women’s rights advocates are terrified that it spells a return to Taliban-era repression.
Nelosar was 15 years old when she was married off to a man more than twice her age. When she told her father she did not want to marry and wanted to continue her education instead, he replied that he would kill her if she didn’t comply. She entered into the marriage, but was ruthlessly beaten by her in-laws and her husband. “I never loved him, but I had to stay,” Nelosar (not her real name) says.
Just two months ago, with the support of her children, she applied for a divorce from the man she says abused her entire marriage. Now 41 years old, Nelosar works as a caregiver for senior citizens and lives in Queens, New York. Her husband stopped beating her when they moved here because he feared the police, but the verbal attacks continued. She couldn’t divorce him in Afghanistan, but says she’s thrilled to live in the United States where the law is in her favor. “There should be law that supports women, not abuses them,” Nelosar says.
But in Afghanistan, a dangerous bill has slipped through two houses of Parliament and is poised to devastate women’s rights advocates and victims of abuse. The law would ban all family members of accused criminals—be they abusers, rapists, and murderers— from being questioned by police or testifying against them in court. Doctors and psychiatrists would also be barred from providing evidence. In most domestic cases it would be virtually impossible to get a conviction. The bill awaits the signature of President Hamid Karzai—as of last Sunday, he had 15 days to veto it before it automatically goes into effect.
Activists warn it’s the latest in a series of setbacks that could propel Afghanistan back to a time when women had no rights or freedoms under Taliban rule. And as U.S. and NATO troops depart this year and a long-term security agreement is on the rocks, the climate for Afghanistan’s women and girls is growing more unpredictable.
The proposed law would allow men to abuse their wives, children, and sisters without threat of judicial repercussion. It would quash any legal consequences for cases of honor killings, child marriage, and domestic violence—in a country where 87 percent of women have experienced some form of abuse. In family-centric Afghanistan, there would be few unrelated witnesses in such cases.
If this law was in place three months ago, the father of a 16-year-old girl named Nabiza would not be serving a 12-year prison sentence. He was arrested by police after Nabiza’s mother reported him, and was jailed thanks to testimony from Nabiza, her mother, and uncles. Another recent case in which a woman observed her husband murder a loan officer would similarly have gone unpunished.
It’s a familiar limitation for Nelosar, who hasn’t been back to her homeland in 20 years. “At that point when I was there, the situation was worse because [I heard] stories of women reporting to the police, but they were returned to families and in-laws because police told them, ‘Your husband has right to beat you, you need to accept this,’” she says.
“If this law is signed we will go backwards, slowly back to the Taliban era,” says Manizha Naderi, executive director of advocacy group Women for Afghan Women. Four little words in the bill, a criminal procedure code that parliament has been drafting for years, could destroy the gains made for women’s rights in the years since. Buried in Article 26 of the 128-page draft, a section outlining people who cannot be questioned as witnesses lists: “Relatives of the accused.”
Naderi says that two months ago, she and other advocacy groups pressured lawmakers to change the section preventing family members from testifying, so it instead stopped them from being compelled to testify. But suddenly, as it came up for a vote last month, the offending segment had been reverted back to its original form, thanks to parliamentarians Naderi describes as conservative and uneducated or undereducated.
Women for Afghan Women has been jockeying for a meeting with President Karzai, but in the meantime they’ve drafted a letter to him urging a rejection of the bill on the grounds it that it “is illegal and contrary to fundamental Islamic tenets.” As they point out, the Koran specifically states that the truth should be revealed in order to “stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin.” Naderi warns that if Karzai signs something unconstitutional it could create a ripple effect, paving the way for other illegal laws to go on the books.
But activists are nervous, saying that Karzai has become increasingly unpredictable in the months leading up to the April election that will strip him of executive power after nearly 14 years. “His first motivating factor is he wants to negotiate with Taliban,” Naderi says of a recent revelation that Karzai has been holding secret talks with the Taliban. “This could be a way of appeasing the Taliban and saying ‘I’m on your side.’”
Right now, there’s no telling what the president will do, says Heather Barr, senior Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch. Karzai may be quick to ratify it in hopes of wrapping things up in his last few months of power, or he could leave behind the controversial issue for his successor.
Six years ago, Karzai signed the groundbreaking Elimination of Violence Against Women law, which criminalized rape, child marriage, and other abuses for the very first time. “If this law passes it will basically rip the heart out of that law,” Barr says.
Before that 2009 legislation, bringing a case of abuse to court “would have been virtually unheard of.” In the years since, progress has been slow—the number of cases is still in the low hundreds, and there are some provinces where no cases have been reported yet—but moving forward. In 2013, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found a 28 percent rise in reported violence against women.
But now it appears those gains are reversible. After 12 years of advancement, the past nine months have seen a series of setbacks for women’s rights. In July, parliament lowered its quota for female lawmakers on provincial councils from 25 percent to 20 percent. Lawmakers also blocked an effort to endorse the 2009 anti-violence law in May, and in November, a draft of a law that would reinstate public execution by stoning was scrapped after it leaked to the media. A current bill in front of parliament awaiting a vote would allow men more authority over children, including the right to marry an adopted female child.
“Men within Afghan society always been unhappy with these changes that they see as challenges to Islam or tradition,” Barr says of the liberties afforded in the 2009 law. “They’ve been biding their time waiting for a chance to put things back to where they think they ought to be.”
This fragile crossroads is another reason that the International Violence Against Women Act needs to be passed by the American Congress, says Christine Hart, the policy and government affairs manager for the D.C.-based Women Thrive Worldwide. IVAWA—which was reintroduced to the House in November and will be brought to the Senate in the next few weeks—would make preventative measures against gender-based violence a permanent addition to U.S. foreign policy and strengthen diplomatic weight behind gender equality. In Afghanistan, U.S. agencies would have to incorporate gender-based violence concerns into trainings and programs.
Hart is hoping that Secretary of State John Kerry will speak out against the bill, but for now the only American acknowledgement comes from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which is “extremely concerned.” The bill has also been criticized by the EU’s foreign policy chief. But for months, HRW’s Barr says, there was “deafening silence” from the world.
There must be incentives, she says, to keep Afghanistan on track as international involvement on the ground disappears. Money going to the Afghan police force should be earmarked for programs eliminating gender-based violence, and a message should be sent to the government that any reversals on gender issues are unacceptable.
“These opponents of women’s rights have said to themselves, ‘We don’t have to wait to 2015 after the troop withdrawal, we can get started now,’” Barr says of recent backsliding. “And unfortunately, the lack of involvement by the international community proved them right.”
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Sect Accused Of Marrying 13 Year-Old Girls
February 15, 2014
Two weeks after police raided the homes of Lev Tahor members in both Quebec and Ontario, partially unsealed search warrants detail an investigation into allegations of physical and psychological abuse against children in the fundamentalist sect, including reports of teen girls being confined in basements and youngsters being removed from their biological parents.
The documents were unsealed in court last week after a consortium of media including The Gazette and parent company Postmedia sought access. The information to obtain the search warrant, or ITO, was released by the Sûreté du Québec Friday and are heavily redacted.
The allegations have not been proven and the identities of children in the community are protected by a court order.
While hearings were held in St-Jérôme in December and Chatham-Kent last month, some new details emerged in the partially unsealed search warrant:
-The SQ probe began the spring of 2012 after youth workers with the Direction de la protection de la jeunesse met with a young girl who said she was promised in marriage to an older man and was fearful of returning to her community. The case worker also felt that she had been indoctrinated.
-On Dec. 11, 2012, a 17-year-old pregnant woman was taken by ambulance to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. She reported to nurses there she was beaten by her brother, sexually abused by her father, and married at age 15 to a 30-year-old man.
-Quebec’s youth protection department removed a girl from the community after she reported her father, as well as the wife of community leader Mayer Rosner hit her several times with a belt in the face, as well as her arms over the period of six months.
Formerly of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, the Lev Tahor community has been under scrutiny since the summer based on allegations of neglect and abuse made by Quebec’s Youth Protection Department. Quebec’s youth court has also heard that the sect performs marriages of children as young as 13. The minimum legal age for marriage in Canada is 16.
About 200 of the 240 members of the community, including all its children, left Sainte-Agathe for Chatham-Kent, in Ontario in November, ahead of a date with Quebec’s youth court.
In their absence, a judge ruled that 14 children must be removed from the community and placed into foster care for a period of at least 30 days.
The judgment was upheld in an Ontario court on Feb. 3, but the judge allowed the order to remove the children to be delayed by 30 days so the sect’s lawyers can appeal.
Several days before the Ontario court’s ruling, SQ police officers raided the homes of community members both in Chatham-Kent and in Sainte-Agathe des Monts.
The Lev Tahor community has denied allegations of abuse and underage marriage, saying the community is being persecuted by the Israeli government because of its anti-Zionist beliefs.
On Friday, the community released a video from its leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, apparently on his last day in Sainte-Agathe before moving to Ontario.
“We have endured here extremely hard times, from persecution, from hate, and the hate has only been growing until now,” he said in Yiddish with English subtitles. “No one has ever harmed the children, at least not from our community.”
He said the group was being expelled because the Quebec government is also persecuting them. He wrongly referred to Philippe Couillard as the leader of the majority party in Quebec, and said he would do away with Lev Tahor.
Couillard is the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, which is in opposition. He has never made such comments.
500 Women Killed Every Year in Name of Honour in Pakistan
February 15, 2014
Lahore—Around 500 women and girls become victims of ‘honour killing’ in the country every year thus making Pakistan one of world’s most dangerous countries for women.
Delivering a lecture on “Honour Killings: A Public Health Perspective”, here at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) on Friday.
Dr Muazzam Nasrullah, a public health specialist teaching at Emory and West Virginia University, USA, stressed the need to give voice to women who are oppressed and to create a more informed and supportive environment for advocacy and policy to eliminate violence against women.
He explained that considered a form of domestic and gender-based violence, honor killings often involved women murdered by family members to avenge shame brought by infidelity or other culturally unacceptable behaviors. “It’s a very unique kind of violence, because usually domestic violence is caused by husbands or partners, but this is often conducted by brothers or fathers,” said Dr. Muazzam Nasrullah, who ran a study in this regard.
Dr. Muazzam further said that his report was the first statistical study that attempted to quantify the problem since data about the practice were so difficult to collect. He used local and national newspaper reports systematically compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan as the basis for his study. A total of 1,957 incidents of honor killings were recorded over four years, study reported. The majority occurred in response to alleged extramarital relations.
But Dr. Muazzam said he is confident the results were lower than the actual number because not every event makes it into the media.
“The problem is much more than what is depicted in my paper,” he stated adding that the mean annual rate of honour killing in female aged 15-64 years was found to be 15 per million women. He further said that murders in the name of so-called honour were prevalent across Pakistan and this crime was known by its regional names such as kala-kali (Punjab), karo-kari (Sindh), tor-tora (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and siyakari (Balochistan).
The Country Head of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, I.A.Rehman said that although honor killings were illegal and considered murder in Pakistan, there were loopholes that often prevent full punishment for the crime.
He further said that having reliable data about honour killings was important to tackle the issue. The lecture was organized by UHS Department of Family Medicine and it was attended by UHS faculty, students and a number of family physicians.
Hopes float: Marriage still key to Saudi women
February 15, 2014
An increasing number of Saudi women are delaying marriage to finish their education and start careers. For many, getting married in their 30s is the norm, a trend that has prompted many women to question the benefits of putting off marriage.
Siham Yusuf turned 26 a few days ago and she often asks herself if she will ever find her knight in shining armor or remain a spinster.
“I come from a conservative family and although fathers don’t find suitors for their daughters anymore, my family does reject many suitors. Another problem is that Saudi men prefer young women usually below the age of 25,” she lamented.
Ghadah Ali, 25, has had many suitors ask for her hand in marriage, but she has refused as she wants to continue her education. “I haven’t really met anyone who meets my expectations and, sometimes, someone I see as suitable is not what my family necessarily wants. Marriage is destined to make all happy and I know that someone who both my family and I approve of will come along eventually,” she said.
Anisah, an employed Saudi woman who said she was in her 30s, criticized society for having a superficial outlook on marriage. “At the end of the day looks trump education. If women of average beauty are singled out, then it is understandable why they have no desire to marry. At the end of the day, it is important for young women to realize that life will continue whether or not they get married.”
Not all women shared Anisah’s point of view, however. Bashayer Fayez, a young Saudi woman, said as she approaches 30, she can’t help worry about her future.
“I am deeply saddened that I haven’t gotten married yet. I want to experience motherhood and it’s frustrating that men prefer young girls in their teens and early 20s. I am happy with what Allah has destined for me,” she said.
Laila Abdulrahman, 33, said all her colleagues are married and they often look down upon her for remaining unmarried.
“I ask myself why no man has come to ask for my hand in marriage. Do I have a health problem? Is it because I’m not beautiful? But I’m closer to beauty than anything else. Is my spinsterhood due to the humble status of my family? I look around myself and see that many of my colleagues who come from even more humble backgrounds are married. I do not even set difficult conditions for suitors and only require that any potential suitor be a pious man who is God fearing,” she said.
Latifa Hadi believes every young woman thinks about the future more than anything else and what bothers her most is that people view unmarried women suspiciously. “What do they expect? Should families start advertising that their daughter wants to marry? Nobody does this, not even in the West, except within certain limits. Like others, I prefer to wait until the right man comes along.”
Bangladesh 'rises up' to end violence against women
February 15, 2014
Bangladesh yesterday joined One Billion Rising, a global campaign to end violence against women.
People from all walks of life congregated in front of the Supreme Court in the capital under the banner "Uddome Uttorone Shotokoti" donning red outfits.
The theme for this year is "Rise for Justice" with special attention into the unsolved cases of post-election rape of two Hindu housewives in Monirampur of Jessore, the disappearance of rights activist Kalpana Chakma, and the assault on journalist Nadia Sharmin by Hefajat-e Islam activists.
“Activists of Hefajat-e Islam while hitting me kept asking me why I am here amid the rally, being a female. Even those who saved me asked me why I do not go about with my head covered,” actress Bonna Mirza read from an excerpt sent in by Nadia Sharmin.
Sharmin was attacked by Hefajat men on May 5 last year during the long march organised by the Islamist organisation.
Chandra Tripura, an activist of Hill Women's Federation, read out one of the last speeches given by Kalpana Chakma before she was allegedly abducted in 1996, "Adivasi women face double oppression from their men and the Bangalees."
"The bodies of women have always been used by men and this has to be stopped," said Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori.
"Despite being a boy I came because I saw someone I am very close to being beaten by her husband every day. This is not fair," said Emon, who is giving his HSC exam from Khilgaon Model College University.
The objective of choosing Valentine's Day to host the programme is because it is a celebration of love between men and women, and the movement aims to establish respect within that love, said speakers.
Around 300 organisations in the country will be celebrating the movement.
Boko Haram: US Expresses Concern over Abduction of Girls in Borno
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja and Michael Olugbode
February 15, 2014
The United States Government has said it is deeply concerned for the welfare of the female students abducted recently from their schools in Borno State by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect.
This is as the people of Borno State have lamented the continued closure of schools in some local government areas for close to two years while casualty figure of the Konduga attack, which the US condemned, has risen to 62.
In a statement issued by its Embassy in Abuja, the US reiterated its call to the Nigerian government to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.
The statement reads in part: "The United States offers its sincere sympathy to the families of scores of murdered civilians and students abducted from the Government Girls Senior Science Secondary School and Ashigar School of Business and Administrative Studies.
"We are deeply concerned for the welfare of the young women currently being held against their will; we urge the government of Nigeria to investigate this attack, ensure all abductees are safely returned to their families, and bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.
"The United States remains committed to supporting the people of northern Nigeria in their struggle to stop the abhorrent actions of Boko Haram and associated terrorist groups."
Meanwhile, search for more corpses of victims of Tuesday's Boko Haram attack on Konduga has continued. The death toll on Tuesday which stood at 53 rose to 57 on Thursday with four persons reportedly dead from injuries at University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH). The figure further rose to 62 yesterday as five corpses were retrieved from the surrounding bushes.
It was gathered that the residents of the troubled town continued to flee in their hundreds to Maiduguri, the state capital seeking refuge.
Masu Yale, the District Head of Konduga said some members of the Konduga Volunteer Group retrieved five more bodies from the bush on Thursday; and buried them at the cemetery according to Islamic rites in the evening.
"After a two-hour search for more bodies in the bush yesterday, members of the volunteer group retrieved five bodies; and were buried at the cemetery. This represents a total of 62 people killed, including the four injured people that died at the UMTH yesterday in Maiduguri," he said.
He said that the hoodlums came back to attack a village in the outskirts of town on Thursday but found out that people had already deserted.
"Most of my people had already fled when the attackers came calling even though a few of us, the agile men hid in nearby farmlands. The attackers surrounded Malari village and started shooting in the air but changed their mind when they realised that nobody was in the village. Luckily enough, they did not burn any property.
"When we heard of the attack, we informed relevant authorities and security measures were taken. Most of the people have returned to their homes in Malari village, located 10 kilometres west of destroyed Konduga town," he said.
The Chairman of Dikwa local government area of Borno State, Alhaji Modu Ali Gana has lamented that their children have not been to school in the last two years for fear of Boko Haram attack.
"Our sons and daughters have continued to stay at home and stay away from schools in the past two years for fear of being attacked by Boko Haram. Education is wealth, but it is unfortunate that for the past two years, no school is functioning in Dikwa, students have remained at home because of Boko Haram, this time around we will not only renovate the schools, but also see to it that our students return back to classrooms with their teachers motivated with the scarce resources at our disposal”, he said.
Pru Goward child brides claim a surprise to NSW police
February 15, 2014
NSW Police had never arrested anyone in relation to child brides until last week.
So it was news to child abuse detectives that underage marriages were a ''significant'' problem across Sydney.
In the past week police arrested three men accused of their involvement in the marriage of a 12-year-old girl during an illegal Islamic ceremony.
A 26-year-old Lebanese student who married the girl and her father will remain in custody until their next court appearance.
Upon hearing of the child-bride case, Community Services Minister Pru Goward told 2GB radio that forced marriages of young girls may be ''quite common''.
Ms Goward said anecdotal evidence suggested forced marriages between children and adults was an ongoing issue among Sydney communities.
''I understand there are actually a significant number of unlawful, unregistered marriages to underaged girls in NSW, particularly in western Sydney, south-west Sydney and the Blue Mountains,'' she said.
Child abuse detectives said they had not received any information about underage marriage being a widespread problem.
''We've received no previous reports of this type of incident or this type of crime [underage marriage in NSW],'' Detective Inspector Betell, of the Child Abuse Squad, said.
He said his squad had once received information some years ago about the possibility of a young girl who was sent to Pakistan for a forced marriage.
The tip-off came from an anonymous source which officers were not able to act upon. Apart from that he said a report was made in 2010 about an incident dating back to 2003 but no charges were laid.
''Other than that - of young brides forced into marriage in NSW - we have no previous reports,'' Detective Inspector Betell said.
''It is difficult for the child abuse squad to investigate these types of crimes when there is no knowledge of it or reports of it.''
When Ms Goward was asked why police were not aware of child marriage being a widespread problem, a spokesman said: ''This would be a matter for the police.''
Ms Goward said she had heard only anecdotal reports of specific cases, often discovered only after a girl had turned 18.
The Minister said she was aware census data suggested that a large number of girls were possibly involved in illegal relationships but warned there were varying circumstances.
''There can be many different circumstances in these situations, from true child abuse, to a 17-year-old girl running away from a dysfunctional family to stay with a boyfriend or another family,'' Ms Goward said.
''Every situation is no doubt unique, but I don't think any reasonable person in the community would condone a relationship such as we have seen reported in recent days."
Detective Inspector Betell said to the best of police knowledge, the arrests of the three men in relation to an underage marriage was a first in NSW.
Campaigners brave rain at London event calling for justice for all women
February 15, 2014
Braving rain and cold in London, dozens of people gathered in Trafalgar Square on Friday to demand gender equality and an end to violence against women in one of thousands of events to be held on Valentine’s Day as part of the One Billion Rising campaign.
The first event was held last year to mark the 15th anniversary of the V-Day movement, an initiative launched in 1998 by activist and writer of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler. This year’s campaign calls for justice for the one billion women who, according to United Nations figures, will be victims of violence during their lifetime.
“In 2013, one billion rose around the world to end violence against women and girls in the biggest mass action in the history of the world,” Ensler said in a statement. “This year we are escalating and connecting the dots. We are rising for gender, economic, racial, environmental justice.”
In London, people under brightly-coloured umbrellas danced and cheered as a group of dancers performed to the rhythm of “Break the Chain”, the V-Day movement’s anthem. Similar events were to be held in more than 160 countries on Friday.
“I am here as part of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service but also as a woman, as a migrant with the aim of supporting the programme for justice for women to be treated equally to men,” said Carolina Velasquez Correa, who works for a Latin American women’s rights charity and showed up on crutches, wrapped in a Brazilian flag.
“I think dancing is a good way to show the world our bodies belong to us and we are, as the song says, beautiful creatures.”
British politicians and personalities, including the music star Skin, where among the participants, as well as Leyla Hussein, one of Britain’s most vocal campaigners against female genital mutilation (FGM).
“I’ll be here for a couple of minutes, but each minute five girls will undergo female genital mutilation,” Hussein said. “I am a survivor of FGM and also the granddaughter, the daughter, the sister of survivors of female genital mutilation.”
“Eleven years ago, in my family we broke that cycle by making sure my beautiful daughter wouldn’t go through FGM. No one should face what we faced. But that only happened because I had an amazing nurse who challenged my views about FGM, and not just about FGM,” she added.
Some of the demands of campaigners at this year’s London event:
Making sex and relationship education compulsory in British schools via amendments to the Children and Families Bill.
The repeal of visa laws that tie domestic workers to their employers and put them at risk of exploitation and abuse.
Improvements in immigration detention centres to ensure that vulnerable women feel safe; their dignity is respected; and they are not subject to violence.
Breastfeeding Law Designed To Improve Health of Child, Not Punishment of Mother
February 15, 2014
ABU DHABI // Federal National Council members say a controversial clause making breastfeeding a right was not designed to punish mothers, but to improve the health of children.
Members of the council’s health, labour and social affairs committee that added the clause to the Child Rights Law have disagreed over its interpretation, but all agreed it was in the child’s best interest.
Salem Al Ameri (Abu Dhabi), head of the committee, said the clause was intended to ensure that fathers contributed by bringing home all of the child’s needs, including formula milk.
Mr Al Ameri said although the term used in the law, “reda’a”, implied breastfeeding it actually meant all forms of feeding.
“It is general feeding, all children need this,” he said. “This would be clear to a [legal] expert even if it is not clear to others. The father must provide this for the child and provide the mother with a decent life.”
Mr Al Ameri said if the parents divorced, the father would be obliged to include a sum for feeding as part of the alimony.
The Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, said earlier she believed the clause referred to breastfeeding specifically, and expressed concern that the law would open the door to lawsuits against women who did not nurse.
Dr Shaikha Al Ari (Umm Al Quwain) insisted the clause specifically referred to breastfeeding.
She has said findings show breastfeeding is best for a child and the law was “all about what is best for the child”.
“I am with breastfeeding,” she said. “Breastfeeding also has benefits for the mother, as well as the child. This has been known for years.”
Dr Al Ari said breastfeeding ensured psychological security for the child. “Formula milk is never like breast milk,” she said. “This is a gift from God. If it would harm the woman in any way, then Islam would not encourage it. In my point of view, the woman needs to think of her child before herself.”
She added that even though husbands might abuse the law, filing lawsuits against their wives for not nursing, it was “unlikely to be the case in a society like the UAE”.
“Family bonds are stronger than in the West,” she said. “It would not reach the point of getting to court.”
Sultan Al Sammahi (Fujairah), deputy head of the committee, said the clause did refer to breastfeeding, but only to encourage it rather than criminalise those who do not do it.
“If there is a medical condition why a woman cannot breastfeed, or her milk stops after a few months, then she should find another way and care for the child,” he said. “But this is not an obligation as much as it is to ensure the mother cares for her child.”
He said the clause was directed at women who intentionally neglected their children and denied them breast milk.
“Breast milk is very important for a child,” he said. “In the end of the day we want women to try as much as they can to feed their baby naturally. This is not to say that women who do not are criminals, but they may face disciplinary measures, but definitely not prison.”
A veteran Emirati lawyer in Abu Dhabi, Ali Al Abadi, believed the wording of the clause subjected women to more harm than members realised.
“If she neglected and did not breastfeed the child, the mother is subject to punishment under this bill unless there is a reason why she cannot,” Mr Al Abadi said.
“But if she has been found to be neglecting this right it would be considered as an offence, even if the law is not intended to punish.”
He said the father or anyone else responsible for the child’s welfare could file suit.
Mr Al Abadi added that men already had the right to do so as it would be considered a form of neglect, falling under family law.
Some lawyers, he said, might be able to get mothers off on a technicality by suggesting that the term was not explicit enough.
Neglecting children – an issue we cannot be lenient about
February 15, 2014
I am always amazed at the way some mothers deal with their children accompanying them on the street, in the market, restaurant or any other public place. They are careless about the children’s safety. The mother walks in one direction while her child moves in another direction. This explains why children often get lost as indicated in announcements through in malls and other public places.
In some cases, one finds the child walking behind his mother. He might stumble or fall, but she does not realize this. Even when she turns around, she deals with his fall, on the ground or on the stairs, coldly. I have seen scenes like these several times. She might even enter the lift without holding her child by his/her hand. Still worse is the neglect in making a child sit safely in the car and instead make a child sit on the mother’s or father’s lap while he is driving.
The idea of taking her children with her everywhere and every time without anticipating dangerous consequences shows her selfishness. The mother satisfies her needs first and forgets her responsibilities toward her children. She convinces herself that she is taking them for recreation, but the reality is that she is busy shopping or talking to the person who is accompanying her in places that are so crowded and noisy for children. This is at a time when the children should be sleeping and enjoying the comfort of home.
Regrettably, occasions are few when one sees a mother hugging her child, or playing with him/her or talking to him/her kindly. The neglect often leads to the child’s boredom and annoyance which often resulted in the kid crying loudly, resorting to rebellious attitude or insisting on buying a toy to the embarrassment of the parents in public.
A mother who acts like this is unaware of the dangers that the child is exposed to in public places. She and her husband do not know how to give instructions to their children to protect them in public places.
Such behaviors reveal the mother’s or father’s incompetence to care for children and provide the childrens’ psychological, health and educational needs. There is no fast rules on how to rear children but one cannot understand the propensity of some mothers to give birth to many children without giving them sufficient care.
Several years ago, attention began to be focused on child violence but not enough has been done about this until now. Attention should be given to cases of child negligence, including those considered to be trifling matters, through awareness and enlightenment. Laws on child safety should also be enacted and enforced.