Women are escorted through Syria's al-Hawl camp, where ISIS is said to be violently reasserting controlCredit: AFP or licensors
• ISIS’ All-Female Squads Re-Emerge Using Killings, Floggings And Beatings To Bring Bloodshed To Syria Prisons
• 'We Cry And Cry': Pain Endures For Mothers Of Missing Chibok Schoolgirls
• Uzbek Official Reprimanded by Senate for Rude Remarks on Beards and Hijabs
• 55-Year-Old Zubeda ,Pak Woman Gets Indian Citizenship After 35 Years
• Bangladesh Army Probing Alleged Rape Of Rohingya Girl By Troops At Refugee Camp
• For Bosnian Women, No Justice—and No Seats
• Pakistan's Salman Sufi Works Towards Women Empowerment
• 53 Women Killed Last Month In Turkey: Women’s Rights Group
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Man Gives Triple Talaq To Wife For Refusing To Accept Carrom Board As Gift For Son
BY DISHA BANERJEE
4TH OCTOBER 2019
It has been 3 months since Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill that sought to make ‘Triple Talaq’ void and illegal. Triple Talaq essentially gives a Muslim man the right to divorce his wife instantly by uttering ‘Talaq’ thrice. Even though this regressive and discriminatory practice has been criminalized, there are many cases that have been recorded which prove that triple Talaq is still in practice.
According to a report by NDTV, a man living in Kota, Rajasthan, gave his wife triple Talaq for not accepting a Carrom board from him which he bought as a gift for their son.
Hindustan Times reveals that the 24-year-old wife Shabroonnisha has allegedly been a victim of domestic violence inflicted by her husband, Shakil Ahmed, for which she filed a police case earlier. After filing the case, she had been living at her parent’s house with her son.
On the day of the court hearing for domestic violence, while returning back home, Shakil had allegedly stopped Shabroonnisha and offered the Carrom board for their son. When she rejected it, the Shakil started fuming with anger and in a fit of rage gave her triple Talaq.
After the carrom board incident, she went to the police again and filed a case against her husband. Shakil has now been booked under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, but he wasn’t arrested.
Previously, a man living in UP gave his wife triple talaq for not accepting a chewing gum offered by him! Can couples not solve disputes in a more rational way?
ISIS’ All-Female Squads Re-Emerge Using Killings, Floggings And Beatings To Bring Bloodshed To Syria Prisons
3 Oct 2019
ISIS'S all-female morality enforcers have re-emerged in Syria's refugee camps and begun violently imposing the terror group's strict behavioural and dress codes.
Members of the so-called al-Hisbah are reportedly using floggings and killings to assert control over the al-Hawl camp, where more than 68,000 people, almost all woman and children, have lived since the final collapse of caliphate earlier this year.
The group was established after ISIS's rise to international prominence in 2014, and became notorious for enforcing the group's strict interpretations of Islamic law in the areas it controlled.
ISIS lost the last slither of the territory it once controlled with the fall of Syrian border town of Baghouz in March of this year, causing the populations of camps like al-Hawl, originally built to accommodate 20,000, to swell.
Residents at the camp, now the largest in northern Syria, say that dress codes among new arrivals was initially relaxed, but that after a few weeks women once again began to wear the full niqab - a garment covering the face worn by some Muslim women - and glove their hands.
In mid-July, an ISIS flag was raised over a section known as "the Annex", which holds the camp's 3,100 ISIS wives and their 7,000 children, and numerous instances of beatings and murder have now been documented.
'VIOLENCE GETTING WORSE'
The body of one woman, reported to have been a Chinese Uighur who had been found to be having an affair with an Iraqi refugee, was recently found a month after it had been stuffed into a septic tank, the Times reported.
She was later found to have died from repeated blows to the head, delivered with a blunt object like an iron bar.
In June, a 14-year-old Azerbaijani girl was beaten and strangled to death because she wanted to remove her niqab.
A month later, a heavily pregnant 35-year-old Indonesian woman was beaten to death for voicing similar disaffection with ISIS.
In early September, the body of a male Iraqi was found bludgeoned to death with a hammer, reportedly by two men dressed in women's veils.
On Monday, a firefight broke out when an ISIS woman grabbed a gun from a camp guard who had been sent to break up a crowd 50 ISIS loyalists.
Reports for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggested a fracas had broken out after another group tried to intervene to stop the loyalists flogging a woman.
One woman died and six were injured in the melee that followed, and forty women were later arrested by Kurdish special forces.
An August report by the Pentagon said that "minimal security" at the camp had "created the conditions for the uncontested spread of ISIS’ ideology".
Aylul Rizgar, the 30-year-old Syrian woman responsible for managing the camp, told the Times: "The violence here is getting worse and worse.”
She said the camp's "foreign women... become more uncontrollable and set about an ISIS revival” each time ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi releases a statement.
Members who travelled to Iraq and Syria from abroad to join ISIS are known to be some of the strictest adherents to it doctrine.
'We Cry And Cry': Pain Endures For Mothers Of Missing Chibok Schoolgirls
3 Oct 2019
Last week, Yana Galang left her small farm in Borno state, Nigeria, in the care of seven of her eight children and travelled by bus and train for the first time to the capital, Lagos. From there, she became the first member of her family ever to board a plane, and came to New York.
The mother of one of the 112 Nigerian schoolgirls of Chibok still missing after being abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 came to the city during the UN general assembly, on a mission to remind the world that – five years on – their children still have not been brought home.
Galang feels the world had forgotten about the kidnapped girls.
“If this was the president’s or vice-president’s daughter, they would have found her by now,” Galang told the Guardian. “But in three years they don’t call us. We’ve heard nothing. We cry and cry and the tears dry, and still we have no answer.”
Her daughter, Rifkatu, was 18 when she was abducted along with 275 other girls from her secondary school dormitory by members of the terrorist group. Every month, Galaga washes her abducted daughter’s clothes so they will be fresh for her when she comes home. She would be 23 now. Galang has faith that her daughter is still alive, but she has lost hope that the Nigerian government is doing anything to help locate her.
The mass abduction in April 2014 shocked the world, dominated headlines and led to the viral #bringbackourgirls campaign. In the months that followed, local and international media swarmed the town of Chibok. “They came again whenever some girls were returned,” says Galang. “Now, just a few journalists come each year on the anniversary of the abduction.”
It was the silence surrounding the once huge story that led Nigerian film-maker Joel Kachi Benson to visit Chibok last year. What he found was a town still traumatised by loss and enduring not just the uncertainty of their daughter’s fates but also the grinding hardship of poverty. He decided to make a film there.
On his second day of shooting, he met Galang. He knew he had found his main character. Galang had become the parents’ unofficial leader, partly because she can speak English. “Yana never set out to become a leader. She became a leader because of tragedy,” says Benson.
“When I first met him I didn’t want to talk to him. I saw him walk towards me with his little scruffy hair and beard, I thought maybe he was one of the terrorists!” Galang recounts.
The outcome of his time there is the deeply moving short film Daughters of Chibok. Benson shot the film in virtual reality because he wanted to take viewers into Chibok, with its dusty vegetable market and tin-roofed homes. It is a goal he has achieved perfectly.
“Most of these women have other children they are struggling to feed and educate, but one is missing and, while you are yet to find her, the others are living in abject poverty – that is a double tragedy,” says Benson.
Stress has inevitably taken a heavy toll on the girls’ parents, 33 of whom have died after falling ill.
“I wanted to amplify the voices of these women,” Benson says. “I wanted to help them get global reach. Because it is not that they are not talking. They are talking, but nobody is listening.”
Benson’s film won the virtual reality story award at the Venice film festival on 9 September. The ensuing publicity has brought new hope to the parents of the missing girls. In his acceptance speech in Venice, Benson says: “You cannot move on from this tragedy because it is not over yet.”
Benson raised the money to bring Galang to New York as part of what is now a very personal cause. The two have become very close. Benson calls her “Mama”.
“I really love him,” says Galang. “I call him on the phone just to hear his voice.”
Benson himself knows first hand the struggle of poverty. His father abandoned his mother when he was just 10, leaving her with six children and no skills. His mother died when he was 17 and Benson then spent some years homeless, sleeping in churches with his brother.
“My own mother died of heartbreak and poverty in front of my eyes,” says Benson. “When I met Yana I thought: ‘No I can’t allow this to happen again.’”
Galang says her message is a simple one. “We are begging you, the leaders of the world, to join hands with the Nigerian government to please bring our girls for us. They are our blood, we still miss them. To lose someone who you love is very difficult.”
Uzbek Official Reprimanded by Senate for Rude Remarks on Beards and Hijabs
By Catherine Putz
October 03, 2019
On September 30, the governor of Uzbekistan’s Fergana region, Shuhrat Ghaniev, was reprimanded by the Uzbek Senate — of which he is also a member — for rude remarks regarding women in hijabs and men with bushy beards.
Days earlier, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reported on an audio recording in which Ghaniev, who has served as governor of Fergana region since 2011, is heard railing against Islamic clothing and grooming practices.
In a meeting of the Uzbek Senate’s ethics and regulator commission on September 30, Ghaniev’s remarks were put up for discussion. According to a readout of the meeting posted to the Senate’s official website, Ghaniev used phrases that infringed on the rights of citizens, were degrading, and which sparked a negative public reaction. As such, the body reprimanded Ghaniev for failing to uphold his ethical obligations as a senator and put him on three months’ probation. It’s not quite clear what that probation entails, but the public manner in which the issue was tackled by the Senate is interesting in context of a wider apparent crackdown on bearded men which contrasts with the country’s reform efforts.
Uzbekistan is not the only Central Asian state to wrestle with this hairy issue. For example, Tajikistan has had its own beard-shaving episodes in the past. One overarching issue is a discomfort with public displays of religiosity paired with an arbitrary, but powerful, linkage between clothing or grooming choices and extremism. Meanwhile, in an effort to define what is “traditional” in a strict sense — to bolster national distinctiveness and pride, part and parcel of establishing sovereignty among a young cadre of states — authorities in the region often overreach.
Whether rooted in a Soviet-era discomfort with Islam, or a War on Terror-era paranoia about extremism, the result is that Central Asia’s governments appear ill-at-ease with their own most prominent religious communities. Combined with a wider autocratic discomfort with matters of personal choice, and a broad policing culture that leaves much to be desired regarding the rights of the individual, this leads to bizarre news stories of men being nabbed off the streets and forcibly shaved.
What’s interesting about the Ghaniev episode is the public manner in which he was reprimanded for comments that are, on balance, not exactly uncommon in the region. While a public rebuke is also not necessarily unusual, the context is: RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service remains unaccredited in Uzbekistan, even as other media organizations have regained accreditation under the reform program pushed by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. That the service’s reporting uncovered an ethical violation by a government official who was then reprimanded is an illustration of how media works to hold the powerful to account.
What happens next, of course, is what matters most. If a regional governor is rebuked for making such comments, what should happen to police officers who pressure men to shave their beards? What’s needed is consistent messaging from all levels of government — from the president to local leaders, including law enforcement. Surely the Uzbek police have better things to do than work as part-time barbers.
55-Year-Old Zubeda ,Pak Woman Gets Indian Citizenship After 35 Years
Oct 3, 2019
MUZAFFARNAGAR: Thirty-five years after she applied for Indian citizenship, a Pakistani woman, married to a man in Muzaffarnagar city and residing in the country on a long-term visa, has been granted Indian nationality.
According to a local intelligence official, 55-year-old Zubeda had married Syed Mohammad Zaved, a resident of Yogenderpur locality, 35 years ago. She had applied for Indian citizenship immediately after her marriage; however, it was not accepted on some legal grounds.
Since 1994 she had been staying in the country on long-term visa, and granted Indian citizenship early this week, the official said.
She can now apply for Aadhaar, ration card and voter ID.
The woman has two daughters 30-year-old Rumesha and Zumesha, 26, and both are married.
According to official data, about 25 Pakistani women married to Indian nationals are living in Muzaffarnagar district on long-term visa.
Bangladesh Army Probing Alleged Rape Of Rohingya Girl By Troops At Refugee Camp
04 Oct 2019
The Bangladesh Army has launched an investigation into allegations of rape of a Rohingya girl by troops at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.
The investigation was initiated following reports in the international media over the incident that allegedly took place at the Nayapara Camp in Teknaf on Sept 29.
Abdullah Ibn Zaid, a director at the military’s press wing Inter Services Public Relations Directorate or ISPR, confirmed the move to bdnews24.com on Thursday.
“Necessary steps will be taken if anyone is found guilty in the investigation,” he said.
Additional Commissioner of Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Md Shamsuddoza said he had no knowledge of any such incident. “It’s untrue,” he claimed.
Teknaf Police Station Inspector Md Rakibul Islam said OC Pradeep Kumar Das sent police to the camp but they could not find any family members of the alleged victim.
No-one lodged any complaint with the police either, he added.
Different forces are aiding police to maintain security in the refugee camp areas in Cox’s Bazar where more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have taken shelter following persecution and violent military crackdown in their homeland.
For Bosnian Women, No Justice—and No Seats
BY RIADA ASIMOVIC AKYOL
OCTOBER 3, 2019
Both men and women suffer the consequences of wars, but conflicts and humanitarian disasters around the world tend to disproportionately affect women and children. Additionally, women’s voices are regularly excluded or ignored during peacemaking.
In the wake of political deals agreed between men, women tend to remain underrepresented in decision-making roles. This is clear from data compiled by UN Women and the Council on Foreign Relations showing that in major peace processes between 1992 and 2017, women made up just 3 percent of mediators, 3 percent of witnesses and signatories, and 9 percent of negotiators. The problem lies not just in the numbers, but in women’s influence on political decisions. Women first have to struggle for inclusion, then for the recognition of the benefits of it, and even then, they rarely have much political power to exert real influence.
The specific challenges that women face after the bloodshed has stopped is a whole different story. In my own country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, no woman was among the negotiators, mediators, or signatories of the internationally brokered Dayton agreement in 1995.
During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence, leading to a bloody war between 1992 and 1995 in which at least 100,000 people were killed. Of a prewar population of 4.3 million, 900,000 became refugees, and a further 1.3 million were internally displaced. Both the International Court of Justice and the United Nations war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague ruled that the slaughter of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995 by Bosnian Serb forces was genocide. Families of at least 7,000 missing persons still haven’t even found their loved ones to bury.
Today, 24 years after the war ended, there are many reasons why the country is still drowning in inertia, insecurity, and instability.
Fundamentally, the political structure that was set up by the Dayton Peace Agreement created arguably “the world’s most complicated system of government,” as the Guardian put it. It created two entities, Republika Srpska (populated mostly by Serbs) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (with mostly Bosniaks and Croats).
Multitiered, inefficient structures also include parliaments at state and lower levels, the self-governed Brcko District, and 10 cantons in the federation. The Dayton agreement affirmed ethnic power-sharing among Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats as three constituent peoples, “along with Others.” Jews and Roma, for example, don’t have the right to be an equal part of the tripartite presidency. The European Court of Human Rights ruled back in 2009 that Bosnia’s constitution is discriminatory.
It suits all nationalist elites to keep ethnic tensions alive, as it helps them remain in power. According to the most recent European Islamophobia Report, besides the continuation of the denial of genocide and war crimes by the Serb authorities, there is “a large increase in anti-Bosnian and anti-Muslim bigotry by the Bosnian Croat and Croatian political establishments and also by regional political actors.”In Bosnia and Herzegovina, no woman was among the negotiators, mediators, or signatories of the Dayton agreement in 1995.
In such a volatile environment, it’s not easy to find much of an audience interested in discussing gender issues or the peculiar problems that women have faced after war. This is both sad and disgraceful, particularly considering the atrocities and savageness many women survived in the 1990s.
Mass rape was used as a military tool—predominantly against Bosnian Muslims—alongside forced impregnations of women and other brutal forms of sexual violence. Today, there are still legal discrepancies with international standards, and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women recently recommended the amendment of the Bosnian Criminal Code and a definition of wartime sexual violence “including a specific definition of rape as a war crime and as a crime against humanity, in order to adequately reflect the gravity of the crimes committed.” But, in post-Dayton Bosnia, in which different narratives of the past dictate today’s realities, many rape survivors have had to fight with authorities to even get the status of civilian victim of war.
Moreover, as in many other countries around the world, sexual violence survivors in Bosnia still deal with additional stigmas in their communities. They also have little legal protection. Following the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in December 2017, the war crimes trials were left to the national courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia. It all went downhill from there.
Rape and sexual assault cases were transferred to lower courts. “There have been cases when the surviving victim was a witness in the city where she survived sexual abuse and where her family members were killed. Witnesses have to meet the perpetrators’ relatives on a daily basis, and even though they are protected witnesses, their identities have been revealed,” Bakira Hasecic, the president of the Women Victims of War Association, said in a recent interview with Turkey’s Anadolu Agency.
In August, in response to a petition made by a Bosnian Muslim woman raped by a Bosnian Serb soldier in 1993, the U.N. Committee Against Torture made a decision for the first time ordering the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to compensate the petitioner and provide her with a public apology and appropriate free medical and psychological help. It also ordered Bosnia and Herzegovina to set up a nationwide war crimes reparations scheme, including for sexual violence. That has not happened yet.
Since the war ended, despite important developments in combating violence against women and legally binding international conventions, the situation remains bleak. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) quantitative survey on violence against women in Bosnia and Herzegovina published this year found that 48 percent of women there have experienced some form of abuse, including intimate partner violence, nonpartner violence, stalking, and sexual harassment since the age of 15. And 25 percent of all women, almost twice the rate across the EU, believe that domestic violence is a private matter and should be handled within the family. That leads to underreporting of violence against women.
Besides harm to the victims, the whole society incurs the costs. A recent U.N. study suggests that the total estimated annual economic cost of domestic violence is $37.2 million between the costs of system of services and costs borne by survivors—making a real dent in Bosnia’s economy.Despite important developments in combating violence against women the situation remains bleak.
In general, among the women who experienced conflict in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, the OSCE found that nearly half of women had property seriously damaged or destroyed, nearly two-thirds of women had a spouse or family member who took part in the fighting, and for almost 48 percent it was not possible to find work. More than two in five had to flee their homes, and 24 percent of those fleeing conflict in Bosnia were unable to return—many remain permanently displaced.
Theoretically, there are gender equality mechanisms in place to address these issues. According to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Article 2 prohibits discrimination on any grounds, including gender. Bosnia and Herzegovina has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and signed the Optional Protocol. The gender equality strategy is implemented via gender action plans, and the country’s most recent National Action Plan covers the period of 2018 to 2022.
Bosnia and Herzegovina also adopted a plan for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which reaffirms the importance of involving women in preventing conflict and building peace. But the political will to implement and uphold what has been signed simply doesn’t exist.
So, despite the existing institutional structure for gender equality promotion at all levels of government, it is not happening. Even gender quotas are ignored. They were first adopted in 1998 and last updated in 2013. National legislation, Article 20 (1), requires equal representation of women and men in all branches of government, including legislative power, setting the minimum representation of at least 40 percent.
Yet from year to year, women have not had close to equal legislative and executive power. In the legislative term 2014 to 2018, just 24 percent of all members of parliaments were women. In the same period, out of 147 ministers in governments at all levels, only 17 percent were women. Political underrepresentation of women happens thanks in part to a semi-open ballot list system that is applied for elections for legislatures. But overwhelmingly traditional perceptions of gender roles are crucial, as the electorate discriminates widely based on a candidate’s gender. One 2017 study showed that over 40 percent of citizens believe that “men make better political leaders than women and should be elected rather than women.” And a UN Women Public Perceptions survey confirmed that the stereotype that women belong in the domestic sphere is widespread.
Those women who have bravely entered the political arena are taking a risky path. The violence against women engaged in politics is one of the biggest obstacles to their active participation.Reducing women to the role of mothers birthing soldiers for maintenance of the nation is a dead end.
The Westminster Foundation for Democracy recently published a landmark survey that explores gender-based pressures faced by female politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Among the respondents, two-thirds had won seats at a municipal, regional, or state parliament. The study revealed that 60 percent of the 83 participants said they had experienced some form of violence while engaged in politics, and that 46 percent of the politicians had experienced violence just because they are women. Perpetrators were both strangers or party colleagues and leaders. Prevalent psychological violence was mostly in the form of verbal and emotional abuse, as well as online violence, most commonly misogynistic and sexualized threats.
Zilka Spahic Siljak, a leading local gender studies scholar, emphasizes the immense impact of the predominantly masculine political environment in a country with patriarchal values. As she notes in her recently published book Bosnian Labyrinth, traditional social values and ensuing gender stereotypes impact everything, including the positions of women in high leadership.
Throughout the last war and ever since, Spahic Siljak has facilitated numerous peacemaking efforts by women of all ethnic, religious, or nonreligious backgrounds. Thanks partly to her advocacy of relying on religious messaging—for example inspirational stories from religious sources that believers can easily relate to—her efforts have slowly become recognized as a powerful tool for peacebuilding and promoting women’s roles in reconciliation in Bosnia.
Everybody, including political parties, media, and educational institutions, has a responsibility to create an environment in which a half of the country’s population feels safe and encouraged to fulfill their potential in the labor market or politics if they choose to do so. As Spahic Siljak has argued, continuing to reduce women to the role of mothers birthing soldiers for maintenance of the nation is a dead end. It will result in stagnating societies mired in the conflicts of the past, while sidelining many of the country’s most ambitious and best-educated citizens.
Until there are more women at the negotiating and decision-making tables sharing power with men, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere, genuine political progress is unlikely.
Riada Asimovic Akyol is a doctoral candidate at Galatasaray University in Istanbul. Twitter: @riadaaa
Pakistan's Salman Sufi Works Towards Women Empowerment
October 01, 2019
Karishma H. Nandkeolyar
Raheela Qaisr watched paralysis slowly seep into her mother’s bones, turning them into stone. Then a tumour latched on to her father’s lungs. Her basic problem, was not monetary – though she calls her school-teacher salary ‘average’ – and it wasn’t emotional – she’s a middle child; her sisters live with their own nuclear families but the support is there – it was mobility.
How does someone go from doing a 7am-2pm job, taking ill parents to various doctors’ appointments, buying the medicines and groceries, paying the bills, ferrying parcels and doing all the other millions of things progeny must do, without a way to travel?
The 35-year-old recalls the old days in an interview with Gulf News. She would bike on tiny slivers of road near her house. The back lanes were her territory. But if she had to go further than the facilities this transport afforded her, she was crippled. She had to “use vans, local buses” to ferry her mother who has been ill for over 10 years. “[It was a] waste of time, money,” she says in an interview with Gulf News. “Economically it is very difficult to arrange all these things.”
Women on Wheels campaign
Fortunately, in 2016, Qaisr found herself with a new option. She heard about the Women on Wheels programme, which trains and subsidizes scooter-buys for women in Pakistan. She could now learn how to ride on main roads – and so take her parents to their appointments, whenever the need arose.
It’s the brainchild of Salman Sufi, International public policy and gender reforms specialist, for whom the project was a personal rebellion against archaic patriarchal behavior. As a child, he recalled in an interview with Gulf News, “My own sisters used to travel with my father on a scooter back from school and I used to take a bus, because we didn’t have a car. So I used to think, why are the roads not made safe for women so they can take a bus with me or take their own scooter home? That’s what was always in my mind.”
The WoW initiative years later, he traces to the observation.
Peeking over the great divide
Sufi was also very affected by the disparity he saw in the treatment of ‘the haves and have-nots’; the divide, he says was very clear to even a young man on the streets of Lahore. “Especially when it came to women, there was a different criteria for a woman who was growing up in a lower-middle class or a middle-class background and different criterion for the men who had contacts.
“But when it came to violence and mobility and other issues, they [the women] were all in the same category, whether they were being abused, or they facing the same system that was disenfranchising them all the way. I used to see that the higher ministers [had to get involved] just to register a simple police complaint on behalf of a woman because the police was not listening to them, so that used to make me very [angry].”
By women, for women
The system, he was convinced, had to change. This was, he would later find out, also the germination of another pilot plan, one with major legal ramifications. Post the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act, which he drafted in 2016 as part of Director General of the Strategic Reforms Unit of the Government of Punjab, he worked to create Violence Against Women Centers (VAWC). [He credits the political support of Shehbaz Sharif for playing catalyst to the reforms.] These offices are staffed by women, for women. “The police department is female, the medic staff is female, the psychological rehabilitation staff is female, so [for an abuse survivor], the system is in place for her to record her complaint without any intimidation,” he explains.
Among the women who benefitted from the formulation of the system is K.B. who is 23 years old. When she walked into the centre early this year, K.B. was distraught and inconsolable. She had been beaten, physically and verbally, and spoke about economic abuse. But the reason for her tears was visceral; her children – her breastmilk-drinking five month old and two year old – had been snatched away by her spouse. Meetings with other family members, she recalled, usually ended in blood and brutality, pleas for her children fell on deaf ears. Left with little recourse, K.B. went into the centre. Since the complaint, K.B. has been reunited with her babies – and has found therapy a way to deal with her husband’s flare-ups.
For the late model Qandeel Baloch, the VAWC has meant justice. As a response to her so-called honour killing, a centre was not only set up in Multan but also it was instrumental in chasing a verdict. Three years after her murder Baloch’s brother, Muhammad Waseem, was sentenced to 25 years in jail under section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
#QandeelBaloch brother who killed her for the false premise of so called “Honor” has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. #Justice #NoMore #EndVAW
11:41 AM - Sep 27, 2019
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Change-makers who suffer
The road to empowerment has been laid not just with sweat and tears, it has often been cemented by the blood of people willing to make a change. When the Punjab Women Against Violence Act was being mulled over, it was Sufi who was at the receiving end of rage. “It turned pretty volatile. I was attacked as well, you know, there were threats thrown at my house, there were people trying to hurt me and my family because I drafted the law. But we stood our ground, because we knew that if you are doing some revolutionary step, which does not cause opposition, that means you are simply towing the line of status quo, you are not really changing anything,” he explains.
To expose ‘raw nerves’ was encouraged in the Sufi family. “That’s what I learned [as a child], because my family used to always talk about injustices and how things need to be changed and how we need to contribute,” he says.
It’s a drive that has won him many plaudits, one of which is the Mother Teresa award from neighbouring country India. “It was a very humbling experience and a heartening experience that brings India and Pakistan together and it actually encouraged me to launch my movement simultaneously in India and Pakistan,” he says of his 2018 recognition.
Honored to accept the #MotherTeresaAwards today in #Mumbai- Dedicate this award to countless survivors of violence who deserve our support. Let’s wage a war on Violence against Women together- #Pakistan #India #Bangladesh #SriLanka #Saarc
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12:02 AM - Oct 22, 2018
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That spirit he imbibed at his mother’s knee and by stealing away previous books from his father’s collection. Sufi’s lineage harks back to renowned Persian poet Tabassum. He began to read poetry with a social conscience in grade six. “I used to read that book by putting it between my books in school, because somehow Faiz [Ahmed Faiz] saab’s poetry somehow gave me direction, because he wrote about the pain of [the people of] Pakistan, what they go through,” he says. “I actually joined government college Lahore only because Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sufi Tabassum went there,” he added.
The way forward was cemented when he travelled abroad. “When I went to the US, it was an entirely different system [and] society, so that really helped me look at things from a different perspective. It also encouraged me, if you have the opportunity and the patience to deliver, then a society like the US allows you to do so, so it shouldn’t be limited to US. In Pakistan and India it is much harder but it is worth it to give it your best shot and you can bring change into the lives of millions of people who have been deprived because of decades-old system of hierarchy and politics over patriarchy,” he says.
His return to Pakistan was energized by his need for change.
Among the initiatives he has kickstarted in the past six years are:
The founding of Shehar-e-Khamoshan, or City of Silent. Noticing that people were making a business out of death – charging exorbitant amounts from grief-stricken people – he put together a project whose members “they provide all services, burial related and cremation for non-Muslims, so you make one phone call and they do everything for you,” he says.
Changing textbooks: “On a grass-roots level, I strongly believe it [change, awareness] starts at the family level and it starts with textbooks, so when I was with the government we were able to successfully add chapters about violence against women, so we teach them now in grades 9 and 11 and 8, so we gradually tell women what are women rights and violence is not the way and what kinds of rights women have.”
The idea is to create a lesson that makes itself redundant. “You can develop as many programmes as you like, but if you keep on producing the same kind of citizens, who need these kind of programmes because they are still getting abused, still getting bullied, still getting hammered because of the patriarchy and the misogyny then you can have a centre at every corner of the street but it still will not solve the problem.” Education and massive outreach programme is the best way to go about it.
Public toilets: “I am working on female public toilets, across Pakistan, but it’s not just limited to Pakistan, I’m also in active conversation with renowned activist in India as well,” he adds.
Sweepers are Superheroes: Sanitation workers in Pakistan do not have safety gear, so they go into toxic enviornments without any precautions, he says. They die because of the poisonous gasses they inhale in the sewers, “so we started this movement to train them properly and get them gear, and get them decent wages.”
The row over privacy
A new privacy bill: No 1 should be allowed to film some1 without consent'- http://Geo.tv reports
The proposed legislation we are working on with AGHS & @DigitalRightsPK guarantees right to privacy regardless of venue #PrivacyIsAright https://www.geo.tv/latest/247292-a-new-privacy-bill-no-one-should-be-allowed-to-film-someone-without-consent …
A new privacy bill: 'No one should be allowed to film someone without consent'
Salman Sufi talks to Geo.tv about the new privacy bill he is working on to criminalise the breach of private data
7:13 PM - Sep 11, 2019
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The movement isn’t against prosecuting people engaging public displays of affection. “There’s a law against public indecency so they should be charged with that but that does not give the right to the administration of that area to leak those footage. Secondly, how would they feel if a mother was breast feeding a child is being recorded or a woman adjusting her clothes is being recorded, or a small girl who is wearing a frock is being recorded for a pervert’s purposes. It’s not just about intimacy, it’s about basic privacy,” he explains.
When you ask Sufi about his own country’s government, his reaction is lukewarm. “I think they can do a lot better, but I think they are focus is on the wrong thing. Their focus should be on developing projects and the continuation of the projects that were done by the previous government.”
Basic needs need to be met. Like mobility, Qaiser, whose Women on Wheels’ experience has given independence, will tell you. Right before she rides her bike on the busy streets of Lahore, to get on with her day.
53 Women Killed Last Month In Turkey: Women’s Rights Group
October 04 2019
Some 53 women were killed across Turkey in September, making it the most deadly month of this year so far for women, according to a report by Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu (We Will Stop Femicides Platform), a women’s rights organization that monitors violence against women.
According to the report, 17 women were killed by their husbands, six by acquaintances or relatives, five by their boyfriends, three by their sons, two by their brothers, two by their former husbands and one by someone she did not know. The perpetrators of the remaining 17 femicides could not be determined.
Two of the women were killed on the pretext of “financial reasons” and nine for either wanting to divorce, refusing to get together or turning someone down. The reason for 31 of the killings could not be determined, while 11 of the femicides were logged as “suspicious deaths.”
“As long as it is not determined by whom the women are killed and due to which reason, a fair judicial process is not conducted, suspects and murderers do not get deterrent fines and preventive measures are not applied, the violence keeps changing dimension and continues to exist,” said the report.
Eighteen of the women were killed with sharp objects, 12 with firearms, two were strangled to death, one died from being strangled and assaulted with a sharp object, one was killed with a chemical substance and another was burned to death.
Thirty of the women were killed in their own homes, six on the street, two in a park, one in a stable, one in a garden, one in an entertainment venue, one at a workplace, one at a grocery store and one at a hotel. The bodies of two of the victims were found in dams and another two, in forests. The authorities could not determine where the rest of the five women were killed, according to the report.
With the latest figure from September, the total number of women killed since the beginning of this year equaled 347, said the activist platform. In 2018, the number of women killed was 440, according to the same group.
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