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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 Nov 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Most Women In UK Who Have Islamic Wedding Miss Out On Legal Rights

New Age Islam News Bureau


21 Nov 2017


 Most Women In UK Who Have Islamic Wedding Miss Out On Legal Rights

 Girl Of 19 Axed To Death In Pakistan Honour Killing

 Education Still Eludes Many Pakistani Girls

 70,000 Jobs Awaiting Saudi Women In Four Sectors

 Iran: Women, Children Without Basic Resources In Areas Hit By Quake

 Iran: Women Stage Protest Gathering To Support Their Worker Husbands

 Women’s Rights Are Under Threat In Iraq

 Kerala Women's Commission Denied Permission To Meet Hadiya

 Dawoodi Bohra Women Write To PM Narendra Modi Against Female Genital Mutilation

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Most women in UK who have Islamic wedding miss out on legal rights

20 November 2017

If the marriage breaks down, women who have only had a nikah marriage are unable to go to the family court to seek a division of assets. Photograph: Sanjeev Gupta/EPA


Six in 10 women in the UK who have had a traditional Muslim wedding ceremony are not in legally recognised marriages, depriving them of rights and protection, according to a survey.

It found that nearly all married Muslim women have had a nikah, a religious marriage ceremony, but 61% had not gone through a separate civil ceremony which would make the marriage legal under UK law.

If the marriage breaks down, women who have only had a nikah are unable to go to the family court to seek a division of assets, such as the family home and spouse’s pension.

The survey was carried out for a Channel 4 documentary, The Truth About Muslim Marriage, to be broadcast on Tuesday. Female Muslim researchers questioned 923 women in 14 cities in Britain.

They found that more than three-quarters of respondents wanted their marriage to be legally recognised under British law.

One of the consequences of Nikah marriages is the ease with which husbands can enact the “triple talaq”, or instant divorce, even by phone or social media.

Rukshana Noor, an IT consultant, was unable to access the family court when her nikah-only marriage broke down, she told the programme. Judges in the family court take as their starting point a 50-50 division of assets.

Instead, Noor had to go to a civil court to prove her financial contribution to the purchase of the family’s home, a process that took five years and cost her more than £100,000.

A lawyer specialising in Islamic family law said the proportion of young Muslims opting for non-legal marriages has increased.

Aina Khan, a specialist in Islamic law, launched a campaign, Register Our Marriage, five years ago to make it compulsory for all marriages to be registered. According to the campaign, more than 100,000 people in the UK do not have legally recognised marriages, and more than 90% of mosques are not registering religious marriages under civil law.

Khan told the Guardian: “My experience of 25 years as a lawyer specialising in Islamic marriage and divorce is that this is not only a major problem but a growing problem. My anecdotal evidence suggests that in the last five years, the proportion of people under 40 having nikah-only marriages is as high as 80%.”

These were easier to terminate than legally registered marriages, she said, adding: “[And] here has been a dramatic lessening of the stigma of divorce. So marriage has become easy and divorce has become easy. It’s a disturbing trend in the young.”

Khan said she wanted the law on marriage to apply to everyone equally. “All faiths must be governed by the rule of law. We shouldn’t have to opt in to a system; the default position should be that all marriages must be registered.”

Bana Gora of the Bradford-based Muslim Women’s Council said the MWC received daily calls from women inquiring about their marriage rights. “Almost half of these calls are from women in unregistered marriages,” she said. “Bradford is projected to have the largest Muslim population in the country by 2030, a community which will be vulnerable to the downfalls of unregistered marriages, so it’s incredibly important for men and women in our community to know their rights.”

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, weddings do not have to take place in a registered venue, but an authorised celebrant – including imams – can conduct legal weddings anywhere.

The Channel 4 survey also found that just over one in 10 Muslim marriages in the UK were polygamous, and a third of women in such marriages had not agreed to it. Almost nine out of 10 respondents overall said they did want to be in a polygamous marriage.

Anna Hall, who directed the documentary, said the research into British Muslim women’s attitudes had “produced some really interesting and valuable new insights to help inform debate” on whether Britain’s marriage laws needed updating to reflect the country as it was today.

There are more than 3 million Muslims in the UK, approximately 5% of the total population.



Girl of 19 axed to death in Pakistan honour killing

NOVEMBER 20, 2017

Her stepbrother committed the crime after suspecting the girl of having relations with a man of her locality.

A 19-year-old girl was axed to death allegedly by her stepbrother in the name of honour in Pakistan’s Punjab province, a police official said on Monday.

The incident took place on Sunday at Christian Wala in Sahiwal district, some 230 km from Lahore.

According to Station House Officer Rana Tahir, accused Irfan suspected his stepsister Saira had relations with a man of her locality.

Mr. Tahir said Irfan on Sunday attacked Saira with an axe while she was asleep and critically injured her.

She was taken to the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital Sahiwal where she succumbed to her wounds.

Family did not report to police

The official said none of the family members reported the matter to the police as they were alerted by a neighbour.

“When the family was bringing Saira’s body back to village in an ambulance we intercepted it. Seeing police, Irfan escaped from the ambulance while we took body to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital for postmortem,” Mr. Tahir said, adding that raids were made to arrest the suspect.

He said the other family members were not considering it “murder” as Saira had disgraced the family honour.

Mother taken into custody

“We have taken mother of the girl in custody as she was also present when Irfan axed Saira,” he said.

Killing of women relatives in the name of honour is a menace still prevalent in many parts of Pakistan. More than 1,000 women are killed every year by their relatives on the pretext of defending what is seen as family honour.



Education Still Eludes Many Pakistani Girls

November 20, 2017

Peering into their social studies books, Pakistani girls face images of traditional gender roles.

Girls are depicted as cooks in textbooks, while boys are teachers or engineers, observed Madiha Afzal, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution in global economy and development.

Education, which can be a driver for gender equality in a male-dominated society, supports traditional gender roles that diminish girls instead. At least in many textbooks, Afzal said.

“Girls don't actually understand what they can do beyond school,” Afzal said. “They don't understand that they can actually work.”

Over 3 million girls do not attend primary school in Pakistan, according to a 2013 UNESCO report. Worldwide, 31 million girls of primary school age are out of school. Of these, 17 million are expected never to enter school.

Afzal said many Pakistani parents want their daughters to obtain an education but face many obstacles to do so. Like Humaira Bachal, whose mother wanted her to go to school.

But, “her father hit me,” when Humaira sat for Grade 9 examinations, said Humaira’s mother while sewing a piece of cloth, to the Pakistani news agency Dawn. “He did not want a girl leaving the house for her education.”

That didn’t stop Humaira’s mother. She often covered for her daughter when the father inquired. Neither of them had enjoyed education.

“Education is essential for women.” Humaira’s mother said. “They have reached this position today because of their education. Otherwise, they would have also been slaving away for their husbands somewhere.”

Early Marriage

Child marriage is another obstacle. What might be done to secure finances for a child can do quite the opposite. Approximately 1 in 5 girls in Pakistan are married before age 18, said Rebecca Dennis, senior legislative policy analyst at Population Action International (PAI), an organization focused on affordable, quality contraception and reproductive health care for women.

Early marriage interrupts a girl’s formal education. Once married, girls are soon expected to have children and look after the household, Dennis said.

Girls who attend primary school are more likely to wait to get married after age 18, and they are more likely to prioritize education for their daughters. And, even if girls want to attend school after marriage, they are often restricted by local or school policies in Pakistan, Dennis said.

Poverty is another factor. In households where resources are scarce, education is often provided to sons first, who are considered more lucrative than daughters. When family income hits a bump, school enrollment declines for boys, but disproportionately more for girls, Afzal said.

The lust for a boy child to bring in wealth to the household drives parents to give birth to multiple children, leading to lack of education for the girl child. Often, she sits at home looking after younger siblings.

Safety concerns

Safety and honor are other factors. In 2014, more than 1,500 rapes, 2,170 kidnappings and 713 “honor” killings were reported in Pakistan, according to Benazir Jatoi, legal advisor Aurat Foundation, a nonprofit “to create a just, democratic and caring society in Pakistan,” where women and men are recognised as equals. “Aurat” in Urdu means woman.

But these numbers don’t represent the entire picture. An “unimaginable” number of cases are never registered to maintain the honor and marriageability of the girl, said Neelofar Nawab, law clerk at Tully Rinckey PLLC, a law firm in New York.

If a girl has to cross hamlet boundaries to get to school, she must be accompanied for her protection by a male relative, who loses a day of wages walking her, Afzal explained. Many families cannot afford to do so.

Lack of infrastructure and government support is another issue. Although, the implementation of the Right to Education Act in 2010 mandates the state to provide education for all children between 5 and 16 years old, gaps remain, Afzal said.

Only 2.6 percent of Pakistan’s annual GDP is invested in education, according to a 2015 World Bank report.

Pakistan’s political instability has also prevented governments from focusing on education. In the 70 years since Pakistan’s creation, no prime minister has completed full term.

“When [politicians] see a shortened time horizon, what they need to do is … deliver, and actually have something to show for the votes that they want their constituents to give them,” Afzal said, “so they’ll build a road rather than improve a school, because improving a school is less visible.”

Lack of functional and private toilets are another problem preventing some girls from attending school in Pakistan, Afzal explained.

But the situation has and continues to improve, Afzal said.

In 2003, the Punjab province of Pakistan introduced the Female School Stipend Program (FSSP). The program offers 2,400 rupees, ($40 USD) per year to families of schoolgirls in grades six to 10 who lived in one of 15 target districts with low literacy rates, Afzal said.

The girls are required to attend school at least 80 percent of the time to receive the stipend. By 2014, the FSSP covered 393,000 pupils.

In Sindh, a province in southeast Pakistan, efforts are being made by the state’s education board to partner with private enterprises to operate co-ed primary schools that are tuition free. This program has also increased girls enrollment, Afzal said.

Humaira Bachal, who had to fight for her own education, started a school for more than 1,000 students, where she teaches in the underrepresented neighborhood of Mawach Goth in Karachi, according to a Dawn News documentary.

Parents were initially adamant that their children work in factories, instead of attending school, Bachal said. At least with that, they would bring Pakistan rupees 60 ($0.6 USD) at the end of the day, they said.

But, things have changed, Bachal said.

“People have started realizing that this small mistake can ruin their child’s future,” Bachal said before recalling her mother’s support.

“Whatever I am today, is because of her,” Bachal concluded.



70,000 jobs awaiting Saudi women in four sectors

20 November 2017

Saudi Arabia is planning to open up four major sectors to employ women, a senior official said here on Sunday.

Abdullah Al-Harbi, a senior executive at the Job Creation and Employment Commission (JCEC), said the Commission is planning to integrate women in marketing and advertising which may offer 10,000 jobs by 2030 in addition to 11,000 jobs in accounting, 20,000 in pharmacies and 29,000 jobs in computer programing.

Speaking at the 10th Jeddah Human Resource Forum, Omar Al-Batati, Governor of JCEC, said that the commission works on scientific studies and collaborates with the government and private sectors.

Among its programs is to increase the qualification of high school graduates, offer training to consultants to be able to work on VAT, help graduates diversity their interests and harness their talent to find better job opportunities.

“There are 8 million expatriates in the market and there is a need for 700,000 jobs for locals,” Al-Batati said.

Lama Al-Sulaiman, a board member at Rolaco, suggested that the private sector needs to reduce the number of employees.

This, she said, will help businesses meet the need of the fourth industrial revolution.

Abdullah Dahlan, chairman of the board of University of Business and Technology, said all concerned authorities need to work together in the nationalization of strategic plans.

The 10th Jeddah Human Resources Forum entitled “Transformation to increase productivity”, which started on Sunday, is scheduled to end on Wednesday.

It is being organized under the patronage of Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, emir of Makkah region and adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.



Iran: Women, children without basic resources in areas hit by quake

20 November 2017

A week past the massive earthquake in western Iran, survivors in most affected areas have no water, electricity or even tents.

Survivors say thousands have died in the earthquake. Women and children live on the streets in the cold, without any shelter. At least three children have been reported killed due to the freezing cold.

Local officials say some 30 per cent of the livestock have been killed in the earthquake. No action has been taken to remove the corpses of animals and the garbage. Many sewage structures have been damaged and there is a threat of dangerous diseases spreading.

Video clips show harrowing scenes of the areas affected by the quake.

A young man screams: “They take away and sell the aid packages. If there was a rule of law, these people should have been executed. My wife and infant child are shivering in the cold in the street.”

Another man cries out, “My wife and child died in the quake. The TV says 300 people died, but the number of dead is more than 3000.”

Another man standing in front of a wrecked building says, “We have 4000 dead, why do they say 400?”

A victim laments, “All of our belongings are under the debris. Now, they demand an ID and the national card to give us some aid. How am I going to find my documents from under the rubbles?”

Another man complains, “None of the officials came to ask how we are doing. I have lost two of my children. It’s been four days but my wife and children have no tents.”

An MP told the mullahs’ parliament, “More than 1,000 people have died… People are hungry.”

The state-run daily Entekhab wrote, “Relief aid is entering the cities hit by the earthquake but it is unclear what happens to it.”

Meanwhile, security forces prevent people from taking aid to the hardest hit Sarpol-e Zahab and its surrounding villages. According to reports from the area, they stopped the trucks and vehicles carrying aid, unloaded the tents and blankets, saying they need to be distributed by the Red Crescent.



Iran: Women stage protest gathering to support their worker husbands

20 November 2017

The wives of workers working at the Phosphate Mineral Complex in Bafq, in the southern Kerman Province, staged a protest gathering on Sunday, November 19, outside the governor’s office in this city and demanded payment of their husbands’ unpaid salaries.

A woman representing the protesters said, “Since last year when this mine was transferred to the private sector, they have not paid the workers. Since July last year, when they paid 2 million toumans (approx. $560) as an instant relief to the workers, they have not deposited any salaries or other payments in their accounts.”

Another woman, also wife of a mine worker, complained that the basic salary of workers had been reduced from 1.5 million toumans to 1.1 million.



Women’s rights are under threat in Iraq

By Zahra Ali

November 20, 2017

Iraqis register their names before voting on April 20, 2013, at a polling station in Baghdad. (Reuters)

Earlier this month, Iraq’s parliament received amendments to its constitution that — if approved — will fundamentally change Iraqi women’s legal rights. The amendments include sectarian religious laws — breaking with the current law based on Sunni and Shiite jurisprudence.

The amendments apply to Iraq’s personal status code, which is a legal framework addressing family law that gathers most of women’s legal rights in matters of marriage, divorce, child custody, alimony or inheritance. One of the proposed amendments could allow child marriages of girls at age nine.

If approved, the amendments will affect marriage inside the civil court that provides legal protection for women from polygamy and different forms of abuse. It also weakens the power of the state appointed judge in granting power to sectarian religious authorities instead of a cross-sectarian reading of the law that decides whether cross-sectarian marriages are possible.

Iraqi women’s rights and civil society activists consider this proposal to fundamentally question the basis of women’s legal rights in Iraq along conservative and sectarian lines. Activists from different platforms, like the Iraqi Women Network, Iraqi Women Journalist’s Forum and Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, have pushed for progressive reforms of the personal status code rather than its questioning along regressive lines. An international campaign — launched by academics, activists and individuals (including this author) — started a petition demanding the parliament speaker and Iraqi MPs reject these changes.

The central government is dominated by Shiite Islamist conservative parties. And armed sectarian and religious groups have ruled in Iraq since 2003. In such an environment of generalized sectarian violence — and marked by the dominance of sectarian and religious conservative forces — the existing personal status code is inclusive, uniting Sunnis and Shiites under one legal framework and granting women essential rights, like the right to divorce in cases of domestic violence and abuse.

Sectarian politics played upon women’s rights

Challenging the personal status code, established in 1959, is not new in Iraq. Since 2003, Shiite Islamist political parties who came to power with the U.S.-led coalition forces have pushed for change several times. They presented different propositions — all of which introduce the possibility of a sectarian personal status code.

These proposals — all advocated by Shiite Islamist political parties — follow the principle on which the Iraqi political system has been based since the invasion and occupation: communal identity politics.

This Iraqi political system since 2003 has institutionalized ethno-sectarianism through the introduction of a system based on communal quota. Each “community”— Arab, Kurd, Sunni, Shiites, etc.— has its share of power. The debaathification campaign, led by the U.S. forces during the first years of the occupation, disbanded the army and expelled from the state’s institutions former members of the Baath Party, provoking a collapse of the state stripped from its experienced and skilled agents. The bloody repression of the forces opposing the invasion and occupation and the marginalization of the Sunni population by the U.S. administration and new Iraqi political leadership have exacerbated sectarian tensions.

All of this created a context of social, ethnic and sectarian tensions in the country — plunging it into a civil war. In proposing a specific law for Shiite Muslims, the Shiite Islamist political elite seeks to assert its own identity on Iraqis, rather than an inclusive version of Iraq’s identity.

Proposing to adopt a sectarian system breaks with the political legacy that the Iraqi personal status code is meant to represent. Originally championed by prominent feminists and the anti-imperialist, secular left, they fought for its establishment in 1959 to protect women’s rights outside of sectarian divides. As such, the code is a legacy of the women’s movement. One of its figures — who was also the first Iraqi (and Arab) cabinet minister — Naziha al-Dulaimi participated to its writing. It was the symbol of the unity of Muslim Sunnis and Shiites gathered under one law, and it openly questioned the traditionalist and conservative political elite put in power by the British occupation.

Social, sectarian and gender equality

Significantly, all these law propositions have been very unpopular among Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites alike. Most Shiite clerics also opposed it. In 2015, a protest movement began against the post-2003 political system, alleging corruption and nepotism by the country’s new political elite. Demonstrators demanded a state treating it citizens equally, instead of a political system based on ethnic, religious and sectarian identity. They denounce the post-2003 regime for its corruption, nepotism and mismanagement of the country.

More generally, women’s rights and civil society activists have been at the forefront of mobilizations for a welfare system, advocating for functioning state institutions and services — like access to electricity, running water, housing and employment. Activists consider that the post-2003 regime, its sectarian functioning and the corruption and nepotism of its new political leadership have resulted in widespread impoverishment and generalized violence.

For women’s rights activists in Iraq, the proliferation of child marriage is a consequence of the generalized impoverishment, insecurity and the absence of functioning state’s institutions. The proposed reform would just legitimate this already widespread practice.

Since 2003, Iraqi women’s rights activists have been caught between fighting to preserve their existing rights — under threat from conservative social forces — and for their essential rights to security and dignity — under siege from the violent social, political and ethno-sectarian crisis provoked by the invasion and occupation.

Changing the personal status code in this way would bring Iraq’s legal environment back to the period when the country was still colonized by the British Empire, during which no law governed Iraqis in personal matters other than religious and tribal courts. That would break the legacy of the progressive political forces that established the personal status code — and above all — the legacy of the women’s movement that fought for these rights for all Iraqis, regardless of religious sect.

Zahra Ali is an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University. Her book “Women and Gender in Iraq: between Nation-building and Fragmentation” will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2018.



Kerala Women's Commission Denied Permission To Meet Hadiya

November 21, 2017

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The Kerala women's commission says it has once again been denied permission to visit 25-year-old Hadiya, at the centre of a nationwide controversy after her conversion to Islam and marriage with a Muslim man.

Hadiya's movements are being strictly monitored and restricted by her parents since the Kerala High Court annulled her marriage to a Muslim man last year.

According to Hadiya's statement before the court, she had willingly converted into Islam and married a Muslim man while she was still a student.

Kerala State Women's Commission chairperson M C Josephine visited Hadiya's home today to ensure her safety during her journey to Delhi.

Following a petition filed in the Supreme Court by Hadiya's husband Sheffin Jahan, the top court had ordered Hadiya to appear before it on November 27 and present her version of events.

Ms Josephine had already requested Hadiya's family to travel to Delhi by air and offered to pay for the tickets on behalf of the commission.

"However Hadiya's father declined this offer and said that the details regarding the travel cannot be revealed... Currently only people permitted by her father can visit the girl. This is unacceptable in the case of a 24-year-old woman. This has to change", Ms Josephine said.

The Commission has asked for a report from the district police chief regarding the travel arrangements and safety measures adopted for Hadiya's transit to Delhi.

Akhila Ashokan, who prefers to be known as Hadiya, is a 25-year-old woman trained as a homeopath. Her father, Ashokan KM, had argued that his daughter married 27-year-old Shafin Jahan who has links with the ISIS.

Hadiya, however, had testified before the Kerala High Court that she had converted to Islam of her own free will and that she met Shafin Jahan through an Islamist matrimonial site.

Based on her father's claim and ignoring Hadiya's testimony, the Kerala High Court annulled the marriage in May this year and ordered her to return to live with her parents in Kottayam.

Shafin Jahan then appealed to the Supreme Court in July, arguing that the marriage is one between consenting adults and cannot be dissolved at the insistence of her family.



Dawoodi Bohra women write to PM Narendra Modi against Female Genital Mutilation

November 21, 2017

Several women from the Dawoodi Bohra community have come together to launch a campaign this week seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to declare Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) illegal.

The online campaign under the banner of WeSpeakOut was kickstarted on November 19, World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse. Since India doesn’t have an anti-FGM legislation, unlike many countries where the practice is just as prevalent, the letter requests that the government at least issue advisories to state governments, and to the Bohra Syednas, declaring FGM an offence under the existing IPC and POCSO provisions. IPC Sections 319 to 326 deal with punitive measures for causing hurt and grievous hurt of varying degree. FGM also fits the definition of sexual assault on a child under POCSO.

The issue was earlier taken up by the Ministry of Woman and Child Development, which promised to ban the practice. But following silence from the ministry, the campaign has now been started. “FGM is a form of sexual violence that has deep emotional, sexual and physical consequences, with many of the consequences continuing throughout an adult woman’s life. It is time to end this harmful practice that causes pain and suffering to women and girls,” the letter states.

Also Read | A Bohra woman’s open letter to PM Modi on freedom from Female Genital Mutilation

Masooma Ranalvi, one of the women at the forefront of the movement said, “We request the PM to issue a statement, aimed at the state governments and the Syedna himself, stating that this practice is illegal so that it comes to an end.”




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