A woman uses her laptop during the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. (Reuters)
Wanita PKR Rep Moots Making 20 the Minimum Age To Marry
Saudi Women In 'Inside-Out Abaya' Protest
The Politics behind Iranian Women's Entry to Azadi Stadium
German Woman Charged With Daesh Membership
More Women in Diplomatic Corps Will Benefit Everyone
Asia Bibi: Pakistani Christian Woman in Limbo after Blasphemy Verdict
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Pakistan’s Islamic Council Working on Women’s Right To Divorce
By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
NOVEMBER 16, 2018
Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) is drafting a revised marriage document to give Muslim women the right to a divorce. The move, a part of the religious body’s efforts to update marriage documentation, could give brides the same legal rights to divorce as the groom at the time of the wedding.
While women technically have the legal right to divorce in the existing nikahnama (Islamic marriage document), the granting of that right depends on the groom ‘conceding’ that right. However, the nikahkhwan (cleric performing the marriage ceremony) rarely informs the bride or her family of this.
“[As per the new document] the nikahkhwan will be legally bound to inform the bride of her right to ask for dissolution of marriage,” said CII chairman Qibla Ayaz. “[Once enforced], consent [to divorce] would not be required as husbands would have already surrendered their right to their wives,” he added.
However, the CII spokesman Ikram-ul-Haq has clarified that the clauses in the new nikaahnama would still have to be enforced by the bride in order for her to get the same rights to divorce as the groom. However he also confirmed that the document would legally bar the nikahkhwan from scratching the clause without the bride’s consent.
As things stand, women who seek divorce after having had their right to divorce denied in the nikaahnama have had to opt for khula as per the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961, which requires that she gives up up everything she received from the husband as part of the marriage. In addition, she must forego rights to maintenance and alimony.
The CII’s move to update the nikahnama comes alongside its revision of the talaqnama (Islamic divorce document). The council has already announced its support for declaring ‘triple talaq‘ (instantaneous divorce) as an illegal, punishable offence, with the updated talaqnama including punishments for men guilty of dissolving their marriage on the spot.
The Council of Islamic Ideology is a statutory constitutional body that gives the Parliament advice on Islamic matters and Sharia law. While the CII depicts its latest efforts as a bid to make the family system stronger while simultaneously protecting women’s rights, activists and lawyers are skeptical about the move bringing about meaningful change.
“Perhaps the CII is looking to throw women a bone, but the fact remains that for centuries women were denied the right to divorce by cultural subtext and social stigma against divorce initiated by women,” says Aisha Sarwari, cofounder Women’s Advancement Hub and author of Navigating Pakistani Feminism: Fight by Fight.
“It is unlikely that the person in charge of conducting the nikah [marriage] would explain (to) any young woman her rights. There is no monitoring mechanism because the beneficiaries of (the) status quo are wife-beaters, cheaters, drunks and toxic men who prefer the option of getting away with minor or major crimes against women.”
Lawyer and activist Nighat Dad points out that the CII is not bringing forth any revolutionary change in terms of women’s rights in marriage.
“The clause giving the right to divorce has always been there, but quite often the biggest stumbling blocks are the nikahkhwans themselves who often choose to scratch the clause without even sharing it with the bride,” she says.
While Dad sees the benefits of making it mandatory for the clerics to convey the clause to the brides, she calls for an overhaul in mindset surrounding divorce to make it easier for women to be granted their rights.
“When even talking about the right to divorce is considered taboo at the time of the nikah, the new clause’s implementation won’t be as straightforward. For instance, the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act [passed in March 2010] required offices to form committees on harassment; there are countless workplaces that still don’t have them,” she adds.
Referring to her own divorce, Dad says that her family’s refusal to enforce the needed clause in the documentation made things difficult for her.
“None of what I had given the groom as dowry was mentioned in the nikahnama, but everything that I received was clearly mentioned – which I then had to give up. I urge women to keep receipts and records of everything that they give their husband’s family at the time of marriage, and let go of the societal pressures surrounding divorce.”
Speaking to Asia Times, Elham Manea, an expert on Sharia law and author of Islamic Law in the West: the Essentialists, calls for religious reform to address the question marks over women’s rights in the Muslim world.
“[Pakistan’s] Shafite Jurisprudence [on divorce]… does not provide justice or equality to women in issues of division of property, maintenance, child custody etc,” she says, adding that Islamic clergy are reactionary in the manner in which they perceive women, family structures and relationships.
“They believe the differences in rights given to men and women are justified and determined by biological differences and hence a woman cannot be trusted with the right to divorce, because she is perceived by them as ‘emotional’. Men on the other hand are considered ‘rational’. Never mind that the record of husbands’ misuse of this ‘right’ is well documented.”
Manea calls for reform in the interpretation of Islamic law in the Muslim world. “I see [Sharia] as a selection from the corpus of legal opinions of jurists developed over the course of Islamic history, especially between the seventh and tenth centuries,” she says. “Looking at shari’a from this perspective will highlight its problematic nature, for we are not considering its theoretical potential to provide justice. What we are in fact looking at is its actual implementation and hence its obvious limitations and how it contravenes modern concepts of human rights.”
She warns against religion’s use to construct theocracies. “The time has come for a civil law that respects the equal dignity and rights of both spouses. It is important to bring Islam to the spiritual sphere, hence a religion is a spiritual relationship between an individual and a higher power, and should not turn into a social and political order – a theocracy.”
Wanita PKR rep moots making 20 the minimum age to marry
16 November 2018
SHAH ALAM, Nov 16 — A Wanita PKR delegate suggested the government go beyond standardising the minimum marriageable age at 18 for all creeds and genders, saying this should be set at 20 to encourage more scholarly pursuits.
Selangor delegate Ermeemarianna Saadon said even 18 was too soon for girls to begin raising children and families, adding that they should still be completing their tertiary studies at that point.
“There are also concerns for the health of young women who get pregnant,” she said during the debate on the topic of child marriage at the wing’s annual congress today.
The controversy over child marriages in Malaysia reignited after a 41-year-old Kelantan man was found to have taken an 11-year-old Thai girl as his third wife.
This, among others, prompted the government to work towards banning child marriages by standardising the minimum age to wed at 18 years’ old regardless of gender or religion.
Currently for non-Muslims, the minimum marriage age for boys and girls is 18, but a non-Muslim girl aged 16 may marry with the approval of their respective mentri besar or chief minister.
Under state Islamic laws, the marriageable age is 18 for boys and 16 for girls, but Shariah courts have the authority to give consent to those below the permitted age to get married. There is no minimum age of marriage for Muslims.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said Putrajaya will amend Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act and Islamic Family Law (Federal Territory) Act to make it harder for minors to marry until the government can standardise the minimum age at 18.
Saudi women in 'inside-out abaya' protest
15 November 2018
Some Saudi women have launched a protest against the abaya - a long loose-fitting robe used to cover their bodies in public - by saying that they will wear it inside out.
Under the hashtag "inside-out abaya" they have posted pictures of the robe, which they feel under pressure to wear.
In March Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the garment was not a legal requirement.
About 5,000 tweets using the hashtag have been sent, most from Saudi Arabia.
What can Saudi women wear?
The Saudi authorities for decades enforced a strict dress code on women that required them to wear abayas in public, as well as a headscarf if they were Muslim.
But in March the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declared that women only needed to dress modestly and not necessarily wear abayas.
"The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia [Islamic law]: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men," he told CBS TV.
"This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear."
What have Saudi women been posting?
Twitter user Howra said she would begin wearing the abaya inside out "to protest the customs and state regulations that mean we are under threat if we dare to show our identities".
"We have to work full-time with the niqab [a face veil] and abaya because, the argument goes, the place is mixed. This is a heavy burden for a person to bear," she added.
In recent years Saudi women have also begun wearing more colourful abayas that contrast with the traditional black, and open abayas worn over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country, Reuters news agency reports.
Last year women were given the right to drive - but many of the female activists who campaigned for it have been arrested under an apparent crackdown on dissent.
Prince Mohammed has since been accused of ordering the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, though Saudi Arabia denies this.
What can Saudi women still not do?
There are many things that Saudi women are unable to do without permission from a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother or son.
These things include, but are not limited to:
Applying for passports
Opening a bank account
Starting certain businesses
Getting elective surgery
The guardianship system has helped create one of the most gender unequal countries in the Middle East.
The politics behind Iranian women's entry to Azadi stadium
November 15, 2018
Asian soccer's most important game of the season, the AFC Champions League final, was held in Tehran on Nov. 10. What transpired on the pitch was somewhat anticlimactic, not to mention discouraging for the Iranian side, as Iran's Persepolis and Japan's Kashima Antlers reached a goalless draw that meant the latter emerged victorious on aggregate. But a lot more was going on in the VIP section and the packed stands of the iconic Azadi Stadium.
Gianni Infantino, president of world soccer’s governing body FIFA, was watching the game next to high-level Iranian officials led by First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri as well as Asian Football Federation President Sheikh Salman of Bahrain. From a small designated area in the stands, some 800 Iranian women were also watching, but much more ecstatically, many of them crying tears of excitement. For most of them, it was the first time they had entered the stadium to watch a soccer match live.
Indeed, it was the second time in the almost 40-year history of the Islamic Republic that women had been allowed in to watch a live game. Less than a month before, a much more limited number of women — consisting of families of sportspeople and other industry insiders — had been granted permission to watch the friendly Iran-Bolivia game in Azadi Stadium. In late June, Iranian women entered Azadi for the first time to watch a crucial Iran-Spain World Cup game beside men, albeit they watched a broadcast of the game from monitors in the stadium. It garnered international attention, even from Spanish football captain Sergio Ramos, who said in a tweet, “They are the ones who won tonight.”
Iranian women have called for open stadiums and tried — sometimes successfully — to enter them donning wigs and mustaches for years. But what made recent concessions possible has been game-changing local and regional political developments. For one, regional archrival Saudi Arabia welcomed women to stadiums at the start of 2018, something that carried a sting, both for many ordinary Iranians and also authorities. Then, world soccer’s most anticipated event, the World Cup, upped the ante. Some Iranians who traveled to Russia to watch the games live showed their discontent with the stadium ban of women.
So when the FIFA boss traveled to Tehran in early March to watch the Tehran derby between Perspolis and Esteghlal, he also spoke with President Hassan Rouhani and naturally discussed the ban. He said his trip produced results, as the president promised him women will be granted entry into the stadium. “He told me that in countries such as Iran, these things take a bit of time,” Infantino said. On the day of the derby, 35 women were detained for trying to enter the stadium. Infantino sent several follow-up letters to be apprised of updates in the ensuing months.
There is no doubt that such a change cannot materialize overnight in Iran. Some of the ruling clerics who imposed the stadium ban in 1980, shortly after the Islamic Revolution, still emphatically call for it to be upheld. They say women should be safeguarded from the brutish atmosphere of a masculine stadium, where insults are hurled and tensions rise. Of note, prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri vigorously condemned women being allowed entry to watch the Iran-Bolivia match. Even as he threatened people and authorities alike with legal action should women gain entry to stadiums again, he was widely criticized by both the Reformist and conservative camps for suggesting the sight of "half-naked” footballers would “lead to sin.”
Iranians outside the country have been supporting the cause of women’s entry to stadiums as well. In late June, 18 prominent women of Iranian origin, including Iran’s only Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, penned an open letter calling on FIFA to demand Iran end the stadium ban for women. “As Iranian women, we support our national team, but we do not forget those who cannot attend matches or have gone to jail trying to enter the stadiums in Iran,” they said.
Supporting their claim is Article 4 of the FIFA Statutes, which addresses tenets such as nondiscrimination, equality and neutrality. It states that discrimination of any kind against, among other things, gender, “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.” FIFA also commits to remaining neutral in matters of politics and religion, which explains its relatively tacit approach before 2018, but maintains that it may make exceptions concerning matters affected by its statutory objectives.
Photojournalist Forough Alaei managed to enter the stadium, after much difficulty, to document women’s historic moments on all three instances in recent months. As she sees the situation, it was certainly the mounting pressure on Iran, not an internal eagerness to reform, that led to the creation of those moments.
“In my opinion, these concessions happened because of pressure exerted by FIFA, mixed with rising pressure from inside the country,” Alaei told Al-Monitor.
President Rouhani himself is seemingly in favor of lifting the stadium ban. In addition to his promise to Infantino, he has made several public remarks to that effect. Most recently, on Nov. 13, he asked, “What is wrong with dedicating a part of sports stadiums to women, something that has no contradiction with the law and Sharia [Islamic law]?” while making a point that the country can boost social morale this way during times of economic hardship under returning US sanctions.
But even a presidential endorsement may not be enough. “Talk is one thing, but having the power to enact change is another,” Alaei said. “For instance, a high-ranking female authority that was put in charge of allowing women into stadiums told me she had no real power to get entry permits for some of the women.”
FIFA pressure grew in the run-up to the AFC Champions League final match. Days before the match, FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura, after meeting with a prominent Iranian campaigner who had protested the stadium ban during the World Cup, said that the governing body continues to work with Iran to end the long-running ban. The campaigners’ cause had garnered some 200,000 signatures.
During the final match in Tehran, Infantino made sure to personally check that there were at least some women in the stadium — how many women attended, and how they were selected, is locally contested — and he was quick to proclaim victory afterward. He put it down to the “power of football” and expressed confidence that further progress will be achieved in the near future. That remains to be seen.
German Woman Charged With Daesh Membership
November 15, 2018
BERLIN: Federal prosecutors say they’ve charged a 26-year-old German woman with membership in a terrorist organization on allegations she joined the extremist Daesh.
Prosecutors said Thursday that Derya O., whose full name wasn’t given in line with privacy laws, is accused of joining the group in Syria in February 2014 and marrying a fighter there with whom she had had previous contact over the Internet.
They lived in Syria and Iraq off funds the husband received from Daesh, and had a child together.
She’s alleged to have also received small-arms weapons training from her husband and had an explosive belt that could have been used in a suicide bombing.
She left Syria through Turkey in 2017 and returned to Germany that August.
More Women in Diplomatic Corps Will Benefit Everyone
November 15, 2018
The “old boys’ network” is pervasive and insidious – but it is still very real, even if it has diminished in power, thanks to the rise of women in senior positions and the momentum of those championing women in the workplace. At this week’s Diplocon conference in Abu Dhabi, a two-day event aimed at raising the standards of international diplomacy, organisers from the Emirates Diplomatic Academy revealed that less than one-fifth of ambassadorial posts in G20 countries are held by women. Of the 435 female diplomats in those nations, only Australia, Canada and the US had women in at least one-third of diplomatic postings.
In the UAE, there are currently seven female ambassadors, including Lana Nusseibeh, the president of UN Women and the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, as well as nine female ministers, equivalent to nearly one-third of the Cabinet. The UAE Gender Balance Council was set up by the government in 2015 to ensure Emirati women played a leading role in the nation’s development. There is, of course, more to be done. While the UAE fares well globally for wage equality, education and literacy, there is a problem worldwide with female diplomats progressing beyond a certain stage in their careers. Inflexible working arrangements and a lack of inclusivity have hampered women’s chances of reaching the upper echelons. And while many more women are now signing up to the diplomatic corps, they are often not promoted above a junior or middle-ranking level. The old-fashioned view has been that women were not deemed to be suitable for unsafe postings and there was the added perception that male ambassadors often came with spouses, who could volunteer their services for free.
That has changed somewhat since female ambassadors first appeared in the early 20th century – but conservative, regressive views still persist in too many circles. There is no reason why they should. In Ethiopia, progressive prime minister Abiy Ahmed has appointed women to half his cabinet’s posts. In Australia, the department of foreign affairs and trade has launched a women in leadership programme, which aims for greater equality and a more inclusive work culture. The UAE’s new Women in Diplomacy Network will be a global platform offering support in a male-dominated field. These are small steps but they will effect huge change and benefit all of society – men and women alike.
Asia Bibi: Pakistani Christian woman in limbo after blasphemy verdict
Nov 15, 2018
ISLAMABAD: A week after being freed from jail, Asia Bibi — a Pakistani Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy — remains in limbo, with negotiations apparently under way to allow her to leave the country despite objections from Islamist hardliners demanding her execution.
Since the Supreme Court overturned Bibi's conviction last month, Pakistan has been rattled by violent protests from Islamists calling for her beheading, for mutiny in the armed forces and for the murder of the country's top judges.
Blasphemy is a massively inflammatory issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and Prophet Mohammed can lead to lynchings and murders.
Earlier this month, the government struck a deal with the demonstrators after days of street protests saw large swathes of the country paralysed.
But questions remain over Bibi's whereabouts, the court's decision, and how hardliners may react to further developments.
Here's a brief rundown of where things stand and what might happen next.
Rumours are rife in Pakistan that she has already left the country, with fake reports claiming she met with Pope Francis in the Vatican.
AFP has debunked the reports of Bibi meeting the pontiff.
The Pakistani government has repeatedly stated that Bibi is being held in a secure location in Pakistan after being released from a prison in central Multan last week, though her exact whereabouts are unknown.
She is not being allowed to leave the country as her case is subjected to a final review.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated the government's position again in Islamabad on Wednesday, saying: "We have clarified earlier and we clarify it again. She has not gone abroad. She is here. There is no controversy."
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan initially spoke forcefully against the protests, and vowed to confront any violence.
Since then he has stayed largely quiet about Bibi's fate.
No, the ruling from the Supreme Court is in the process of being reviewed following a petition request.
The petition essentially checks to see if any procedural or clerical errors were made by the court during its final ruling.
If there were not, then the decision will stand. The chances of the apex court's acquittal being overturned are slim, according to Bibi's lawyer.
No one knows. However, it does appear that a deal may be in the works to move Bibi out of the country.
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government was holding talks with Pakistan over potentially offering asylum.
"There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don't want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country," Trudeau told AFP.
The Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which led the violent demonstrations after Bibi's release, slammed Trudeau's comments.
"We strongly oppose even her release. And this is a view of millions of Pakistani Muslims," said TLP spokesman Ijaz Ashrafi.
Of course a big concern for any country that opens its doors to Bibi will be the potential blowback from hardliners in Pakistan.
Earlier this week, the Netherlands embassy pulled staff members from Pakistan over persistent threats, reportedly from hardliners angry over anti-Islam tweets by the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
Yes and no. Hardline Islamist groups are continuing to hold sporadic, albeit peaceful, rallies across the country and calling for Bibi's execution.
The TLP has also vowed to return to the streets if Bibi leaves the country.
Others have called for calm. In an open letter published over the weekend, prominent religious scholar Mufti Rafi Usmani argued that the Supreme Court's decision following the review must be respected.
"The verdict of the bench considering the review petition would be final and has to be accepted wholeheartedly", wrote Usmani in the letter published in the English-language daily 'The News'.
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