Egypt University to appeal niqab ruling: Supreme Court Allows female students to don the full face veil on campus dormitories
Indonesia: Will women still be bargaining chips?
Photo: Cairo University students wear the niqab
Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau
Rights of Muslim women
21 Dec 2009
In a little noticed case, the Supreme Court has again intervened in support of maintenance for a divorced Muslim woman. Instead of Shahbano, this time it is Shabano Bano who approached the courts for maintenance, appealing against a lower courts decision that a divorced Muslim woman was entitled to maintenance only during the iddat period to ensure she is not pregnant. The apex court has ruled that a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to receive maintenance from her husband as long as she does not remarry, in what is yet another path breaking decision.
Shabano Bano was married to an Imran Khan in Gwalior on November 26, 2001. She filed a petition under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the family court, Gwalior. Imran challenged this, saying that under the provisions of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 she was not entitled to any maintenance after the expiry of iddat. It might be recalled that Shahbano had won a right to maintenance from the Supreme Court, but following howls of protests from the Muslim conservatives, the then Rajiv Gandhi government intervened to reverse the decision through a legislation that sought to put the Muslim woman out of the purview of Section 125 of the CrPC.
The Gwalior family court ruled in favour of Imran Khan, after which Shabano Bano approached the high court that dismissed her petition. Almost following the footsteps of Shahbano, this courageous woman moved the Supreme Court. A two-judge bench of Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice Deepak Verma ruled: “It is held that if a Muslim woman has been divorced, she would be entitled to claim maintenance from her husband even after the expiry of iddat, as long as she does not remarry under Section 125 of the CrPC.” The apex court set aside the order passed by the Gwalior Bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and remanded the matter to the family court of Gwalior to decide it on merit. The judges further said, “it would make it crystal clear that even a divorced Muslim woman would be entitled to claim maintenance from her ex-husband as long as she does not remarry. This being a beneficial piece of legislation, the benefit must accrue to divorced Muslim women too.”
The Supreme Court clearly found a loophole in the regressive legislation, to rule in favour of dependent divorced Muslim women who face destitution without maintenance. It is time that the self-appointed custodians of the Muslim law, most of them housed in the Muslim Personal Law Board spent time in a progressive interpretation of the law insofar as gender rights and protection is concerned. Unfortunately even the women appointed to the Board from time to time are regressive in their outlook, and believe in the status quo where the legitimate rights of women are denied in the name of religion. There is sufficient flexibility in the religion for ensuring that the divorced Muslim woman receives maintenance from her husband, not just during the iddat period but also for the rest of her life. Of course, as in all laws this will come to an end if she remarries at any stage. During the debate surrounding the Supreme Court decision in the Shahbano case, it had been clarified by scholars that mehr, the money fixed at The time of the marriage ceremony that the husband has to pay his wife, was not at all the compensation paid at the time of divorce. Instead, mehr is the money to be paid by the husband to his wife during the life of their marriage, either in one go or in instalments depending on what was mutually agreed and economically feasible.
Unfortunately, in the majority of cases the families of the bride are forced to fix the mehr at absurd amounts, ranging from Rs 1 to Rs 100. To ensure that this was not legitimised, and that the bride and her relatives were able to fight off the pressure, women groups across the country succeeded in bringing out an acceptable, standard nikahnama (marriage document) where the mehr was calculated according to the husband’s income, and a decent amount was stipulated for payment to the wife at some point in the marriage. Other provisions to safeguard the interests of the bride, and give her equal rights in the marriage, were also included in the nikahnama that was being circulated in the cities after consultations with clerics. The Gujarat violence and the subsequent insecurity amongst the minorities came as a major setback to this process of reform from within, and the Muslim clerics backed out completely. It has not been started since, with Muslim men exploiting their women in the name of religion.
Continue reading at: http://www.expressbuzz.com
Egypt University to appeal niqab ruling
(AFP) Dec 21, 2009
Supreme Court Allows female students to don the full face veil on campus dormitories December
CAIRO — A leading Cairo university will appeal a court decision allowing female students to don the full face veil on campus dormitories, a university official said on Monday.
"Cairo's Ain Shams University will immediately appeal the decision issued by the Supreme Administrative Court on Sunday," the official said.
The court had said that donning the niqab-- a veil covering the entire face-- "is one example of freedom that no administrative body or any other body can ban."
The court is also expected to rule on December 27 on the case of female university students who have been told they will not be allowed to sit exams if they insist on wearing the full face veil.
The niqab is worn by some devout Muslim women.
Most Muslim women in Egypt wear the hijab, which covers the hair, but the niqab is becoming more popular on the streets of Cairo.
The row over the niqab has intensified in recent months after Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's main seat of learning, banned the niqab in all residences and schools affiliated to Al-Azhar, except in classrooms where the teacher is male.
At the beginning of the academic year, Education Minister Yussri al-Gamal said the niqab would be banned in school classrooms.
Copyright © 2009 AFP.
Indonesia: Will women still be bargaining chips?
Toward the end of 2009, Indonesia, a supposedly moderate Islamic country, shocked the world again. It wasn’t bombings this time; it was a new bylaw in Aceh that allowed the stoning to death of married adulterers. For the unmarried, the law stipulated 100 lashes for the couple. These were part of the new Islamic criminal code in the province, and did not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims.
As soon as the provincial legislature passed the bylaw, the Home Ministry said it would file a request to have it revoked by the Supreme Court because it was deemed to violate the Constitution, which guarantees human rights.
On the same grounds, the National Commission for Violence Against Women immediately said it would file a judicial review over Aceh’s special autonomy law itself, which authorizes the local government to pass sharia-based rules — invoking an annoyed response on the part of local authorities.
To date, the commission remains alone in demanding a review of the Aceh autonomy law, particularly regarding its above authority.
The commission clearly hit on a political taboo — it had demanded the revocation of one of those quid-pro-quo results of hard bargaining. The autonomy law for Aceh was a follow-up of the historic peace agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM); its implementation is still hampered by Jakarta politicians — and now some women wanted its unprecedented powers revoked!
Commission chairwoman Kamala Chandrakirana recently repeated demands to revoke all laws and bylaws leading to “discrimination” against women and other affected groups across the country, even as the Home Ministry had stated earlier there was nothing wrong with those local rules.
They had nothing to do with religion, said the minister at the time; they were just rules on “customs”.
Why would a modern country allow “customary” bylaws regulating what time women should be home, what they should wear and what type of behavior they should or should not be exhibiting?
The commission maintains these laws are discriminatory against women and non-Muslims, and go against the Constitution, which guarantees human rights for all citizens.
It was only when reports of Aceh’s “stoning bylaw” emerged that the Home Ministry said this was a violation of the Constitution.
This shows the state tolerates discrimination to a certain point: “Customs” are allowed as long as they are not extreme to the point of making Indonesia look ridiculous in the eyes of the international community. The regulation of “customs” need not be questioned as long as they serve to make regional politicians happy.
What women’s activists, including those on the commission are saying is that there’s a limit to bargaining, whether it’s with Aceh separatists or unruly local politicians: You don’t use women as bargaining chips; you don’t confuse culture, customs or autonomy with human rights.
The question for next year is whether the new administration, with a new state minister for women’s empowerment, and a new generation of commissioners, legislators and activists see eye to eye on this issue.
Will the government continue to tolerate “customary” rules, among others raising the excuse of local authorities under regional autonomy law?
The commission and activists have considerable backing on the international stage, when they cite the UN conventions that Indonesia has ratified, and the addition of the UN Special Rapporteur for Violence on Women 15 years ago.
At the local level, the support is clear from the greater awareness to take up women’s issues and act on them without waiting for government help — numerous groups across the country have set up centers for women, either to cater to abused wives or to distribute credit and train women to improve their independence and self-esteem.
Political representation is a little better, with women now making up almost 18 percent of the House of Representatives. Even if the Constitutional Court slashed the requisite that political parties field at least 30 percent of women among their candidates for elections, the push for affirmative action is expected to lead to higher recruitment for female politicians in the near future.
But while public awareness is better now regarding the acknowledgement of problems because of gender differences, and that policies and actions must be undertaken to address it, it’s a different picture among decision makers.
At the national and local levels, political representation of women would need to be much stronger in the politicians’ ability and awareness to say “No” to policies that could potentially harm women. This is where “sisters’ solidarity” is tested, regardless of the higher education now evident among lawmakers.
Would a female lawmaker, for instance, put her foot down on colleagues intent on passing a bylaw on “Muslim clothing” amid local enthusiasm for a religious identity — and ignore potential pressures on women and non-Muslims who might resent such a rule?
A related factor would be whether President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finds it in himself to be firm in his current, second chance after re-election; otherwise Jakarta would still be sending the signal that it’s “powerless” in the face of local policies.
As long as Jakarta says local policies on behavior and morality are no problem, it sends the message that decision makers are blind to global fundamentalist tendencies, cropping up here and there in the form of conservatism, even if it only looks like a township curfew for women.
It’s convenient to blame everything on 9/11.
But Indonesians deserve to expect that their leaders understand better the Constitution, the result of too much sacrifice to ignore just for political interests.