New Age Islam News Bureau
16 January 2021
• Sudan: Women Protest Rape, Violence, and Sexual Harassment in Darfur
• Pakistan- 6 In 10 Women Face Restrictions When Accessing Internet: Study
• 'Love Jihad' Law Seen Trampling Women's Hard-Earned Freedoms In India
• Afghan Refugee Helping War Widows Escape Poverty Cycle
• Conference Calls For Raising Women’s Capital in Saudi Industrial Sector
• Pakistan Top Court Moves To Hear #Metoo Case Against Singer Zafar
• Hyderabad Gymkhana To Organize Pakistan Women Squash Championship 2021
• Ankara, UN Ink Pact To Help Women, Children
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Saudi Arabia To Appoint Female Judges Soon: Official
15 January 2021
Hind al-Zahid, undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, speaks to Al Arabiya.
Saudi women will soon be able to be appointed as judges in the Kingdom, according to Saudi Arabia’s undersecretary for women’s empowerment at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
“Today, a normal legal career would see a person go through multiple stages before they can be appointed as judges. What I can say is that a Saudi woman assuming the position of judge is very soon. There are initiatives in place on several levels,” Hind al-Zahid, undersecretary for women's empowerment the the ministry, told Al Arabiya.
Al-Zahid said the government of Saudi Arabia is very serious in supporting women empowerment on several levels, from entering the labor market, their presence in such market through a supportive environment, providing equal opportunities and granting them access to leadership positions.
During her interview on Al Arabiya’s "Direct Question" program on Friday, al-Zahid said that the international indicators have proven the Kingdom's progress in supporting the empowerment of women at all levels.
According to the undersecretary, participation of Saudi women in the labor market exceeded expectations and is predicted to increase by 25 percent in 2025.
“Their participation rate today has reached 31 percent, and this is a very big progress. As for the civil service sectors, the Saudi women's participation rate has increased from 39 percent to 41 percent, and most of them are in the education and health sectors in addition to other sectors,” al-Zahid said.
In 2020, Saudi Arabia’s economy made the biggest progress globally toward gender equality since 2017, according to a World Bank report. The World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2020” study, which tracks how laws affect women in 190 economies, scored Saudi Arabia’s economy 70.6 points out of 100, a dramatic increase from its previous score of 31.8 points.
Sudan: Women Protest Rape, Violence, and Sexual Harassment in Darfur
12 JANUARY 2021
Khartoum / El Fasher — Yesterday, the Sudanese Women's Revolution Initiative held a vigil in front of the Ministry of Justice in Khartoum to protest against rape, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women. Another vigil was held against gender-based violence (GBV) in front of the El Fasher Court in North Darfur.
They handed a memorandum to the Ministry of Justice to call for the amendment of the 1991 Criminal Law on harassment and rape. They describe the current laws and penalties as too unclear.
Rayan Mohamed, one of the initiative's founders, pointed at the increase in incidents of violence against women and the rape of young girls and boys. She explained that women are victims of various types of crimes but are often unable to file a report out of fear for public shaming.
She also said that a young woman was molested and raped on New Year's Eve by a group of about 20 men on Nile Street in Khartoum.
Members of the Sudanese Women's Revolution
Initiativeprotest violence against women
in El Fasher (Social Media)
The initiative also protested the continuing attacks of women in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur.
In cooperation with the Kafa Women Association, the initiative organised a vigil in front of the El Fasher Court. The protestors carried banners calling for "an immediate end to violence against women in all parts of Sudan and in Darfur in particular".
Protestor Ruaa Saleh told reporters in El Fasher that the vigil is a protest against the continuing violence against women. She pointed to the recent killing of a young woman in Um Kedada, the rape of a girl in eastern Sudan's El Gedaref, and the gang-rape of a young woman in Khartoum on New Year's Eve.
She also called for legal reforms.
Yesterday, Radio Dabanga reported on the rape of a 9-year-old girl in Deribat in East Jebel Locality, South Darfur. The girl was raped by a member of the South Darfur Military Intelligence.
The director of the Violence Against Women Unit in South Darfur, Selma John, said that the rapist has been arrested by Military Intelligence. She demanded that the authorities "impose the most severe penalty on the perpetrator, so that it will be a lesson for others".
The child has been transferred to Nyala in serious conditions to receive medical and psychological care.
Last year, the Women's Revolution Initiative also organised a vigil in front of the Ministry of Justice against sexual violence and to demand legal reforms. The vigil was organised in collaboration with the No to Women's Oppression Initiative and Sudanese Women.
They demanded the inclusion of the term 'sexual harassment' in the law with detailed definitions, including harassment by touch, verbal harassment, stalking, tracking, phone calls, and other aggressions.
They also called for increased sentences for offenders "to reflect the harmful and lasting effects on the victims".
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Pakistan- 6 in 10 women face restrictions when accessing internet: study
PESHAWAR: Six in ten women internet users who took part in a study face some kind of restriction from their families when using the internet, a new study by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) finds.
The study titled "Women Disconnected: Feminist Case Studies on the Gender Digital Divide Amidst COVID-19" examines the impact of gender digital divide on women in Pakistan during the coronavirus pandemic. The research is based on a survey with 215 women from across Pakistan and a series of in-depth interviews, says a press release.
A majority of the respondents of the survey said they are only allowed to use the internet for attending online classes or talking to family via WhatsApp. More than a third of those surveyed acknowledged higher restrictions on the use of the internet for girls than boys, with 16% saying girls are not allowed to use it at all.
Key findings of the research indicate that 40% of the women surveyed use the internet every day, with the usage becoming higher as family income rises. Half of the respondents who use the internet daily, come from families with over Rs60,000 monthly income while 7 in 10 of those who do not use the internet come from families with below Rs30,0000 monthly income.
A whopping 80% of the respondents who are unable to use the Internet are from South Waziristan, one of the newly merged districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The cost of the internet continues to be a concern with 76% of the respondents saying that the Internet in Pakistan is expensive and more than a third saying it was beyond the reach of an average person. Mobile appears to be the main mode of connection for women who took part in the survey. 88% of the respondents who use the internet said that they are accessing the internet through their own devices and 78% of those using their own devices are using mobile phones.
The study indicates that the need for internet usage among respondents increased with the COVID-19 pandemic, with 8 out of 10 respondents saying they felt the need to use it more during lockdown. At the same time, a number of them lost regular access to the internet due to the lockdown which barred them from using the internet in workplaces, educational institutes and other places that they had previously used to connect. Prior to the pandemic, many women accessed the Internet outside their homes but their problems now include slow speed and reduced access due to family members using the same connection or devices. The respondents and interviewees also indicated that surveillance at home has become stricter and threats of domestic violence more pronounced as men remain in the house and many women are unable to step out to purchase mobile data.
The research also finds evidence that women in the newly merged districts are unable to connect to emergency health services in case of emergency due to lack of connectivity. The lack of communication combined with lack of local emergency health care has resulted in fatalities of women, including during childbirth.
Researchers say that the unavailability of official data about gender digital divide being available by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) or local service providers also posed challenges. Therefore, much of the research was based on anecdotal evidence and reported incidents.
Commenting on the research, Zoya Rehman, one of the researchers, says, "We were trying to look at the lived experiences of Pakistani women and, of course, there's no monolithic Pakistani woman either, which is also something we assert in this research project. These experiences cannot be seen through one kind of lens and you can't brush them with one stroke."
Another researcher, Hija Kamran, regretted that despite access to the internet being acknowledged as a fundamental right, "many people continue to be disconnected" in Pakistan, "Our study finds that the gender digital divide is not merely an inconvenience, it, in fact, hinders growth and opportunities, and is life-threatening for women who are not able to access the internet because either there are infrastructural barriers, or it is unaffordable, or due to patriarchal restrictions.'
"It is the responsibility of the government to ensure every citizen has access to open, affordable, and safe Internet in Pakistan," Kamran underlined.
'Love jihad' law seen trampling women's hard-earned freedoms in India
15 January 2021
By Roli Srivastava
MUMBAI, Jan 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Mehak's parents found out she was having a relationship with a Muslim man, they locked her in her bedroom, seized her phone and bank cards and installed security cameras at their home in northern India.
To the 26-year-old's astonishment, when she managed to report her confinement to local police, they took her parents' side and urged her to end the relationship.
Mehak is from Uttar Pradesh state, which recently criminalised forced religious conversion, including by way of interfaith marriages - legislation critics fear could be used to control women and stop them freely choosing who to marry.
"I knew what I was doing wasn't illegal. It was my choice. I am educated, I have a mind of my own ... would I jump into fire?" Mehak, a government employee, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
Eventually, she left the state with her fiance, who she plans to marry soon.
But far from planning their future together, the couple are in hiding and fear reprisals from her parents or members of fringe Hindu nationalist groups that have targeted interfaith couples since the anti-conversion law was passed in November.
"I'm scheduled to get married but my strongest emotion right now is not happiness but fear for our lives," said Mehak, asking to use a pseudonym to protect her identity.
Men have been arrested and women forced into shelters in Uttar Pradesh under the new law, which imposes prison terms for anyone convicted of compelling others to change their faith or luring them to do so through marriage.
The legislation followed a campaign by hardline Hindu groups against interfaith marriages that they call "love jihad" - Muslim men engaging in a conspiracy to turn Hindu women away from their religion by seducing them.
PROTECT YOUNG WOMEN
Officials in Uttar Pradesh, which is the country's most populous state, have said the law will help prevent fraudulent religious conversions and aims to protect young women.
Two other states - Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh - have implemented varying versions of anti-conversion laws with at least three other states - Haryana, Karnataka and Assam - planning to bring in similar legislation.
But critics say the measures - besides being directed at the country's Muslim minority - are paternalistic and assume women need protection at the cost of their right to make reasoned decisions about changing faith or choosing a romantic partner.
"Adult women are infantilised, placed under parental and community control, and denied the right to take life decisions," wrote writer and editor Insiyah Vahanvaty in The Indian Express last month.
Uttar Pradesh's women and child department did not respond to questions about the law's potential impact on women's rights.
Meanwhile, support groups for interfaith couples in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have reported a spike in the number of calls for help to navigate the new obstacles to marriage.
Demonstrators protesting "against the lies of love jihad" have held marches this month, holding up posters depicting pioneering figures in India's women's rights movement such as Savitribai Phule and Fatima Sheikh.
"They are not considering women as adults. They are allowed to vote, choose their government, but cannot choose their life partner," said Akanksha Sharma, joint secretary at non-profit Dhanak, which works with interfaith couples.
'LIKE A BOY'
Interfaith couples in India can marry under a 1954 law, which does not require them to convert to the same faith but obliges them to give one-month's notice - during which time objections to the union are invited by the marriage registrar.
In some states including Uttar Pradesh, marriage registrar offices also send notices to the addresses given in the couple's identity documents, which is often their parents' address.
Since many face parental resistance, social ostracism and in extreme cases violence, many interfaith couples opt to wed under alternative marriage laws, lawyers said.
"They convert to another faith to register quickly under say Hindu or Muslim marriage acts," said Flavia Agnes, activist and founder of Majlis Legal Centre in Mumbai.
That way, notices about their marriage plans do not reach their families, said Renu Mishra, executive director of women's rights non-profit Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiative in Lucknow.
But the new anti-conversion law scuttles that workaround - requiring couples to give two months' notice to the district magistrate before they can convert.
Mishra said it marked a setback for women's rights in the country of 1.3 billion, where rising numbers of women are studying, pursuing careers, moving cities for work and living alone.
Mehak, the youngest of four sisters, said she was raised "like a boy". But the freedom and encouragement she received from her parents to study and advance her career as a government employee did not extend to her personal life.
Even in relatively liberal families, many parents are unwilling to let daughters choose their partners freely.
"The father is the custodian of the girls' chastity and sexuality and will give it as a prized possession to someone he decides. The girl's consent does not matter," Agnes said.
Mehak said the new law - though aimed at stopping forced conversions - would end up stoking social pressures over interfaith marriage and risked curbing women's hard-earned freedom.
Her fiance's family also objected to the marriage, but they came around after he put his foot down.
"They didn't want to lose their son. So there was no pressure on him," she said. "Men have no such pressure."
Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle
January 16, 2021
KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.
“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”
Conference Calls For Raising Women’s Capital in Saudi Industrial Sector
15 January, 2021
A conference for industrialists in Riyadh on Thursday called for increasing women’s participation in industrial activities and boosting their investments.
Hosted by Saudi Arabia, “Women in Industry 2020” concluded with several recommendations designed to achieve comprehensive and sustainable economic development.
The recommendations included encouraging industrial enterprises to provide appropriate workplace environments for women and to promote their economic contribution to the sector, in line with the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030.
For its part, the Saudi Organization for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON), the organizer of the virtual conference, called on its partners in the public and private sectors to work to empower women’s work, benefit from their rich potential, and enhance their participation in the industrial sector.
MODON signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Saudi Council of Engineers in the field of training and entrepreneurship with the aim to contribute to the localization of engineering professions in the industrial sector.
MODON Director-General Eng. Khaled Al Salem, affirmed keenness to build partnerships with government and official agencies and the public and private sectors to enhance the investor experience and develop work procedures in an integrated industrial environment, in line with the organization’s strategy to empower the industry and contribute to increasing local content within the framework of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Pakistan top court moves to hear #MeToo case against singer Zafar
By Hafsa Adil
15 Jan 2021
Activists and lawyers have hailed a recent move by Pakistan’s top court to hear on merit a high-profile sexual harassment case that launched the country’s #MeToo movement, caused a stir on social media, and polarised public opinion.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court agreed to deliberate on whether prominent singer and actress Meesha Shafi’s allegations against another singer and actor, Ali Zafar, fall under the country’s Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010.
In April 2018, at the height of the global #MeToo movement, Shafi had accused Zafar on social media of sexual harassment of a physical nature on multiple occasions.
The following day, Zafar responded to the allegations via his social media accounts, rejecting Shafi’s claims and vowing to take the case “through the courts of law”.
Shafi’s appeal was rejected earlier by the Lahore High Court on technical claims that her allegations did not fall under the workplace harassment law.
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However, the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday means the case will now move forward.
“The Supreme Court will now hear the case in detail and decide which categories of persons are protected under the law,” a member of Shafi’s legal team at the Supreme Court told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity.
Last September, Shafi and eight other women were charged by police for criminal defamation after Zafar filed a suit against them.
Leena Ghani, a makeup artist and women’s rights activist, was one of the nine served the legal notice. On Wednesday, she filed a defamation case against Zafar in the provincial Sindh High Court.
Ghani’s case also details several instances where she alleges Zafar sexually harassed her since 2014. She is seeking 50 million rupees ($311,720) in damages.
“After living in fear and facing threats for over two years, I decided to come forward and fight,” Ghani told Al Jazeera.
She said that due to a lack of laws protecting women against sexual harassment, filing the defamation case was “the last option for me to fight back”.
“I have brought the details out in the open so people can’t say that women don’t come forward and talk,” she added.
Ghani also welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, terming it “a huge success for women facing sexual harassment in Pakistan”.
Meanwhile, Zafar’s lawyer Muhammad Omar Tariq claimed on local media that when Ghani appeared before the court for defamation charge hearings last year, she insisted she “never alleged Zafar of sexually harassing her and was merely stating her opinion on social media”.
In response, Ghani said she “[appeared] in court as a character witness in Meesha’s case and therefore chose not to divulge details of my own experience of harassment”.
She added that she has received rape and death threats on social media from online trolls.
“If someone as famous as Meesha can be ridiculed and tortured for two years, what chances do women of less agency have?” she asked.
“When our cases are heard, it’s mostly men sitting on the bench [in the court]. When we go to courts, they are full of men. Men are not conditioned to understand verbal or physical harassment unless it’s a crime as heinous as rape.”
Last August, Zafar was awarded the Pride of Performance, the highest civilian award, by the Pakistani government. He said he was deeply honoured and “forever indebted to my fans and supporters” for receiving the award.
However, women’s rights activists in Pakistan slammed the government’s decision to honour a person accused of sexual harassment.
A joint statement from several rights organisations requested that government defer the decision given the pending cases against Zafar.
“The government must do more to lend its support to women so that all victims of sexual harassment can talk about their experiences and fight their cases,” said Ghani.
Hyderabad Gymkhana To Organize Pakistan Women Squash Championship 2021
15th January 2021
HYDERABAD, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 15th Jan, 2021 ) :The Hyderabad Gymkhana will organize three days long Pakistan Women Squash Championship 2021 here at its squash courts from January 17, 2021.
The top 16 women squash players will take part in the championship which carries cash prize of Rs. 0.1 million, informed Convener sports Hyderabad Gymkhana Zulfiqar Yousufani here on Friday.
Zulfiqar Yousufani who is acting the chairman of squash championship organizing committee with Engr. Saad Baloch, secretary, informed that national top ranked women squash players including Amna Fayaz (Army), Madiha Zafar (Army), Rushana Mehboob (ZTBL), Noor-ul-Huda (SNGPL), Zunab Khan (Army), Anum Mustafa (Sindh), Noorulain Ejaz (Punjab), Aiman Shahbaz (Punjab), Komal Khan (WAPDA), Kainat Amir (KPK), Ilsa Imran (Sindh), Fehmida Asim (Sndh), Hira Aqeel (KPK), Maira Hussain (KPK), Sibgha Arshad (Punjab) and Roshail Shaikh (Sindh) have confirmed their participation in the championship.
These top ranked players will receive the status of national celebrities and during the championship, they will be taken to historical places, markets, museum, bangle industry and other famous places of Hyderabad for visiti, Zulfiqar Yousufani informed.
He said Pakistan level championship is registered with the United Kingdom Professional Squash Association, Pakistan Squash Federation and Sindh Squash Association. The championship will be played on knocked out basis, he informed and added that Sindh Secretary for Sports and Youth Affairs Syed Imtiaz Ali Shah will inaugurate the championship on January 17 while the Commissioner Hyderabad Muhammad Abbas Baloch will be the chief guest at the prize distribution ceremony on January 19, 2021.
Ankara, UN ink pact to help women, children
January 15 2021
Turkey’s capital and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) inked a cooperation protocol to support women, children and young adults.
Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş and UNFPA Turkey representative Hassan Mohtashami signed the protocol to support health and protection services for women, children and young adults with special needs, said a statement by the mayor’s office.
“The only problem we have is that right now Family Life Centers cannot operate actively due to the pandemic,” Yavaş said. “We are working to turn Ankara into a city competing with world capitals.”
The Support Center for Women and Young Adults, which will be opened in Altındağ district, will provide career consultancy, psycho-social support, economical reinforcement support and information regarding social cohesion, while mobile health teams will create awareness in rural parts of the city.
The center will also organize language courses for refugees, choirs and trips.
Mobile teams will share information on health to raise awareness, while also detecting people with a health risk and guide them to related institutions.
Yavaş and Mohtashami said they aim at decreasing maternal mortality during childbirth. “We aim for a healthy pregnancy and labor for women. I hope that we will start with a center in Ankara with this protocol and expand the boundaries and work together to provide services for women and young adults,” Mohtashami said.
“This is the beginning of a three-year-long process. We are proud to be working with you,” he added.
The Project for Supporting Social Cohesion and Participation in Employment for Women and Young Adults will be run with financial support of the U.K. Embassy.
The project aims to help Turkish or refugee women and young adults who live in Ankara and are in a vulnerable position to adapt to the city and raise awareness on access to protection and health services.
The municipality and UNFPA will carry out joint studies to increase their participation in employment and support their socio-economic status.
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