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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 26 Nov 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi University Bans Coloured Abayas on Campus

New Age Islam News Bureau

26 Nov 2014

The 26 minor girls who were recovered from the house in Liaquatabad's C-1 area of Karachi - DawnNews screengrab


 Child Marriage Worldwide Ban Gets Unanimous ‘Yes’: UN

 Sania Mirza Named UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia

 Tajik Islamic Party Focuses on Female Vote

 Girl, 17, Who Ran Away To Fight ISIS Terrorists, Identified As Silhan Ozcelik

 Police Recover 26 Minor Girls from Karachi Home

 Veena Malik, Husband Sentenced To 26 Years in Jail for Blasphemy

 Nigeria: Reporting Women's Issues Tops Training Agenda

 Several Saudi Restaurants Slammed Over ‘No Single Women’ Signs

 Pak Young Nurses Protest against Harassment

 NGO: Tackle Bangladesh Women Trafficking’

 Mali Sexual Abuse Survivors Seek Justice

 CAFOD Warns Of 'Critical Time for Women in Afghanistan'

 Can States Start Incentive Scheme To Protect Girl Child, Asks SC of India

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Saudi University Bans Coloured Abayas on Campus

26 November 2014

The University of Dammam’s women’s campus has banned its students from wearing coloured Abayas.

The university caught two of its students wearing coloured Abayas recently and said the colours were not suitable for an educational institution.

A student said last week supervisors and security guards at the university initiated a campaign to restrict the abaya colour to black.

Student Nour Abdulhadi said the only black Abayas rule is being enforced by the university across all of its campuses. Violating it is a serious offense that is recorded in the student’s disciplinary record.

Supervisors at the university disapprove of the market’s influence in selling beige, brown, grey and other coloured Abayas. The Humanities College is enforcing the rule among its students to prevent them from having any violations recorded on their disciplinary records.

Moreover, workers at stores selling Abayas said official directorates inspected stores recently and slapped fines on stores selling coloured Abayas. Designers also said they received warnings to only make black Abayas. Store owners said the new violations were issued by the Ministry of Labour in cooperation with the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Haia).

The aim is to make sure all designs being sold in the Saudi market conform to the Kingdom’s Islamic dress code.

Users on social media websites were divided on the new regulations. Many sympathized with shop owners for their financial losses but supported the ministry’s regulations.

A hash tag on the subject was created and some supported the decision saying that non-black Abayas were a mockery of Islamic dress while others said coloured Abayas are a personal freedom.

Sociologist Mohammad Al-Zahrani said the abaya has been a subject of dispute for two decades now. He said the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta said 14 years ago that the correct Islamic code of dress for females should be designed to cover their bodies.

“In my opinion, the regulations in the women’s university are not oppressive. On the contrary, they ensure women are conforming to their religion’s modest way of dressing,” al-Zahrani said. There are a number of features that must be in every abaya in order for it to qualify as an Islamic dress.

The abaya must be made of thick fabric, not be transparent, it must be loose-fitting and cover the entire body, the sleeves must not be too wide, there must not be any attractive embroidery on it and it must not be similar to men’s clothing nor clothing normally worn by Westerners.

From that definition, the presidency meant that any abaya violating the said conditions must not be sold in the Kingdom, according to al-Zahrani.



Child marriage worldwide ban gets unanimous ‘yes’: UN

26 November 2014

The United Nations’ members have agreed to pass and enforce laws banning child marriage – an often cruel practice that affects 15 million girls every year.

The committee of the 193-nation General Assembly that deals with human rights adopted by consensus a resolution on Nov 21 urging all states to take steps to end “child, early and forced marriage.”

Christine Kalamwina, the deputy permanent representative of Zambia, which initiated the resolution with Canada, says child marriage impedes poverty reduction, education, gender equality and women’s empowerment, child mortality, maternal health, and combatting HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

According to the resolution, early marriage is also a serious threat to the physical and psychological health of girls who are not physically mature enough as it “increases the risk of unintended pregnancy, maternal and newborn mortality and sexually transmitted infections.”

Currently, there are more than 700 million women who were married before their 18th birthday, many in conditions of poverty and insecurity, according to UN statistics.

The 118 countries that sponsored the resolution includes Mali, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic, which are among the 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage.

Child marriage among girls is most common in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In Niger in West Africa, which has the highest overall rate, 77% of women between 20 and 49 were married before the age of 18.

Bangladesh has the most number of girls who married under 15 and India is home to one third of all child brides worldwide.

The resolution calling on member states to ensure that marriage is entered into only with the full consent of the intending spouses was adopted without a vote. The resolution will go to the full General Assembly for formal approval in December. While General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, they do exert political pressure on countries.

While supporting the document, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Sudan both expressed concern over a paragraph urging governments to protect the right of girls to have control over their sexuality and implement laws that protect reproductive rights.

Applauding the UN’s move to adopt the resolution, Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of over 400 civil society organisations, says in a statement: “This is a firm statement from the international community that child marriage will not be tolerated.” – Reuters



Sania Mirza Named UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia

26 November 2014

New Delhi: Indian tennis star Sania Mirza was  appointed the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the South Asian region by UN Women at an event held to mark the International Day To End Violence Against Women.

Sania, India's most successful women's tennis player and the first Indian to break into the World Tennis Association's top 50 rankings, is the first South Asian woman to be appointed the goodwill ambassador in the organisation's history.

"My role is a very important battle that I will fight off the tennis court for gender equality. Gender Equality is what I believe in," the ace tennis player said.

In her capacity as the goodwill ambassador, she intends to educate women about gender equality.

The issue, in her opinion, is a cultural problem where women feel they are second-class citizens.

"To that effect, there is an urgent need to change this mindset. Women must be made aware that they are equal to men," Sania said. (Read: Sania Says she is Spared of Nonsense Writing Only When She's Not Playing)

Emphasising the importance of the government's involvement in affecting a change to make sports in India more inclusive and women friendly, she acknowledged the support of the sports minister to women's sports.

"Equality depends on each and all of us. From the government that changes its laws, to the company that advances equal pay and equal opportunity, to the mother and father who teach their daughter and son that all human beings should be treated equally, to the athletes who demonstrate equality and excellence," Sania said. (Small-Screen Explosion: Sania Promises to Wow All in 'Bond' Avatar)

She said it was an "honour to serve UN Women as the Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia".

"It inspires me to work harder towards a level playing field for women. Gender equality in sports as well as using sports to advocate for gender equality in communities is essential," she said.

On the occasion, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said: "Sania has been a role model for girls and women of India, and her appointment as UN Goodwill Ambassador is a moment of pride for the country.

"As the custodians of the nation, the government's constant endeavour will be provide the right opportunities and environment so that other girls can emulate Sania's success and bring glory to the country," he said. (Sania Wants to Win a Grand Slam in Women's Doubles)

According to the latest UN report on gender violence in India, six out of 10 men have admitted to perpetrating violence against their wife or partner in various forms. The picture is even grimmer with the national average of 919 for 1,000 males.

Explaining the reason for the UN Women's choice of making Sania their voice in South Asia, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Women deputy executive director Lakshmi Puri said: "Sania is a woman of achievement and represents girls' and women's struggle for equality."

"She has been a role model to many children, including girls to break barriers and strive for their goals in life and career choices. She has used the spotlight on her professional success to highlight social issues that are of concern for many Indians, speaking out on issues such as the need to halt the practice of female foeticide and the decreasing sex ratio in India," said a statement by UN Women.



Tajik Islamic Party Focuses on Female Vote

26 November 2014

Its backing for a female presidential candidate last year helped win new supporters.

Analysts say Tajikistan’s Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) is making a strategic choice by courting the female vote ahead of next year’s parliamentary election.

The IRP is Tajikistan’s leading opposition group and the second-largest political force after President Imomali Rahmon’s People’s Democratic Party, although it holds only two of the 63 seats in parliament.

Some 40 per cent of the IRP’s approximately 42,000-strong membership is female, a high proportion that reflects changes in Tajik society over the last two decades or so.

As millions of men of working age travel to Russia as labour migrants, women have assumed more responsibilities in both family and public life. Their votes are especially valuable as Tajik men in Russia often neglect to vote, sometimes out of apathy and sometimes because there are no polling stations in the area.

IRP leader Muhiddin Kabiri recently said he believed that women would play a key role in the 2015 election, and his party wanted to offer them more opportunities as candidates and campaigners.

“We need to show that we have greater faith in them and in what they can do, and to bring them out from under the shadow of men,” he said.

This offer appeals to party members like Bibisoro, a 40-year-old from Dushanbe who has been part of the IRP for the last 14 years.

From a devout Muslim background, she has found it difficult to reconcile herself to official restrictions on expressing religious identity in public life.

Although Tajikistan’s population is overwhelmingly Muslim, the post-Soviet, secular government frowns on outward expressions of the faith. Women are unable to wear Islamic dress if they work in government offices and public institutions such as banks, and discouraged from doing so in schools.

At university, Bibisoro recalled, she was pressured to take off her headscarf during lessons.

Bibisoro told IWPR that she was first attracted to the IRP by the prospect of combining her faith with her political aspirations, her civil rights and her desire to serve people.

The party’s decision to support a woman as a joint candidate in last year’s presidential election was particularly inspiring, she said.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova, a leading civil society activist and not a member of any party, was fielded as a consensus candidate by opposition parties including the IRP. She did not make it through the registration process due to a mix-up over signatures in support of her application.

Political analyst Rashid Ghani Abdullo said the party was seeking to overturn perceptions about Muslim women being excluded women from public life.

Bobonazarova agreed, telling IWPR, “The majority of the [IRP’s] female members… who would like to go into politics without abandoning the values of their Muslim faith.”

Analysts say the enthusiastic support that Bobonazarova’s candidacy received among female IRP members cemented the party’s resolve to make women a central force in future elections.

The fact that Bobonazarova was selected had a positive impact, Bibisoro said, adding, “I took part in the campaign to collect signatures for our candidate… and the campaign taught me a great deal.”

Bibisoro has gained further campaigning experience by twice running for office in Dushanbe local elections. She says that her own party’s exit polls suggested she won both times, but she lost in the final count, which she believes was rigged.

The experience gave her an insight into the trials of political life, but she is committed to standing in the February 2015 parliamentary contest if the IRP selects her.

“If the party regards me as worthy of representing it, I am ready to give it a go,” she said.

IRP was the dominant group on the rebel side in the 1992-97 civil war in Tajikistan. In the 1997 peace deal, the opposition disarmed its guerrillas and its leaders were granted a share in government, although they have since been eased out.

Central Asia’s only legal Islamic party, the IRP has come under more and more pressure from the Tajik authorities. Party leader Kabiri has complained that members are increasingly being subjected to harassment. Recent incidents have seen party activists beaten up, their meetings disrupted and regional offices closed by local authorities. (See Tajikistan's Islamic Opposition Under Pressure.)

Kabiri told IWPR about the experience of one woman who, although not a member of the IRP, had worked at the party office in an administrative role. She approached him to ask for a letter confirming that she was not a member so that she could apply for another job without this black mark on her record.

Bibisoro told IWPR that she had not personally experienced harassment, but that “the pressure the party is under is felt by every member”.

Muhtarama Huseynova now heads the IRP’s department for women’s affairs, who joined the party in 2002 because it backed active public roles for Muslim woman.

“For example, during the [2013] presidential election the majority of observers were women,” she said.

Speaking to IWPR, Kabiri reiterated that his party was ready to throw its weight behind female candidates.

“We will even support those who are not members of our party,” he said.

Farangiz Nabieva is an IWPR-trained journalist in Tajikistan.



Girl, 17, Who Ran Away To Fight ISIS Terrorists, Identified As Silhan Ozcelik

26 November 2014

A teenage girl who is believed to have travelled to Syria to join the fight against Islamic State was identified yesterday.

She is Silhan Ozcelik, who went missing a month ago and is thought to be the first UK female to volunteer against the fanatics.

Police have pinned an appeal poster to a notice board at the Kurdish Community Association in Haringey, north London, where she was an active member.

Describing Silhan as a missing person, the poster says the teenager was last seen on the morning of October 27 at St Pancras international rail station.

Officers think she caught a train to Belgium and then travelled to Syria probably via the Turkish border.

It is possible that Silhan, who is a high achiever at school and hoped to become a human rights lawyer, wanted to join the YPJ, an all-female militia protecting Kurds from the IS militants. However, according to her family, she went to Syria simply to carry out humanitarian work.

Her brother Engin told the Mail that their parents – Sultan and Ergun, both 51 – were unhappy about the posters. ‘We are not very happy about that because it has given an image of her that is wrong and upsetting,’ said the 26-year-old.

‘We are 100 per cent sure she has gone away to carry out humanitarian and charity work and not to become a fighter against IS.’ His sister has taken part in protests in London against atrocities by IS forces.

The Kurdish association’s 50-year-old chairman, who did not want to be named, said: ‘She was upset about what has been happening to Kurdish people abroad. The police have called into the association twice in recent weeks looking for more information and they appear very worried about her.’  

British police have arrested a man alleged to have helped the girl to travel to Belgium from where she planned to join Kurdish guerrilla fighters, according to Arman Banirad, of the Kurdish Community Association in Haringey.

He also said that British Kurds are travelling to join the fight against Isis in Syria.

Mr Banirad told MailOnline: ‘She was an activist and very politically in tune with the movement.

‘As many people are, she had a terrible feeling of impotence about not being able to do much here. She was very reserved and never discussed anything with people here.

‘Afterwards when we realised she had gone, I spoke to a lot of individuals and no-one had any idea this was going through her head.

‘I can’t confirm that she has gone to fight or not because after she went everything went quiet.’

He said many in the Kurdish community felt the same: ‘They are fighting for humanity and it is better to join the Kurdish YPJ than to join ISIS. Personally I believe that as long as it’s not Isis, it is obviously better.’

Mr Banirad said he knew of others seeking to join the fight: ‘This is a desperate situation. I have had cousins calling me up and crying down the phone, saying they can’t do nothing and the only thing they know is violence.

‘I always say the power of the pen is more powerful than the Kalshnikov but the whole region is under threat.’

It follows the news that two former British Army soldiers have travelled to Syria to fight against Isis.

James Hughes, 26, and Jamie Read, 24, are helping Kurdish peshmerga defend Kobane from the brutal terror group, whose ranks reportedly include 2,000 British Muslim recruits.

Photographs posted on Facebook show the pair on the Syrian frontline dressed in combat fatigues and armed with assault rifles, posing in bullet-scarred buildings.

On the website of the security firm they founded, Mr Hughes and Mr Read said they were motivated by 'conscience', not money, to travel to the warzone 'to assist innocent people in the face of terror from IS'.

Insisting they were volunteer fighters, not guns for hire, the ex-servicemen said they would 'not do nothing while innocent men, women and children are tortured and murdered by Islamic State while the international community stands by and observes from the luxury of their boardrooms or their tanks on the hill'.

They add: 'This is not a religious war nor is it a racial war, this is a war of good against evil – a magnificent simplicity.'

But Mr Read's mother said yesterday she was not happy that her son had travelled to Syrian Kurdistan – known as Rojava – to fight the Islamist extremists.

Speaking from her family home in Carlisle, Wendy Armiger, 43, said: 'He's been in touch to say he's okay, but I don't like the fact that he's gone there. It's his life, but he's my son.' Mr Hughes, from Malvern, Worcestershire, said he had served in the infantry for five years, including three tours of Afghanistan, before leaving earlier this year.

Mr Read, who lives in Newmains, North Lanarkshire, said in an online CV that he had been in the Army for three years, specialising in reconnaissance, before leaving in 2010 to work for private security companies.

In August, the friends set up the Pathfinder Group Terrorism & Conflict Research Center, a security company with the intention of providing 'specialist intelligence and surveillance services', and building up detailed information about terror groups. The firm's motto is: 'We will go where the rest fear to go'.

On Facebook, Mr Read describes how he had been involved in a fierce clash with IS jihadists.

He wrote that the 's*** hit the fan', prompting Jordan Matson, 28, a US veteran wounded fighting with the Kurds who is understood to have recruited the Britons, to reply: 'It's always interesting the first time you have a bullet fly past your head.'

Graham Penrose, a security consultant who is liaising between the ex-soldiers and their families, said: 'They are not being paid. They are not participating for any commercial gain.'



Police recover 26 minor girls from Karachi home

26 November 2014

KARACHI: Police on Wednesday recovered 26 minor girl students of a Karachi seminary who had been handed over to a family by a teacher and a supervisor of the madrassah over non-payment of a debt.

Acting on a complaint filed by residents in the area where the girls were kept, police raided a house in Liaquatabad C-1 area and found the young girls inside.

According to ASI Tanveer, the girls who hail from Bajaur tribal region could not speak or understand Urdu. The seminary handed the girls over to the family when the family was unable to pay off a loan it had taken from the madrassah. As repayment of the loan, the seminary had asked the family to take charge of the young girls' welfare.

A woman from the family added that a female teacher from the seminary along with a supervisor came to their house and handed over the girls for safekeeping on the pretext that it would add pressure to repay the loan.

Police officials said that the seminary owner in her statement had said that she regularly brought in children from Bajaur to educate them in her madrassah in Karachi's Jamshed Quarters area.

She further said that after receiving education the girls returned to Bajaur where they imparted training to others. The owner added that she also arranged marriages of poor girls in the tribal region.

Police sources tried to downplay the incident and said that the affair appeared to be a petty dispute over a financial transaction since the seminary owners' son was on good terms with the husband of the debtor.



Veena Malik, husband sentenced to 26 years in jail for blasphemy

26 November 2014

ISLAMABAD: The owner of Pakistan's biggest media group, Geo TV along with actor Veena Malik and her husband was sentenced to 26 years in prison by an anti-terrorism court for allegedly airing a blasphemous programme.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of Geo and Jang group, was accused of allowing the airing of a blasphemous programme by Geo television in May, which played a religious song while staging a mock marriage of Malik with Bashir.

Judge Shahbaz Khan also sentenced both Malik and Bashir along with TV host Shaista Wahidi for 26 years each.

The ATC also imposed a 1.3 million Pakistani rupees fine on the convicts and ordered that their properties should be sold to raise the fine, if they failed to pay it.

The judge said in his judgment that all four accused committed profanity.

The court in its 40-page verdict also asked the police to arrest the convicts, an official said.

He said that the convict can appeal in the regional high court in Gilgit-Baltistan.

There are reports that all four are out of Pakistan. Rahman resides in the UAE and the other three also went abroad after recieving threats by militant organisations.

It is not known when the arrests would be carried out. Both Wahidi and the Geo group have tendered apology after the allegations were levelled but the extremists in the country refused to accept it.

Other blasphemy cases were also registered against them in various cities, including Karachi and Islamabad.



Nigeria: Reporting Women's Issues Tops Training Agenda

26 November 2014

TO give more prominence to issues on girls and women and to report them in the Nigerian media, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) recently concluded a two-day training for 33 investigative journalists in Abuja under Report Women Project.

The organizers explained that Report Women Project was borne out of the realization that media houses only concentrated more on soft angles like fashion and entertainment in the reportage of women. The centre felt critical and serious societal issues concerning women should be centres of focuse, as women constitute the most vulnerable group in the society.

Resource persons took turns to take practitioners through the rudiment of investigation. Chief facilitator, equity advocate and gender advisor, Ene Ede, discussed the fundamentals to know about women and general gender questions. She explained that there was persistent ignorance about what the society needed in the context of equality of human persons.

Citing example of politics, Ede said society has been so much dominated by men to the extent that whenever a woman comes out to make her intention known in areas society had adjudicated for men such as politics, the question in the mouth of many was always been, 'what do women want?'

"The question should not be 'What do women want, rather, we should seek to find out what the needs of society are and how women can be made to optimize their potentials. When a woman comes out to vie for an elective position, irrelevant questions on her personal life are always the first thing society concentrated on. They want to know if she is married and has children; these are not issues that should be addressed first. What should be paramount is her capability to deliver on the mandate she seeks".

She noted that those questions were, however, not put when men intend to contest for elective posts. She said the role of the media as enshrined in the constitution empowered it to hold stakeholders accountable to women and girls for the gaps and the code of ethics of journalist practice is additional tool for being responsible to women and girls.

Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Dayo Olorunyomi, averred that the challenge of watchdog on governance falls in the terrain of investigative reporting, adding that in order for an investigative journalist to unearth what someone in government is trying desperately to cover up, tools like the FoI Act and sources are critical ingredients.

He, however, lamented that government has not been sincere about its willingness to make information available to journalists as past experiences showed that those who applied to invoke FoI Act were not granted. He advised participants to be properly armed with all legal instruments and protocols as they relate to women in order to report them properly. With the risk associated with the journalism profession, Olorunyomi advised practitioners to always be at alert and conscious of their environments.

In her presentation, Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa argued that there was hardly a situation where level playing field was presented to both men and women, noting that women were yet to access critical opportunities, platforms and networks.

Citing culture, tradition and religion as some constraints, Kusa advised that equity through the instrument of the law should be utilized more rather than equality, which she said was only an argument on paper, as equality itself was often handicapped by societal norms and the biological make up of women. She said the language used to describe women also relegated them to the background even right from birth.

She said other salient issues such as patriarchy and nature of society should be addressed, adding that women have a very important role in the creation-process. She charged participants to always analyse properly the women angle on any issues. Kusa added that lot of women and girls' empowerment and gender equality provisions exist at international, United Nations, Commonwealth, African Union, ECOWAS, national, state and local government levels, but that the gulf in implementation and enforcement make all the provisions and commitments a mockery of women and girls' rights.

In his comparison of investigative and conventional journalism, Managing Editor, Premium Times, Musikilu Mojeed said practitioners should be aware that there was no deadline to filing an investigative report, noting that research, relationship with sources and putting the outcome together took a longer period than a onetime conventional report, which does not need deep digging.

Mojeed enjoined reporters to "Go to the field, build contacts and ask questions. Be patient, open-minded and persevering as you investigate. Investigation could be lonely and risky. Reporter must keep low key and blend with environment where he is operating".

He also led participants into how to generate story ideas.

In her discussion on mainstreaming girls and women issues into news reporting, Reinvent Media, Kadaria Ahmed, explained that gender issues are human rights issues, and noted that gender culture should be cultivated where more women are seen in the newsroom as well as training them in every beats apart from traditional women's areas.

Ahmed also said the culture of stereotype should be discouraged in reporting women, and explained that situations where the identity of women is lost to their husband's positions or other family issues in reports are not acceptable.

She said, "The use of stereotypes reflects a mental block not only in terms of what society may expect from women, but also more seriously in terms of what women may expect from themselves. The structures of many societies have been based on assumptions of sex-biased roles, which are entrenched in the use of language. When gender-biased language is used in a story, for instance, craftsman, businessman, chairman fireman, it becomes a problem. True gender equality should liberate both men and women from the limitations of such narrow thinking".

Ahmed said journalists reporting on women in the North should put pertinent statistics in mind and be open-minded, not be given to assumption and respect the culture and dress codes of the people.



Several Saudi restaurants slammed over ‘no single women’ signs

26 November 2014

The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has asked a number of restaurants to take down signs banning the entry of women who are unaccompanied by their male guardians, Al-Hayat daily reported.

In a statement, the NSHR described these signs as illegal and said they should be removed immediately because they were put up at the request of their owners, not the authorities.

The manager of a restaurant that had such a sign told the newspaper: “We put up these signs because we have seen numerous incidents of flirting taking place inside the restaurant.

“We’ll only remove these signs when we make sure such incidents never happen again on our premises because such type of behavior negatively impacts our business.”

Many Saudis have lashed back at the restaurants on the social media websites, describing the signs as degrading to women and a flagrant example of discrimination.

One of them tweeted that these signs used to exist but they had disappeared a long time ago.

Seeing them again is a step backward and an attempt to turn people away from restaurants, said the tweeter.

NSHR spokesman Khalid Al-Fakhri said restaurants do not have the right to require single women to bring male guardians along with them when they want to eat out.

“These signs are against the law and reflect the personal opinions of the restaurant owners,” Fakhri said. Restaurants should come up with alternative solutions if its customers are behaving inappropriately, he said.

Lama Sulaiman, citizen, said restaurants and cafes are the two main recreational places for women in the country.

“If they’re going to ban us from entering restaurants, where are we supposed to go?” she said. In her opinion, customers should boycott any restaurant that display such signs.



Pak Young nurses protest against harassment

26 November 2014

LAHORE: The Young Nurses Association (YNA) announced to protest across Punjab against the alleged misbehaviour of a doctor with a nurse at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore.

According to details, nurses at Jinnah Hospital Lahore raised slogans against the hospital administration and demanded to suspend the doctor for harassing their colleague.

After the announcement of the YNA, nurses stopped working in various departments of government hospitals across Punjab. However, they decided to continue providing services to patients in the emergency departments, intensive care units (ICU) and coronary care units (CCU).

The association claimed that the Jinnah Hospital administration was not taking any action against the doctor involved in misbehaving with the nurse. The members said that the protest would continue until his termination.

Further, the YNA members also warned the hospital administration that they would defer their services for emergence department as well if the authorities failed to fulfil their demands. Earlier on Friday, nurses also took out a protest demonstration at Jinnah Hospital. It may be mentioned here that in January this year, a doctor of Jinnah Hospital slapped a senior nurse, triggering a chain of protests.



NGO: Tackle Bangladesh Women Trafficking’

26 November 2014

Speakers recommended creating a localised comprehensive database for specific border areas in order to stop women trafficking at a seminar in a city hotel yesterday.

Organised by Khan Foundation, an NGO, at Hotel Westin in the capital, the seminar was titled “Fighting trafficking and violence against women and children: Overcoming road bumps in Khan Foundation’s journey.”

At the event, speakers suggested creating an extensive local database comprising information on all kinds of migration statistics, including internal and external migration, arranged in panel data style to carry out the follow-up of cases regarding women and children trafficking.

Moreover, the government needs to add specific clauses to the constitution, implement the existing laws and raise awareness to put an end to human trafficking of Bangladeshi citizens, they said.

Addressing the event as chief guest, Ambassador of Netherlands to Bangladesh Gerben Sjoerd de Jong said: “Netherlands always emphasises on human rights issue in its foreign policy. For this, in Bangladesh we emphasised on LGBT rights, labour unrest and improvement of labour conditions, and women’s rights, most importantly.

“While working on Tazreen Garments issue, we have seen that we need to provide attention to some specific issues as well as in general. However, we need to be attentive in the same way regarding women and children trafficking, both in general and specifically,” he said.

The Dutch ambassador also suggested creating a national action to combat trafficking and violence against women and children.

Presided over by Rokhsana Khondker, executive director of Khan Foundation, the seminar was also attended by Leo Kenny, country director of UNAIDS Bangladesh, Dr Ehsanur Rahman, executive director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission, and Abdul Moyeen Khan, a BNP standing committee member, as well as university teachers, lawyers, NGO activists, government representatives, and members of the foundation’s citizen watch groups in 17 districts.



Mali Sexual Abuse Survivors Seek Justice

26 November 2014

BAMAKO— Human rights organizations have filed a complaint on behalf of 80 survivors of rape and sexual violence during the occupation of northern Mali.

More than 2,000 women and girls were subject to rape or forced marriages in 2012-2013 when Islamist extremists and separatist rebels took control of Gao and Timbuktu. This is the first independent attempt to bring justice for the victims.

When Gao and Timbuktu first came under occupation in January 2012, hundreds of women and young girls were raped, often by several offenders. In the summer of that year, when Islamist militants took power in the occupied towns, they imposed a system of forced marriage.

Attacks on women

While the rebels would attack women on their way to the field, going to fetch water or even in their homes, the Islamists had a different approach, says lawyer and human rights defender Moctar Mariko.

“The MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) forced women to marry them,” which, Mariko says, “resulted in another system of rape when only one man married the woman, who was then forced to sleep with several other men.”

Human rights groups and local NGOs have identified at least 2,700 survivors of rape and sexual violence between March 2012 and early 2013 in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.

In Gao the main offenders were the rebels of The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, MNLA, and later MUJAO.

In Timbuktu Ansar Dine, another Islamist group, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, committed a majority of the violations against women.

Little redress

To date, very little has been done to help the women.

There are still no proper courts or a functioning legal system in the north and investigations are slow, Mariko says. He points out that “cases referred to the police were never investigated.”

Together with Malian human rights association, AMDH, and French human rights group FIDH, Mariko represents 80 women who are survivors of the sexual violence.

The oldest victim was over 60 years old, the youngest only 7.

While many women fled during that time, some stayed behind. But for those who have returned, many are forced to face their aggressors on a daily basis as some of the perpetrators have been released in prison exchanges between the armed groups and the Malian government.

“Sometimes the offender is a neighbor or even a family member who joined the rebels. This poses a direct threat to the women,” says Mariam Seck with NGO Sini Sanuman.

The organization has helped women with medical assistance, counseling, safe places to stay and help to start their legal complaints.

But even if women are ready to take their case to court, they face another obstacle. The majority of the offenders remain in the north while the victims fled to the south.

So, early this year a group of lawyers traveled north to Gao, Timbuktu and Konna where they worked with women’s groups to identify victims. The women were later brought to Bamako where the lawyers collected their testimonies.

'Long-term consequences'

While many women do know their offenders, some could only identify them by the language they spoke or what they were wearing, Mariko says.

“These are truly horrific crimes with long-term consequences for many. They were not only physically violated but suffered social stigma,” he says. “In some cases, their husbands left when they learned the rebels had raped their wife. Others became pregnant as a result of the assault,” Mariko says.

Some women tell their daughters to keep quiet about what the armed men did to them, not even telling their husbands, afraid their daughters will not be married.

Lawyers are expensive for the ordinary Malian and court cases drag on. Another problem is that many victims can’t read or write and aren’t aware of their rights.

Human rights defenders - by going to the victims - now hope more women will dare to file complaints as the first cases move to court.



CAFOD warns of 'critical time for women in Afghanistan'

26 November 2014

As politicians from around the world arrive in London to discuss Afghanistan’s future, CAFOD warns that more support must be given to local grassroots organisations that empower women.

On Thursday 4 December, around 70 foreign ministers from around the world will gather for the London Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by the British and Afghan governments.

The conference comes at a significant moment in Afghanistan’s history: for the first time, power has been transferred from one elected president to another based on a democratic process. However, with NATO troops pulling out of the country, many Afghans fear that there could be a reversal of the remarkable progress that has been made on women’s rights.

Yoko Yamashita, CAFOD’s Programme Officer for Afghanistan, says: “Now the final British combat troops have departed, Afghanistan is likely to drop out of the spotlight. It would be all too easy for the international community to move on and concentrate on other parts of the world. But for the sake of millions of Afghan women, we need to show our continued support. This is a critical point for women in Afghanistan. Over the last 12 years, the country has enshrined women’s rights in law, and there are now substantial numbers of female politicians, judges and military personnel, while record numbers of girls are going to school.

“But these changes are fragile, and the situation for many ordinary women remains dire. At the London conference next week, the world must make long-term commitments not only to the Afghan government, but also the grassroots organisations that empower women in rural communities.” CAFOD works with organisations like the Afghan Women’s Educational Centre (AWEC), which changes attitudes in local communities by training both women and men to mediate gender-related disputes peacefully and by helping women earn an income.

Zulaikha Rafiq, Executive Director of AWEC, says: “These days it is a normal sight to see streams of girls going to school. Men in government are also more supportive towards women’s rights. They know that half the population are women and they need their support to be successful under the democratic system.

“But there are still numerous cases where women in domestic settings are being tortured and killed. And some men still see women’s rights as the 'westernisation' of Afghan culture. Hard-line groups continue to target gender projects that they perceive as being un-Islamic.

“Gender inequality cannot be addressed by top-down efforts from the government alone. It also needs bottom-up efforts by people on the ground where ordinary women take action. It will take time and effort to make changes, but I hope the international community and the Afghan government will show a clear commitment to gender equality.”

Since CAFOD started working in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, the agency has prioritised women’s rights. Today CAFOD’s local partners are helping women in poor communities to earn a living, teaching women about their rights, and working with men’s groups to reduce domestic violence. With the support of the Catholic community in England and Wales, CAFOD will continue to put these women first over the months and years ahead.



Can States Start Incentive Scheme To Protect Girl Child, Asks SC of India

TNN | Nov 26, 2014

NEW DELHI: Agonized by the abysmal sex-ratio prevalent among children between the age of 0-6 years in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, the court on Tuesday said it poses a question mark over humanity and requested states to examine if there could be incentives for protection of girl child.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit said: "At this juncture, without expressing any opinion, we would require the states to give suggestions by a separate affidavit, if some incentives can be given to the family which show respect and honour the girl child and give birth to girl child so that the sex ratio is improved."

The abysmal sex ratio in several districts of Haryana, which hovered around 800-odd girls to every 1000 boys with the alarming figure of 770 in Mohindergarh, shocked the court. A similar dismal picture was painted by statistics provided by the UP government.

The bench ordered audit of the entire records relating to sex-ratio in the states of Haryana, UP and Delhi by a central health ministry team assisted by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and senior lawyer Sanjay Parikh, who represented two petitioners fighting for the last eight years for a direction from the apex court to strictly implement the ban on sex determination tests.

On their request, the bench ordered these three states to "bring on record data relating to prosecution launched against offenders under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994" and also inform the stage of prosecution.