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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 15 Jun 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Women Want Change in Mahram Rule

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Jun 2014

Afghan policewomen aim their guns during shooting exercises at the National Police Academy shooting range REUTERS, Omar Sobhan


 Woman Heads Police Post In Largest Pakistan City

 Afghanistan Must Recruit More Women Police - Oxfam

 Afghan Singer Ariana Asks Next President for Women's Rights

 Uganda’s Sex Slaves "Betrayed by Amnesty" – Rights Group

 'Censorship' Of Women’s Legs by Istanbul Municipality Raises Eyebrows

 Saudis Strongly Favor Female Cabinet Ministers

 UK Launches Plan to Boost Women's Roles in Ending Wars and Building Peace

 Child Hawkers in Madinah Are ‘Being Exploited’

 Beyoncé Donates $125K to Help Get Baby Warmers to Women in Africa

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Saudi Women Want Change in Mahram Rule

 15 June 2014

A group of Saudi women have complained about the obstacles they face whenever they need to renew their passports. They have urged the relevant authorities to consider allowing women to renew their civil status documents without the need for a male family member’s approval or his physical appearance at the respective government entity.

They criticized the poor performance of public institutions, including the Passport Department and the Civil Status Department. They said although some government entities have started employing women, their skills and qualifications leave much to be desired as they need more training and understanding of women’s issues and needs.

“Such departments do not take into consideration that some women might not have living parents to accompany them. We understand that in case of traveling abroad, women have to get the approval of their mail guardians but there has to be some flexibility when it comes to other women-related issues,” Umm Faisal told a local newspaper, noting that there are some conflicting issues in the requirements between the Civil Status and Passport Department.

For example, she said, the Civil Status Department preconditions that a woman should display her passport before seeking any service from the department or at least bring along two Saudi women with their national IDs or a male guardian in order to verify her identity.

On the other hand, she said, the Passport Department does not allow a woman to issue or renew a passport unless she brings her male guardian despite the increasing number of women's sections at Passport Department offices across the Kingdom.

“The women's sections handle only specific services, such as verifying and renewing residencies and visa issuance. That means those sections are only there to serve expatriates rather than Saudis,” said Umm Faisal.

Hadeel Al-Yusuf agreed, adding that woman’s sections in many Passport Department offices do not issue or renew passports.

“A national ID and a passport are two important documents for everyone. While it is easy to obtain or renew a national ID at the Civil Status Department, it is almost impossible to obtain a passport without a male guardian at the Passport Department,” she said.

Stressing that women-related regulations and laws should be reconsidered, Al-Yusuf, however, said it is understandable that women are not be allowed to travel without the approval of their male guardians.

Al-Kharj Passport Department Director Brig. Gen. Suleiman Al-Suhaibani said the issuance of passports is governed by certain rules and instructions which differ from those related to the issuance of national IDs.

“An employee at the women’s Passport Department cannot take a decision concerning the issuance or renewal of a passport, because the whole process is linked with the presence of the parent,” he said. “Passports are used for a different purpose than IDs, which cannot be used for traveling abroad.”



Woman heads police post in largest Pakistan city

June 15, 2014

Just days into her job running a police station in Pakistan’s largest city, Syeda Ghazala had to put her training to the test: she opened fire with her .22-caliber pistol at a man who shot at police when they tried to pull him over during a routine traffic stop.

It’s not clear whether it was Ghazala’s shots that wounded the man before he was arrested, but as the first woman to run a police station in Pakistan’s often violent port city of Karachi, she’ll likely have many more chances to hit her mark.

When Ghazala joined the police force two decades ago, she never dreamed that one day she would head a police station staffed by roughly 100 police officers — all men.

Her recent promotion is part of efforts by the local police to increase the number of women in the force and in positions of authority. Shortly after she assumed her new job the city appointed a second woman to head another police station.

In a country where women have traditionally not worked outside the home and face widespread discrimination, the appointments represent a significant step for women’s empowerment.

“The mindset of people is changing gradually, and now they (have) started to consider women in leading roles. My husband  opposed my decision to join the police force 20 years ago,” said the 44-year-old mother of four.

But by the time this job rolled around, he had come full circle and encouraged her to go for it. “It was a big challenge. I was a little bit hesitant to accept it.”

The station house is in Clifton, a posh area home to the elite of this sprawling metropolis of more than 18 million people.

But in a city prone to family feuds, political unrest and jihadist violence — where 166 officers were killed in the line of duty last year — it’s by no means an easy assignment. Crimes ranging from petty theft and muggings to terrorism or murder are all part of a day’s work, Ghazala says.

Running a station is a high-profile job in the Pakistani police, one that requires the officer to constantly interact with the public and fellow officers. It’s also a key path to advancement.

Senior police officer Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, said he and others in the top brass hope Ghazala’s appointment leads to more women joining the force.

“Our society accepts only stereotype roles for women. There is a perception that women are suitable only for particular professions like teaching,” he said.

The police force is also training the first batch of female commandos, a group of 44 women going through a physically intensive course involving rappelling from towers or helicopters and shooting an assortment of weapons.

Currently, the two in Karachi are the only women running police stations in Pakistan. In the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where women make up less than one percent of the roughly 75,000-member police force, women only run stations specifically designed to help female crime victims.

In the southeastern Baluchistan province, there are only 90 women on the police force and no women station heads. In Punjab province, only one woman has ever run a station house, back in 2005, but currently no women hold the position.

Ghazala said most people she has encountered in her new job have been supportive, and she’s become a bit of a celebrity in the neighborhood. She said during her career she’s only had a few instances where she’s felt discrimination.

When she got the highest marks in a training course required for promotion, some of the men objected, saying that in Islam women couldn’t lead men.

But she said the commander simply told the men they should have gotten better grades.

“It was the only moment somebody objected to me as a woman,” she said. “Otherwise, all my career, fellow and senior officers encouraged me a lot.”



Afghanistan must recruit more women police - Oxfam

15 June 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Afghanistan’s police force must recruit more women and tackle the stigma linked to female policing in order to improve access to justice for victims of sexual and domestic abuse, aid group Oxfam said.

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries to be a woman or girl in, but the absence of female police officers means women rarely report abuse, said Shaheen Chughtai, Oxfam’s deputy head of policy and campaigns.

Despite recruitment drives, women make up just 1 percent of Afghanistan’s 160,000 strong police force. Those who have joined are often demeaned, discriminated against and even sexually abused by male colleagues, Chughtai said.

“Very few people in Afghanistan have ever seen, let alone met, a policewoman,” he told a session at a global summit in London on tackling sexual violence in conflict.

“This lack of policewomen, and effective policewomen, is one of the main reasons why violence and threats against women and girls in Afghanistan are under-reported. It’s why prosecutions are so rare and it’s why the culture of impunity continues.”

Research indicates that more than eight in 10 women in Afghanistan have been sexually, physically or psychologically abused, but only a few thousand cases are reported each year.

Chughtai said that for cultural and social reasons it is very difficult for an Afghan woman to approach a male officer, and when they do their complaints are rarely handled properly. In some cases the police assault or even rape women who come for help.

Sue Frank, a British police officer who spent a year helping train police in Afghanistan, said one policewoman in a major city had told her that if a woman came into the police station she would be asked for sexual favours.

“The policewomen themselves were (also) asked to provide sexual favours to the police staff … These are senior officers in various police stations who are committing serious sexual offences against members of the public and also the female police officers,” she said.


Creating a female police force was considered an important victory for Western efforts to promote equality after a U.S.-led military coalition toppled the Taliban in 2001.

Chughtai said there had been progress, such as the appointment of a female police chief in a Kabul district this year. But he said there was a major problem in recruiting women because families do not want their daughters to work with unrelated men. Being a policewoman is not considered a suitable job for a woman.

He said policewomen he had spoken to complained they were not given training or basic equipment like handcuffs and were ordered to do menial tasks like making cups of tea. The lack of separate changing facilities, toilets and locks on bathrooms also made them vulnerable.

But Chughtai said hiring policewomen was not only crucial for protecting Afghan women, but good for the whole country.

Some studies in Afghanistan show that policewomen are trusted more than their male colleagues because they are seen as less intimidating and less corrupt.

“By having more female police you can actually strengthen the respect (a) community could have for the institution of the police, so there is a strategic benefit for the institution of the police and indeed for the Afghan state,” he said.

Frank also highlighted the difficulties in tackling domestic violence in Afghanistan, citing the case of one police officer she had trained who had asked why a man could not hit his wife if his dinner was late.

She said there was still stigma around the provision of support and safehouses for abused women.

“During the time I was there I heard refuges and safehouses being referred to as whorehouses and brothels,” she added.



Afghan singer Ariana asks next president for women's rights

15 June 2014

The run-off round of the Afghan presidential election takes place on 14 June with two candidates - former Foreign Minister Abdollah Abdollah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani - competing for office.

But what are the hopes and expectations for the next president?

BBC Persian's Tahir Qadiry talked to one of the country's most famous pop stars, Ariana Saeed.

Now living in London, she regularly travels home and is a judge on the Afghan version of the music talent show The Voice.

She was asked what she wanted from the country's new leader.



Uganda’s sex slaves "betrayed by amnesty" – rights group

15 June 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An amnesty given to rebels who took part in a brutal guerrilla war in northern Uganda is a betrayal of their victims and has derailed attempts to bring other fighters to justice, a rights campaigner said.

“The issue of amnesty in Uganda is stifling the ability of the domestic war crimes court to prosecute,” Brigid Inger, executive director of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, told a global summit in London on tackling sexual violence in conflict.

Thousands of former fighters have been pardoned under Uganda’s Amnesty Act, which was designed to bring an end to the war which raged for two decades. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by warlord Joseph Kony, committed widespread atrocities against civilians including horrendous sexual violence. Thousands of children were abducted and used as soldiers and sex slaves.

Inger said it was very hard for survivors because those responsible for serious crimes were not required to provide any confession, or information about crimes they had witnessed or were involved in. They were also not required to provide an apology to victims prior to receiving a full and unconditional pardon.

“This is making the job of the prosecutor at the (domestic) war crimes court impossible and has already stifled at least one case and others are also being held up because of the issue at the amnesty act,” she added.

The example of Uganda shows the problems caused when unconditional pardons are introduced during peace efforts, Inger said.

She told an earlier summit session that while the amnesty was appropriate for fighters who had been abducted and forced to join the LRA, “there’s a sense of disappointment and bitterness” in northern Uganda because of the way the amnesty has stymied justice.

“In many respects it’s a betrayal of victims … and from our perspective it’s bad law,” she said.



'Censorship' of women’s legs by Istanbul municipality raises eyebrows

15 June 2014

"Censorship" of billboard advertisements featuring women’s bare legs in the streets of Istanbul has raised eyebrows, seven years after a ban on bikinis stirred anger against the municipality.

Clear differences were spotted between the original ads and the images shown on Istanbul billboards, with the ads of several swimsuit, sock and underwear brands apparently clipped to hide the legs of female models.

An official from one company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had cut women’s legs from the photos in order to receive approval from the Urban Design Directorate of the Istanbul Municipality.

“The Urban Design Directorate didn’t approve our ads, so after going there and coming back several times, ads with numerous cuts left the women legless,” the official told daily Hürriyet.

The Istanbul Municipality’s refusal to hang advertisements of swimsuit companies depicting women in bikinis and swimsuits had sparked a great public reaction back in 2007.



Saudis strongly favor female Cabinet ministers

 15 June 2014

Calls are mounting for the appointment of women to the Cabinet to further strengthen government’s efforts led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for women empowerment.

Fifty-four percent of people who participated in a survey conducted by Khadija bint Khuwailed Center at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry backed appointment of women as ministers to expand their role in nation-building endeavors.

Speaking with Arab News over the issue, Maha Akeel, director of information department at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed optimism.

“We have seen so many initiatives by King Abdullah in recent years for empowerment of women, including their appointment to the Shoura Council and creating more job opportunities for women in different sectors,” she said.

“The survey result is a positive indication as more than half of the participants support appointment of women as ministers and I am sure it will happen eventually and will not take very long,” Akeel said.

Asked whether women ministers would make life of Saudi women better, she said: “Women ministers will serve the whole society as the appointment will be made on the basis of merit and not gender.”

She emphasized the need for providing equal opportunities for both men and women.

Basma Omair, executive director of Khadija center, said the survey result reflected a major change in the attitude of people toward women.

As many as 3,000 men and women took part in the survey and 51 percent of them backed appointment of women as mutawifat to organize Haj affairs while 81 percent supported women working from home.



UK launches plan to boost women's roles in ending wars and building peace

15 June 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain has launched a plan on women, peace and security aimed at ensuring that women in countries affected by conflict can play a central role in ending wars and building peace.

The national action plan, launched on Thursday at a global conference in London on tackling sexual violence in conflict, focuses on six countries including Syria and aims to do the following:

Encourage the employment of women within foreign government roles, security services, the armed forces and related ministries.

Build women and girls’ leadership, networks, ability to organise and political know-how in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Undertake “safe space” programmes to protect adolescent girls from violence in conflict and post-conflict settings, including projects in refugee settings.

“Women’s participation in peace processes helps ensure that sexual violence and other issues that disproportionately affect women and girls are given the attention they deserve,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

“And in return, by tackling sexual violence in conflict, we are removing a crushing weight from women’s lives across the world, accelerating a change of attitude towards women in many other settings and taking an important step towards what I keep saying is the great strategic prize of the 21st Century, which is the full attainment of political, social and economic rights for women.”

Hague said that since the end of the Cold War, women have made up just 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements, less than 3 percent of mediators, and less than 10 percent of those sitting around the negotiating table.

“No solution to a conflict can be sustainable or lasting if it ignores the needs, experience and interests of half a country’s population,” he added.

He said Britain was determined to have full participation for women in the Syrian peace process when it restarts in order to start to mend “the damage that Assad’s brutal war has done to women’s rights.”

Other countries in the plan are Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya and Somalia.

The plan was launched by the foreign ministry, ministry for international development and defence ministry.



Child hawkers in Madinah are ‘being exploited’

15 June 2014

MADINAH — A number of Asian and Arab children who roam the streets selling rosaries and handicrafts to Umrah pilgrims and visitors of the Prophet’s Mosque are being exploited, according to local residents.

They roam religious and historical sites such as Uhud Mountain, mosques, public parks and around traffic lights.

Cheaply priced, their products are in demand by visitors who give them as gifts to friends and families back home.

These children also sell tissues, water bottles and other small items.

Citizen Abdullah Al-Harbi said when he leaves work in the afternoon, he finds these children next to the traffic light near his office.

He said: “I sympathize with them as they bear the high temperatures and I sometimes buy stuff from them.

“Other times I just give them money without buying anything.”

The head of the National Society for Human Rights in Madinah, Sharaf Al-Qarafi, said these children are being exploited by their families and are at risk of suffering long-term damage to their physical and mental health.

She said: “These children are being forced to earn money and this is a violation of children’s rights.

“Such children should be provided with the appropriate protection from such blatant exploitation.” Al-Qarafi said children should not be allowed to do any work that may affect their health or deprive them of an education.

Meanwhile, the ministries of labor, interior and social affairs will intensify their efforts and campaigns to curb child labor.

More inspection visits will be paid to businesses and stores to ensure they are not employing any children.



Beyoncé Donates $125K To Help Get Baby Warmers To Women In Africa

15 June 2014

Beyoncé announced a $125,000 donation to Embrace Innovations, Jane Chen’s organization that designed and distributes her infant warmer, a low-cost alternative to the incubator that looks like a tiny sleeping bag.

 Beyoncé’s donation will fund pilot testing of the device in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda, and could help 1,900 underweight babies who, without it, might not live.

This donation—which Beyoncé announced at an anniversary party for Gucci’s Chime for Change—was the domino effect of Chen stepping on to the TEDWomen 2013 stage.

Chen has spoke about how “she and her team imagined that the device would be something that local clinics and hospitals would give to new moms whose babies needed warmth to grow. But after observing the use of Embrace in the field in India, Chen’s team realized that they couldn’t count on overworked health workers to teach new moms how to use the baby warmer. They needed to make Embrace easy enough for a parent to figure out how to use it on their own. As Chen put it, ‘a mother will do anything to save her child,’” notes the article.