New Age Islam News Bureau
5 Feb 2014
Parents in France pulled their children out of class after receiving anonymous texts warning them that their children may have sex education lessons in which they are taught to choose their own sexual identity. (File photo: Reuters)
• Kenyan Governor Apologies for Suggesting, Unmarried Women Are Not Effective Leaders
• France Arrests Two Chechen Women in 'Terrorism' Probe
• Mauritanian Capital Elects First Woman Mayor
• Concerns over under-representation of women in media
• Mystery of Yemeni girl seen ‘crying stones’ instead of tears
• In Bangladesh, 87 Per Cent of Women Victims of Domestic Violence
• Some Yemeni Women Exploiting Housemaid Shortage Crisis
• Saudi Woman’s Donated Organs Save Four Lives
• Malaysians Call to Raise Marriage Age
• Proposed Afghan Law Protects Women's Abusers: Rights Group
• TechWomen Delegation to Expand Network of African Women in Science and Technology
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Sex Education Causes Uproar among French Muslims
Feb 5, 2014
Parents in France pulled their children out of class this week after receiving anonymous texts warning them that their children may have sex education lessons in which they are taught to choose their own sexual identity.
One of the texts, which demanded a “Day of Withdrawal” from schools, received intense reactions from conservative Muslim and Catholic parents, according to Agence France-Presse.
The boycott campaign has reportedly been most effective in targeting Muslim families, evident as a higher numbers of students have been absent from classes in areas with concentrated immigrant populations, Ahmet Ogras, the vice-president of the French Muslim Council, told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
One of the mass text messages, sent out to parents, read: “They will teach our children that they are not born a boy or girl but can choose their gender later in life. Not to mention that sex education, including demonstrations, will be introduced in kindergartens,” while other messages suggested children would be encouraged to masturbate or be allowed to watch pornographic films.
Algerian born former activist Farida Belghoul, a fierce opponent of the new sex education program called “The ABCD of Equality,” was the first to vocalize her objection to the proposed curriculum change.
On her personal Facebook page, Belghoul wrote: “Fight, otherwise you will see teachers dressed like this in your children’s classes,” while posting a picture of male models dressed in short and sleeveless dresses and wearing knee-high feminine boots.
o far, she has received a measure of success in her call to boycott the new program and AFP reported affected attendances at an estimated 100 of France’s 48,000 schools.
The ABCD of Equality says it aims to eradicate sexual stereotyping at an early age and “correct” disparities between boys and girls when it comes to the choices made later in life. Choosing which subjects to study at high school or university is given as an example, on their official website.
In history lessons, The ABCD of Equality suggests teachers point out that former King of France Louis XIV wore high heels and ribbons.
The program is being tested in more than 200 schools and is due to be implemented across the country in September 2014.
Imams in French mosques have also been promoting the calls for boycotts, a spokesperson for the North African feminist group “Ni putes ni soumises,” or “neither whores nor submissive,” told the French radio station, France-Inter.
Other Ultra-conservative Catholic groups, like the French Spring and Civitas, which helped organize large anti-gay marriage protests in France last year, also expressed their concern regarding the new educational program.
If implemented, the academic program will go “viral and create a scandal,” in French schools in the Arab world, Jessica el-Masry, a professor at the French Lycee in Cairo told Al Arabiya News, adding her view that sexual topics in the region are taboo in the education system.
Masry also pointed out that French schools in the Middle East are considered under French jurisdiction and therefore do not have to follow the religious beliefs of the country, hinting at further discordance in the future.
French educators are speaking out against the backlash, however, claiming the aim of the curriculum has been twisted.
“The ABCD of Equality is not a matter of sexuality and definitely not about manipulating children. It is only aimed at reaching social equality between boys and girls,” Xavier Guilliot, a French professor in high school in Lyon, France told Al Arabiya News.
“Me and my colleagues are very careful with this dangerous rumor as it was never stated or written anywhere that The ABCD of Equality will teach sex in French schools,” he said. “We never got instructions to teach pupils sexual education or such things.”
A survey released on Feb. 1 showed that 53 percent of French parents approved “The ABCD of equality” program.
Last Wednesday, French Minister of Education Vincent Peillon denied that the program taught “gender theory” and offered to meet with the parents who pulled their children from schools following the criticism.
“This is about education on equality between girls and boys, respect between girls and boys, that’s all,” Peillon said.
“Parents who are not sending their children to school should be called in to remind them of their obligations [to bring their children to school],” he added.
Kenyan Govenor Apologies for Suggesting, Unmarried Women Are Not Effective Leaders
Feb 5, 2014
A Kenyan politician has apologised for suggesting that unmarried women are not effective leaders.
Local leaders and activists criticised the comments by Kiambu County Governor William Kabogo, saying they were demeaning to the women.
The row involved unmarried MP Alice Ng'ang'a, who opposed his new taxes.
The dispute highlights the cultural and social stereotypes that have held back women from running for public office in the past.
A constitution enacted in 2010 created positions for women MPs for each of Kenya's 47 counties.
"If you are 35 and don't have a husband, there is something wrong… We will start demanding that you are married before you are elected," Mr Kabogo told a rally last week broadcast by Kenya's NTV television.
"You young ladies; look for husbands and get married. You are the ones causing problems," he added.
Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper further quoted the governor as saying: "Someone who is able to manage a home is equally able to run the affairs of the people. But if you cannot manage a home … can you manage public affairs?"
Kenyan media said the remarks were directed at Ms Ng'ang'a, a single mother, who opposed new levies recently proposed by the governor.
In response, she said the people in her constituency, within Kiambu County, who had voted her into office were aware that she was a single mother.
Mr Kabogo had said levies needed to be paid if residents in the county expected the regional government to provide quality services.
He accused Ms Ng'ang'a of inciting traders against the proposed taxes she described as "unreasonable charges and [a] tax on the people".
'I seek forgiveness'
Rukia Subow, the chairperson of a women's lobby group, Maendelea ya Wanawake, said Mr Kabogo's comments were "discriminatory".
"Leadership is about brains not skirts," she told the Daily Nation.
After earlier saying he had been misquoted, Mr Kabogo, who has six women in his eight-member cabinet, apologised on Tuesday.
"I seek forgiveness to all those that I have offended in the course of my life. On my side, I forgive all those who have sinned against me," Kenya's Star newspaper quoted him as saying.
The constitution has made it mandatory that a third of public appointments to be either men or women.
Correspondents say notwithstanding the changes in the law, female candidates in elections continue to face many barriers, including the threat of violence and a lack of money and political networks.
France Arrests Two Chechen Women in 'Terrorism' Probe
Feb 5, 2014
France on Tuesday arrested two Chechen women as part of a probe into an alleged "terrorist" organisation, investigative sources told AFP.
The women, aged 23 and 30, were arrested in the eastern city of Strasbourg and the western town of La Roche-sur-Yon by officers from the domestic DCRI intelligence service.
One of the women has French citizenship, the other Russian, the source said, adding that they are being held on possible charges of "criminal association with a terrorist group".
The source provided no details of the allegations against them. Under French anti-terrorism laws, suspects can be held for up to four days without charge.
Mauritanian Capital Elects First Woman Mayor
Feb 5, 2014
A former minister became Nouakchott's first female mayor on Tuesday after being voted in by councillors to head up the sprawling Mauritanian capital's local authority.
Maty Mint Hamady, 46, a married mother-of-three, is an economics graduate from the University of Nouakchott and the Ecole Nationale d'Administration in Paris, one of Europe's most prestigious graduate schools.
A prominent member of the Union for the Republic (UPR), the ruling party of Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, she resigned her portfolio as public services minister along with the rest of the cabinet on Sunday, a routine step after national elections.
Around one million people -- almost a third of the population -- live in Nouakchott, making the job one of the vast, west African desert nation's most high profile political roles.
While many women have been elected to lead smaller councils across Mauritania, only men have occupied the top local government post in the capital.
Concerns over under-representation of women in media
Rakhi Chakrabarty,TNN | Feb 5, 2014
NEW DELHI: Panelists at a national consultation on women and media on Tuesday were concerned about under-representation of women in journalism, especially in Hindi and regional language media.
At the consultation organized by a high level committee on status of women appointed by the Centre, chairperson Pam Rajput mentioned three prime areas that the panel would look into — presence of women in the media, representation and portrayal of women in media and regulatory mechanisms.
Speaking at the meet, women and child development minister Krishna Tirath said participation in media had been from certain classes and communities. "Women from marginalized sections of society remain under-represented," she said.
Panelist and journalist Pamela Philipose cited a report by the Media Studies Group (MSG) which found only 2.7% women in media at the district level. The MSG surveyed 255 districts of 28 states in 2012 and obtained information through RTI. "The survey across districts found 329 accredited women journalists," said Philipose.
Besides, 70% of news came from male sources in the media. "That is also a reason why issues of women don't find place in mainstream media," said Philipose.
Tirath urged the committee to recommend ways to improve work conditions for women in the media. Even basic amenities like toilets were often not accessible to women journalists, the minister said.
"Women journalists who need to wait long hours outside North Block and South Block in Delhi for reporting assignments, for instance, have no access to toilets. Several women journalists have told me that they had to leave the profession due to kidney stones," said Tirath.
The 14-member committee, set up by the Centre in 2012, is expected to submit its final report on socio-economic, political and legal status of women in 2015.
While lauding media activism, especially after Delhi gang rape that helped galvanize public opinion leading to significant law amendments related to rape and violence against women, Tirath said, "Media activism many times proves to be a double-edged sword. The media's power to mould public opinion has been sometimes misused and has led to trials by the media."
Just as the media can create positive public opinion, it can promote conservative and patriarchal thinking, said Tirath. "The print and electronic media often do not provide a balanced picture of women's diverse lives and multiple contributions to society in a changing world. Television programmes that reinforce women's traditional roles can be equally limiting," she said.
She pointed to a growing trend where advertisements and commercial messages often portray young and old women primarily as consumers.
Mystery of Yemeni girl seen ‘crying stones’ instead of tears
Feb 5, 2014
A video of a 12-year-old Yemeni girl crying stones from her eyes instead of tears has left doctors in shock this week after the bizarre phenomenon was highlighted by a Yemeni television channel.
In the news report on Azaal TV channel, the girl, named Saadiya, can be seen producing small, hard stones from her eyelids as she is surrounded by doctors.
The stones appear to be pushed naturally to the front of her eyes, before falling on her cheeks. A small box full of the stones is then seen in the report, which has now been uploaded online.
While locals have spoken of the fears that the girl is “possessed by the devil,” the program highlighted the medical conundrum that Yemeni doctors are now facing to help the girl.
Doctors have claimed that Saadiya is not suffering from any known disease and are yet to come up with an explanation for the unusual condition.
In Bangladesh, 87 per cent of women victims of domestic violence
February 05, 2014
Dhaka (AsiaNews) - About 87 per cent of Bangladeshi married women are abused by their husband, this according to a nation-wide study conducted by the government that involved a sample of 12,600 women. Only 8 per cent of respondents said that they were never abused by their partner.
Titled Violence against Women Survey 2011, the research was conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund. The picture it paints is alarming.
The survey found that domestic violence is present in most Bangladeshi households. Last year, 77 per cent of respondents admitted that they had been abused. Of these, 50 per cent had sustained serious injuries, but one in three women refused to go to hospital for fear of retaliation by the husband. Although not as prevalent, the problem also affects Catholic women.
Lata Gomes (not her real name for security reasons) told AsiaNews that "husbands consider us weak, and therefore believe that they have the right to dominate us, even beating us. I am a university graduate and I take care of our two children. But my husband does not listen to me, and if I do not do what he says, he beats me."
Overall though, violence is correlated to illiteracy and low levels of education among women, she explained.
According to human rights organisation Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP), 5,616 cases of violence against women were recorded in 2012, mostly rapes (904), followed by murders (900), stalking and death as a result of stalking (662); dowry-related murders (558), and suicide (435).
Some Yemeni women exploiting housemaid shortage crisis
February 05, 2014
Many Saudi families have started hiring illegal housemaids due to complications in the legal recruitment of domestic help. Some Yemeni women who have entered the Kingdom illegally are offering their services to families who need them urgently.
Saudi families have been struggling to hire domestic help following a ban by Asian and African countries to send housemaids to work in the Kingdom.
The Ethiopian government had earlier canceled 40,000 visas for housemaids destined for the Kingdom and permanently stopped sending any manpower, local media reported previously.
Other countries also refused to send domestic helpers to the Kingdom following reports of crimes and accidents last year. These conditions have contributed to an underground trade in housemaids who have entered the Kingdom illegally.
The Saudi border guards have captured about 259,296 illegal infiltrators mostly from the southern border. At the same time, the border guards succeeded in arresting 4,343 smugglers of which 70 percent comprise Yemenis who were illegally trying to infiltrate Saudi borders, according to the 2013 statistics of the Directorate General of the Border Guards.
Most of the illegal Yemeni women live in harsh circumstances in the Kingdom. Many of them are uneducated with barely enough money to survive on. Therefore, they exploit the housemaid crisis in Saudi Arabia despite the risk of being arrested for staying in the country illegally.
Yehia Al-Maqboul, chairman of the Recruitment Committee at Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry said, “Many families have been forced to hire illegal housemaids due to complications of recruitment.”
Speaking to Arab News he said, “However, these families can only hire illegal maids in the short term or until they are able to recruit housemaids legally.”
Although, many Yemeni nationals work as domestic helps illegally, their number is still limited.
Yemeni families who entered the country illegally often allow their daughters to work as housemaids temporarily. Unlike other Asian countries, Yemen has no agreement with the Saudi government to send housemaids to work in the Kingdom.
The Labor Ministry had earlier announced plans to target new destinations in Arab speaking countries to recruit house maids as Saudis prefer Arabic-speaking maids and to reduce the demand for Indonesian and Ethiopian domestic help.
The Labor Ministry took the initiative of contacting officials in 15 Arab countries despite the fact that most Arab countries have not officially agreed to send housemaids to work in the Kingdom.
“Last Ramadan, I hired a Yemeni woman to work as a housemaid for the whole month. She was better than Asian maids and had good cooking skills. However, she is living illegally in the Kingdom without an iqama,” Ali Mohsen who lives with his family in Jeddah told Arab News.
“It is very difficult to recruit housemaids from different countries and we need urgent services in our homes. Therefore, we usually hire Yemeni women who are willing to work as housemaids on a temporary basis. They visit our homes everyday to work for two hours,” Jaber Abu Numai, a Yemeni resident in Jeddah told Arab News.
Saudi woman’s donated organs save four lives
February 05, 2014
A 27-year-old Saudi woman who died at King Fahd Specialist Hospital in Dammam saved the lives of four Saudi men aged 15 to 64, media reports said on Tuesday.
The woman was lying in the hospital brain dead for the past week and a charitable organization named “Ethar” approached her family to encourage them to donate her organs to patients in need.
“We succeeded in convincing the family and her organs helped save the lives of four people,” said Abdul Aziz Al-Turki, chairman of Ethar, adding that the organs were transplanted to the needy patients.
The woman’s heart was given to a 44-year-old Saudi patient at Prince Sultan Cardiac Center in Riyadh; one kidney was donated to a 15-year-old Saudi boy in Riyadh; liver was transplanted to a 64-year-old patient in Dammam; and the other kidney went to a 36-year-old man in Dammam, according to a report carried by Alarabiya.net.
Malaysians Call to Raise Marriage Age
February 05, 2014
KULA LUMPUR – The conviction of a rapist who married his victim is still casting its deep effects on the Malaysian society, inciting rights activists’ calls to raise legal marriage age to 18 years in the Asian country.
“It's a growing problem and while we like to see this as an isolated case I think there's actually more to it than we like to let on,” Suri Kempe, from Sisters in Islam in Kuala Lumpur, told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific on Tuesday, February 4.
“What we really want is for the authorities to increase the minimum age of marriage to 18.”
Last May, the marriage of a 12-year-old girl to an alleged rapist sparked a heated controversy in Malaysia.
The alleged rapist has defended his decision to marry the girl, saying Islamic teachings allow marrying underage girls.
Yet, on Monday, February 3, a Malaysian court found him guilty, sentencing him to a 12-year-jail term.
The conviction reignited calls for assigning 18 as the legal age for marriage.
“It's not the end of the story,” Ivy Josiah, the executive director of Women's Aid Organization, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
“We keep hearing of isolated cases (of child marriages) but enough to raise concern,” she added.
Child marriages are common in Malaysia.
Under Malaysian law, any Muslim can marry at any age providing there is parental consent and permission of Shari`ah court.
Though no marriage age is set for Muslims in Malaysia, non-Muslims marry at the age of 18.
“In the Shari`ah court, there's not really a set standard,” Kempe said.
“(An application for marriage) is often on the pretext of the children probably having had sex or where the girl is pregnant and in order to save face for the family, the parents want to get their children married off.”
According to census data in 2010, child marriage has increased by about 58% within in decade.
Malaysia has a population of nearly 26 millions, with Malays, mostly Muslims, making up nearly 60 percent.
Under Malaysia's two-tier judicial system, Shari`ah courts handle family law cases involving Muslims, while secular courts handle those involving non-Muslims.
Marriage in Islam is of utmost importance as it is upon the lawful union of a man and a woman that society grows strong and that moral is preserved.
In Islam it is not permissible for the guardian to compel the one under his guardianship to marry someone she does not desire to marry.
Rather, it is necessary to seek her consent and permission.
Proposed Afghan law protects women's abusers: Rights group
AFP | Feb 5, 2014
KABUL: An international rights group said on Tuesday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai should refuse to sign a law passed by parliament that would deny women protection from domestic violence and forced marriage.
Afghanistan's parliament, a two-chamber house dominated by conservative clerics and former Islamist warlords, passed a "criminal procedure law" last year which experts say contains articles that deny women legal protections.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said the bill "is expected to be sent to Karzai for final signature into law within weeks, if not earlier" and called on the war-torn nation's leader to send the bill back to legislators with amendments.
"President Karzai should reject a law that will effectively let batterers of women and girls off the hook" HRW said in a statement, quoting its Asia director Brad Adams.
The draft document contains an article that according to HRW states: "The following people can't be questioned as witnesses... relatives of the accused."
The rights group said this would effectively protect women's abusers since most victims were abused by male members of their family.
The law was initially endorsed last May by parliament. According to HRW it was then debated extensively before a final version was passed in January, requiring Karzai's signature before it comes into effect.
HRW said the proposed legislation would run counter to a groundbreaking law on Elimination of Violence Against Women passed in 2009, and "follows several other efforts by the Afghan parliament to weaken already inadequate legal protections for women's rights".
It cited a draft law prepared by Afghan officials in November 2013 that would have reinstated public execution by stoning as a punishment for adultery, which the group said was stopped after being leaked to the media.
A Karzai spokesperson said he could not comment on the president's intentions and was not aware if the draft of the new law had yet reached him.
Afghan women have made great strides since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, which banned them from education or work outside the home.
But they still faces challenges, of which the biggest is domestic violence.
TechWomen Delegation to Expand Network of African Women in Science and Technology
February 05, 2014
Fusing technology with efforts to empower women and girls, the U.S. Department of State announced today that a delegation of 30 U.S. TechWomen mentors is meeting in Rwanda February 2-7 to collaborate and connect through workshops and visits with local organizations. An innovative public-private partnership, TechWomen pairs emerging women leaders in technology from the Middle East and Africa with American women mentors from the greater Silicon Valley area.
TechWomen, has brought almost 80 women from the Middle East and North Africa and the United States together for month-long mentorships. This year, TechWomen expanded to include women from sub-Saharan African countries. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan will join the TechWomen for this first meeting in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The U.S. TechWomen mentors traveling to Rwanda represent 23 companies in Silicon Valley and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area including: Blackberry, Calix, Citrix, Cisco, EMC, Ericsson, Fairrer Samani Group Ventures, Families Without Borders, Genentech, Intel Corp., Juniper Networks, Katy Dickinson Consulting, Law Offices of Patricia Bovan, NestGSV, Nisum Technologies, Salesforce.com, Santa Clara University, Sf.citi, Shakour Marketing, Sun Run, Symantec, and Twitter.
While in Rwanda, the TechWomen will meet with nonprofits, innovation centers, and girls’ schools that focus on expanding technology networks and careers for women and girls in STEM fields. They will also meet with Rwandan Minister of Youth and Information & Communications Technologies (ICT), visit the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology, and attend a Science and Technology fair hosted by the U.S. Embassy Kigali.