New Age Islam News Bureau
16 Jan 2014
A few years ago, a woman's place in the mosque was a fringe issue. Now, some are demanding change
• Egyptian Actress: Dancing Veiled Women Show Beauty of Islam
• Muslim Women Challenge American Mosques: 'Now Is the Time'
• Two Arrested After 15-Year-Old Would-Be Jihadist Girl Heads For Syria
• Afghan Actress Appears In First Movie That Openly Deals With Sexual Violence
• Rwandan President's Widow Takes France to European Rights Court
• Gambia Supreme Islamic Council President Denounces 'Indecent Dress Code'
• The Afghan Female Politician in Hiding: 'No One Respect Women in Our Country'
• Women’s Groups Write Open Letter to UN Condemning Gender Segregation in UK Universities
• Banning ‘Revenge Porn: Will Arabs Follow Israel’s Lead?
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Taliban Take Girls Back to School: Afghan Islamists Ease Stance on Education
16 January 2014
KABUL—When the Taliban banned girls from going to school in the 1990s, Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil served as the regime's foreign minister.
Now, Mr. Muttawakil's daughter attends a school in Kabul—one he set up. "She is in second grade and is one of the top students in her class," he said proudly, adding that he often helps with homework.
She is one of roughly 250 girls enrolled at the school he opened three years ago along with other former senior Taliban officials who have adopted a more moderate stance in recent years.
Like another co-founder of the school, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Muttawakil spent years in U.S. detention after the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001. Both men live under government surveillance in the Afghan capital and neither has renounced the Taliban leadership of Mullah Omar.
Over the past few years, the Taliban leadership, too, has tried to soften its public image as it looks to regain power after U.S.-led coalition forces depart in December. In public statements, the Taliban say they support women's education, as long as the girls are taught in an Islamic environment.
The school set up in Kabul by Mr. Mutawakkil and fellow former Taliban officials claims to do just that, and offers a glimpse of what education could look like in areas under insurgent control.
The idea behind Afghan School, explains Mr. Mutawakkil, is to "bridge the divide between modern schools and madrasas," the traditional Islamic academies that focus on drilling religious subjects into the students.
At the institute, which runs from primary school to high school, boys and girls are strictly divided. They attend separate buildings, where also the teachers are exclusively of their own gender. Even so, female students—including young ones—wear peach-coloured veils as part of their uniforms.
For both boys and girls, religious subjects are a big part of the curriculum. During a recent visit to the school, first-graders stood up to recite the alphabet in Arabic, the language of the Quran. But they are also learning English, and attend regular computer classes.
Lessons are mostly in Pashto, one of Afghanistan's two national languages. It is spoken mostly in the south and east, where the Taliban movement is strongest.
On top of the government-set curriculum, the school offers vocational courses: cooking and tailoring for girls, and electrician training for boys.
The only room the boys and the girls share is the chemistry lab, which they can access at alternate times from separate entrances. The lab's large window has been painted over to prevent the boys from peeking into the girls' courtyard.
Remarkably, this is a model both the Afghan government and the Taliban approve of. The Afghan ministry of education currently ranks the school among the best in Kabul.
"According to Islamic rules, and according to Afghanistan's cultural rules, it is a good system," said Kabir Hakmal, a ministry spokesman. "It's a system that encourages families to send their daughters to school."
In this deeply conservative society, many are reluctant to allow their girls to study. While the enrollment of girls in schools has steadily improved since 2001, they still lag behind: around 66% of them attend primary school, compared with 92% of boys, according to 2012 government data. The rate drops to 26% at secondary school, when girls reach puberty and, under tradition, become of marrying age.
This is still a vast improvement from education at the peak of Taliban rule in 1999, when only 6.4% of primary school-aged girls in Afghanistan were receiving some form of education, according to estimates by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
At that time, younger girls were allowed to attend a very limited number of religious schools—some of which also taught mathematics and grammar—but had to stay home once they reached puberty. Lack of funding, partly because of international sanctions, prevented this model to be replicated widely across the country.
In a deeply conservative society, Mr. Muttawakil's school makes girls' education seem permissible even to the most traditional families—with the net effect of bringing girls from those families into the classroom.
"It was founded by religious scholars, so no one can oppose it," says a female literature teacher at the school who goes by the name of Mrs. Afghani, "This is the only way to promote girls' education."
She says the female-only environment has also made it easier for her to persuade her own male relatives to allow her to work.
Wahidullah Najib said he enrolled his children at Afghan School because of its Islamic focus. "I wouldn't have sent my daughters to school to study along boys," he said. "Otherwise, I would have kept them home and denied them an education."
Mr. Muttawakil and other former Taliban officials run the school through a foundation, which in 2012 also set up a university, the Afghanistan Higher Education Institute, which offers a limited number of degrees. Located in Kabul, it is one of a handful of colleges in the country where male and female students are split.
"If I didn't have the option of going to a university where men and women are separated, I would have stayed at home," said Shugufa Hashimi, a 21-year-old student of Shariah and modern law there.
Most lecturers are male, but the goal is to eventually recruit enough female teachers to separate the staff as well. At the grounds of the university—a large, office-like building on a major road—a screen divides male and female recreational areas.
Some Afghans, however, are critical of a model that seeks to apply a strict reading of Islam to education.
"It's not the way for Afghanistan to go," said Sharif Fayez, who spent years working as an academic in the U.S. before returning to Afghanistan as the country's first minister of higher education after the fall of the Taliban.
He is worried this is a model that could be exploited politically, while reinforcing Afghan society's traditional gender segregation.
"The reason I came back to Afghanistan was to do just that: to open universities and let boys and girls go to the same classroom," said Mr. Fayez, who also founded the American University of Afghanistan.
Mary MacMakin, an American aid worker, remembers how suddenly girls' schools shut down when the Taliban took over Kabul in September 1996.
"They entered Kabul on a Friday, and on Saturday not a single girl school opened. The teachers knew to stay at home. It was immediate," says Ms. MacMakin, who six months later helped start an underground network of girls' schools around the Afghan capital. "They just didn't want educated girls."
These days, Mr. Muttawakil says his foundation is considering opening more universities and schools teaching girls across the country, including in territory controlled by the Taliban.
When asked if the insurgency would allow such schools to operate, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the militants are in favour of systems based on Shariah law that combine religious and scientific teaching.
Still, around 450 government schools remain closed in Afghanistan, mostly because of insecurity and Taliban threats, according to the education ministry.
"If the Taliban and government could reach some sort of agreement on education, that would make it easier for us," said Mr. Muttawakil.
Egyptian Actress: Dancing Veiled Women Show Beauty of Islam
16 January 2014
An Egyptian actress praised a video showing a veiled woman dancing in front of a polling station – as the country voted on an amended constitution – and said it embodied a beautiful image of Islam.
“The veiled woman was dancing because she felt that any man who will look at her, will be looking at her from his heart,” Sabreen told the private Tahrir TV channel on Tuesday.
The constitutional referendum in Egypt kicked off on Tuesday. More than 52 million voters are deciding in the two-day vote whether to support amendments to the constitution initially drafted under former President Mohammad Mursi’s Brotherhood-led administration.
Sabreen also voiced concerns that not so many youths cast their votes during the first day of the referendum and called on them “to participate because those who don’t do so will (regret) it later.”
After Mursi’s ouster on July 3, two panels dominated by secular-leaning politicians and legal experts later rewrote the charter.
The passing of the referendum would give legitimacy to the interim government and a boost to a military-backed plan for presidential and parliamentary elections.
Muslim Women Challenge American Mosques: 'Now Is the Time'
16 January 2014
Most American mosques do a poor job of including women, according to a recent study co-sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America. Sometimes that means subpar women's prayer spaces, a lack of leadership roles or little programming relevant to women.
For Edina Lekovic, a recent visit to a mosque meant being asked to use a separate entrance from the one men use. Lekovic works for the Muslim Public Affairs Council and sits on a regional Islamic advisory board in Southern California. She goes to mosques a lot for meetings and Friday prayers.
"I was walking towards the front door only to be told by a boy of no more than 12 years old — he pointed to the side of the building and said, 'Oh, the sisters' entrance is over there,' " she says.
Lekovic is religious: She covers her hair and doesn't mind praying separately from men as is Islamic custom. But entering through a different door? "And I sort of stopped dead in my tracks and looked around for an adult figure that I could have the conversation with," she says.
Nobody else was around. "So I looked at this 12-year-old boy and said, 'There's a separate entrance for women? Why is that?' just to see what he would say, and he sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, 'It just is,' “she says.
Lekovic is also a teacher, and she decided to seize the moment. "My final response to him was, 'Well, the mosque that I go to on the other side of town has everybody walk through the same set of doors,' " she says.
Lekovic says there was a time she might have slipped in the side entrance, quietly fuming. But things are changing. Just a few years ago, a woman's place in the mosque was a fringe issue.
"There was to some degree pushback around this, like, 'We're dealing with enough challenges right now,' that you know, 'Wait your turn' was kind of the attitude," Lekovic says. "Today more and more women are saying, 'Now is the time.' "
Lekovic says there is a rich history of Islamic teachings that preach equality for women. But she also gives credit to a 34-year-old Chicago woman named Hind Makki. Last year, Makki started an online project called Side Entrance, where women from around the world share photos of their prayer spaces. Not all the photos are negative. Submissions range from isolated, moldy storerooms to soaring, lushly carpeted halls.
"The tag line is: 'We showcase the beautiful, the adequate and the pathetic,' " says Makki.
The project began when she snapped photos of women's prayer spaces in some Chicago mosques and posted them on her Facebook page. One showed women praying behind a tall room divider, blocking views; another looked like a walk-in closet with a curtain-covered window. The photos went viral.
"I got a lot of response, and one of the most interesting type of responses I got was from men who had no clue," Makki says.
While some accused her of airing dirty laundry, many Muslim men started asking how they could help.
"They just had no idea that this was somewhat typical of women's experiences at a mosque — that you go to a mosque and you don't see a dome; you don't see the imam, certainly; you don't see the architecture — you see a big wall in front of you," she says.
Shahina Saeed is on the board of directors of the Islamic Society of Orange County, one of the oldest and largest mosques in Southern California.
"I'm surprised that in a big city like Chicago there's a place like that where the women can't even see what's going on in front of them. I would not be comfortable in a space like that," she says.
At the Islamic Society of Orange County, women pray in a big loft with an outdoor patio and views of the imam and the mosque's colorful glass dome. They can also pray on the main floor in an area beside the men. Saeed says she feels at home here. The Islamic Society of North America study found that more women showed up for events at mosques like hers: those with female board members, female speakers and attractive women's prayer spaces.
Lekovic says this conversation is about more than side entrances.
"Part of what's at stake is the question of where Muslim women will put their talents. Now, if the mosque is an environment in which they see that the fruits of their labor will be beneficial to the community, they will put their time and energy there," she says.
National Muslim leaders are paying attention. The Islamic Society of North America is urging mosques to recruit more female board members, and a recent conference centered on a campaign to improve women's prayer spaces.
Two Arrested After 15-Year-Old Would-Be Jihadist Girl Heads For Syria
16 January 2014
A man aged 20 and a 17-year-old girl from The Hague have been arrested on suspicion of helping a 15-year-old girl travel to Syria, Nos television said on Wednesday afternoon.
Police managed to stop the girl before she got on a plane for the civil war-torn country after friends warned them about the plan.
The investigation into the girl’s plans led the police to the couple, who were arrested early on Tuesday morning.
Last May, a tip-off from the Dutch security service AIVD led police to stop a 16-year-old would-be jihadist leaving the country to fight in Syria.
That girl had turned up in connection with an investigation into people actively recruiting youngsters to join the armed struggle in Syria.
The national counter-terrorism office said last year some 100 Dutch youngsters have left the country to take part in jihadist missions.
Afghan actress appears in first movie that openly deals with sexual violence
16 January 2014
The Afghan-American film actress, Freshta Kazemi, appears in one of the first Afghan movies that openly deal with the sexual violence in Afghanistan.
The movie “The Icy Sun” which was shot a year ago in Kabul, depicts a woman standing alone, naked and shaking after being violently raped.
Kazemi has struggled to make sure it’s shown uncensored as she thinks that the scene of a woman coping with her rape is poignant and important in a country where violence against women is widespread and largely unpunished.
“We have seen lots of rape scenes in cinema, because cinema is global,” explained 34-year-old Kazemi while speaking to Al Jazeera America.
She told Al Jazeera, “But this is a scene where she is just alone in the bathroom with herself, dealing with the wounds on her body. And the body is something that for an Afghan woman is not discussed, but yet those are the things that are violated, and that’s the thing that’s under dress and under control. It’s this big elephant in the room.”
The movie “The Icy Sun” has been produced at a time when violence against women hit a record high in Afghanistan last year, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reported earlier this month.
Kazemi returned to Afghanistan in 2012 to act in Afghan films, after spending her childhood in United States. Being a thoroughly modern Afghan-American, Kazemi is passionate about challenging conservative interpretations of her culture.
She took the role of a rape victim in the film, “The Icy Sun”, in a bid to bring attention to the issue women are facing in Afghanistan after being raped, and imprisoned by law rather than going after her attacker
Kazemi during the first uncensored screening of “The Icy Sun” last February said, “The concept of honor for the men rests on a woman’s shoulders. Her brothers and her family feel that they have been raped of their honor.”
She said, the perception of honor means that society often blames the women who are attacked.
Rwandan President's Widow Takes France to European Rights Court
16 January 2014
The widow of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyaramina is taking France to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for refusing to allow her residency papers. Agathe Habyarimana is wanted in Rwanda for genocide and crimes against humanity relating to the violence that followed her husband's killing in 1994.
In 2013 France's Council of State upheld the refusal of local officials to grant Agathe Habyarimana residency papers on the grounds that she was a "danger to public order".
Her lawyer Philippe Meilhac claims the refusal was political discrimination.
"Several of my client's children are in France, some having French nationality," he said. "An unfavourable treatment is being applied to Mme Habyarimana for political reasons because diplomatic relations must be maintained with Rwanda."
The 71-year-old woman has taken the case to the European court, claiming that the refusal is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Agathe Habyarimana, a Hutu, is accused of being one of the planners of the 1994 mass murder of Tutsis and non-sectarian Hutus that followed the fatal shooting down of her husband's airplane.
A French court in 2011 refused to extradite her to Rwanda to face genocide and crimes against humanity charges but an inquiry into charges of complicity with genocide is ongoing in France.
The French military brought her to France shortly after her husband's death and she applied for political asylum after deciding to live here in 1998.
The application was unsuccessful so she applied for residency papers in 2009.
Gambia Supreme Islamic Council President Denounces 'Indecent Dress Code'
16 January 2014
The president of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council, GSIC, has denounced what he called the present-day indecent dress code, especially by young girls, calling for the matter to be addressed immediately.
Muhammed Lamin Touray, who was speaking in an interview with The Point, said the people who facilitate such dress codes must show some care because, as he put it, the situation is getting out of hand.
"Our present day dress code is indeed saddening and needs to be addressed immediately. Our sisters and daughters have no clue of the type of dress they wear; as long as it looks fashionable to them, it is good," he said.
"The tailors and the people in business must be careful, because Allah will question them on this type of dress they make and sell," Touray added.
Commenting on the issue of forced marriage, Touray said according to Shariah, a woman who has already experienced marriage cannot and must not be forced into marriage.
"Her consent and opinion must always be sought before tying the marriage. A girl who has never experienced anything in marriage must be guided in making her choice of a man in marriage, but must not be forced," he stated.
Marriage, Touray noted, is a Sunnah (a way of life of Prophet Muhammad) but not obligatory or compulsory, while obedience to parents is an obligation.
"Allah said in the Quran 'obey me and follow my commands and that of your parents' " Touray cited.
The erudite imam explained that women could be guided in making their decisions, but must never be forced into marrying men against their consent.
"The reason for guiding her is to protect her from bad influences in making her decisions. Shariah (the Islamic law) has categorically prohibited forced marriage, especially when it is done prior to the consultation of the spouses.
"In an Islamic marriage, the consent of the spouses is a key principle before the marriage takes place".
In Touray's view, there should be constant dialogue between parents and children to avoid unfortunate scenes.
"It is an obligation on every parent to give your child in marriage to a man who is pious, and this is not an easy task on the parents especially the fathers. This is why parents-child dialogue is very important within the family.
"Most of the misunderstandings and disagreements emanate from the lack of dialogue between parents and children. If there is constant dialogue between parents and children, we will be able to avoid this unfortunate situation.
"Constant dialogue will instill discipline and courage into the minds of our young ones," he added.
The Afghan Female Politician in Hiding: 'No One Respect Women in Our Country'
16 January 2014
Noorzia Atmar never wanted to leave Afghanistan. Not even after the beatings, knife attacks and bitter divorce; not even when her ex-husband turned up at her new workplace with a gun and sent thugs to the shelter where she had sought refuge. Only when the threats targeting her spread to include other women living in the shelter did she feel she had no choice but to flee.
The western countries that supported her outspoken advocacy for women's rights as a politician said their hands were tied: strict refugee laws meant they couldn't help her while she was still in Afghanistan. "The only embassy that responded was the US embassy. They came to talk to me but said it was not possible to provide asylum or a visa," Atmar said. "The only option was to leave for another country and apply from there."
So, three years after travelling the world as a prosperous, powerful politician, she now lives in a single, grubby room in an alien territory in extreme poverty, afraid to go out in case someone recognises her and reports her whereabouts back to Kabul.
"I love my country and even though I was under threat in some way I tried to get work, not to be lazy or rely on anyone else," she said by phone from her precarious refuge. "The situation pushed me to leave. No one respects women in our country. It is really difficult to find a space just to live."
Atmar asked the Guardian not to reveal her current location, for fear her ex-husband's family or her own – both furious about the divorce, which they feel brought shame on them – could trace her. Activists said her fears were well founded: "honour" killings are a regular tragedy in Afghanistan. Among recent victims are a wife whose husband cut off her lips and nose before leaving her for dead and a woman hacked 15 times in the head and face with an axe by her brother.
Atmar has applied to the UN for refugee status and hopes to be resettled somewhere further away, safe enough for her to restart her activism. But she knows her chances are slim. Hundreds of thousands seek the same thing each year, unsuccessfully.
"I am living in a rented room with a very bad situation … I am not in contact with my family, but if Afghans here see me they will recognise me. I have to cover my face when I go out," she said. But old habits die hard. "Even here," she said, "if I see someone mistreating a woman, I have the strength to try to stop them and adjust their attitudes."
Still passionate about women's rights, all Atmar wants is to start work again: "I ask people around the world to invest in me. I will repay that. You'll see, one day, if I am still alive."
Even if she does win access to a safe haven, Atmar is all too aware that she is only the most prominent among countless victims of domestic violence living in grave danger in Afghanistan, a country rated the world's worst for women's rights. Many of those other women lack the resources to reach a safer life outside.
Inside Afghanistan, the options are limited. There are only a handful of shelters and these struggle constantly with precarious funding and politics; the justice minister recently denounced them as brothels. Living alone is socially and culturallyimpossible for all but a handful of elite Afghan women, and work is hard to find.
Often, the only hope of a life free from fear and violence is to escape abroad. Yet one of the few absolute rules of the complicated international system for asylum and refugees is that people cannot apply for asylum while still in their home countries.
For most Afghan women, finding a way out of the country is an insurmountable obstacle in itself. British government figures, from 2008 onwards, show barely one in 10 would-be Afghan refugees in the UK are women seeking asylum in their own right.
Those who are able to travel legally to the UK can apply for asylum on arrival. But women in male-dominated Afghanistan are less likely to have the jobs, money or status to pass stringent western visa controls.
An illegal journey is an option for fleeing Afghan men, but for most unaccompanied women it is unthinkable – prohibited by huge physical risks, vast expense and cultural prejudices against travelling without a male guardian. The handful of female refugees who do make it across the border often find they struggle to be believed. UK courts are more likely to send a woman home than a man.
Debora Singer, policy and research manager at Asylum Aid, said: "Our overall sense is that the asylum system here – and we have done research in Europe and found the same – is that it's not sensitive to the needs of women fleeing countries like Afghanistan and doesn't respond as it should to their cases."
A system that was originally set up for the political refugees of the second world war does not list women as a group of people at risk of persecution, so their cases can require complicated legal arguments, and there is often less hard evidence.
"The key thing in asylum is credibility," Singer said. "You have this disparity for women. Some of the claims are based on the same thing as the men['s], whether photographs or news reports or membership of political parties, which can be documented.
"But victims of domestic violence are unlikely to have documentary evidence of what has happened to them: you don't get a certificate for being beaten. Also the shame and trauma affects their memory and it can be difficult for them to provide a coherent story … disclosing what has happened to them."
The final option – the one Atmar has taken – is to flee to an interim country and appeal to the UN for assisted resettlement. But this too has its pitfalls. Restrictions on their economic, physical and professional freedom mean few women have the funds to travel or support themselves during a process that can last years. In practice, the only places accessible to Afghan women are fraught border nations.
There are large, established communities of Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan in which it would be easy for men to hunt fleeing victims down. This is Atmar's great fear. "For those ones who really need to save themselves, there should be some possibility inside Afghanistan," said the shelter manager, Akrami. "It's easy for them to be found, tortured, even killed here."
Women’s Groups Write Open Letter to UN Condemning Gender Segregation in UK Universities
16 January 2014
Students and women’s groups have written an open letter to the UN to condemn gender segregation at British universities.
Writing to the UN’s special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, the signatories are hoping to build pressure on UK universities to ban segregation of any kind.
They write: “Gender segregation reinforces negative views about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.”
The letter appeared on the LSE student union page on Tuesday, and has been signed by various people including Chris Moos, the secretary of LSE's Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, and Nahla Mahmoud, the spokesperson for the council of ex-Muslims of Britain.
Mr Moos, who was recently involved in a freedom of expression battle with LSE, believes that any type of segregation should be fought and that the UN pressure would help public discussion.
He said: “We hope that the UN will air their concern about the on-going issue of gender discrimination in public institutions in the UK, and advise the UK government on how to ensure full compliance with the existing human rights legislation that outlaws discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics like gender.”
The question of gender segregation in universities took off last year when a guest speaker stormed out of a debate at University College London due to segregation. UCL has since changed its guidelines, saying events should be open to all, “regardless of gender”.
Pragna Patel, the director of Southall Black Sisters is still not satisfied though, saying it is important to “support students in the same struggle, but in a different sphere".
She said: “Gender segregation, if allowed to gather momentum in higher education, will have enormous, disproportionate impact on black minority women. We see a direct link between the work we do and supporting students who are leading this struggle.”
Universities UK and the Federation of Islamic Students Societies were both targets in the open letter.
Last December, UUK said in a report that “Assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination”, but later clarified their position, saying: "[UUK] agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers”.
FOISS were mentioned as their guidelines recommend societies “maintain segregation between brothers and sisters, keeping interactions between them at a minimum".
A march has also been planned which will take place on March 8th.
Banning ‘Revenge Porn: Will Arabs Follow Israel’s Lead?
16 January 2014
Taking nude photos and recording videos of intimate moments with a lover may seem harmless to some; that is until these otherwise private moments end up being shared on the World Wide Web without consent. Then, the matter turns into a sordid ordeal sometimes haunting victims for the rest of their lives.
This act has come to be known as “Revenge Porn:” the publication of sexually explicit content without the consent of the individual in the explicit photo or video.
The phenomenon of so-called revenge porn is sounding an alarm worldwide as many countries have been caught off guard and lack the proper legislation to prevent the act.
Israel takes the lead
Israel recently became the first country to outlaw revenge porn, re-igniting debate on whether this practice requires custom-made legislation or whether it falls under already existing anti-privacy and indecency laws upheld in many countries.
The Israeli law was born of a bill introduced by Knesset member Yifat Kariv after a video showing a man having sex with his ex-partner was posted on WhatsApp and sent to thousands of people.
“We are witnessing more and more cases of sexual assaults that were filmed and distributed in public without restraint and without limits; this legislative intervention is necessary and will help fight the shocking phenomenon of ‘virtual rape,’” Kariv said, according to Israel daily Haaretz.
Brooklyn Middleton, a political and security risk analyst reporting from Israel, told Al Arabiya News: “It is a necessary and progressive law that could, and should, serve as a model for other nations.
“I think one of the most pivotal inclusions of the law, in addition to the obvious aspect that regards those that distribute the sexual content as sexual offenders, is that the person whose images/videos were distributed without their consent will be considered a victim of sexual assault,” Middleton added.
She explained that the Israeli law is a step “to pre-empt the chances” of revenge porn becoming pervasive.
“Since it is likely that revenge-porn would mostly affect women, it is unsurprising that Israel is spearheading the ban; Israel is quite progressive on women’s issues and reports of the revenge-porn ban occurred only days after Israel’s Health Ministry commission announced that all Israeli women between the ages of 20-33 now have access to free abortions regardless of the reason,” Middleton noted.
The Australian state of Victoria also made illegal the distribution of explicit photos or videos of a person without his or her consent. It is even illegal to threaten to post explicit photos of other people on the Internet.
In the United States, only two states, New Jersey and California, espouse legislation dealing with the issue of revenge porn.
New Jersey’s law banning the sharing of explicit photos of others without their consent came after a student committed suicide when he found out that lewd pictures of himself had been posted online by his roommate.
California has lax legislation riddled with loopholes that allow for perpetrators to escape punishment.
For example, the law does not apply to cases in which a woman takes a nude photo of herself and then sends it to a recipient who posts it online.
Although the statistics on revenge porn remain limited, these photos, referred to as “selfies,” are believed to account for the majority of violations.
Stories of destroyed lives, women changing their identities, quitting their jobs and even abandoning their friends, families and acquaintances are abundant.
In the United States, the founder of Endrevengeporn.org, Holly Jacobs, was forced to change her job, change her name and deactivate her social media accounts after her ex-partner posted nude photos of her on the Internet. The FBI refused to file criminal charges against him as there was no law banning the act.
According to recent data published by Endrevengeporn.org, one in 10 ex-lovers threatened to expose risqué photos of their ex-partner online and 60 percent of those who made the threats followed through.
In order to magnify the trauma, perpetrators sometimes post explicit photos along with other information such as a full name, email address, home address and work address.
The Arab World
In the Arab world, although there are no laws tailored to target revenge porn, this violation is usually punishable under various anti-pornography, indecency, invasion of privacy and defamation acts.
One high-profile case of apparent revenge porn in the Arab world includes that of runner-up Miss Lebanon 1995, Nicole Ballan, whose home-made sex tape with her then-boyfriend Marwan Keyrouz was mysteriously leaked in October of that year. Her boyfriend was sentenced to jail and Ballan disappeared from the pubic scene for years after being named and shamed.
The Arab world is also rife with cases that may not necessarily be termed “revenge porn” but may be similar in nature. These include cases in which people distribute explicit pictures of individuals they have not had any relationship with simply to inflict harm and damage the person’s reputation.
One such case involved Egyptian Islamic preacher Abdullah Badr who was sentenced to one year in prison in December 2012 for distributing photoshopped nude images of prominent Egyptian actress Elham Shaheen.
Other less prominent cases occasionally make headline news in the Arab world.
In 2003, a Moroccan court handed a three-year jail term to a 30-year-old man found guilty of posting nude picture of a woman he had been in a relationship with. In 2012, a major scandal shook the city of Marrakesh when a group of school girls found their nude photos and mobile phone numbers posted online. The mother of one of the girls attempted suicide to escape the shame and embarrassment, the popular daily website Hespress reported.
In Saudi Arabia, the religious police arrested a man in 2013 after he published photos of a female on Twitter. The man reportedly created a fake Twitter account for the individual and uploaded her photos, according to al-Hayat newspaper.
Experts speaking to Al Arabiya said drafting laws on revenge porn could be a tricky matter given that most Arab countries ban sexual relations outside of marriage.
“When you have cases in some GCC countries where a woman is gang-raped and then she is found guilty by a judge when she complains because it is believed she should have stayed at home then you know we are a thousand years away from following Israel’s lead on this front,” a GCC sociology expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.