New Age Islam News Bureau
31 Oct 2013
Turkey women MPs wear headscarves in parliament — File photo
• Turkey Women MPsWear Headscarves in Parliament
• Activists Call For Social Awareness to Curb Adolescent Pregnancy
• Saudi Women’s Catering Success Attracts Major Hotel Chains
• ‘Pakistani Rural Women Still Deprived Of Their Rights’
• STD Virus Vaccine for Eighth-Grade Girls: Rabbis and Religious Communities Say No
• Women of the Wall Divided as Dissenters Refuse to Budge from Women’s Section
• Baby Ghadi's Religion Isn't On His Birth Certificate, a First for Sectarian Lebanon
• Kenyans demand gang-rape justice in police petition
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Up to 91,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every year in Turkey: UN
31 October, 2013
Up to 91,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every year in Turkey, despite a notable decrease over the last 10 years, the U.N. Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Turkey representative Zahidul Huque has said.
“The ratio of teenage births is 29 per 1,000 [women]. The ratio in Western Europe is around four per 1,000,” Huque said today during a panel discussion at Anadolu University in Eskişehir, where he commented on the U.N.’s latest report about teenage mothers.
Teenage pregnancies are more common in Turkey’s relatively poorer rural eastern provinces, though it is decreasing in the Black Sea region, according to Huque.
"The cities with the highest ratio are Ağrı, Kars, Muş, Kilis, Van, Siirt, Bitlis, Niğde, Iğdır and Şanlıurfa. However, the ratio is decreasing in Trabzon, Rize, Tunceli, Artvin, Ordu, Bolu, Eskişehir, Karabük, Gümüşhane, Yalova and Giresun,” he said.
Around 7.3 million teenage girls give birth each year in developing countries, 2 million of them aged 14 and under, according to the UNFPA report released Oct. 29, which urged governments to show more attention to this “huge global problem.”
The highest proportion of child mothers are in Niger (51 percent), followed by Chad (48 percent), Mali (46 percent), Guinea (42 percent) and Mozambique (40 percent), according to the report.
Gender equality a must
Huque also said that the rate was closely related to the number of child brides. “One of the most important methods is to raise awareness on gender equality and ensuring it. It is also important to maintain open access to information on sexual and reproductive health,” he said, adding that adults were the ones to be blamed for teenage pregnancies.
“We should stop accusing teenagers and young people over [pregnancies]. It's the adults who don’t provide the necessary information, health services and counseling to these teenagers and young people who should blame themselves,” Huque said.
Keeping teenagers in school, especially young girls, is also important to reduce these numbers, Huque emphasized.
The UNFPA’s report also pointed to class inequality on this phenomenon. Across all countries, girls who are poor, badly educated and living in remote areas are more likely to become pregnant, it stated.
Turkey Women Mps Wear Headscarves in Parliament
31 October, 2013
Several female lawmakers from Turkey's Islamic-rooted government attended a parliament session on Thursday wearing headscarves, for the first time in 14 years.
In 1999 ,Turkish American lawmaker Merve Kavakci arrived in parliament wearing a headscarf for her swearing-in ceremony. She was booed out of the house and then had her Turkish citizenship revoked.
Activists Call For Social Awareness to Curb Adolescent Pregnancy
31 October, 2013
66% of adolescent girls in Bangladesh are married off before they turn 18
Researchers and social workers at a discussion meet yesterday called upon different sections of society to work towards ending adolescent pregnancy, which is attributed mostly to the high rate of child marriage in Bangladesh.
According to data presented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 133 out of 1,000 Bangladeshi girls, aged 10 to 15, gave birth in 1991-2010, whereas the world average for adolescent births was 49 out of 1,000.
Even more concerning, 66% of adolescent girls in Bangladesh are married off before they turn 18, while one out of 10 gives birth before the age of 15.
“Girls do not become pregnant by themselves. The men and the rest of society have a role to play as well, and should be held responsible,” Pornchai Suchitta, officer-in-charge of UNFPA Bangladesh, said at the event launching the “State of World Population 2013” report at a city hotel.
The theme of this year’s UNFPA report is “Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenges of Adolescent Pregnancy.” The UN agency defines adolescence to be between 10 to 19 years.
Although the publication examines adolescent pregnancies worldwide, yesterday’s panel discussion focussed on pregnancies as a result of child marriages in Bangladesh.
The report reveals that about 70,000 girls aged 10 to 19 die every year around the world from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
The report also says that 194 out of every 100,000 women, most of whom are adolescents, die during childbirth each year in Bangladesh.
While many adolescent girls survive the process of childbirth, many become extremely weak afterwards, and suffer from various ailments. In addition, the pressure of taking care of children at a young age takes its toll on the mother’s health.
Ubaidur Rob, country director of Population Council, said the risks of pregnancy on adolescent girls include maternal death, sexually transmitted diseases, unsafe abortion and disruption of education.
“In order to address this, we must address the whole family, not just the girls,” said Suchitta.
In the meantime, there has been a slight improvement regarding the age of marriage in the past few years.
The median age of marriage for girls rose to 15.8 years in 2011, from 14.2 years in 1997, according to the Population Council.
“This is a part of our social norm and a big change will not come in a few years, it will take decades,” said Rob.
The marriage age for girls varies from region to region. Sylhet has the highest average age at 17.5 years, while in Dhaka, it is 15.8 years, which is also the national average.
Rob pointed out “social insecurity”, such as fear of keeping unmarried daughters at home, was one of the reasons behind the high rate of child marriage in this country.
“Gender inequality also plays a big role in this practice,” said Dr Nargis Fatema, a gynecologist at Square Hospital.
Dr Fatema said when girls are married at an early age, they do not have any decision making power. Thus, they are vulnerable to abuse or manipulation by their husbands and in-laws.
Suchitta said ensuring education for girls up to higher secondary level would be the best way to curb early marriage.
Meanwhile, regarding the lack of data on unmarried adolescent mothers, Rob said their research focussed primarily on married adolescents.
“Due to the stigma that exists regarding premarital pregnancy, no one comes forward to talk about it,” Rob said. “However, roughly 6% of the adolescent pregnancies are of unmarried girls, but there could be more.”
Saudi women’s catering success attracts major hotel chains
31 October, 2013
Major Riyadh hotels are looking for female experts in the field of cooking to manage and supervise its kitchens and hospitality departments.
The decision to employ women in key catering departments came following the successful experiment of delegating the management of catering and hospitality to Saudi women.
Sarah Al-Muajil, Ghazeel, Hanan Al-Sbaie and Manal Al-Hassan, who have been successfully running catering establishments and specialize in catering for various occasions, have received offers from a number of hotels to run their hospitality sections.
Speaking to Al-Eqtisadiah, Manal Al-Hassan, CEO of a catering establishment, said major Riyadh hotels had approached them to cater for parties and hospitality, where they could provide traditional meals, as well as Chinese and Arabic cuisines.
She said several hotels and celebration halls in the capital city had already begun collaboration with them.
“The idea was conceived about six months ago and we focused on finding a single place that meets the demands of all clients. We have a problem reconciling various cuisines from different kitchens, since each restaurant specializes in certain dishes. For instance, many Saudi women are experts in making desserts, but not many can provide Arabic and Gulf cuisines. There are a few caterers for special occasions that have set high standards in choosing the menu in relation to quality and taste,” she said.
“Our starting point was high quality food, new and distinctive tastes and high class services. We began with five women and established restaurants and kitchens that specialized in party and special occasion celebrations,” she said, adding: “The reason behind this project is our knowledge of Saudi women’s preferences, for women are more apt to understand taste and demand.”
Manal said she only uses high quality ingredients and is vigilant of even the most minute of details. “We entered into this field because there is an insufficient number of Saudi women in the field. Most people involved in catering are expatriates and only offer commercial services. They don’t consider high quality ingredients or hygiene standards,” she said.
“We hope to open up a large female restaurant in Riyadh to meet the daily needs of women because we have a positive presence in this field. We are looking for Saudi women who are good at cooking and can compete with international chefs in coming up with all kinds of dishes,” she pointed out.
“The main idea is to attract Saudi women to work in catering, since many Saudi families request the services of women who have converted their homes into kitchens. These kitchens are no less competitive than restaurants when it comes to cleanliness, delivery and service, especially during official holidays,” she said.
These cooks observe taste patterns to satisfy consumer preference across the board by providing a variety of meals, and they have excelled in catering to the tastes of each province. Their expertise is not limited to traditional food, as they are equally competent at providing international cuisines and desserts.
‘Pakistani Rural Women Still Deprived Of Their Rights’
31 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The government had worked a lot for empowering women but the rural women were still deprived of its results, as they did not have proper knowledge of these laws, said Anti-Harassment Law Federal Ombudsperson Yasmin Abbasi on Wednesday.
hairing the second session of a two-day rural women conference titled “Rural Women Development, Peace and Pluralism” organised by the Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) in collaboration with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund here at Lok Virsa, she said no woman could utilise her abilities and skills if the workplace environment was not conducive.
She said the government had passed a number of legislations to secure rights of women from the parliament and to get their desired results, everyone should play his role.
There was a need to create awareness among women of rural areas or less accessed communities, she added. Giving a detailed information on the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, she said every office was bound to establish a three-member harassment committee to ensure the rights of female employees.
She said any women who faced harassment at her office could easily file a complaint with that committee or directly to the ombudsman office and the accused would be punished after thorough investigations within six months.
This law enhanced the confidence of women in urban areas, but, unfortunately, rural women were not properly informed about it, she added.
National Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz shed light on the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act in 2011 and Law of Forced Marriages.
She said getting education, health facility and protection from violence were major issues of women in the country.
She said in the general elections, more than 400 women came forward but the majority of them contested as independent candidates as the political parties were not willing to give them tickets.
She said in the local body elections, women should come forward or support the person who would fight for their rights. Women should come forward and raise voice for their rights, she added.
An exhibition of handicrafts made by rural women was also organised on the occasion in which almost 25 stalls were established to display the art pieces.
Short plays and documentaries on the issues of rural women were presented in the conference to bring into limelight the challenges faced by women of deprived areas. The two-day conference would conclude tomorrow (Friday).
STD Virus Vaccine for Eighth-Grade Girls: Rabbis and Religious Communities Say No
31 October, 2013
The Health Ministry has given its support to a program of vaccinations for eighth-grade girls against human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer and is transmitted through sexual contact. But rabbis in the Haredi and national religious communities are fiercely opposed to the program, and this has stirred a deep controversy within the national religious community.
On the liberal side, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, a religious Zionist movement that says it “seeks to return religious Zionism to its roots,” sent a harshly-worded letter yesterday to Education Minister Shay Piron and other senior ministry officials, calling for the heads of the state religious school system “to renounce in a decisive fashion these voices [against the vaccinations], which are based on ignorance, fear-mongering and border on medical irresponsibility toward the girls who will listen to them.” The movement also demanded “not to bring in ulterior motives when considering the medical need to prevent serious diseases, and not to hide important facts because of fears of ‘modesty.’” Whoever prevents the vaccine being given to girls "violates the [principle of the] holiness of life,” states the letter.
The vaccine against human papilloma virus was introduced into the regime of routine vaccinations at the beginning of this year and is given to girls in eighth grade, with their parents' consent. Among the reasons for adding the vaccine to the regular list of shots, the Health Ministry said it could prevent most of the approximately 200 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Israel each year, as well as the approximately 100 annual deaths, but it will also prevent over 5,000 cases a year of pre-cancerous cervical growths that require additional testing and treatment, and which in some cases can damage fertility.
The vaccine is given at the relatively young age because its efficacy is higher when given before the girls start having sexual relations.
The outraged opposition among rabbis to the vaccination stems from the fact that the virus is transmitted sexually, and the danger of infection rises directly in line with the number of sexual partners the woman has had. “There’s certainly no place for such a vaccination in a religious school, since it rests on the fundamental assumption that the girls are steeped in the sins of Western culture, in which girls give their bodies to men and don’t wait until the wedding,” wrote Rabbi Baruch Efrati via the religious website Srugim, in answer to a question from the parents of one religious eighth-grader. Efrati praised them for being “shocked by the immodesty inherent in this.”
Moreover, Efrati added, there was little risk of most religious girls contracting the virus, so there was no reason to make them risk the potential side effects of the vaccine, or to go through the unpleasantness of explaining about “sleeping with many men, [just] for the sake of that small percentage of girls who, heaven forbid, are liable to stumble by giving away their bodies” – especially, he noted, since the risk of developing cancer is small.
There is no religious prohibition on administering the vaccine in secular schools, where the danger of contracting HPV is greater, Efrati wrote. But, even then, parents are permitted to prevent their daughter from getting the vaccine.
Health Ministry: Won't force vaccine on anyone
The Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah letter was written by Dr. Einav Mayzlish Gati, a biologist and member of the movement’s leadership. She said the movement could no longer bury its head and say its daughters will never have sexual relations. All religious Zionist women have sexual relations with their husbands, and there are the situations of divorcees and widows and others to consider, she said, adding that it is impossible under the veil of modesty to forbid things that are purely medical. “Before I wrote the letter, I consulted with gynecologists and female doctors who told me the recommendation is to vaccinate, even in cases of a small number of partners," wrote Mayzlish Gati. "I read articles that said it is possible to be infected not just through sexual relations. So is someone willing to take that risk?”
The ultra-Orthodox daily Yated Ne'eman on Tuesday quoted Dr. Benny Chen, head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, saying that his 25 years of experience in the field had convinced him that cervical cancer was very rare in the religious community. His view was presented to leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis, the paper reported, who ruled that the vaccine shouldn’t be administered in the religious community at such a young age. “He who keeps the Torah, the Torah protects him,” wrote the paper.
The Health Ministry confirmed that several religious schools had written to protest against the vaccine. Since parents aren’t legally required to vaccinate their children, the ministry said it wouldn't force the program on schools that refuse to allow vaccinations on their premises, or parents who refuse to let their daughters receive the vaccine. The vaccine can’t be given against the parents’ will, since parents must sign a consent form, the ministry noted.
If a school doesn’t administer the vaccine, parents can vaccinate their daughters at their health maintenance organization or through a private doctor, said the Health Ministry.
The Education Ministry has yet to respond.
Women of the Wall divided as dissenters refuse to budge from women’s section
31 October, 2013
A group of Women of the Wall activists who reject moving the group’s monthly prayer service to a new egalitarian space, told Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday they are determined to continue praying, as they have for the past 25 years, at the women’s section of the Western Wall.
“We firmly commit to upholding the right of Jewish women to assemble together in peace and dignity for prayer at the Kotel in our custom: Reading from a Torah scroll, and with the option of wrapping in tallit and tefillin,” they wrote in the letter. “Nothing has changed or will change this basic position. No plan to which others might agree will affect our right to pray in our custom at the Kotel, historic site of Jewish gathering, connection, and memory.”
Twenty individuals, among them some of the founding members of Women of the Wall, have signed the letter. In recent weeks, this splinter group has been actively campaigning against the decision by the Women of the Wall board to negotiate with the government over the possibility of moving their monthly prayer service to a new egalitarian area, separate from the mens-only and womens-only sections. Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman led the board to a 8-2 vote in favor of entering negotiations.
Most of the dissenters live outside Israel but they plan to take part in at least some of the celebrations next week, marking the 25th anniversary of Women of the Wall, according to Cheryl Birkner Mack, who recently resigned from the board in protest.
“The government proposes making structural changes at Robinson’s Arch to create a site to which all whose prayer practice is not tolerated by those who now control the Kotel will be relegated, leaving the Kotel permanently and officially in the hands of a segment of Jewry that suffers the presence of other Jews only on its terms,” the dissenters wrote in their letter to Bennett. “Regrettably, the Israeli government is yielding to intimidation, threats, and violence as the basis for policy making, rather than upholding the equality of rights of all citizens in public space that is enshrined in Israel's Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, in rewarding threats and intimidation, the Israeli government betrays its responsibility to guarantee all Jews access to Judaism's holy site.”
Earlier this week, the Women of the Wall board presented a list of demands to the government for moving their prayer service to the new mixed space. Among other stipulations, they have demanded a key role in designing and administering the new space. They are also demanding, as a pre-condition for negotiations, that until the new space is completed, they be allowed to read from the Torah in the women’s section and that the government take active steps to put an end to ultra-Orthodox demonstrations against them there.
Baby Ghadi's Religion Isn't On His Birth Certificate, A First For Sectarian Lebanon
31 October, 2013
Baby Ghadi made history when he popped into the world, as he is reportedly the first child to be born in Lebanon without a religious sect listed on his birth certificate. Lebanon is a country where a person's religious sect matters significantly in professional, political, and social matters. A religious-based quota system awards jobs in the military and the public sector, and government positions even at the top level are distributed between the three main religious sects in the country -- Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, and Christianity.
His parents, Kholoud Sukkarieh and Nidal Darwish, earlier this year became the first Lebanese couple to have a secular, civil marriage, and they wanted to pass on their support for national Lebanese identity rather than sectarian religious identity to their adorable baby boy, Ghadi.
By leaving the "religious sect" portion of his birth certificate blank, his parents hope to spare him from the sectarian identifications that complicate life in Lebanon. His mother, Sukkarieh, told Al Jazeera's The Stream, "As a pure Lebanese citizen he doesn't have to worry about anything, he is just going to live the way he wants; he is going to feel free choosing his religion and everything related to him."
Little Ghadi attracted the attention of Lebanon's leader, as President Michel Sleiman tweeted a congratulatory message to Sukkarieh after she posted a picture of the historic certificate online.
His mother spoke to The Stream about the significance of the secular certificate:
This means that he is the first person ever that is not related to any sect, he is pure of sectarian regime, of any sectarian problems or conflict in Lebanon that we are suffering from, long time ago we have been suffering from. This means that he will be growing, feeling free of all the chains that we are living in, that everybody is living in in Lebanon. He will be able to have his job and his life, and his freedom. He will be living in the center of the 452 km as his own, as a Lebanese citizen.
In her comments to The Stream, Sukkarieh said that she was aware the she had given him "a lot to handle for his future." She continued, "But I'm sure he is going to be able to handle it because he's going to be brought up in a home where me and Nidal and are going to teach him how to respect people, and how to respect people's choices and accept them as they are."
One thing's for sure: he's got an adoring mama who can't take her eyes off him.
Kenyans demand gang-rape justice in police petition
31 October, 2013
Hundreds of protesters in Kenya have handed over a petition to police demanding justice for a teenager who was gang-raped.
The 16-year-old was gang-raped and then thrown in a pit latrine breaking her back.
The three men accused of gang-raping her were ordered by police to cut grass as punishment.
The petition signed by 1.2 million people calls for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the alleged rapists.
The BBC's Anne Soy said about 300 people walked from Uhuru Park in the capital, Nairobi, to the police headquarters to hand over the petition, which was carried in cardboard boxes.
David Kimaiyo, the inspector general of police, was not present to receive it, but sent a representative on his behalf, she says.
The girl, referred to as Liz to protect her identity, was attacked and repeatedly raped after returning from a grandfather's funeral in the village of Busia in western Kenya.
Her unconscious body was thrown into a pit latrine and she is now in a wheelchair.
She had recognised her attackers and afterwards identified them to the police, who chose not to officially prosecute them.
Instead they were ordered them to cut grass around a police station in Busia, near Lake Victoria.
This spurred some journalists and activists to use social media to raise awareness of the case, using the hashtag #Justice4Liz.
An online petition was then set up by activist Nebila Abdulmelik on the Avaaz petition hosting website, which started to gain international attention.
"It's incredible that more one million people have backed the campaign calling for action on the rape of Liz," she said in statement released by Avaaz.
"Rather than deleting tweets, Inspector Kimaiyo has to take action in what has been a shameful response by Kenya's police.
"The men that raped Liz must be arrested and the police officers who let them walk free must be held to account - this case has to be the moment when the culture of violence and impunity ends."
Our reporter says the protesters carried placards - some reading "Justice for Liz" and "One in three of us will be violated in our lifetime" - which they left outside the police headquarters.