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

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Faceless 'Deeni Doll' Wearing Hijab Launched in Britain for Muslim Girls

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Dec 2014

Girls after recovery are sitting for their registration before shifting to Darul Banaat child protection unit in Karachi. - PPI/file



 Female Saudi Nurses ‘Excel at Their Jobs despite Pressures’

 India: Hindutva Forces Issue Warning to Women

 Kenyan Girls Sold Into Marriage

 Kenya: 20 Girls Forcefully Circumcised in Marakwet

 10-Hour Shift Hits Saudi Women Employment

 NA Committee to Take up Issue of Karachi’s Madrasah Girls Today

 Eva Longoria Says She Relates To the Struggle of Arabs

 Amina Wadud Exemplifies Islamic Feminism, Makes Significant Strides In Research

 Woman and Girls in Mkhondo, South Africa: Force for Change

 Filipino Children Make Gains on Paper, but Reality Lags Behind

 Kenya: Islam's Stance on Violence against Women

 Women of 2014: The women of the YPJ, the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Faceless 'Deeni Doll' Wearing Hijab Launched in Britain for Muslim Girls

15 Dec, 2014

A new doll that has no facial features like eyes, nose or mouth and wears a hijab has been launched in Britain for Muslim girls.

The doll has been designed in accordance with the Sharia or Islamic law, which forbids graphic depiction of facial features of any kind. 

The "Deeni Doll" costs £25 ($40) and was manufactured in China. Its creator Ridhwana B, who used to teach at a Lancashire Muslim school, said she took four years to create it.

"I came up with the idea from scratch after speaking to some parents who were a little concerned about dolls with facial features," said Ridhwana, Metro reports.

She further said that some parents do not leave dolls with their children at night "because you are not allowed to have any eyes in the room."

"There is an Islamic ruling which forbids the depiction of facial features of any kind and that includes pictures, sculptures and, in this case, dolls," she added.

To materialise the idea, she needed to have considerable knowledge as to what is allowed and what is not under the Islamic law. She said that she spoke to a religious scholar living in Leicester. The scholar guided her through the entire process of designing the product.

At present, the doll is limited to 'Romeisa', the female companion of Prophet Muhammad. Ridhwana hopes to extend the range after doing proper research.

"The Islamic range in kid's toys is quite limited at the moment with few choices. Although this project took a while, I am looking at researching other ideas in the future. I am looking at compiling a book for the Islamic upbringing of children in the future too. We have produced a limited amount at the moment but already I have had parents take up the order."



Female Saudi nurses ‘excel at their jobs despite pressures’

15 Dec, 2014

A recent report has revealed that Saudi nurses are excelling at their jobs despite social pressure and other biases toward the profession and garnering good reviews from the patients.

With almost 70 percent of the nursing sector dominated by expatriates, the study, a first-of-its-kind, indicated through scientific research papers that an overwhelming majority of patients are satisfied with the performance of Saudi nurses.

The study conducted by Dr. Haya Al-Fozan, head of the Nursing College at King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University included patient interviews and chats with their accompanying members.

Of the 302 people surveyed, there were 149 patients and 153 accompanying members.

The study funded by the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center University was conducted simultaneously at the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, King Abdulaziz Medical City in Jeddah, King Abdulaziz Hospital in Al-Ahsa, and Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal Hospital in Dammam.

The study appeared in the December issue of the American publication, “Journal of Natural Sciences Research” and was highly appreciated by readers at King Saud University.

According to the results of the study, 80 percent expressed satisfaction with Saudi nurses’ knowledge of the nursing profession and ability to provide correct information; 89.4 percent confirmed their satisfaction with the clinical skills; 89 percent expressed satisfaction with the care provided by the nurses while 95.4 percent indicated satisfaction with the communication skills; 90 percent confirmed their satisfaction with the Saudi nurses’ decision-making abilities, and 93.4 percent expressed satisfaction with parents’ involvement in the care of the patient. Finally, 92 percent confirmed that they were satisfied with the nurses’ professional behavior.

Alia Mohammed, a Saudi nurse said that the nursing profession has social and humanitarian aspects, which makes it ideal for women globally. “But there are long hours and it is especially difficult for working mothers who often can’t find babysitters for their children while they are away,” Mohammed told Arab News.

Other challenges involve lack of experience and training programs as well as poor English language skills.

Salma Al-Shahri said that the challenge for women begins when they decide to join the profession. “Often, families object to the profession. Also, the nursing curriculum is difficult. Finally, when one is able to find a job, there are problems because of the long working hours,” she said.



Hindutva forces issue warning to women

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Dec 15, 2014

Now Hindutva forces have taken to WhatsApp to save the 'honour' of 'their' women. Reacting to Facebook and WhatsApp messages by an outfit calling itself 'Muslim Defence Force' warning 'their' women to not talk to men of other religions, a message is being circulated on WhatsApp, warning Hindu women against engaging with men of other religions.

Bangalore Mirror had reported on Dec 5, In 'Hindutva factory, how Muslim moral police had sent out messages warning both men and women of 'unIslamic' activities.

The WhatsApp message that is in Kannada reads, "A warning bell to a few Hindu women. Henceforth, in case you are trapped with a guy, be it from any religion including ours in parks, hotels or lodges, you along with the guy will be given 'prasad'.

"The message elaborates the meaning of prasad. "We will see to it that you reach your house in a procession and a garland of chappals," it says. "We are not bothered if women rights are violated. We do not mind running around courts," the message reads.

The message justifies this 'crusade' citing the dire consequences of such alliances.

"Today you will go with your friend, but will not know that he is 'mixed'. When it is known that he is from another religion, there will be an attack by the organisation and will be followed by communal tension; there will be a bandh and business will be brought to a halt," it reads. The message lays the onus of the consequences on the women. "You will be responsible when people who earn in your house are also affected," it reads. The message, however, makes it clear that the warning is not applied to 'girls with repute'. A suo motu case was registered at Barke police station under section 66(a) of the IT act and 506 of the IPC.



Kenyan girls sold into marriage

15 Dec, 2014

This is the heartbreaking moment young girls in Kenya are sold into arranged marriages for a dowry of livestock.

It is part of a traditional ceremony which marks their passing into womanhood.

Clad in tribal jewellery and with their hair tied up in braids, some of the women can be seen struggling as they are hauled away, traded by their fathers for 20 goats, three camels, and ten cows.

Many of the girls, who are members of the Pokot tribe, are not aware they have been bargained away until their husbands come to collect them after spending a month in isolation before the ceremony takes place.

Daily Mail



Kenya: 20 Girls Forcefully Circumcised in Marakwet

15 Dec, 2014

Twenty girls were forcefully circumcised in two villages in Marakwet East sub-county.

The girls aged between 6 -14 are pupils at Chugor Girls boarding and Chesetan primary schools in Elgeyo Marakwet county.

The girls reportedly faced the cut in Tinyar and Kapkobutwo villages in Chugor, Kibaimwa location of Marakwet East, in an exercise that started from 5:30 am to7:00 pm.

Villagers who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested said although the government had outlawed FGM, they would not abandon their most valued practice in their society.

The villagers asked the government not to interfere with their traditions but instead tackle insecurity associated with terrorism and banditry witnessed recently in parts of the country

Deputy County Commissioner Hussein Alaso Hussein summoned the chief and Police station commander [OCS] in areas where the Female Gential Mutilation allegedly occurred.

"We will investigate who among them failed in their responsibility to prevent it and we have summoned the Kibaimwa location chief and Mogil police station OCS, and as we speak we are in a crisis meeting and they only have up to this evening to produce suspects or face disciplinary action." Hussein said

Anti FGM Board Chairperson Linah Kilimo regretted that after great efforts have been made to eradicate the outlawed practice, FGM is still rampant in the area.

"It is so unfortunate that we are still getting reports from home that is so bad. I thought we had come a long way and were free from the chains of barbaric cultural practices of FGM," said Kilimo.

Local MP Kangogo Bowen and County Women Representative Dr. Susan Chebet condemned FGM and asked police to ensure the culprits were brought to book.



10-hour shift hits Saudi women employment

15 Dec, 2014

Despite government efforts to support women’s employment in the private sector, their participation in the labor force is not up to the desired level owing to the obstacles in implementing the decision including the 10-hour working day that tops the list.

Women employees have said that working for long hours is negatively impacting women psychologically and socially and particularly their families, which has led to their resignations.

Fatima Qaroub, a social activist and consultant said women’s working hours had initially been set at eight but the decision was changed because these hours did not include the prayer times.

According to Qaroub, the six-hour system should have been applied giving employees two hours for a break and prayers. She pointed out that some employers had resorted to an 11-hour working day, which means that they only have to pay one employee but this is not acceptable because women have family commitments.

She added that some women are forced to choose between work and family, which is illogical since some of them need to work to help support their families.

“Some companies gave women fewer holidays because they said that they give them a two-hour break,” she said. She stressed that companies should be obliged to follow the eight-hour working day to retain women in the workforce and protect companies from being left in the lurch by their employees who decide to abandon them for better prospects.

Amani Al-Qarni, a human resource official in a company said most women employees agree that the 10-day working shift is too long because it has negative effects on women in general and married women in particular. “This decision is in the interest of neither party; the employee or the employer,” she said.

She added that she left her last job because of the long working hours.

Al-Qarni also said that transportation should be taken into consideration because women employees often live at a distance from the workplace, which adds to the number of hours they stay away from home.

Lama’ Matar, a training specialist said the 10-hour working day is too long and that no one will allow his wife, sister or daughter to stay that long outside the house.

She said this decision has pushed many women to quit jobs. “This decision is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and companies can’t ignore it, because the ministry might conduct inspections on these facilities asking employees about their working hours,” she said.

The 10-hour working day has been in effect for some time now, said a saleswoman in a shopping center, but “the hours are too long and the work is exhausting.”

Deputy Chairman of the human resource committee in the Jeddah chamber, Abdullah Atiyah Al-Zahrani, said the eight-hour shift would increase women’s productivity. “Companies should appreciate the circumstances of working women especially with regard to the transportation issue. I don’t expect owners of establishments to employ one woman to save on salaries, especially in light of the implementation of true Saudization.”



NA committee to take up issue of Karachi’s madressah girls today

15 Dec, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights is meeting here on Monday (today) to receive a briefing on the recovery of minor girls from various places in Karachi last month. The committee will also take up two constitution amendment bills.

According to the agenda of the meeting issued by the NA Secretariat, the committee headed by Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk has called senior officials of the ministry to brief the members about the steps taken by the government for the rehabilitation of the minor girls hailing from a tribal area and the action taken against those responsible for the crime.

Police had recovered 36 girl students of a seminary from a house in Liaquatabad area and a flat in Korangi Crossing area of Karachi on Nov 26. These girls, hailing from Bajaur Agency, had reportedly been handed over to a family by a teacher and a supervisor of the madressah over a monetary dispute.

The seminary had handed the girls over to the family when the family was unable to repay a loan it had taken from the madressah. In order to get the loan adjusted, the seminary had reportedly asked the family to take charge of the young girls’ welfare.

Later, 15 girls were handed over to their parents in Karachi after verification and 20 were brought to Peshawar and then sent to their hometown in Bajaur Agency.

The incident drew severe reaction from political parties, civil society organisations and people from all walks of life who called for adequate punishment to those involved in illegal practice.

The matter also came under discussion during the National Assembly session when a ruling PML-N member from tribal areas, Shahabuddin Khan, brought it into the notice of his colleagues.

PPP’s female members Azra Fazal Pechuho and Nafisa Shah had assured the house at the time that their party-led provincial government in Sindh would do its best to bring to light facts about the recovery of girls.

Although police and authorities in tribal areas made claims about the arrest of some suspects in this regard, the mystery as to how these girls were transported to Karachi is yet to be resolved.

The committee will also take up two constitution amendment bills piloted by a minority MNA of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam from Balochistan, Asiya Nasir.

The first bill, moved by four MNAs, suggests an amendment to Article 251 calling upon the government to make arrangements for using Urdu for official purposes from Jan 1, 2015.

Presently, Article 251 states: “The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for it being used for official and other purposes within 15 years from the commencing day.”

The members have suggested replacement of the words “from the commencing day” with “from the first day of 2015”.

Through the other bill, the members have sought increase in the reserved seats in the NA for minorities from 10 to 16.



Eva Longoria says she relates to the struggle of Arabs

15 December 2014

Hollywood star Eva Longoria said Sunday that she relates to the struggle of Arabs, UAE-based daily Gulf News reported.

“I am Mexican-American, so I am American, but I was raised with Mexican culture — so I have a different language, I have a religion,” Longoria, who was the honorary chairperson of the Global Gift Gala fundraiser held in Dubai, said when she was asked whether she relates to the Middle East.

“I understand the similarities that happen when people judge you for having a culture and an ethnicity — or an identity — that I’m very proud of, being Mexican-American,” she added.

Longoria, who was speaking at the Global Gift Gala which was set in association with the Dubai International Film Festival and Dubai Cares also said that she will be starting a new television show next year.

The non-profit organization aims to raise funds to improve the lives of disadvantaged children, women and families around the world.

During the event, which was held at White Dubai at Meydan, British singer Alexandra Burke performed her most popular songs.



Amina Wadud exemplifies Islamic feminism, makes significant strides in research

Taylor Hallet, Staff Videographer

15 Dec, 2014

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, Dr. Amina Wadud, Islamic feminist and scholar, gave a fascinating lecture in the Carnegie Room in Hege Library on the current debates and struggles in Islamic feminist discourse.

The work Wadud is undertaking as a scholar is unique given her specific focus on a woman’s perspective of the Qur’an. She is not, however, the only individual involved in the burgeoning Islamic feminist movement.

“I prefer to speak in terms of women’s activism and engagement, as opposed to ‘Islamic Feminism,’” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Betsy Mesard in an email interview. “Many Muslim women who are doing work to transform women’s roles and rights don’t like this term.”

Mesard is currently teaching a course offered in the religious studies department entitled “Islam and Modernization.”

One student in the class, junior Katie Fullerton, decided to do an in-depth research project on the body of work that Amina Wadud has contributed as a scholar in Islamic studies.

“Researching Amina’s work has given me a glimpse into the complexities of Islamic feminism,” said Fullerton in an email interview. “Her initial rejection and then her gradual acceptance of the label ‘feminist’ gave me some insight into the negative impression the term has in some Muslim circles.”

Fullerton described her experience in Mesard’s class in positive terms.

“We are discussing various Muslim responses to ‘modernity,’ primarily defined as the influences of European and Western domination,” said Fullerton.

During her lecture in October, Wadud made clear to the audience the significance of the current women’s movement in relation to the history of Islam.

“There have been more radical considerations of the possibilities of how to live as Muslim women in our time rather than at any other time,” said Wadud during her lecture.

So, what is it that makes Wadud’s work especially important at this point in time?

“She, along with many other Islamic feminists, makes a distinction between feminism inspired by Islamic ideals versus feminism inspired by Western and modern ideals,” said Fullerton.

Associate Professor of English Diya Abdo, who attended Wadud’s lecture in October, shared similar thoughts on the importance of Wadud’s work.

“Wadud’s work is significant because it brings a much-needed perspective to religious exegesis,” said Abdo. “Her methodology’s clear emphasis on justice shows us how we can live and be better as human beings.”

Mesard found importance in Wadud’s work for its thought -provoking aspects.

“Amina Wadud’s work is significant in part simply because it has provoked debate,” said Mesard. “Whenever people are forced to think carefully about, clarify and defend their commitments, there is a potential for change — even if it is not immediate change along the lines that she calls for.”

Wadud’s work is also significant for its emphasis on “tafsir,” meaning interpretation in Arabic. In a video interview with The Guilfordian, Wadud elaborated on the strategies she employs in her methodology of applying “tafsir” to the Qur’an.

“If you have a 14,000 year history of engaging with the text, but you don’t have a record of women’s responses to that text until this last century, then maybe we are missing something from the story of how the text is understood,” said Wadud.

Other prominent scholars in the Islamic women’s movement include journalist Mona Eltahawy, Harvard professor Leila Ahmed and Egyptian writer Nawal el-Saadawy.

“Many of the things that she said during her visit have stuck with me, and most of what has stuck with me are life lessons rather than comments specific to Amina’s experience,” said Fullerton. “Above everything that I admire about Amina though, I most appreciate her ability to claim power for herself in a situation, while also empowering those around her.”



Woman and girls in Mkhondo, South Africa: Force for change

15 Dec, 2014

Maria Shongwe has overcome obstacles that many women and girls in South Africa face - including poverty and living with HIV - to become an inspirational community activist.

Maria was the first person in the small town of Amsterdam, near the Swaziland border, to openly reveal she was living with HIV. She also broke new ground by setting up a local branch of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) – a prominent national organization pushing for HIV healthcare services. Maria’s determination secured anti-retroviral treatment (ART) for 50 people when they couldn’t get it through the public health system, and recently got lottery funding to set up a home for orphans.

She now works for TAC in Mkhondo Municipality, where health services are among the worst in the country. In her own words, she gives an insight into her life and work:

‘He raped me’

I was born in Swaziland. We had to walk 70km to and from school every day. There was a guy - like an uncle. One day he gave me a lift on a bicycle. He went in the forest and he raped me. It was my first time, and I fell pregnant. But there was nothing I can do. Because maybe if you are a girl and you report something to your parents, they say: “That can’t be. It means that you are in love with that guy”.

‘The law doesn’t care about us as women’

‘When I grew up, I was married here in South Africa. After [my husband] passed away, his family took everything, even my furniture. I was in and out of court fighting. I take another step - I don’t want to hear about any women being abused. Because the law doesn’t care about us as women. I decided to leave everything and move to Amsterdam.

‘Don’t tell anybody’

I spoke to the lady [at the clinic] and disclosed my [HIV] status. She say: “No, don’t tell anybody you have tested positive.” I say I want to be helped because I don’t know what this virus will do to my body. She didn’t understand.

Becoming an activist

My daughter started to be sick. After six months, she tested positive for HIV. There was no medication in this area, so she passed away. She was 19. I started to do the [TAC] support groups. People started to talk about living with this virus but the medication was nowhere to be seen. I went to [the private] Iswepe Clinic, 56 km from here, and talked with the nurse.

She said: “People from Amsterdam can start the [ART] programme because people here don’t want to take the medication.” But it was difficult because we don’t have money to go there. Some of those taking the medication can’t walk. I brought them to [my] house until they were better. I cared for them. And I was going door-to-door. Without any stipend - I was getting nothing. If I found someone who was sick, I do the counselling to that person and take them to the clinic. Now I am a [paid] mentor, looking after TAC branches in the whole of Mkhondo Municipality.

Girls selling themselves

We are on the road to Swaziland and from Nelspruit to Durban - many people pass through. You can see the [young] girls in town going to sell themselves to the drivers. There are many taverns, poverty. The parents die and the children stay alone. If men give them R20 (US$2), they think it is a lot of money. They start sleeping with boys at an early age. Now I have started a group for these girls, educating them about how to keep themselves healthy.

The woman and girls in Mkhondo South Africa are one of 12 cases in Amnesty International's Write for Rights campaign. Take action



Filipino Children Make Gains on Paper, But Reality Lags Behind

15 Dec, 2014

A child rights advocate with the secretariat of the Philippine NGO Coalition on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Baez says, “Teenage pregnancies continue to rise, street children are treated like criminals who are punished, children in conflict with the law and those affected by disasters are not taken care of, and now, with the prevalence of child porn, children know how to video call.”

The most notable case of this last scourge was early this year in the island of Cebu, 570 kilometres south of Manila, where the Philippine National Police arrested and tried foreign nationals for pedophilia and child pornography in a large-scale cybersex business.

While the Philippines is praised by international human rights groups as having an advanced legal framework for children, child rights advocates like Baez said “violations continue to persist,” including widespread corporal punishment at home, in schools and in other settings.

The Bata Muna (Child First), a nationwide movement that monitors the implementation of children’s rights in the Philippines consisting of 23 children’s organisations jointly convened by Save the Children, Zone One Tondo Organization consisting of urban poor communities, and Children Talk to Children (C2C), said these violations were contained in the United Nations reviews and expert recommendations to the Philippine government.

The movement listed the gains on the realisation of children’s rights with the existence of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act, Anti-Child Trafficking, Anti-Pornography Act and Foster Care Act, among other policies protecting children.

There is also the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a social welfare programme intended to eradicate extreme poverty by investing in children’s education and health; the National Strategic Framework for the Development of Children 2001-2025; the Philippine Plan of Action for Children; and the growing collective efforts of civil society to claim children’s rights.

But Baez said these laws have not been fully implemented, and are in fact clouded by current legislative proposals such as amending the country’s Revised Penal Code to raise the age of statutory rape from the current 12 to 16 to align the country’s laws to internationally-accepted standard of age of consent.

The recently-enacted Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, which endured 15 years of being filed, re-filed and debated on in the Philippine Congress, has yet to be implemented. Many civil society groups have pinned their hopes on this law on the education of young people on sexual responsibility and life skills.

Teenage pregnancy, which affects 1.4 million Filipino girls aged 15 to 19, is widespread in the country, according to the University of the Philippines Population Institute that conducted the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey in 2013.

There are 43 million young Filipinos under 18, according to 2014 estimates of the National Statistics Office, and these youth, especially those in the poorest households and with limited education, need to be informed about their bodies, their health and their rights to prevent early pregnancies.

The child advocates said early pregnancies deny young girls their basic human rights and prevent them from continuing their schooling. The advocates said if the Reproductive Health Law is implemented immediately, many girls and boys will be able to receive correct information on how to protect and care for their bodies.

On education, Baez said the government’s intention to provide more access has yet to be realised with the introduction in 2011 of the K to 12 program to provide a child ample time to be skilled, develop lifelong learning, and prepare them for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship.

“While the programme does not solve the high drop-out rate in primary education, children in remote and poor areas still walk kilometres just to go to school,” Baez said.

This situation was echoed by Mark Timbang, advocacy coordinator of the Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights and Protection in the country’s predominantly Muslim south, who said the government has not shown its intentions to provide children a more convenient way of going to school.

Timbang also said “the government has not intervened in protecting children from early marriage and in ending the decades-long war between Muslims and Christians to achieve true and lasting peace” where children can grow safely.

Sheila Carreon, child participation officer of Save the Children, added that another pending bill seeks to raise the age of children who can participate in the Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council), a youth political body that is a mechanism for children’s participation in governance, from the current 15-17 years to 18-24.

“We urged the government not to erase children in the council. Let the children experience the issues that concern them. The council is their only platform,” said Carreon.

Angelica Ramirez, advocacy officer of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development, said existing laws do not give enough protection to children, citing as an example pending legislative measures that seek positive discipline instead of using corporal punishment on children.

Foremost among them is the Positive Discipline and Anti Corporal Punishment bill that promotes the positive discipline approach that seeks to teach children that violence is not an acceptable and appropriate strategy in resolving conflict.

It promotes non-violent parenting that guides children’s behaviour while respecting their rights to healthy development and participation in learning, develops their positive communication and attention skills, and provides them with opportunities to evaluate the choices they make.

Specifically, the bill suggests immediately correcting a child’s wrongdoing, teaching the child a lesson, giving tools that build self -discipline and emotional control, and building a good relationship with the child by understanding his or her needs and capabilities at each stage of development without the use of violence and by preventing embarrassment and indignity on a child.

Citing a campaign-related slogan that quotes children saying, “You don’t need to hurt us to let us learn,” Ramirez said corporal punishment is “rampant and prevalent,” as it is considered in many Filipino households as a cultural norm.

She cited a 2011 Pulse Asia survey that said eight out of 10 Filipino children experience corporal punishment and two out of three parents know no other means of disciplining their children.

Addressing this issue by stopping the practice can have a good ripple effect on future generations, said Ramirez, because nine out of 10 parents who practice corporal punishment said it was also used by their parents to discipline them.

The U.N. defines corporal punishment as the physical, emotional and psychological punishment of children in the guise of discipline. As one of the cruelest forms of violence against children, corporal punishment is a violation of children’s rights. It recommends that all countries, including the Philippines as a signatory to the convention, implement a law prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment in schools, private and public institutions, the juvenile justice system, alternative care system, and the home.



Kenya: Islam's Stance On Violence Against Women

15 Dec, 2014

Violence against women remains a major concern in today's society. This problem is widespread and it affects people from all walks of life regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity or religion.

At a time when there is growing focus on women's rights, gender equity and economic emancipation of women, it is expected that there should be a marked decrease in violence against women but instead the opposite is true.

Even in countries which have attained phenomenal growth in human rights and development, cases of violence against women continue to rise. Statistics by the American Medical Association indicate that nearly one quarter of women in the United States fall victim to domestic violence.

Among the philosophies of Islam is to establish justice and mercy among people while at the same time oppressive actions which are harmful to humanity are strongly prohibited.

Islam emphasizes that all humans have the same origin and are created equal regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. The Qur'an states, "O mankind! reverence your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and created, of like nature, its mate, and from them two scattered countless men and women." (Quran 4:1)

During the time of Prophet Muhammad, violence against the weak in society particularly women and children was prevalent but the societal reforms which the Prophet undertook not only brought to an end these horrific practices but enhanced the role of women and granted them a myriad of rights which protected their dignity.

One of the most grotesque abuses in pre-Islamic Arabia was the widespread culture of female infanticide where fathers chose to bury their daughters alive as they considered the girl-child as a painful burden and a potential source of shame to her father. Islam outrightly prohibited this practice and the Qur'an went ahead to speak ill against those who viewed the birth of a girl child with contempt. (Quran 16:58-59).

While this practice can be seen to be archaic, it is regrettable that in the 21st century, it is still prevalent in this modern age particularly in India and China where sex-selective abortion and female infanticide is blamed for the killing of millions of female children.

To promote harmony in the society, Islamic principles require husbands to treat their wives with respect and honour as this serves to reduce acts of violence against women in the homes. Husbands are urged to live with their spouses in tranquility and treat them under the shade of mercy and love. "And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put Love and mercy between your (hearts), verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Quran 30:21).

Husbands are further prohibited from inflicting physical and emotional abuse against their wives and the Quran repeatedly warns against the use of injurious statements by a husband against his wife. (Quran 58:2-4)

However, there exists a misunderstanding that Islamic teachings sanctions violence by a husband against a recalcitrant wife. The origin of this misunderstanding is derived from the Quranic verse which reads: "As for those (women) on whose part you fear ill-will and nasty conduct, admonish them (first), (next) separate them in beds (and last) beat them. But if they obey you, then seek nothing against them. (Quran 4:34).

In this verse a three-phase approach which involves advising the wife, refusing to share the bed and should these measures fail, the last instruction is applied but as the Prophet stated it should be a light strike (ghayr muharrib) -- which should not involve hitting the face and should not cause injury or leave bruises. Islamic scholars have described the beating as symbolic which should be administered with a folded scarf or with a miswak (traditional chewing stick for cleaning teeth).

This makes it clear that even when it comes to this extreme last resort, terms such as "physical abuse," or "wife battering" have no place in Islam.

Never in his entire life did the Prophet, who serves as the exemplary model to Muslims, hit any woman and he expressly condemned husbands who beat their wives. In one of his sayings, he expressed his extreme repulsion against this behavior and said, "How does anyone of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace (sleep with) her?" (Al-Bukhari)

In his last sermon, he was clear that both men and women have rights over each other and exhorted men to be kind to women. "Treat your women well, and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers," he said.

In addition to the violence that women are subjected to during times of peace, Islam condemns acts of aggression against women which occur during times of conflict. Prophet Muhammad emphasized that during war time, noncombatants, primarily women, children and those in places of worship such as monks and nuns should under no circumstance be harmed. "Why was she killed, she was not among the combatants?" he once remarked after observing the body of a woman after a battle.

Among the most degrading forms of violence against women is rape and other acts of sexual violence which remain prevalent in the present society. While a rape victim suffers physical and psychological injury, the effect goes much deeper as even the victim's male relatives such as father, husband and brothers do not escape the ensuing psychological trauma. Islam, therefore, views rape as a violent crime not only against the victim, but the family and the society as a whole.

Another form of violence against women is female genital mutilation which at times is wrongly associated with Islam even though this is a widespread cultural practice that is prevalent in many Muslim and non-Muslim communities. This painful and potentially harmful practice which often ends in permanent physical mutilation and alteration of body functions has no Islamic basis as the faith is against all actions which are a source of harm to humanity.

Ultimately, the society has a responsibility to ensure an end to all acts of violence against women. As individuals, we all need to ensure that women are treated in a honourable manner and their dignity is protected and preserved as illustrated in this tradition of Prophet Muhammad, "Women are the twin halves of men. None but a noble man treats women in an honourable manner, and none but an ignorant treats women disgracefully."

Abu Ayman is a Nairobi-based journalist.



Women of 2014: The women of the YPJ, the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units

15 Dec, 2014

Most photographs of “Narin Afrin” are fake. Few people even know her real name. Yet so striking is the idea of a woman not just fighting but commanding forces on one of the Middle East’s most dangerous battlefields, that she has become a local legend among the region’s stateless Kurds.

The woman who goes by the nom de guerre Narin Afrin tries to remain elusive. She wants to keep the focus on her all-female YPJ forces – a Kurdish acronym for the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units. “Military force is no longer the monopoly of men ... The YPJ proves women can be the defenders. They can protect their own lives – and their nation,” she says, in a rare telephone interview from Kobani, the besieged Kurdish city in northern Syria.

Both male and female Kurdish fighters have become some of the most effective ground forces in the US-led coalition that is fighting off a three-month-old assault by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the jihadi group known as Isis. The YPJ has become a cause célèbre: the image of bronzed women toting guns is a rare symbol of female empowerment in a conservative region – and a stark contrast to a group taking female captives as slaves.

Afrin worries that the photographs of “girls with guns” mean the world ignores how serious her forces are about their ideological goals. “We’re not just a pretty picture. We are a way of thinking,” she says. “We have beliefs. And we have a cause.”

The YPJ is a Syrian offshoot of a group that the west labels as terrorists. The leftist guerrilla Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has fought a three-decade war for Kurdish self-rule against Turkey. Spread across four Middle Eastern countries, Kurds are the world’s largest stateless ethnicity. Despite the PKK link, Kurdish forces in Syria are now allies of the international coalition. Media attention on the YPJ may have helped win them support. “Whatever their flaws, they are a more democratic option whose ideas of gender equality are closer to the west,” says Aliza Marcus, author of Blood and Belief, a book on the PKK and its affiliates. “The women, the fighters, really helped sell the group, and work against Turkey’s push to have them labelled a terrorist group.”

For many Kurdish women, joining PKK-linked forces appeals both to their nationalist aspirations and a desire for gender equality. The PKK has often taken teenage recruits. More recently, Human Rights Watch, the global lobby group, said Syrian Kurdish forces, both male and female, were using child soldiers. The YPJ has been trying to address those criticisms in an effort to maintain international support.

The PKK is also totalitarian. After years of ideology ingrained during training, many fighters speak only in platitudes. “As a child I always dreamt of the idea of equality among humankind,” Afrin says. “I imagined that if I had the strength, I would create a society where there were no poor or rich, strong or weak.” When she turned 18, she met a female PKK fighter from Turkey. She was shocked by her freedom and confidence, and immediately went to enlist.

Women rename themselves when they begin military training. Narin was a name she loved; Afrin is a reference to her Kurdish village. “By picking a new name, you are separating yourself in every way from your old self and whatever that past may have held before you chose revolution,” she says.

The PKK and its affiliates have recruited women since the 1980s, partly because of leftist ideology, but also because women, half the population, were an untapped base. Grateful for the rare outlet for social mobility, women are often the most committed members. Every political and military leadership position is co-chaired by a man and a woman. Quotas ensure women get nearly half the organisation’s positions.

That doesn’t mean the struggle for equality is over. In a pink headscarf and black leather jacket, 40-year-old Fawzia Abdo, co-head of Kobani’s political leadership, is the epitome of an older generation juggling conservative customs and political advancement. “They accept that outside, we are playing an equal role. But at home, men still want the ‘golden days’. We still need to liberate the home front – men now have to accept they share a burden in child-rearing and domestic life. We’re not providing them a hotel service any more,” she says.

Like Afrin, Abdo sees the YPJ media obsession as a mixed blessing. On one hand, it raises their profile and increases regional interest in women’s roles. The semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq is now creating female security forces. The United Arab Emirates sent a female fighter pilot to help in the coalition bombing of Isis.

But Abdo also sees signs the excitement is superficial: “We share political leadership, but those women hardly get media recognition...That’s not just our problem – it’s the world’s. They focus only on female fighters, as if they were strange animals.”

Erika Solomon is an FT correspondent based in Beirut