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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 Apr 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Fearless Indian Muslim Woman Rides 1400 Kms To Rescue Son Stuck in Lockdown

New Age Islam News Bureau

11 Apr 2020

Mainstream and social media has praised the courage of the fearless Razia Begum and the power of motherhood that made her ride the scooter for nearly 1400 km.


• Fearless Indian Muslim Woman Rides 1400 Kms To Rescue Son Stuck in Lockdown

• Young Female Arab Artists Amid 'Nostalgia and Struggle'

• 29 Years on Death Row, Pakistan Woman Suffers Mental Illness

• Muslim Women Who Cover Their Faces Find Greater Acceptance Among Coronavirus Masks – • 'Nobody Is Giving Me Dirty Looks'

• Berfin Özek, 19, Who Survived Acid Attack Forgives Her Abuser

• Japan Supporting Women and Girls in Iraq

• What Will Peace Talks Bode for Afghan Women?

• Domestic violence rises in Turkey during COVID-19 pandemic

• Women produce masks in Syria’s Ras al-Ayn to aid in anti-coronavirus effort

• As the Virus Unleashes Violence, Women in War-torn Countries Organize

• Qatar- Women Leaders Of Expat Communities Come Together

• Sisters in Islam Slams Deputy Minister for Video Suggesting Women Accept Abusive Spouses

• Haifaa Al Mansour Hopeful About Future of Saudi Film And Keen To Break Stereotypes About Arab Men

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau 



Fearless Indian Muslim Woman Rides 1400 Kms To Rescue Son Stuck in Lockdown

April 10, 2020

A Muslim woman in India rode scooter for 1400 Km to bring back home her son stranded in Andhra Pradesh. The 48-year-old woman, Razia Begum, a school headmistress, decided to bring her son back home when she heard his desperate calls stuck in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in the countrywide lockdown.

Muslim woman stopped her elder son to fetch her younger son fearing that police might detain him for mistaking him a joyrider. Hence, she set off on a scooter herself on an arduous journey. She began her journey on Monday and returned with her son on Wednesday.

Twitterati are left speechless after Burqa-clad mother rides scooter for three days covering 1,400 kms to bring back son in lockdown

“It was a difficult journey on a small two-wheeler for a woman. But the determination to bring my son back overtook all my fears. I packed rotis and they kept me going. It was fearsome in the nights with no traffic movement and no people on roads,” Razia Begum said to an Indian news agency.

Razia Begum had lost her husband fifteen years ago and lives with her two sons. The elder son is an engineering graduate and the younger son aspires to be a doctor.

Indian media widely reported her brave actions. Social media users in Indian praised the courage of the fearless Razia Begum and the power of motherhood that made her rode the scooter for nearly 1400 km to bring her son back home safely amid coronavirus lockdown.

Meanwhile, a huddle of religious extremists and bigot slammed the Muslim woman for violating the breakdown when people need to remain home to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country. The hatemongers continued to spew vile comments against and vilified the Muslim community for misusing the rights.


Young female Arab artists amid 'nostalgia and struggle'

10 APRIL, 2020

NAPLES - "My memories are amplified and seem much better than they really were," she says. "I romanticize memories. That's the thing with time passing: It glorifies what you once had. I construct from that feeling - the happiness, the melancholy; all of it,'' the 20-year-old Lebanese artist Adra Kandil told the website Arab News about her work "Dear Nostalgia".

''Adra Kandil is discussing old photographs in a café on Bliss Street. Although in her mid-20s, she has cultivated a deep attachment to photography from the 1960s - particularly Lebanon's Golden Age and the imagery associated with the country's pre-war heyday. For her, such photographs represent something that has been irretrievably lost,'' the website reported.

The article was on young Arab artists that are gaining the spotlight by transforming suffering and myths that come from afar. ''She's far from alone,'' the website reported.

Another is Sara Mousavi, who creates scenes in which Palestinian women suddenly appear in the photos of moonwalks, as well as Stephany Sanossian, a young Syrian-Armenian artist who puts Hollywood stars and models with Luis Vuitton bags in the spotlight and has them walk through the streets of Damascus and puts Kim Kardashian with her son in her arms in front of an Armenian shop.

Lebanese designer Rana Salam has used pop-culture imagery to create everything from posters and bags to cushions and towels. For her, the website said, ''Egyptian or Lebanese cultural icons, just like those of other countries, are key to setting those countries apart and to challenging prevailing perceptions of the Arab world.'' "I was studying in London and felt that the British had no clue what the Middle East or Beirut looked like," says Salam, who first captured her distinctive visual style in 1992. "And as I majored in visual communication and art direction at the Royal College of Art, I was taught how to translate a culture by highlighting its strength. And for me pop culture spoke the loudest.

Paola Mounla, founder of the Instagram account Art of Thawra, which collects the work of young artists connected with the recent protests in Lebanon, noted that nostalgia is a fundamental part of art. Dana Barqawi is a Palestinian artist whose work celebrates Palestinian existence and culture and portrays the people of the land before 1948 using old photographs, ink, newspaper, gold leaf and thread. ''For both artists,'' Arab News said,''nostalgia is used for a purpose. Dig beneath the aesthetics and you'll find strong political and social messages. For Barqawi, that has meant challenging the widely cited rhetoric that Palestine was 'a land without a people for a people without a land'. That's why all of the photographs she uses were taken "before the land and its people were forcibly removed and displaced." She told the website that ''I intend that my act of artistic creation is inseparable from notions of the real world. In times where socio-political changes compose an inherent part of our reality, I choose to reflect the context within my work, consequently creating politically and socially engaged art," she continues. "I might use nostalgia to appeal to an audience on a feel-good level - (just as) I use beauty in my work as a tool to attract the viewer - but beyond the pleasing nature of the work, and below those aesthetic layers, there is a political agenda which challenges the institutional invisibility of Palestinian history and experience."


29 years on death row, Pakistan woman suffers mental illness

APRIL 10, 2020

ISLAMABAD — Kanizan Bibi was 16 when she was charged with murdering her employer's wife and five children. The police said she was having an affair with her employer, who was also arrested and later hanged.

Until his execution in 2003, Khan Mohammad swore he and Bibi had never had an affair and had not killed anyone. He maintained his wife and children were killed as payback in a long-running land dispute with his relatives.

The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide is spearheading efforts along with the independent Justice Project Pakistan to get Bibi released. But the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down most of Pakistan seems to have also shut down Bibi's chance at freedom.

She's one of more than 600 mentally ill prisoners in Pakistan's overcrowded prisons. A March 30 hearing to present yet another psychiatric evaluation was postponed when courts closed.

Most days Bibi can barely dress herself. She hasn't spoken in more than a decade and her father, before he died in 2016 pleaded in a letter to Pakistan's president to free his only child.

"They hung her from a fan with ropes thicker than her tiny wrists, beating her small frame with all their might. They let mice loose in her pants, which they tied from the ankles so that they could not escape. Kanizan had been terrified of mice her whole life," he wrote. "I am a poor man and I beg that the death sentence of my daughter be converted into life in prison."

Justice Project Pakistan this week warned of a steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Pakistan's crowded jails. The Supreme Court of Pakistan this week agreed to release some mentally ill and disabled prisoners to ease conditions, but only those whose sentences are less than three years.

A land dispute between relatives was at the center of her case. Her employer's cousins had been feuding with him over land and had originally been arrested for the murders. They pointed to Bibi and accused her of adultery, a crime of shame in conservative Pakistan, saying that's why she killed her employer's wife and children. In villages adultery can bring summary executions by family members.

Bibi was accused of involvement in the killings and charged with murder. Unsubstantiated adultery claims and a confession elicited after days of torture were enough for the judge to sentence her to death.

Delphine Lourtau, who heads the Cornell Center on Death Penalty Worldwide said the group's research showed that women often aren't just punished for crimes they are being charged with "but also for transgressing gender norms."

"She has lost touch with reality and is oblivious to her surroundings. There are days when she is unable to eat or dress herself. She trembles, hears voices, and is rarely able to recognize family members," the Cornell Center said.


Muslim women who cover their faces find greater acceptance among coronavirus masks – ‘Nobody is giving me dirty looks’

April 11, 2020

Americans began donning face masks this week after federal and local officials changed their position on whether face coverings protect against coronavirus.

This is new terrain for many, who find themselves unable to recognize neighbors and are unsure how to engage socially without using facial expressions.

But not for Muslim women who wear the niqab, or Islamic face veil. Suddenly, these women – who are often received in the West with open hostility for covering their faces – look a lot more like everyone else.

I interviewed 38 British and American niqab wearers for my upcoming book on Muslim women who wear the niqab in the United States and United Kingdom. Almost all of them were British and American citizens, but they came from all across the world and all walks of life. They were converts from Christianity, Judaism, former atheists, white, African American, African, Arab and South Asian women.

The niqab – a garment that is not required by Islam but is considered recommended in some interpretations – is usually worn with a loose, coat-like garment called an abaya and a hijab, or headscarf. Some women pair it with a long skirt and tunic to conceal the body shape.

All the women interviewed for the book felt the spiritual benefits of niqab-wearing, which makes them feel closer to God and deepens their practice of Islam. But wearing it in public often subjected them to Islamophobic, racist and sexist street harassment.

Research confirms that Muslim women who wear Islamic dress in non-Muslim majority countries are frequently subjected to abuse. In a 2017 American study of 40 Muslim women, 85% reported verbal violence and 25% had experienced physical violence.

Wearing the niqab, the most conspicuous form of Islamic dress, is most dangerous. Eighty percent of British niqab wearers interviewed for a 2014 report by the human rights group Open Society Foundations had experienced verbal or physical violence.

The perpetrators tend to perceive niqab-wearing women as oppressed, backward, foreign, socially separated or a threat. Attackers often excuse their actions by citing security and immigration concerns.

Now, in an unexpected turn of events, people across the West are jogging in face masks and grocery shopping in bandannas tied across their mouths. That’s making public life in the niqab much more pleasant, say Muslim women.

“There’s a marked difference to the way I’m being perceived. Nobody is giving me dirty looks because of my gloves and the covered face,” said a woman I’ll call Afrah, from the the U.K., in a Facebook Messenger chat. “Everyone suddenly understands it!”

I use pseudonyms to protect the identify of the women in my research, as talking about niqab use is a sensitive issue.

“I was wearing a handcrafted niqab today and it was amazing,” Jameelah wrote to me from France, where the niqab is legally banned in most public spaces. “Because of the situation, I didn’t receive malicious glares.”

Fashion designers are even trying to make face coverings look stylish – an effort that has Muslim women long perceived a security threat rolling their eyes on social media.

Rumana, a Muslim from Croatia, told me that the growing acceptance of face covering has helped her overcome a reluctance to use the niqab.

“I am usually an anxious person who doesn’t like to attract attention so that was always the biggest issue. Now that face coverings are seen everywhere,” she says, “I have finally found the courage to wear it.”

Even some non-Muslims are interested in the niqab as a means of protecting against coronavirus.

Afrah, from the U.K., told me that her non-Muslim aunt wants to use a niqab now because she finds regular face masks uncomfortable. And Sajida, an American Muslim, spoke of a convert friend whose father – a vehement critic of Islam and believer in anti-Muslim conspiracy theories – now encourages his daughter to wear a niqab to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The niqab alone is not sufficient protection against influenza-like viruses because it is not airtight. Mosques are warning women who wear the niqab to additionally wear a mask underneath for more effective protection. However, the niqab, like any cloth face covering, is likely to protect others from the wearer’s sneezes if worn snugly around the eyes, ears and nose.

The niqab-wearing women who commented for this story recognize that the improved perception of face covering comes at a time of crisis, when ordinary social norms and interactions are suspended.

“I’m wondering if this empathy will continue or will it disappear as soon as the pandemic’s over,” Afrah said via Facebook Messenger. I wonder if people will keep this reflection, this need to protect oneself, no matter the reason.“

"I hope the sisters who were previously anti-niqab and then embraced it in a time of need and fear don’t return to their niqab-shunning ways,” Sajida said via email.

Muslim and non-Muslim friends donning the niqab for the first time need their help tying the it securely, and ask whether it’s culturally appropriate to cover just the nose and the mouth – rather than the whole face except the eyes.

Women who wear the niqab can also speak from experience about communicating with a covered face. Many people unused to wearing masks find it difficult to convey emotions or pick up on social cues.

Research suggests that detecting human emotion requires looking at much more than facial expressions anyway. The niqab-wearing women I interviewed for my book “make an extra effort,” as they told me, to communicate. They wave, speak and use body language to connect.

“I have to be more outwardly chatty and friendly,” Soraya from Scotland said. “If I’m standing at a bus stop, I say ‘hi.’ You can see I am smiling because my eyes crinkle.”


Berfin Özek, 19, Who Survived Acid Attack Forgives Her Abuser

April 10 2020

A young woman who survived an acid attack in the southern province of Hatay last year has forgiven her attacker, her ex-boyfriend, and withdrawn her criminal complaint.

Berfin Özek, 19, became one of the many women to survive abuse at the hands of their ex-partners and made it to newspaper headlines when women’s rights activists called for her attacker, Casim Ozan Çeltik, to be brought to justice for throwing an acid-like flammable liquid on her face last year in the İskenderun district.

Özek, who sustained severe burns on her face, was discharged from hospital after a long treatment but the traces of the attack remained on her face, losing sight in her right eye.

Çeltik was sentenced to 13.5 years in prison over “deliberately injuring” and “attempting to deliberately kill,” with the prosecutors having sought life in prison.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was among those who slammed the court ruling, asking what the judges would do if the same attack was carried out on their own daughters.

Speaking about Özek’s decision to forgive Çelik, Mehtap Sert, one of her lawyers and a member of İskenderun Women’s Platform, said that they have been following her case since the beginning as the platform, but will no longer work with her.

“Since Berfin Özek’s decision is against our motto of ‘We don’t want love that kills,’ we will no longer work with her,” Sert said.


Japan Supporting Women and Girls in Iraq


(MENAFN - Iraq Business News) The Government of Japan has contributed US$ 1.3 million towards UNFPA interventions for integrated lifesaving reproductive health and gender-based violence services to vulnerable women and girls in five governorates across Iraq.

UNFPA has been adopting an integrated approach to enable women and girls to receive a comprehensive package of services, continuum of care, as well as timely referrals.

The Japanese contribution will ensure that 40,000 women and girls, out of whom 25,000 are pregnant women, from the IDP, returnee, and refugees in the humanitarian settings in Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-Din governorates, have access to prevention and response to reproductive health and gender-based violence services which include awareness-raising sessions and case management, as well as consultations and treatment.

In addition, the new commitment will enable UNFPA to improve the capacity of national service providers, especially female caregivers, to deliver high-quality assistance, including psychosocial and referral services in the targeted five governorates.

"We are thankful for Japan's trust in UNFPA programme in Iraq ... Women and girls continue to suffer from the impact of the humanitarian crisis.

"Thanks to Japan's trust, we will ensure that not only we provide the muchneeded reproductive health and gender-based violence services but we strengthen the existing national capacities to build the resilience of the system."

"Japan has recently decided to provide a new assistance package for Iraq amounting to USD 41 million including this project as assistance for women and girls.

"With this package, the total amount of Japan's assistance to the people affected by the crisis reaches US$ 540 million since 2014. I hope that the assistance from the Government and people of Japan will help ensure protection of women and girls among IDP, returnee and refugees."

Japan has been a UNFPA long-standing partner with contributions amounting to a total of US$ 11,852,085 over the last five years ensuring women and girls across Iraq have access to health and protection services.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled


What Will Peace Talks Bode for Afghan Women?

6 Apr 2020

On 29 February, the Taliban and the U.S. signed an agreement that commits the U.S. to a fourteen-month phased withdrawal of military forces in exchange for Taliban commitments to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a safe harbour for terrorists. The agreement also obligates the Taliban to commence peace negotiations with the Afghan government and other Afghan power brokers. This breakthrough comes after a decade of on-and-off U.S. and other efforts to catalyse a peace process, throughout which many have raised serious concerns about the risk that legitimising the Taliban and returning them to some degree of political power in Afghanistan would subject Afghan women once again to forms of oppression and exclusion that they endured during Taliban rule in the 1990s.

The short answer is yes. The Taliban have views about women’s rights and status that are different from those of the Afghan government’s current leadership, so any agreement that gives the Taliban a share of power in Kabul will probably result in some degree of degradation in how women’s rights are defined and protected. Difficult talks on this issue should be anticipated as part of intra-Afghan negotiations that bring together the warring parties. As with other topics for negotiation, neither side is in a strong enough position in the conflict to dictate its stance on women’s rights in a political settlement. It is plausible that a negotiated outcome on issues affecting women would reflect the middle ground between the Taliban and those who will advocate for preserving existing protections or would be vague enough to permit differing interpretations.

The Taliban do not, however, seem to have fully formed positions about how precisely they would approach women’s rights if they return to government. On the one hand, Taliban officials have consistently told Crisis Group (and others) that they do not seek a return to the past and would not try to reimpose the rules enforced by their former Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. A Taliban official said, “Many negative things within the Taliban definitely need reforming, such as the rigid rules”. On the other hand, the Taliban have avoided specifying which of their old rules could be relaxed and which parts of the current legal order they consider un-Islamic by their strict interpretations.


Domestic violence rises in Turkey during COVID-19 pandemic


Turkey's government has introduced social isolation measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. People older than 65 and younger than 20 are not allowed to leave their homes at all, and the rest of the population have been asked to stay in as much as possible.

Though there are no official figures, women's rights activists in Turkey say that there has been a considerable increase in cases of domestic violence during the lockdown. "There are significantly more people are calling our hotlines," said Gulsum Kav, the director of We Will Stop Femicide Platform. As a result of lockdown measures, she said, men are staying at home more than usual and women and children who are subjected to domestic violence cannot escape.

Increases in domestic violence have been reported across the world since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the imposition of lockdown measures. China, Spain, Germany, France, Canada and Australia are among the countries where the number of reports have grown.

According to an Italian parliamentary committee report, the number of calls to the national domestic violence hotline dropped by 55% during the week of March 8-15 from the same period in 2019. However, the report underlined the fact that the decrease in calls did not signify a decrease in violence: It merely meant that some victims were not able to call hotlines without being detected by their abusers because of the quarantine measures.

In France, where reports of domestic violence have risen by about 30% since the government announced a national lockdown, Kav said a system had been put into place to allow women to report abuse at pharmacies. If they are accompanied by their abusers, they can convey their situation in code. France's government also recently announced that it had reserved 20,000 hotel rooms for victims of domestic violence and that it had set up pop-up counseling centers in shopping hubs. Spain has put similar measures in place. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set aside tens of millions of dollars to support women's NGOs, shelters and sexual assault centers across Canada. In March, Australia's government allocated an additional US$100 million (€91.5 million) to tackling the issue.

"Although we have been calling for such measures and funds for a while, nothing has been announced," Kav said. "Nobody has told us why it is not possible to introduce steps to protect women, as well as measures to combat the spread of coronavirus."

Activists for issues that affect women have criticized Turkey's government for not introducing measures to counter the problem and protect victims. "Sixty percent of femicides are a result of domestic violence," said Selin Nakipoglu, a lawyer and activist with the TCK 103 Women's Platform, an umbrella group for feminist and LGBTQ+ organizations in Turkey. A report by police found that 72.8% of femicides in Turkey took place in apartments or housing complexes. According to We Will Stop Femicide, 21 such killings were reported in Turkey from March 11 to 31.

Turkey is one of the signatories of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe treaty to prevent and combat violence against women and other forms of domestic violence. The convention obliges states to take preventive measures and prosecute perpetrators. Though Turkey ratified the convention and put it into effect in 2014, the treaty is not always followed in practice by signatories. Additionally, in 2012 Turkey adopted Law No. 6284 to Protect Family and Prevent Violence against Women, drawn up with rights organizations to allow victims to file for restraining orders to prevent their abusers from approaching them.

The law is not always implemented in practice. Women's rights activists in Turkey are now calling for the authorities to take the laws seriously and ensure that women and children receive the necessary protection from violence during and after this lockdown period.


Women produce masks in Syria’s Ras al-Ayn to aid in anti-coronavirus effort

APR 10, 2020

Mask production has been launched in the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn under the coordination of southern Turkey’s Şanlıurfa governorship, as part of measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

According to a statement from the governorship on Thursday, disinfection efforts and other measures against the spread of the illness continue to be implemented in the area, which was earlier liberated from terrorist groups as part of Turkey's Operation Peace Spring. The work is to continue under the supervision of the Syria Support and Coordination Center (SUDKOM), a statement from the Şanlıurfa governorship added.

As part of these efforts, a workshop has been established in the town, staffed by local women with the support of the town’s local assembly. The women have had to pass medical checkups, while the workshop itself has been certified to host the highest hygienic standards.

Ras al-Ayn coordinator and District Gov. Erdinç Dolu, who inspected the workplace, stated that they had launched the mask facility in order to also help bring life back to normal in the region as soon as possible.

Stating that there had been no cases yet recorded in the town, Dolu said that measures would still remain at the highest level. According to the district governor, 1,000 masks will be produced by 12 trainee women every day at the workshop.

Access in and out of the town has already been limited, with thermal cameras having been established at its main access points as part of anti-coronavirus measures. While brochures are being provided to the locals with essential information about the outbreak, Peace Spring FM, a radio channel that transmits from Şanlıurfa in Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic, has been raising awareness about the measures that ought to be taken.

On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from the area east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity. As part of two separate deals with the United States and Russia, Turkey paused the operation to allow the withdrawal of YPG/PKK terrorists from the planned northern Syria safe zone. Operation Peace Spring put an end to the YPG/PKK's oppression of the residents of the Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn regions, thus allowing for the voluntary return of residents who took refuge in Turkey.

Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, together with other liberated areas, have been put back on the road to normalization thanks to reconstruction efforts. Citizens frequently comment that every day is getting better as a result of such works, which have allowed for the restoration of infrastructure, schools and hospitals, while roads and waterworks have also been repaired.

Meanwhile, as northern Syria escalates measures against the coronavirus despite a lack of confirmed cases in the area, Russia's RIA news agency reported Friday that so far the Syrian regime had recorded 19 cases in the rest of the country.

The regime has closed border crossings with Lebanon and Jordan, while Damascus International Airport has been closed to commercial traffic since the arrival of a final flight from Moscow. Regime newspapers have issued their last print editions and will now only be available online.

Despite only a small number of cases declared, it is believed that the virus was likely more widespread than first thought, owing to low testing capacity and lack of transparency.

The Syrian Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor, previously said that doctors had received threats from the regime not to disclose cases. "Doctors have been instructed to refer to cases that are suspected to be corona infections as severe pneumonia," said its director Rami Abdulrahman.

Syria's damaged health infrastructure and massive displacement of citizens as a result of attacks by the Bashar Assad regime and Russia make potential containment measures a nearly impossible task.

The constant onslaught has caused the deterioration of the physical health of civilians across the country, where malnutrition and poverty is now widespread. Refugees are now at further risk due to living in overcrowded camps where conditions are ideal for the spread of the virus. Camps are generally in poor condition with a lack of access to water, hygiene, medical aid and food.


As the Virus Unleashes Violence, Women in War-torn Countries Organize

April 10, 2020

You can now google lists of rich and famous people who have been infected with coronavirus, leading some to comment that COVID-19 is an equal-opportunity disease. But while the virus itself doesn’t discriminate, responses to it have reinforced inequality, leaving more people exposed to widespread abuses, including domestic violence.

From a hurricane in New Orleans to war in Syria, domestic violence increases when communities face crisis. We should know that COVID-19 is no exception. Stress and anxiety brought on by the outbreak can leave an abuser feeling out of control, triggering violence. And the measures we’ve taken to control the disease create more danger. Distancing from those outside the family reinforces the isolation that abusers impose. Suspension of work means many more hours of exposure to violence at home. Lockdown cuts off avenues of escape.

We’ve begun to see reports about the pandemic triggering domestic violence in some of the world’s centers of power. France and the U.S. for example, are reporting spikes in domestic violence calls to hotlines. In China, the number of cases reported to police nearly tripled in February, the peak month for COVID-19, compared to last year. But few responses recognize that the threat of domestic violence is compounded in countries already battered by war or economic ruin, where governance is weak, services are inadequate, and healthcare systems are even more ghastly than in the US. 

In early March, the World Health Organization announced that the last Ebola patient in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was discharged—a major milestone in the fight against one of the world’s deadliest viruses. Only days later, the DRC reported its first case of COVID-19. The virus is likely to spread like wildfire in communities with weak healthcare infrastructure, where poverty is grinding and warfare is ongoing. And riding on the coattails of the virus is domestic violence. With movement in the capital city of Kinshasa intermittently curtailed, women’s rights groups say that many more women are now seeking help.

Drawing on bitter lessons from the Ebola outbreak, Congolese women’s rights advocates are acutely aware that intimate partner violence increases with calamity. In a country challenged by the lack of services for abused women, and a legal system that fails to fully criminalize, must less prosecute, domestic violence, activists are wisely focusing on prevention.

They’ve organized social media campaigns, asking community leaders to speak out online against abuse. Video clips feature men talking about doing their share of childcare and household chores to promote gender equality at a time when the work-burden at home is increased. Similar segments are planned with messages geared toward helping families confined at home to find healthy ways to vent frustration. And women’s rights advocates are innovating ways to document abuse to make the case for better laws and services to confront domestic violence in the long-term. In this way, they are working to ensure that a more just society emerges from the pandemic.

Since coronavirus hit Lebanon, groups there have seen a 60 percent jump in domestic violence cases. One local women’s organization is providing vital public health information on how to prevent the spread of domestic violence along with the spread of COVID-19. They’re offering psychosocial support sessions via conference calls and WhatsApp groups, saving face-to-face interventions for high-risk cases.

In Colombia, youth activists are performing online skits to teach non-violent ways to handle real-time frustrations and family conflicts during the pandemic. They’re preventing domestic violence now with methods that have a demonstrated track record of reducing child abuse and youth criminal activity, both risk factors for future domestic violence. LGBTIQ organizations are following suit, providing e-mentoring services, live chats and online hubs for people confined to trans-hostile and homophobic spaces.

As the world turns up the volume on social media, domestic violence needs to be part of the COVID-19 conversation—and not just in the messaging of local activists. Every government is obligated to prevent and redress gender-based violence, including during a pandemic.

While the United States wasted time rallying for a UN resolution to blame China for unleashing the virus, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global ceasefire, supported by at least 53 countries. Afghan, Yemeni and Syrian women had already issued that call as part of their COVID-19 response. They know firsthand that war-torn countries have little chance of success against the pandemic in the midst of gunfire and aerial bombing. In fact, armed groups in Colombia, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines and Cameroonhave taken steps towards a ceasefire. This is a major opportunity in the fight against the spread of the pathogen, especially in places where millions are displaced and hospitals have been reduced to rubble. And it would take little effort to mobilize already trained responders who can recognize, prevent, and address domestic abuse during precious moments of ceasefires.

Even before COVID-19, domestic violence was already a global emergency. You likely know the stat: one out of every three women in the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Nearly half of all women in the world have experienced psychological violence. It’s been called “the most widespread but among the least reported human rights abuses.” Those who are targeted with domestic violence, not only because of their gender, but on the basis of overlapping identities defined by race, disability, sexual orientation, caste, or class, faced compounded threat even without the pandemic. Now, mandatory curfews and lockdowns of tens of millions of people, epic, sudden loss of jobs and harvests, and the looming possibility of a global depression threaten to vastly exacerbate conditions that give rise to domestic violence.

UN Secretary-General Guterres is now calling for a global “ceasefire” on domestic violence. The international interventions that follow should look to women’s groups working on the frontlines of the crisis to lead. The emergency responses we take now are seeding the future. We need a global plan to address the predictable rise in gender-based violence that COVID-19 is triggering. As we act at home to keep our loved ones and communities safe, we should take stock of women’s community-based responses worldwide. The lessons we learn from them now can help us get through the worst that is still to come.


Qatar- Women leaders of expat communities come together


(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Women leaders of expatriate communities from seven countries came together in Doha for an event marking International Women's Day.

Hailing from African, South East Asian and South Asian countries, they shared experiences on the issue of women's participation and leadership in building communities of expatriates.

The 'Women (Only) Night Out', was organised for the first time by the Women Committee of Bayanihan ng Manggagawa sa Konstruksyon ng Qatar, the association of Filipino migrant workers in the construction sector of Qatar (BMKQ); and global union federation Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI).

'Women members in our organisation continue to increase. This is a result of resolute action. Women will never be a part of the table unless we organise ourselves, BMKQ's Women Committee chairperson Mags Laja said.

'In most cases, as some would tell, women must create our own table. We are mainly on the side-line, not having the power to be a part of decision-making.

Laja encouraged participants to 'continue the conversations on Convention 190, and deepen understanding of this international instrument as a tool to eliminate harassment and violence in the workplace.

'Let us continue co-operating with the government of Qatar in order to get this convention translated into concrete policies and programmes, she said.

'We are envisioning a training programme that will result in more active participation of women in migrant community organisations, more women leaders getting elected into office and the institution of internal policies within our own organisations against gender discrimination and violence, Laja added.

An African participant introduced herself as an 'activist for women and I try to be a voice for the voiceless while a participant from the Philippines stated 'I am a solo parent to six children and I am strong as a parent and a leader of our community here in Qatar.

Through a phone patch, BWI's Global Campaigns director Jin Sook Lee conveyed her message of solidarity to the women leaders in attendance, sharing a few points on the work of BWI in Qatar and the initiative to galvanise the solidarity of women migrant workers in the construction and other sectors.


Sisters in Islam Slams Deputy Minister for Video Suggesting Women Accept Abusive Spouses

11 Apr 2020

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

Kuala Lumpur, April 11 — Sisters in Islam joined a growing chorus of condemnation against Women and Community Development Deputy Minister Datuk Hajah Siti Zailah, over a controversial video that suggests women “accept, remain patient and forgive” their abusive spouses.

The vocal feminist organisation called the message in the video unacceptable and unbecoming of a public official in a ministry tasked to protect women.

In a 5-minute-18-second video, Siti Zailah dished out advice on how to handle stress for married couples locked down by the six-week movement control order, which included being patient with their spouses and accepting their flaws.

She said wives should think of the husband’s “1,000 strengths”, say thank you and forgive each other. For Muslims, she suggested they take their ablution to calm down when feeling angry.

“While those are general advice for any marriages and relationships, the video by Siti Zailah gives out an underlying tone that women should accept, remain patient and forgive their partners despite their partners’ abusive attitude,” the group said in a statement.

“She should be empowering women by affirming that they deserve to live a life free from violence and fear and to reiterate that women and children’s safety are the utmost priority for the (ministry).”

The video has invited public wrath, who said the message was demeaning and dangerous to women facing abusive partners. This comes as concerns mount over the rising reports of domestic abuses during the MCO.

Groups like SIS and the Women’s Aid Organisation reported an increase in domestic violence in just the first two weeks of the government-enforced “stay-at-home” order.

With the restrictions in place, there is an increased risk of violence, with help inaccessible for victims trying to escape their abusers, especially for high risk cases.

The ministry’s controversial video was likely issued as a response to such concerns. But SIS said it instead reflected Siti Zailah’s failure to grasp the issue and dynamics of being in an abusive marriage or relationship, especially during the MCO.

“Furthermore, Siti Zailah mentioned that the MWFCD through Talian Kasih 15999 has taken action against 100 per cent of the complaints received,” it said.

“What actions have been taken exactly? How do the three tips given by Siti Zailah then serve the purpose of promoting Talian Kasih 15999?”

In stark contrast to Siti Zailah’s message, SIS pointed to a separate clip that featured Datuk Mohd Na’im, the Director General of the Department of Syariah Judiciary.

In his video, Mohd Na’im advised women to protect themselves and their children by refusing to become the husband’s punching bag, and to muster the courage to leave the house if they are abused.

“He also mentioned that a wife will not be nusyuz if she left the house from her abusive husband and that all of us have the responsibility to protect our bodies from harm,” the group noted.

Nusyuz refers to a defiant wife. Islam places a great emphasis on a wife’s loyalty but strictly prohibits abuse, experts have said


Haifaa Al Mansour hopeful about future of Saudi film and keen to break stereotypes about Arab men

Samia Badih

April 9, 2020

When asked about the state of filmmaking in Saudi Arabia in a digital talk on Wednesday night, filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour said she was very hopeful.

"Saudi has a lot of stories to tell," The Perfect Candidate director said, adding that filmmaking in the kingdom is still an industry finding its roots, but that the opening of cinemas and film production will see things progress.

"We don't really have casting agents or location scouts, so the elements that make the industry smoother are still missing, but it will eventually come," she said.

After its festival run was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak, her latest film, The Perfect Candidate, has been released digitally.

The film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year, was scheduled to show in the Arab world for the first time at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia, but the festival was cancelled due to concerns around Covid-19.

The Perfect Candidate captures a society that is in transformation through the story of Miriam, a female Saudi doctor who challenges the patriarchal system by running for municipal office in order to fix the road leading up to her clinic.

Speaking during an online Q&A held by the Arab British Centre, Al Mansour said the film will still see a Middle East release. "Our plans changed, but we will definitely release in April or May in the Middle East, depending on how the situation develops."

"My inspiration for all my films are people that I know," said Al Mansour. "I come from a huge family of 12 siblings, and number 12 is a doctor who is called Miriam," she said.

"And my number 11 sister is a party girl, but they have a very good relationship, hence the relationship between Salma and Miriam, and I feel it's important to celebrate that kind of sisterhood between women."

Al Mansour thinks it's important to move beyond stereotypes in film, giving an example of how the father figure in Middle Eastern literature is often depicted as abusive.

"Not all fathers are like that; there are people who are soft spoken and kind and not shy to show some emotions and cry, and that is my father and I think it's very important to celebrate images like that because hopefully Middle Eastern men see themselves in that."

"I'll be working in Hollywood after making a film in Saudi Arabia, so maybe after a couple of films here I'll go back home and do something again in Saudi."

Al Mansour has helmed English-language films such as Mary Shelley and Nappily Ever After, while her Arabic film Wadjda, set in Saudi, received much critical acclaim.




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