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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 28 Sept 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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British Widow Training IS’s Special Squad of Female Suicide Bombers

New Age Islam News Bureau

28 Sept 2014

Girls will be allowed to wear headscarves in schools starting from the fifth grade. CİHAN photo


 Twitter Users Slam Saudi Girl, 11, For ‘Immodest’ National Day Show

 Women in Syria and Iraq at High Risk for Sexual Enslavement by ISIS

 Turkey Govt Frees Headscarf for Students, Bans Make-Up, Tattoos and Piercings

 Meet the Women Fighting the Islamic State

 The Power of Girls and Tech Could Change the World

 Africa: First Ladies Call for Increased Investment in Girls

 African First Ladies Want Minimum Age of Marriage for Girls Raised To 18 Years

 Virginity Testing In South Africa Should Be Banned

 KSA Wants Rights of Children Protected

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





British Widow Training IS’s Special Squad of Female Suicide Bombers

28 Sep, 2014

Intelligence experts have reportedly revealed that a British widow and the daughter of a former soldier, who joined the Islamic State (IS) earlier this year, is training a special squad of female suicide bombers within the group.

Samantha Lewthwaite is one of the most influential, powerful women in the network and is so highly regarded in the terror group that she is known as the "Special One" or the "important woman," reported The Daily Star. According to intelligence sources, she is responsible for and for training and mentoring white converts to Islam who have volunteered to fight for the IS. A source added that the 30-year-old woman's ability to manage the outfit's propaganda has earned her the top position within the group and remarked that she is a female version of Joseph Goebbels, the report said.

Lewthwaite was married to Germaine Lindsay, one of the four Islamist suicide bombers who was involved in the attack on the London transport network on 7 July 2005, killing 52 people. She is involved in a number of other terror activities and is wanted in Kenya for possessing explosives and conspiring to commit a felony dating back to December 2011.



Twitter Users Slam Saudi Girl, 11, For ‘Immodest’ National Day Show

28 Sep, 2014

HAIL — An 11-year-old girl who appeared in a theatre play here last Wednesday sporting makeup and her long hair uncovered while performing a National Day song has stirred a heated debate on the social media website Twitter, an Arabic daily reported.

Many people have criticized 11-year-old Jenna Al-Shammary for not covering her hair and wearing red lipstick and singing in front of a male audience. Some people even called her immodest because she did not wear the Hijab (head cover).

A professor at King Khalid University said the girl’s appearance transcended all boundaries of modesty and he held her parents responsible for her actions.

Many people, however, praised the girl and attacked her detractors and described them as “persons with extreme mentalities”.

Fayez Al-Malki, a well-known Saudi comedian, told her detractors to mind their own business and leave the young girl alone. He wished her the best of luck in her future endeavours.

Jenna’s father said he would bring legal action against those who used inappropriate words to describe his daughter on Twitter and other social media websites.

“My daughter is a young girl! She’s not as old as was reported on the social media websites. Besides, she sang in front of senior government officials with other children,” the father said.



Women in Syria and Iraq at High Risk for Sexual Enslavement by ISIS

28 Sep, 2014

Women in Syria and Iraq are at high risk for sexual enslavement by ISIS. ISIS is capturing, abusing, raping, trading, and selling women in areas it controls. America is politically polarized and citizens are divided on the U.S. policy on ISIS. Some think the U.S. should be doing more to combat the organization. They think America should use its full strength to ward off possible terrorist attacks on home soil. Others worry that air strikes will incur too many civilian deaths and collateral damage. They believe America should be more cautious about declaring war on another country in the Middle East.

President Obama decided there was not time for extended debate and ordered air strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and then Syria to support local troops on the ground. A coalition of world nations including five from the Middle East are fighting against ISIS hoping to stop its spread. Key nations have refused support saying that violence met with violence just breeds more terrorism. By getting involved the West may further incite and unite radical would-be terrorists.

Most experts agree that the situation in the Middle East is complicated. Religious, political, ethnic and tribal tensions have been brewing for centuries. It is hard for Americans to understand the nuances of the conflicts; which groups side with each other and which are enemies. It is hard for American citizens to sort through the rhetoric of Middle East leaders to understand the real truths, but one thing has become glaringly clear – the women of Syria and Iraq – and other nations with a terrorist presence – are facing immediate peril. They cannot wait until the situation can be worked out through diplomatic means. They cannot wait while the underlying ideology is addressed.

Testimony coming out of Syria and Iraq from the few women who have escaped from ISIS are chilling. Most stories follow a similar pattern and are from Yazidi women who have made it to refugee camps. The Sunni ISIS forces are mostly targeting minorities including Yazidis, Christians and Turkmen, but also are making life a living hell for Shia Muslims, repressing Sunni women, and executing professional and political women in the region.

The most horrific stories have been reported by the Yazidi. Heavily armed ISIS groups quickly attack and take over a village or town. First, the men and boys are separated from the women and massacred. Women lose their sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and other loved ones. As horrific as the mass murder is, for the women, the ordeal is just beginning. They are transported to a more permanent location and many end up in Mosul’s Badush prison. The rape and sexual abuse begin immediately. One woman reported that as they entered the camp they were led to a building where a man met them at the door, tore off their head scarfs, ripped open their dresses, and sexually fondled them before sorting them into groups. The women are kept as sexual slaves for the soldiers or are given as wives. An obscure tradition of Islam allows for temporary marriage which means women can be traded in marriage from man to man by those who use Islam to justify their abuse.

Another woman who eventually made it to safety described the conditions under which she and others were held, “Every day or two men would come in and make us take off our head scarfs so they could choose which ones of us they wanted. Many were raped. They were dragged out of the house by their hair. We don’t know what became of them.”

Another young woman was tortured and starved before her escape. She reported that ISIS sold girls as young as nine. She said some girls find their escape in death. While she was being held two girls hung themselves and another cut her wrists. This news caused one woman in the crowd to completely break down. In a haunting cry for help she declared she just wanted her daughters back. “They took all our girls. It is all we care about. The world must help us.”

Yet another girl describes her ordeal. Only 15 years old, she reports that many of the girls raped were just teenagers. She and her friend were given in marriage to ISIS soldiers “They were really filthy. They had long beards; they were really tall and big. Even men would be scared of them. They forced us to marry them, threatening to hurt us if we didn’t. They gave us a phone to call our families to tell them we’d converted.” The girls were able to use the phone to contact help.

In addition to minority women being held as sexual spoils of war, Sunni women in towns under ISIS control live in a state of repression and fear of punishment for transgressions against the ISIS interpretation of Sharia Law. In areas not under direct control, ISIS targets female activists, professionals and politicians. Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy, a lawyer and advocate for women’s rights, was seized from her home, tortured for several days and publicly executed on Sept. 22. The UN says, “educated, professional women seem to be particularly at risk.”

Tens of thousands have been killed or captured by ISIS. An estimated 5,000 Yazidi men, women and children have disappeared. The men are presumed dead. The women are likely being held within ISIS strongholds and undergoing continuous sexual abuse. Many of those arriving at the refugee camps say they were able to escape during confusion caused by air strikes on the ISIS locations. Already, initial military moves have had an impact. For the women and men caught by the advance of the Islamic State there is no time to waste. They need immediate rescue and a return to safety. Women in Syria and Iraq are at risk for sexual enslavement by ISIS and need international help now.



Turkey Govt Frees Headscarf for Students, Bans Make-Up, Tattoos and Piercings

28 Sep, 2014

A government decree changing the regulation on the dress code in public schools was published Sept. 27 in the Official Gazette, allowing girls as young as 10 year old attend classes wearing headscarves.

According to the regulation, the students will not be allowed to wear make-up or have tattoos or piercings.

Students “are to be present in schools with their faces visible; cannot use scarves, berets, hats, bags or similar materials that carry political symbols, pictures or writings; cannot dye hair, cannot have tattoos or make-up; cannot have piercings; cannot have moustache or beard,” the new regulation published in the Official Gazette read.

The regulation stated that students in pre-school institutions and primary schools cannot wear headscarves.

The government announced last week that it would lift the ban for children starting from grade five, which normally corresponds to the age of 10 in Turkey. 

Following the government’s move, Eğitim-Bir-Sen, an education sector trade union with conservative views, has demanded the abolition of mixed-sex education, while also calling for freedom in the dress code as part of a reaction against the compulsory wearing of ties for men.



Meet the Women Fighting the Islamic State

28 Sep, 2014

The history of women serving in armed conflicts probably goes back hundreds of years -- if not longer.

In the United States, during the American Revolution, women served on the battlefield as nurses, water bearers, laundresses and saboteurs.

Ever since then, their roles in the military have continued to expand in numbers, skills and responsibilities.

But, it would still be more than 150 years -- World War II -- before women were allowed to fly our military aircraft as "Women Air Force Service Pilots," or WASP.

In 1986, six Air Force women served as pilots, co-pilots and boom operators on KC-135 and KC-10 tankers that were used to refuel FB-111s during the raid on Libya.

After Congress, in 1991, repealed laws barring women from flying in combat, the sky would no longer be the limit to our women in the military.

And so, it should come as no surprise to see our service women flying armed fighter jets, refuelling tankers and other kinds of aircraft both as pilots and as crew members, both in combat roles and on humanitarian missions, during the present action against ISIL.

However, it is surprising to read about a woman fighter pilot from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force, flying an F-16 "Desert Falcon" fighter jet, participating in the bombing raids against ISIL in Syria this week.

American tanker-jet pilots apparently were also surprised. The New York Times:

When American tanker-jet pilots contacted the flight to arrange for midair refueling, [Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE's Ambassador to the U.S.] said, they paused for about 20 seconds after hearing a woman's voice in reply.

The pilot and squadron commander is 35-year-old Maj. Mariam al-Mansouri, the first female fighter pilot in the history of the UAE.

Major al-Mansouri "was likely part of sorties that dropped bombs on Islamic State positions in Syria's Idlib, Aleppo and Raqqa provinces. Some reports suggest that she even spearheaded her country's mission, which complemented the parallel efforts of four other Arab states backing the U.S.: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar," according to the Stars and Stripes.

Major al-Mansouri's participation in the raids is not only rich in setting precedents but also in symbolism:

"The symbolism of a female fighter pilot bringing the heat to the women-enslaving Islamic State ought be lost on no one," says the Stripes. It also notes that in Saudi Arabia, "women are not permitted to drive cars, don't have voting rights (more enlightened rules come into effect in 2015), and cope with a whole regime of draconian, religious laws that circumscribe all aspects of their lives."

The air raids against ISIL, however, have given Saudi Arabia some bragging rights, too.

The Stripes:

[Saudi Arabia] released pictures of its pilots who took part in airstrikes, including Prince Khaled bin Salman, the son of the kingdom's crown prince. Long blamed for their listlessness and inaction, the kingdoms of the Gulf may try to change their image in the ongoing campaign.

The symbolism of a woman fighter pilot raining death on the Islamic terrorists is powerful and far-reaching.

"It's an Islamic State fighter's worst fear: to be killed by a woman," says the Stars and Stripes in a recent report and notes that there are many female Kurdish soldiers fighting ISIL in Iraq.

Although smaller than their male counterparts, "they talk just as tough as they prowl the battlefield clutching automatic rifles and vowing vengeance for those victimized by the Islamic State," says the Stripes.

Zekia Karhan, one of the female guerrillas from Turkey who is with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, said -- "as she stood next to a window pierced by several bullet holes in Makhmur, a town that the PKK helped recapture from the Islamic State this month" -- that she wasn't scared during the battle, but, she added, "Islamic State fighters are very scared of death because they are only here to kill people... don't mind doing it over and over again. I've already fought in Turkey, Iran and Syria."

The female PKK troops get fired up when they talk about the mass rapes and sex slavery that has been a hallmark of the Islamic State, says the Stripes:

"Everywhere they go they kill and do bad things in the name of Islam," Karhan said. "They captured a lot of women and they are selling them in Syria for $100. They rape women and behead them in the name of Islam."

Karhan said she'd heard stories about the extremists' fear of being killed by the opposite sex. In northern Iraq, it is said that the Islamic State fighters, who are exclusively male, believe that they won't be admitted to heaven if they are killed by a woman.



The Power of Girls and Tech Could Change the World

28 Sep, 2014

The Social Good Summit in New York City, meeting-of-the-minds of world leaders, acclaimed activists and celebrities posed this question at the annual meeting this week. Answers ranged from a $10 million education X-Prize announced Monday for software to teach kids reading and arithmetic around the world on tablets to solutions for the world's 50 million refugees.

The gathering, which featured speakers from Melinda Gates to Mohammad Yunus to Alicia Keys to Graça Machel (Nelson Mandela's widow), is fronted by development heavies like the UN Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with media company Mashable.

If that sounds like a strange combo, that's kind of the idea. The summit seeks to bring together big thinkers and big ideas from a slew of sectors to solve big world problems.

Nicholas Kristof has called it "a grassroots version of the United Nations Assembly."

These big themes emerged from re-imagining the next 15 years in changing the world.

Technology is not the problem, it's the solution

"When you look at tech, you can't help but be optimistic," Michael Dell said in conversation with Fast Company editor Robert Safian. "Tech is accelerating at a rate to address (world challenges) faster than we realize."

Dell noted that customers are using technology in clever ways that most people have never imagined. Cheap solar panels are bringing electricity to remote places of the world — like Tanzanian villages — where getting on the grid previously seemed impossible. An inventive clean-burning cookstove, which saves lives in developing countries by curtailing smoke inhalation from cooking, also has a port for charging cellphones and electronics.

This allows people in developing countries who are using cellphones the way others use computers: to get information, run a business or get access to credit online.

"It's almost become a cliché today that people are connected on their cellphones," said Melinda Gates in another tech-optimistic address. "You bump into people when you walk outside in New York because they're texting on their cellphones. The same thing happens in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Dhaka, Bangladesh."

Next year, 95 percent of the global population will have access to cellphone reception and three billion people will have Internet access, she said.

Dell has even bigger plans for technology and the future.

"We are still in the early ages of impact on energy, the environment, all of the big, unsolved mysteries of science," said Dell. He noted that these are all "computational problems" that processing and other improvements in tech will help tackle, and will come at a lower cost.

"We will knock off these problems at a faster rate," said Dell. "It's enormously exciting."

It's finally time for women and girls

What do Melinda Gates, Emma Watson and Machel have in common? They all called for improved women's rights this week. Issues for women and girls around the world are a hot topic — from stopping child-forced marriages to equal rights.

"I think this conversation brings to the centre the understanding of the value of our girls," said Machel, who is minister of education and culture in Mozambique and an activist against child-forced marriage. "A girl has the same value as a boy. And this means a huge change in the way families and communities look at girls.”

About 15 million girls under age 18 are forced into marriage every year, largely in Africa and South Asia. Forced marriage can stunt women's lives and the lives of their families. They rarely complete their education, and in many of the same places that forced marriage is common, more than 75 percent of people live on less than $2 a day, according to ICRW reports.

Even as cellphone technology is catching on in the developing world, there's a gender gap as women still have far less access to cell technology than men, according to United Nations Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin, who said that changing that is critical to women's empowerment and employment.

Tracking where and how women are being served is also important, said Machel, who would like to use technology and data to "map" the pockets where women are still being subjected to forced marriage, female genital mutilation, or don't have access to maternity care: "For those people, life hasn't changed at all," she said.

Head of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka called for an increased involvement of men and boys in the struggle to achieve gender equality.

She announced the 'HeForShe' campaign in March, which aims to enlist one billion boys and men around the world to become advocates for women's rights, and called on the world's fathers, sons, husbands and brothers to stand up and support equality for women in their lives. Watson of Harry Potter fame spoke passionately about the HeforShe campaign at the UN this week.

"How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate in the conversation?” Watson said. “Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation.”

The hashtag #HeforShe has since been trending on Twitter and social media this week.

HeforShe is described as a "solidary movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity," on issues like representation and leadership.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union estimates that 22 percent of parliamentarians are women. There are also still 100 countries with laws that prevent meaningful involvement of women in the economy, Mlambo Ngcuka said. Even developed countries, like the United States where less than 20 percent of Congress is female, lag sadly in this regard.

The U.S. ranks No. 69 among countries with the highest percentage of women in government. Countries that have a higher percentage of women include Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uganda.

"Gender discrimination is the most tolerated violation of rights on earth today," said Mlambo Ngcuka. "We cannot have an open-ended struggle as far as women are concerned. There has to be an expiration date."

Youth will lead sustainability

Bill McKibben, environmentalist, founder of and the man behind the massive People's Climate March held Sunday where 400,000 people turned out in New York City, said that he's not optimistic about government leaders making change in the environment.

"These guys (national government leaders) have had 25 years to respond and they've essentially not responded," said McKibben, who sat on a panel with executive director of Greenpeace moderated by Mashable climate reporter Andrew Freeman, Monday. "The thought that they're going to start doing so now in some significant way seems fairly slim to me."

Climate change and extreme weather were addressed as a "moral obligation" Monday. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges to ending poverty — exposing millions to hunger, disease and disaster. Although poor countries have played little role in creating the climate crisis, they are hit hardest by it. From Hurricane Sandy to the Sahel drought, the poor are hit hardest and have the least resources to recover.

There will be "pious rhetoric around climate change with very little action," but it doesn't deter the movement, says McKibben. Especially because so much of the power behind and Sunday's climate march comes from young people. High school and college students poured out for the event, even busing in from other cities like Boston.

The last few days has brought "great news" because of the sheer numbers that turned out, said McKibben. Also, the Rockefeller family — the original oil magnates in the U.S. — pledged Monday to divest from fossil fuels.

Richard Stengel, the under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs (the third-ranking position in the Department of State), also hoped to mobilize youth to prepare for the future. At the summit Monday, the former editor of Time magazine said that even media only has a certain amount of power and urged youth to get involved in the public space.

"Instead of being an activist outside the system, go into government. Run for office, work for city council," Stengel urged. "Now is the time to be involved, get involved in activist organizations ... double down."

He urged young people to use social media to create change.

"You're on social media all the time, it's not just clicking that you 'Like' something, it's also registering when you don't like something or contradicting something," he said. "Contest the space."



Africa: First Ladies Call for Increased Investment in Girls

28 Sep, 2014

The Organization for African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) today called on the global community to ensure that young people are put at the centre of Post-2015 Development Agenda.

In a communiqué at the end of their high level event on 'Investing in Adolescent Girls for Africa's Development' held on the margins of the 69th United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in New York, the organisation emphasized the need for increased investment in adolescent girls' health in Africa, in line with the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and the Maputo Plan of Action.

The First Ladies expressed concerns on the challenges still facing African adolescent girls, including low access to maternal health services, complications arising from marriage at a young age, gender-based violence, early pregnancies, sexual exploitation, unsafe abortion and the risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV and AIDS.

They called for more attention to be given to quality maternal health services, especially pre-, intra- and post-natal care services, and access to information and commodities for family planning, to put Africa's women and adolescent girls to make safe choices for their optimal health.

The President of OAFLA, H.E Mrs Hinda Déby Itno, called upon the international community to give priority to women and adolescents in the post 2015 agenda by defining a specific objective focusing on the promotion of adolescent reproduction and sexual health so as to reduce the maternal, neonatal and new-born death.

She also reaffirmed the determination of African First Ladies to contribute to the initiatives aiming at improving the health condition of mothers and children in Africa and to the emergence of a generation without AIDS and without new HIV infection.

Speaking at the event, UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin called on African governments to prioritize girls' education because according to him educated women are able to delay their first pregnancy, space their births and are more likely to ensure that their children go to and stay in school.

Dr. Osotimehin said girls are the world's greatest untapped resource and therefore require more investments to achieve significant economic returns.

"We know, for example that girls completing secondary school in Kenya would add US $27 billion to the economy over their lifetimes. In Nigeria, if young women had the same employment rates as young men, the country would add US$ 13.9 billion annually" he said.

The First Ladies of Africa reaffirmed their individual and organizational commitment to advocating for a sustainable response to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; the accelerated reduction of maternal, newborn and child mortality; the elimination of gender-based violence; stigma reduction; the empowerment of girls, youth and women; enhanced gender equality; and universal access to sustained services for the reproductive health and rights of women in Africa, including effective breast and cervical cancer prevention and treatment.

The First Ladies of Africa reiterated their commitment made at the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda in 2010 to accelerate and intensify those activities, in order to create meaningful change within the African continent.

They resolved on the following actions to mobilize for investment in adolescent girls in order to advance maternal and newborn health for Africa's development:

1. Continue to advocate for the empowerment of women and adolescent girls to exercise their reproductive rights and ensure their access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, in line with regional and global instruments;

2. Advocate for the introduction of age-appropriate and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education for all in order to strengthen school curricula, and to prevent early sexual debut, unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV;

3. Join forces with the African Union Commission (AUC) to harmonize national legislation to raise the minimum age for the marriage of African girls to 18 years and promote the enforcement of laws to end child marriage on the continent. They called on African Union Member States to extend the Maputo Plan of Action on SRHR beyond 2015;

4. Champion education, leadership and skills development for adolescent girls, in the belief that a woman's level of education and socio-economic status has far-reaching and positive long-term health implications, and is linked to improved health outcomes for herself and her children, and contributes to the sustainable development of her community and country;

5. Call on African governments and national institutions to ensure law enforcement and the implementation of international instruments protecting adolescent girls;

6. Continue to support efforts to engage men and boys, as important partners in addressing harmful traditional norms and practices that perpetuate violence against women and adolescent girls, as well as inequalities between the two genders, while re-enforcing positive values in men and boys;

7. Support the creation of a conducive environment across the continent that allocates domestic resources, promotes global investment and private sector partnerships, and encourages community involvement to increase investment in adolescent girls and coverage of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) services;

8. Accelerate efforts to reach MDG 5 and have issues of adolescent girls central in the Post-2015 development agenda.

The high level event was organized by OAFLA and attended by African First Ladies and the First Ladies of the Republic of Serbia, Republic of Honduras and Republic of Haiti, the Crown Princess of Denmark, the Crown Princess of Jordan, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, eminent personalities, celebrities and representatives of the private sector, civil societies and heads of UN agencies.



African first ladies want minimum age of marriage for girls raised to 18 years

28 Sep, 2014

African first ladies have called on governments in Africa to harmonise legislations and raise the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years.

The first ladies who met at the United Nations headquarters in New York, on the sidelines of the ongoing General Assembly session, said raising the minimum age for marriage will empower women and would ultimately benefit the whole society.

In a communiqué released on Tuesday after the meeting attended by Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, the first ladies called on governments to attach priority to the sexual and reproductive health of girls and use laws to bring forced marriages to an end.

“We call on our governments and national institutions to ensure law enforcement and the implementation of international instruments protecting adolescent girls, a€ they said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

They also called on governments in Africa to dedicate more resources to create a conducive environment to empower adolescent girls.

The first ladies at the same time called for reinforcement of positive values in men and boys to address harmful traditional practices and inequalities between the two genders for the good of society.

Addressing the first ladies, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund Babatunde Osotimehin said education is the key to solve the problems of sexual health for adolescents and reproductive health.

“If girls finished school and got employment at the same rate as boys, they will add $27 billion to the economy of Kenya annually and $17 billion to the economy of Nigeria, a€ he said.



Virginity Testing In South Africa Should Be Banned

28 Sep, 2014

The last 20 years has seen the revival of virginity testing in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

The test on girls, designed to affirm virginal status, is based on whether the hyman is intact.

The test is therefore far from 100% reliable; some women are born without a hymen, the hymen can be broken by tampons or sporting activities, and conversely, the hymen does not always rupture after one act of coitus.

However, the results can have profound effects for the girl. Test results are only divulged with personal permission, but refusal to tell is tantamount to guilt, so in reality, privacy is not an option.

A ‘non-virgin’ verdict can result in awful consequences, ranging from honour killing, abuse, isolation, financial penalty, family shame, and poor marriage prospects.

Surely, such an inaccurate test should not have the power to affect the course of a young girl’s life?

A confirmation of virginal status can have equally damaging outcomes; rape by HIV infected men who believe sex with a virgin will cure them, or by people jealous of her pristine status.

With such terrible consequences, this test needs careful reconsideration about its ethical status.

The Children's Act (Act No. 38 of 2005) and its associated regulations allow for virginity tests to be performed on male and female children over the age of 16, but in practice is only performed on girls.

The markers for establishing a boy’s virginity are incredibly tenuous and there is no evidence of widespread testing on boys. The inclusion of boys is seemingly to establish an illusion of equality.

The widespread testing of girls indicates a belief that girls bear disproportionate responsibility for sexual activity and are ‘seducers of men’.

The author notes: “re-institution of virginity testing is intended to encourage young women to embrace a role for themselves as subservient, respectful and obedient.

This can only serve to perpetuate patriarchy and the dominance of women by men”. Such disempowerment can leave women and girls vulnerable to violence, abuse, and rape.

In theory girls are free to choose to participate in a test, but in practice coercion is often the order of the day.

Proponents of the practice refute the notion that it's an infringement of dignity and privacy. In the face of past oppression and attacks on customs, traditionalists emphasise its importance in African cultural values with the prized title of "virgin" overriding any fears of bodily invasion.

However, the author argues that no practice should be sanctioned solely on the basis of culture.

He joins the heavyweight detractors; the ANC, International Human Rights Commission, and Gender Commission, in condemning virginity testing as an unjust, discriminatory practice, and urges a complete ban on all virginity testing.*

What is the South African Human Rights Commission's position?

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says that African cultures have placed a high premium on the virginity of girls, especially for marriage purposes. In some cultures, the lack of such status could affect a marriage or the bride-price (bohali or lobola).

Amongst the Zulu people, girls were examined by their mothers once a month to ensure that they were virgins.

During the past 21 years there has been the re-emergence of mass based virginity testing particularly amongst the Zulu people. Virginity testing involves young girls being physically examined by traditional examiners to determine if they are virgins.

Thereafter they are provided with certificates in a public ceremony and others attend the annual Royal Reed Dance sanctioned by King Zwelithini.

King Zwelithini is reported to have condemned those opposing virginity testing and was quoted as saying that “… he would “rather be thrown in jail than allow the tradition he revived 21 years ago to be abolished".

The SAHRC maintains that the re-emergence of this cultural practice has led to concerns being raised about the potential invasion and violation of guaranteed constitutional rights of the young women who are tested.

These concerns have also been voiced by the Commission for Gender Equality and the South African Human Rights Commission. Read more at the SAHRC (PDF).



KSA wants rights of children protected

28 Sep, 2014

The Kingdom has denounced all kinds of violence against children including physical and psychological.

This came during a recent meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in which several countries participated.

The Kingdom’s representative at the United Nations in Geneva, Faisal Trad, said before the Human Rights Council that strengthening and protecting children’s rights is one of the major responsibilities of local and international authorities. This issue deserves to capture the immediate interest of the international community and there should be effective implementation of international commitments.

He said violence against children should not be justified, and there is a pressing need to strengthen international cooperation to protect children from all types of violence, and ensure that perpetrators do not enjoy impunity.

He said that domestic violence can be dealt with through education and direction in addition to strengthening partnerships on the official and private levels, and finding solutions to ease the suffering of victims.

He added that Islamic Shariah on which the Kingdom bases its laws, called for the protecting of human rights including children’s rights.

The Kingdom has joined the children’s rights treaty, and approved a number of local and international social initiatives. The basic system guarantees a number of rights such as protection from violence and abuse based on domestic violence issues. The national safety program and the research center at King Fahd Hospital have launched the national register for child abuse in order for child protection centers in the health sector to enter demographic data, directly through the Internet by monitoring abuse and cases of neglect.

He said the Kingdom has launched the Asas program which aims to improve early education for children, and introduced the Children’s Friends, which makes the basis for a professional and sustainable partnership with media establishments to raise awareness about children’s issues.

Trad said the Kingdom has established the empowerment initiative to raise the capacity of leaders who supervise children’s programs in the state’s various sectors and enables them to deal with current and expected challenges. It has also developed the protection program which aims to participate in raising the level of prevention of violence against children at the national level, by training teachers and educators on how to uncover and treat cases of violence. The Kingdom has also strengthened the “Children’s Partners” program which is the most important tool for implementing the national strategy for childhood and aims to achieve full coordination between authorities interested in childhood.