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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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France to Maintain a Headscarf Ban despite Legal Advice

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 Dec 2013

Women in different styles of dress walk in Algiers


 Alleged Gang Rape of 12 Year Old a ‘Wake-Up Call’ For Israeli Society

 Female Students Shut Down International Islamic University Islamabad over Hostel Issues

 Anti-FGM Campaigners Mark Progress in Egypt

 Towards a Change of Culture Leading to a Gender-Balanced Approach

 Eagles Honour Cheerleader-Turned-Soldier on Her Return from Afghanistan

 2 Palestinian Children Try To Commit Suicide in Israeli Jail

 Indonesian Consulate General Commemorates Mother’s Day

 Islamic Organisations Organise Holiday Camps for Children in Abuja

 Act of kindness: Transgenders help recover missing children in Pakistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





France to maintain a headscarf ban despite legal advice

World Bulletin / News Desk

 December 24, 2013

France decided on Monday to maintain a ban on Muslim headscarves for volunteer school monitors despite a warning that it overstepped the law requiring religious neutrality in the public service.

The Council of State, which advises the government on disputed administrative issues, said in a 32-page analysis that this neutrality did not apply to mothers who help escort schoolchildren on outings such as museum visits.

Education Minister Vincent Peillon promptly announced the ban would continue because the Council's opinion also said that schools could impose internal rules against religious wear.

"The memo (establishing the ban) remains valid," he said in a communique after the Council's analysis was released.

France imposed the ban last year as one of several steps in recent years to tighten its policy of strict secularism. It banned headscarves for pupils in state schools 10 years ago and outlawed full-face Muslim veils in public in 2011.

It has also considered extending this religious neutrality, which has long been the rule in public service, to some businesses such as private child daycare centres.

Muslim groups have denounced the increasingly strict limits on religious wear as discrimination against them.

France's five-million strong Muslim minority is the largest in Europe.

France's official secularism policy, the product of a long struggle against the powerful Roman Catholic Churchthat ended with the separation of church and state in 1905, remains a political minefield for governments and their critics.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault came under pressure from the conservative opposition and some fellow Socialists last week when a report posted on his website said France should reverse this policy and recognise its "Arab-Oriental dimension".

He denied that the report, part of a study on ways to fight discrimination, would become official policy.

France's top administrative court will have to rule early next year on the appeal of a woman fired from her job at a private daycare centre because she began wearing the Muslim headscarf despite an internal dress code banning it.

The Council of State is the second advisory body to warn the government recently against overstepping the limits of the secularism policy.

An "Observatory of Secularism" appointed by President Francois Hollande advised in October against a new law to extend the religious neutrality requirement to some private businesses, despite support for the idea from within his Socialist Party.



Alleged gang rape of 12 year old a ‘wake-up call’ for Israeli society

December 24, 2013

Child rights groups and rape crisis centers have reacted swiftly to news of the alleged gang rape of a 12-year old girl by classmates, condemning the act as “shocking” and exposing “a deeper societal problem.”

“The hard case published today provides more shocking evidence of the serious problem of sexual violence among youth in Israel,” said Orit Sulitzeanu, director-general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. “In no way should the consent in such acts or participation of her own free will be attributed to a 12 year old girl.”

According to the reports, a total of 12 boys, aged 13-14, were arrested for allegedly raping a 12-year-old girl, and filming and distributing video footage of the act.

“Youth today are exposed to pornography in bulk and some of them see this as a normative matter,” Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, told The Jerusalem Post. “It is not just on the Internet; look at commercials, especially fashion commercials, the media and what messages children receive about intimacy and women’s bodies. They are exposed to an infinite number of warped messages and they don’t have the abilities to filter them out and understand what the real world is like. Some of the youth involved don’t even realize they have done something wrong.”

According to Kadman, in 2012 there were 282 reported cases of suspected sexual assault in children under the age of 14 – a figure that has nearly doubled over the past decade.

“What we see all the time is a rise in the number of sexual assaults committed and a decrease in the age of those committing the crimes,” said Kadman. “We have a much deeper societal problem than just putting these children in prison.

The educational aspect is the most important, we don’t want to just punish we want to prevent.”

According to Kadman, schools are busy with educational priorities such as tests and scores, and do not have the time or resources to speak to children about social education and sexual violence. In addition, he said, parents also need to address these issues and provide parental leadership, though a majority often do not due to long working hours and the uncomfortable nature of such conversations.

“Even the courts offer warped messages,” said Kadman. “In the past year we have had four cases of educational figures found guilty of sexual attacks and they did not spend a single day in prison.

So what will the students think when they receive a message from the court that their teachers don’t spend a day in prison? What kind of message does that send to the children? That sexual assault is probably not a serious enough offense,” he concluded.

Sulitzeanu also said the new allegations of rape should be a wake-up call for parents and for society at large.

“The affair published this week needs to be a moment of truth for the Israeli government – the moment we realize this is a serious social problem and we must eradicate it,” she said. “Following the shocking allegations of rape I call upon the education minister, Shai Piron, to require every student in Israel – both in junior high and high school – to pass a prevention of sexual violence workshop, such as the workshops our crisis centers offer, in order to raise awareness and minimize the extent of these injuries.”

The Education Ministry also released a statement saying it views the incident involving students “with gravity and deep concern.”

According to the statement, the ministry said it had been in contact with the police in order to get the full details about the students involved with the act.

Furthermore, it said the educational staff of the school were examining all those who were directly or indirectly affected by the incident, and were convening to discuss a possible intervention on a personal, class, and school-wide level.

“Based on needs, students will receive emotional and psychological assistance by professionals from the Education Ministry,” said the statement. “The ministry will continue to hold systematic and continued, developmentally tailored informational activities with the educational staff and the students.”



Female Students Shut Down International Islamic University Islamabad over Hostel Issues

December 24, 2013

ISLAMABAD - Female students of International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) Monday shut down the campus and boycotted the academic activity over hostel issues.

The students resorted to protest against the removal of hostel provost Dr Seema Gul and giving the charge to another faculty member who fixed the mess fee Rs 5000 per month and 5.30pm closure time of the hostel. The students were demanding that they should be allowed to go out even after 5:30pm as some classes end very late and they won't be able to meet the new timings. They also said that the mess fee should be collected per attendance. "Why we are being compelled to pay for whole month if we skip the meals and don't avail mess facility daily," objected a protesting student.

The students locked the both male and female campuses and no one was allowed to enter the premises. The university bus service remained suspended. Due to halted bus service, the students could not reach the university so no classes were held.

DK Hairan Khattak, Additional Director (P&PR) at the university, informed that the issues of the hostel students had been resolved and they called off the strike. "Currently the university has four hostels and two are under constructions. Still we cannot meet the needs of rapidly increasing strength of the students. But for the time being their issues have been addressed," he said.

DEO urges parents to monitor performance of school going kids

Elementary and Secondary Education Department DEO Nazir Khan has called upon the parents to keep a close liaison with teachers and monitor the performance of their school going children on daily basis.

This he said while speaking as a chief guest at parent day function held in government High school Wanda Ameer on Monday. A senior JUI-f leader Maulana Haji Ameer Nawaz Khan presided over the event while DDEO Khalid Wahab, ADOs Nisar Muhammad Ghaznikhel and Sharifullah Khan, heads of government schools and notables of the area were in the attendance.

On the occasion the students presented tableaus and received applause from the participants.  The district education officer distributed trophies and cash prizes among the students who exhibited outstanding performance in curricular and co curricular activities.

He said that the perception that the students of public sector schools were lagging behind from those of private schools was wrong. "The performance of students in such events clearly indicates that government schools are far better than the private institutions," he maintained.

Nazir said that frequent visits to the schools by parents in connection with knowing about the performance of their children would make teachers to work with devotion and dedication. He assured that laboratory equipment would be provided to the schools so as to enable the students to do practical works without facing any difficulty.



Anti-FGM Campaigners Mark Progress in Egypt

December 24, 2013

CAIRO, Egypt (WOMENSENEWS)-- Egyptian gynecologist Dr. Randa Fakhr Eldeen still remembers the horror she felt 20 years ago at seeing a victim of female genital mutilation, or cutting, for the first time.

The girl, only about 10 years old, had been rushed to Manshiet el Bakry Hospital's emergency room in the capital, suffering massive blood loss. Eldeen, still in training, said she was confused by the girl's life-threatening injuries.

"I didn't know what had happened because we don't practice FGM/C in my family . . . It's not taught in medical school . . . She was unconscious and we had to give her [several] blood transfusions. I think she was given six bags of blood. She was going to die and her mother [kept] crying about her hymen," recalls Eldeen. "I couldn't stay in the emergency room. I had to leave. I was crying."

FGM/C, also known as female circumcision, has a long history in Egypt. She says the practice came from Ethiopia during the Pharaonic era. In 2007 the practice was outlawed after the death of a 12-year-old in Minya. Nonetheless, the vast majority of women between 15 and 49 have endured the procedure. A 2008 Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of women married at least once puts the estimate at 91 percent.

The procedure usually involves cutting off the clitoral hood, clitoris and some or all of the labia. Sometimes the wound is stitched together, leaving just a small orifice for urination. Many here see it as a tenant of Islam, despite widespread debate among Muslim scholars on the topic. Others treat the procedure as a "coming-of-age" milestone that ensures their daughters will not be promiscuous in a country that stigmatizes premarital sex, particularly for women.

Teen Dies in Hospital

The issue flared up in the media over the summer after 13-year-old Suhair al Bata'a died undergoing the surgery in a hospital northeast of Cairo. The family's lawyer said a health report showed the teen died of "a sharp drop in blood pressure resulting from shock trauma."

The practice might be illegal, with fines and jail time mandated by law, but few have been prosecuted. Before, many sought out village midwives, known as dayas, but nowadays Egyptians are turning to modern medicine. Experts say families believe their daughters will be safer under the care of doctors, and medical professionals are all too willing to provide their services for a fee.

In response to Suhair's death, the nongovernmental Coalition Against FGM/C launched the Kamla (Complete) campaign in June. The campaign included workshops, public information sessions and summer programs hosted in 11 governorates across Egypt.

Eldeen, the project coordinator, says her team's aim is to challenge the status quo and give girls bodily autonomy.

"[FGM/C] is accepted because it is a tradition that people think benefits girls," she says. "If you want to change things, you have to change how a person thinks. This has nothing to do with her health. We have to protect their bodies. They're young girls; they can't protect themselves, so we have to prevent this kind of violence."

The program also seeks to give women affected by FGM/C a safe place to talk about what is often a painful and risky procedure that can result in permanent scarring, infections, cysts, infertility, complications in childbirth and pain during intercourse.

Although 23-year-old Mona (not her real name) spends most of her time working on the coalition's finances as an assistant, she truly shines center stage at Kamla workshops where she speaks to children and teens of both sexes about FGM/C. Usually her audience is reluctant to speak about such a personal topic until Mona shares her own story.

"I was 8 or 9. I lived in a very poor area. My family brought a daya and she cut me. [Afterward] I stayed in bed for a week and a half because I was so small and bled so much," Mona says.

Speaking Up

She got involved with the coalition after attending a talk hosted by Eldeen. Not wanting her three younger sisters, aged 15, 8 and 5, to undergo the same ordeal, she spoke up, and convinced her mother that FGM/C had nothing to do with preserving a girl's honor or Islam.

"Working for the coalition gave me more confidence. I feel better now that I have an understanding of what happened to me and how to overcome it," Mona says.

So far, Kamla's message has reached hundreds of government workers, nongovernmental organizations, educators, health advocates and religious figures, in addition to over 2,300 children and families. The Kamla campaign has also made a mark online, with more than 169,000 users viewing its Facebook page or the coalition's videos.

Journalist and author Shereen El Feki say similar movements to curb the practice have been around for decades. But it was in 1994 that the government of deposed President Hosni Mubarak began to give real backing to national anti-FGM/C campaigns with the help of numerous international and domestic nongovernmental organizations. In her 2013 book "Sex and the Citadel," which examines sexuality in Egypt and the Arab world, El Feki describes some gains for campaigners.

According to research she cites in her book, almost every Egyptian woman over 45 has been circumcised, but among teens between 15 and 17 that figure is lower at 80 percent. The numbers are lower still when it comes to wealthier or urban residents as well as families with mothers with high school or post-secondary education. Some even predict the national average will fall to 50 percent among 18 year olds over the next 12 years or so.

"Until we have the latest DHS figures . . . it's hard to tell national trends. But certainly evidence up to 2011 showed that FGM was decreasing substantially in certain populations," El Feki said an email interview. But in her opinion, FGM/C will remain prevalent until Egypt's cultural paradigm shifts.

"The forces that drive FGM are deeply rooted in society, which is why it takes so long to make a dent in the practice. I would argue that FGM is one of the few subjects related to women's sexuality that is not taboo in Egypt," she said. "For many women in Egypt, circumcision is a point of pride, not a shame to conceal."

Jessica Gray is a Canadian journalist reporting on the Middle East from Cairo.



Towards a Change of Culture Leading to a Gender-Balanced Approach

December 24, 2013

ROME, Dic 23 (IPS) - The past three years have been very important to scale up the movement to protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls and, particularly, to eliminate female genital mutilation worldwide.

We saw the political momentum growing and culminating December 2012 with the consensual adoption by the General Assembly of Resolution 67/146 banning female genital mutilation worldwide.

On that occasion all United Nations member states sent a strong political message about their commitment. The resolution calls upon member states to ensure effective implementation of international and regional instruments protecting women’s rights and to take all necessary measures to prohibit female genital mutilation.

The resolution was an important step forward; it is now our responsibility to ensure its effective implementation. The recent UNICEF report reminds us that despite the best efforts towards its abandonment, female genital mutilation still persists.

For this reason, during the General Assembly this year we organised a side event, together with Burkina Faso, UNFPA and UNICEF, to share specific contributions that governments and international institutions have made to the commitments undertaken with the adoption of the resolution.

Genital mutilation is only one of the manifold forms of violence women are still suffering all over the world. Just to mention the example of my own country, over 100 women have been killed in Italy this year, mostly in the context of domestic violence.

To reverse such a terrible trend, we have increased government action against crimes that victimise women. I am also very proud that Italy became the fifth member state of the Council of Europe to ratify the Istanbul Convention for preventing and combating sexual and domestic violence.

The same happened with the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty, which introduces principles and criteria to oversee the movement of arms and to combat illegal trafficking. Such treaties contain an explicit provision on gender-based violence.

Women are the first victims of such trade. This also goes in the direction of a general change of culture leading to a gender-balanced approach in peace-building processes.

Gender-based violence was also the common denominator underlying the discussion at the high-level meeting during the General Assembly last September of the Equal Futures Partnership, the initiative launched by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton which Italy just joined.

This is a partnership uniting nations firmly committed to closing the gender gap and to sharing experiences so that local practices can be replicated all over the world.

A less blatant but nonetheless harmful form of violence against women is the practice of early and forced marriages. We must take every opportunity to recall the importance of eradicating this practice in one generation’s time span, accelerating change in culture and traditions through a vibrant, ongoing campaign.

For this reason we also call for the inclusion of this target in the post-2015 development agenda.

A very encouraging step was the approval last month by the U.N. General Assembly's Third Committee of a resolution aimed at achieving a ban, within the next 12 months, on early and forced marriages. This resolution - promoted by Italy and nine other countries - was co-sponsored by 109 countries and was approved by consensus.

Violence against women also encompasses trafficking and slavery. This is a particularly

painful subject for me: it is very sad and frustrating to feel helpless when hundreds of migrants, women and men and children, tragically die off the coasts of Lampedusa (in Sicily). For this reason we are insisting on a common European effort within the framework of the Mediterranean task force led by the European Commission to combat human trafficking.

This leads me to talk about the situation of women in our neighbouring countries in the Southern Mediterranean. In some of these countries the promotion of women's rights has a long tradition.

In other cases gender issues have been promoted by those autocratic regimes which the Arab Spring swept away, as they became instrumental for them to show their modern face to Western allies while continuing to violate other human rights.

Whatever the reasons for their past promotion, we must continue monitoring to avoid any setback, like attempts to delegitimise the Personal Status Code (adopted in 1956) in Tunisia or to misapply the law imposing sanctions for female mutilation in Egypt.

For this reason we should increase our efforts in initiatives like the one undertaken by the European Union and United Nations, "Spring Forward for Women", which includes measures to ensure effective access by women to economic and political opportunities in the Southern Mediterranean region.

On the Italian side, I would also like to mention an initiative we successfully launched last February and that we will repeat next year: Women in Diplomacy School. The school aims at giving women specific tools for their empowerment as leaders. It is open to the participation of young women from our neighbouring Mediterranean countries.

The Women in Diplomacy School is part of a wider project that Italy has launched in view of the Expo Milan 2015, the Women and Expo initiative.

Our ambitious goal is to make Expo 2015 in Milan the first "gender Expo" ever, hoping that this will serve as an example for future editions.

Source: Independent European Daily Express



Eagles Honour Cheerleader-Turned-Soldier on Her Return from Afghanistan

December 24, 2013

As a Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader from 2007 through 2010, Rachel Washburn spent a lot of time on the sidelines at Lincoln Financial Field during NFL games.

On Sunday night, three years after leaving the squad to join the Army, 1st Lt. Washburn came full circle, returning to the field where she once led cheers to receive the team's Hometown Hero award during the Eagles' 54-11 victory over the Chicago Bears.

“I’m incredibly excited and humbled by it,” Washburn said. “I always thought that was such a wonderful thing that the Eagles did -- that every game they chose somebody to showcase what they had done for every single person in that stadium.

“I’m so honored because I call Philadelphia home, I love the Eagles so much and I’m just excited to be home in Philadelphia and watch the Eagles win.”

The highly decorated 25-year-old says her experiences as a cheerleader have actually served her well as a member of the Army’s Cultural Support Team.

“When I was going through the Cultural Support Team training, we had to do mental toughness training every couple of days," said Washburn, who went on a USO tour of Iraq while with the Eagles. "One of the things that they taught us was how to kind tune into your happy place to remain mentally calm in stressful situations. My happy place just so happened to be what I remember my first game being like.

"We lined up in the end zones for the pre-game dance, and I just remember it being a beautiful August day, so that memory has always stuck with me, and of course the trip to Iraq was one of the greatest honors of my life, and I think back on it fondly often.”

The daughter of a former Army and Air Force pilot, Washburn has served two tours in Afghanistan, earning such honors as a Bronze Star, the Army commendation medal and the combat, airborne and air assault badges. She even helped deliver a baby during a snowstorm.

Still, she said she's proud of the work she did before enlisting in the military as well.

"The women I worked with at the Eagles were some of the most talented and most intelligent people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Washburn said. “We’re all beautiful women who are there to be entertaining at games, but also, we are incredibly involved in the community, which is something that I am incredibly proud of, and I’m sure that all of the other girls feel the same way. I’m really proud of the Eagles organization putting us out there in that sort of capacity.”,0,6699749.story#ixzz2pNvwdUjX



2 Palestinian children try to commit suicide in Israeli jail

December 24, 2013

RAMALLAH – The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-detainees on Monday said that two Palestinian children tried to commit suicide in an Israeli prison.

Hiba Masalha, the ministry’s lawyer, said that the two prisoners tried to commit suicide in the Hasharon (Telmond) and the Ofek Juvenile prisons, both in central Israel.

Masalha identified the two as 17-year-old No’man al-Rajabi from the West Bank city of Hebron and 15-year old Mohammed Abu Romouz from occupied Jerusalem.

She added that al-Rajabi is suffering from psychological disorders due to torture by Israeli security forces since his arrest in 2008. She added that the prisoner hang himself with a robe but his comrades saved his life in the last moment.

The lawyer said that Abu Romouz tried to commit suicide after the Israeli Prison Service rejected his demand to be transferred from the section of civil prisoners to the security one.

According to recent Palestinian statistics, Israel is holding 234 Palestinian children in its 23 prisons and detention camps in Israel and in the West Bank.

The ministry said that “holding Palestinian children in Israeli prisons violates the Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring the population it is occupying to its own territory.”

It added that “incarcerating minors, especially holding them without charge in administrative detention, violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The Israeli army’s operations against Palestinian children have been the target of complaints for a long time.

In 2011, following sharp criticism by human rights groups over the arrest, interrogation and trial of Palestinian minors, the Israeli army raised the age of minority for Palestinians by amending the relevant military legislation. Until two years ago, only Palestinians under 15 were considered minors, in contrast to 18 within Israel. Since this change, suspects under 18 are tried as minors before military judges who have received training as juvenile judges.

On September, the ministry said that the Israeli forces arrested 10,000 Palestinian since the outbreak of second intifada in September 2000. The Second Intifada, also known as the al-Aqsa Intifada, broke out in September 28, 2000 following a visit by Israel’s then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Al Aqsa Mosque.



Indonesian Consulate General commemorates Mother’s Day

December 24, 2013

JEDDAH — Indonesian Consulate General here commemorated Mother’s Day on Monday at its premises. 

All the staff and wives in formal Indonesian attire participated in the ceremony. 

The function started by singing of the Indonesian national anthem, reading a brief history of Mother’s Day, observing moments of paying tribute to and remembering mother’s countless feat followed by a speech by the consul general, singing Indonesian Mother’s Day Hymn, and a concluding prayer.

Mother’s Day has long become a formal national occasion in Indonesia and is regularly commemorated in public offices nationwide as well as in Indonesian Diplomatic Premises all over the world.

Indonesian Consul General Dharmakirty Syailendra Putra said the huge number of Indonesian women should become an asset, potential, and remarkable human resources which undeniably contribute to the success of the  civilization and the national development.

"In Indonesia nowadays there has been a large number of women holding a strategic and determinant role and position in all aspects of life. This proves that if women are given a chance, they are able to improve their quality independently and by this it means that women are the driver and agent of change,” said Putra.

He added: "If we reflect our past history, Indonesian women in the past were the same as they are now in terms of equality principles which underlines the importance of equal share in tasks and responsibilities."

To highlight the day, a series of activities and games were held, including gift-wrapping competition, guessing games on spouse’s good habits, and many more.



Islamic Organisations Organise Holiday Camps for Children in Abuja

December 24, 2013

A five-day annual children and adolescents camp organised by the Organization of Tadhamunul Muslimeen (OTM), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) branch holds between Tuesday, December 24 and Saturday, December 28, 2013.

A statement signed by the Chairman, Organising Committee, Mallam AbdulHakeem Tijani stated that the camping programme themed, "Sojourn into the Future" will feature lectures, Qur'an memorisation, hadith exposition, tafsir, global update and exercise, among others.

The seminar, which is expected to prepare the youth for future challenges and teach them moral values that would save the society from avoidable vices, will hold at Al-Manar Basic Education, Life Camp, Abuja.

In a related development, the annual National Al-Mu'minaat Training Forum (NATF) organised by Al-Mu'minaat (The Believing Women) starts on Saturday December 28, 2013 at Government Girls Secondary School, Dutse Makaranta, Abuja.

The camping programme for women and children themed, "Global Challenges: Meaning and Message" will feature lectures, fiqh session, Qur'an Tafsir, guidance and counselling and vocational training, among others.

The five-day camping will end on January 1, 2014.



Act of kindness: Transgenders help recover missing children in Pakistan

 December 24, 2013

KARACHI: After dragging feet at hospitals, morgues, police stations and government offices for months and listening to false consolations, the only hope for Faiz Buksh to see his six-year-old daughter lies with the eunuchs.

The transgender community in the city, along with NGO Roshni Helpline, has taken the role of recovering missing children, who have been abducted or have gone missing. “I pray that they bring my girl back. They have connections in the area, maybe they can find out who took her,” says the father, showing picture of his daughter, Shumaila, in a black scarf, who went missing from Mobina Town in July after she had gone to a shop. Since her disappearance, the mother has gone in a state of shock and does not talk anymore.

At a main signal in Malir Halt, the eunuchs are secretly carrying pictures in their pockets and purses of a five-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy who have gone missing. They also peek in cars, taxis and rickshaws, and glance at other beggars to see if the child is among them.

Activist and member of the Gender Interactive Alliance, Bindiya Rana, who is overseeing them said that the presence of the transgender in all the towns, and houses (deray) in every locality can help locate children as they would be working as informers.

“We have already helped dozens of children who are lost from their families in public places and united them,” she pointed out. “I remember a boy who was separated from her mother at a shopping centre and, when we took him to his mother, she hugged both of us.”

Another transgender, Riffi Khan, who is also part of the project said that they will help remove misconceptions that eunuchs abduct children and turn them into one of them. “People think that we are the ones who kidnap kids as we can’t have them. But this is wrong. We are not involved in such work.” Group meetings have started among the transgender community while they will also start a door-to-door campaign to raise awareness.

Roshni Helpline president Muhammad Ali said that their collaboration with the transgenders will prove fruitful given the police’s failure to recover hundreds of children who fall into the hands of various mafias, are trafficked and made to work as prostitutes or beggars. “Right now, we have not recovered any child through the transgender but I am sure that we will be successful very soon.”

According to the organisation, this year so far 2,736 children have gone missing with less than 20 per cent recovered. “The idea to involve the transgender came because they have good connections in their areas, are aware of the locals and some of them are beggars at traffic signals. They would be able to help us.” Once they see a missing child, the volunteers will send a text message to Ali and his peers, who will then inform the police.

Vulnerable areas, such as Mobina Town, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Jamshed Town and others, are being mapped where transgenders would be told to be vigilant.

If the plan works out, it would bring relief to several families, says Ali, as an aggrieved Uzair Rehman sitting next to him looks down on the floor. On his mobile phone, Rehman, a factory worker shows a CCTV video of outside his house in North Nazimabad where his two-year-old son was abducted. He had stepped outside the gate when a burqa-clad woman in a rickshaw stopped and took him away in a matter of minutes. “Sometimes I go to work. Sometimes I don’t.  I keep thinking about my son and my wife keeps crying.”