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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 16 Dec 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Legal Marriage Age for Muslim Women to Stay at 16 in Malaysia

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 December 2021

• Radio Begum - Being Run By Women with the Permission of the Taliban Government

• Cyber-Feminism Paving the Way for Gender Revolution in Saudi Arabia

• No PCR Needed For Non-Saudis Married To Saudis

• India: Cabinet Clears Proposal to Raise Women's Minimum Age For Marriage From 18 To 21

• Iran Women's International Handballer Missing In Spain

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Legal Marriage Age for Muslim Women to Stay at 16 in Malaysia


The government says those who apply for underage marriage will go through a strict process of evaluation.


Wong Pek Mei

December 16, 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has taken the position that it is not necessary to raise the legal marriage age for Muslim women from 16 to 18.

Religious affairs minister Idris Ahmad said the decision was reached after taking into consideration the feedback and views of the state governments.

He told the Dewan Rakyat the federal government had taken steps to study the proposal to raise the minimum marriage age for Muslim women from 16 to 18.

“The research into the issue also covered discussions at various legal forums, including those from shariah and civil courts, as the power to decide Muslim marriages is under the jurisdiction of the states.

“Based on the feedback and views that we have received, most states have in principle agreed to maintain the current legal marriage age as provided for under the Islamic family laws in respective states,” he said in reply to Kasthuri Patto (PH-Batu Kawan), who asked for an update on the government’s effort to raise the marriage age to 18.

Idris said that after getting the views and feedback of the states, the shariah law secretariat under the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) met on Sept 22.

“It was decided that there was no need to amend the minimum marriage age for Muslim women.

“At the same time, the Syariah Judiciary Department has taken steps to ensure that those who apply for underage marriage will go through a strict process of evaluation to ensure that the interest of all parties involved is taken care of,” he said.

Various women’s NGOs have called for an end to the practice of underage marriages involving girls below the age of 18.

Sisters in Islam previously reported that only Selangor had amended the minimum legal marriage age for Muslims to 18 while the federal territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan), Penang, Sabah, Johor, Melaka and Perak had agreed to amend their Islamic family laws.

“However, seven states – Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan – have yet to agree to raise the legal marriage age to 18 years old,” it said.

Source: Free Malaysia Today


Radio Begum - Being Run By Women with the Permission of the Taliban Government


Radio Begum - the voice of Afghanistan's women (Photo Courtesy: UN)


15th December 2021

Hamza Ameer


In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and its capital Kabul, which is the hub of global attention with questions being raised on rights to women and education for girls under the Taliban rule, Radio Begum is broadcasting the voices of women across the country.

Radio Begum, a radio broadcasting office for the women, is being run by women with programmes covering educational shows, books readings, and call-in counselling.

It works with the permission of the Taliban government.

“We are not giving up. We have to show that we don't need to be scared. We must occupy the public sphere,” said Hamida Aman, the founder of Radio Begum.

Radio Begum was founded on March 8, 2021 marking the International Women's Day. It continues to broadcast across Kabul and its surrounding areas, other than doing live shows on Facebook.

“Begum was a noble title used in South Asia, and it now generally refers to a married Muslim woman. This station is a vessel of women's voices, their pain, their frustrations,” said Aman.

Earlier, Radio Begum's female employees used to share an office with male colleagues. But now, with the Taliban in control, they have been separated with each gender having its own floor and a larger opaque curtain installed in front of the women's office.

“Previously played pop songs have now been replaced with traditional songs,” said Aman.

Radio Begum's office also turns into a classroom at least twice a day, when girls and boys, aged 13 or 14, open their books and the presenter gives them on-air lesson about social justice.

“My message to the girls who cannot go to school is to listen to our programe carefully, to use this golden chance and opportunity. They may not have it again,” said a 13-year-old girl named Mursal.

The on-air lessons are also for adults. Station Director Saba Chaman can be seen narrating the autobiography of Michelle Obama in Dari language.

Chaman is particularly proud of a show where listeners calls come in for psychological counselling.

The women working at Radio Begum say they are happy to be among the literate ones among the majority of illiterate females in the country.

“Women who are illiterate are like blind people. When I go to the pharmacy, they gave me expired medication. If I could read, they wouldn't do it,” said a female who could not read.

It is interesting to see that Radio Begum is allowed to continue its broadcast under the Taliban rule. Aman said she met with the spokesperson of Afghan Taliban Zabiullah Mujahid and told him that the radio was working towards giving voice to women.

“He was very encouraging,” she said.

Source: Morung Express


Cyber-Feminism Paving the Way For Gender Revolution In Saudi Arabia

Jajati K Pattnaik and Chandan K Panda

December 16, 2021

Cyberfeminism is seemingly taking a dynamic shape in the Arab world. The increasing use of the Internet by women hailing from different walks of life is going to take Arab feminism to a different level. In Saudi Arabia women have begun sharing public space, though the prevailing societal orthodoxy does not approve of such liberties given to them. But, in the age of the Internet, isolationism is a myth. It liquidates the political, social and theological barriers by enhancing interconnectedness. Cyberfeminism, therefore, refers to activism around the demand for dignity, rights and freedom for women using cyberspace.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, blogging sites, YouTube, WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, Instagram, FaceTime, LinkedIn, etc, are the contemporary digital tools which revolutionise the global consciousness around freedom of women. Unlike the West, the Arab world stays behind in terms of recognising the importance of women in every human activity. The Arab Spring, which began on 17 December 2010 and continued till December 2012 against the authoritarian regimes in West Asia and North Africa, experienced massive use of social media platforms and had a strong bearing on the rise of activism against the suppression of Arab women and their rights.

Saudi Social Reality

In Saudi Arabia, women are turning increasingly towards business to gradually make their presence felt in the public space. This tendency seems to be taking a form of silent activism. This involvement in the entrepreneurial space is a step forward towards securing socio-political acceptability.

The Saudi society is essentially patriarchal and hardly admits any alteration in the theological conventions that it believes in. On the other hand, the guardianship of Mecca and Medina, central to Islam, makes it the prototype of social and theological perfection. Its orthodoxies are based more on protecting the ideal societal model that it has constructed as the model Islamic country. It does not therefore tend to compromise with the social codes. But, in the age of Internet and digital feminism, there are challenges that the rigid social structures meet. Saudi Arabia therefore is not an exception.

Changing Scenario

The female literacy percentage (age 15 and above) in Saudi Arabia, as per the data given in CIA World Factbook (2020) is 96 percent in comparison to 98.6 percent male literacy. It is reported that out of 35.08 million people, 33.58 million are active users of the Internet, which constitutes almost 95.72 percent. This explains the rise in digital literacy. The female users of social media and other digital platforms are increasing.

In keeping with the vision 2030 set by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi women have gained substantial visibility in public entrepreneurial space. This indicates the Saudi political mindset towards incremental reform against the Wahhabi conservative socio-cultural background.

The nature of social reform that Riyadh has undertaken is going to be different from that of the American ones. Every society has different ways of progressing through reforms. The universalising tendencies of the American social model do not actually fit into the social space of other societies. Any radical attempt to impose feminist aggressivity in Saudi society may not succeed. It may throttle the process that seems to have begun by giving Saudi women the space in entrepreneurship. Any interventionist policy in social reengineering when there is no social consensus built is bound to meet failure.

The increasing number of Saudi women participating in social media itself suggests their exposure to the ideas circulating globally around the rights of women. This itself is a major step towards empowering women and educating them of the need for gender equality. The cyber content that they come across carries sufficient empowering force to gradually build courage to confront.

Cyberfeminism does its best to boost the required confidence to come to terms with the Saudi rigid patriarchy. The reform undertaken in recent years in the areas such as freedom of travel, driving, pension equality in the service sectors, equal age retirement, maternity leave, giving women managerial positions in different business ventures, political space at the municipal level, important positions in banking, media, science, etc, indicate the Saudi will to compromise with its Sharia-based civil codes.

Technology and Social Reengineering

The Women to Drive Movement and anti-male guardianship campaign in Saudi Arabia have no doubt achieved their goal by ensuring more visibility of women in the public. The Saudi repressive regime has punished the activists who pioneered these campaigns, but in the process the regime had to bow down to the demand and opted for the policy of gradual easing of restrictions. The Saudi women’s rights champions such as Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, Mayaa al-Zahrani and so on were arrested and reported to have been tortured for expressing dissent against the Saudi dispensation. Content filtering, cyber surveillance and language barrier are some impediments which restrict free functioning of social media in Saudi Arabia. However, the power of social media and the pressure that it exerts have made the Saudi royalty understand the importance of civil and political freedom for women.

The dramatic change of heart, as expected, will not take place. But the indication that is evident from the series of reforms undertaken and a few more in the pipeline explains the impact of social media and cyber activism in changing the political mindset of a conservative nation. The Women 20 Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2020 expresses its intent not to remain isolated by suppressing the rights of women. The Neom smart city in Tabuk Province is a largely futuristic, technology-packed and artificial intelligence-loaded business hub intended to diversify its economic space and to catch global investment. The state-of-art cognitive city demonstrates the Saudi increasing promotion of technology and gradual reliance on it. This indicates that cyber technology and the miracle it does have already penetrated the Saudi society.

The great takeaway from this is that growing participation in the cyberspace is certainly going to invite massive changes in the social imagination of the Saudi people. The progressive measures taken up by the Crown Prince will not yield the desired result unless gradual autonomy is given to women who experienced marginalisation under Sharia civil codes. Saudi Arabia cannot achieve growth by silencing its women.

Dr Jajati K Pattnaik is Associate Professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Dr Chandan K Panda is Assistant Professor at Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh. Views expressed are personal.

Source: Firstpost.


No PCR Needed For Non-Saudis Married To Saudis

December 15, 2021

RIYADH – Saudi Arabia has announced excluding foreign husbands of Saudi women and non-Saudi wives of Saudi men from presenting PCR tests before arriving to Saudi Arabia.

An official source at the Ministry of Interior said that the decision comes upon continuous follow-up of the epidemiological conditions of the pandemic and the recommendations of relevant health departments in the Kingdom.

The decision was made to exclude husbands of Saudis, wives of Saudis, non-Saudi children and parents of citizens, domestic workers accompanying citizens returning to Saudi Arabia from the condition of presenting a PCR tests before arriving in Saudi Arabia.

The source added that all procedures and precautions are subject to ongoing evaluation by specialized health departments in the Kingdom depending on global developments in the epidemiological conditions. – SG

Source: Saudi Gazette


India: Cabinet clears proposal to raise women's minimum age for marriage from 18 to 21

16 Dec 2021

India’s union cabinet passed a proposal to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years, the same as men. According to reports on Thursday, the government will introduce an amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, which will also amend the Special Marriage Act and personal laws including the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his August 2020 Independence Day speech said the government was concerned about “the health of daughters and sisters” and it was necessary that they married at the right age.

A central task force had recommended the need to raise the legal age of marriage for women last year. Jaya Jaitly, who headed the task force, told a newspaper: “I want to make clear that our reasoning behind the recommendation was never one of population control. Recent data released by the National Family Health Survey have shown that the Total Fertility Rate is decreasing and the population is under control. The idea behind the recommendation is the empowerment of women.”

The task force, set up in June 2020, had got feedback from 16 universities and had engaged with 15 NGOs to reach out to the young in rural and marginalised communities, especially in Rajasthan where child marriage is prevalent.

“Across the board, the feedback we received from young adults is that the age of marriage should be 22-23 years,” revealed Jaitly. “There have been objections from certain quarters, but we felt it was more important to be guided by the target group.”

Source: Khaleej Times


Iran women's international handballer missing in Spain

15 December, 2021

After four handballers from Cameroon disappeared last week, a member of Iran's women's team at the world championships in Spain has also been reported missing.

Police in Valencia say the Iranian team reported the matter, but as the individual was an adult and they were not necessarily concerned for her safety.

The four women from Cameroon disappeared with all their belongings on 9 December.

The handball world championships run until 19 December.

Source: The New Arab




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