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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 March 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Under-Age Marriages Should Be Abolished

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 March 2013

 Photo: The story of a Muslim woman and a Brahmin widow


 The Story of a Muslim Woman and a Brahmin Widow

 Muslim Nations Agree On UN Code to Combat Violence against Women and Girls

 Two Men in Dubai Charged With Forcing Maids into Prostitution

 Saudi Arab Female Employment Rate Among Lowest In MENA Region

 Shops in Saudi Arab Face Obstacles in Employing Women

 Yemeni Ballerinas Step Out Of Traditional Line

 Somali Female Journalist Shot Dead In Mogadishu

 Maldivian Sentenced To 14 Years Imprisonment for Sexually Abusing a Minor

 Morsi Announces Initiative to Support Women’s Rights

 Doha Briefing on Women’s Rights

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Under-Age Marriages Should Be Abolished

25 MARCH 2013

IT was reported in the press at the weekend that more and more girls were dropping out of school to get married. This unfortunate scenario has also led to an increase in the number of under-age mothers, obstetric fistulas and broken marriages. Child marriages are not a new phenomenon.

Some girls are married off even before the statutory age of 16. Of course, we are aware that the state is now trying to eradicate this misguided practice. But progress is painfully slow.

It is imperative to mention here that even the statutory age of 16 is inappropriate. And in some cases some girls get married at the tender age of 14 -- with parental consent. This is child marriage - a societal canker the medical world resents. This statutory marriage age should be elevated to 18, the age of majority.

It should be expressly understood that a girl aged 16 years is not biologically ripe to make children. She may be tall and robust. She may even look heftier than her own mother. But the reality is that she remains unripe for the critical task of managing a pregnancy, excruciating labour pains and delivery.

Under-age marriage, in fact, is one of the principal causes of the now numerous pregnancy complications and deaths in young mothers. Child marriage also denies the unfortunate girls access to education. A girl aged 14 or 15 years, for example, is expected to be a Form Two or Three students somewhere - not someone's "lovely wife!"

This diabolical practice should be treated with the contempt it deserves. In some shocking cases girls aged ten years are married off. This may sound far-fetched but it is the hard reality that exists in some tribal settings. According to a report by the Women's Dignity Project, obstetric fistulas are common complications among under-age mothers. Women who have the fistula are often the very young. Most of them are normally too poor to attend health services.

So, many often try to deliver at home. Apart from being poor, these young mothers, mainly in rural areas, are ignorant about motherhood. Obstetric fistula can occur because the woman's pelvis is too small; the baby's head is too big or the baby is badly positioned. The woman can be in labour for five days or more.

In most cases the baby dies. If the mother survives, she is left with extensive tissue damage to her birth canal that renders her incontinent - either of her bladder or bowel functions. So, parents who marry off their under-age daughters fail to protect them from health hazards, exploitation, cruelty and arbitrary separation from the family. They also deny them the prospect for education and chance to develop full potential.



The Story of a Muslim Woman and a Brahmin Widow

Shaju Philip

Mar 25 2013

Alappuzha: Thirteen years ago, a Muslim housewife in Kerala had stopped an old and destitute Brahmin widow from jumping in front of a train and ending a life for which she saw no hope.

The Muslim woman, then 34, took the 76-year-old high-caste Namboothiri woman home, gave her shelter and sowed the seeds for an unusual relationship that bloomed despite their religious and cultural differences.

Their story of affection and harmony inspired Malayalam producer-director Babu Thiruvalla’s film Thanichalla Njam (I am not alone), which went on to win the national award for 2012 for best feature film on national integration recently.

The story began on January 22, 2000 when Rasiya Beevi, who is also a Congress member of Ambalapuzha village panchayat in Alappuzha district, spotted an old, frail frame standing near the railway track.

“I thought it was a woman passenger who was stranded after missing the road to the nearest railway station. When I approached her, Chellamma Antharjanam got irritated and shot back, ‘you will not let me commit suicide?’” Beevi recalls.

Beevi said Antharjanam told her she was waiting to jump in front of the next train, after having failed to kill herself through other methods. She had chosen the deserted spot hoping that no one would spot her and stop her. Antharjanam missed the train as she narrated her story to the stranger she had just met.

Antharjanam belonged to a prominent Namboothiri family in Central Kerala and was married to a man with psychiatric problems who died five years after their wedding. For about 25 years after that, she worked as a domestic help and returned to her brother’s house as age caught up with her, only to be thrown out. Distraught, she tried to kill herself several times until Beevi found her.

Beevi said she took the Brahmin woman home and got her to stay with her family comprising her husband and three children. “She was afraid to stay with my family. Initially, she used to ask me whether Muslim organisations would attack the house for harbouring a Hindu. Her only plea was to allow her to live as a Hindu,” Beevi said

So Beevi bought a traditional Hindu lamp used in Kerala and other items Antharjanam needed to do Pooja and allowed her to recite Hindu prayers in her Muslim home.

Food, however, was a spoiler as Antharjanam was a strict vegetarian. “My children insisted on fish and meat. Amma could not even tolerate a whiff of non-vegetarian food. As a short-term remedy, I decided to take her to a Hindu ashram where only vegetarian food was served,” Beevi said, referring to Antharjanam as amma.

Antharjanam stayed at the ashram for two years and Beevi paid for it and visited her regularly too. In 2004, Beevi managed to get Rs 55,000 from a housing scheme for the homeless from her panchayat, chipped in with some of her savings and built a two-room house for Antharjanam.

Political rivals accused Beevi of using Antharjanam as a front to pocket panchayat funds and even demanded her resignation. But the two women held a press conference in 2006 to tell their story and silenced them.

Beevi also built a structure to grow the Tulsi plant at Antharjanam’s new house and ensured a regular supply of rudraksha chains, sandal sticks and materials for worship. She cooks vegetarian food at her house and takes it for Antharjanam and has also been spending time with the old woman every night for the last year-and-a-half.

“When Amma, now 89, was healthy, I used to take her to the nearby temple. I would wait outside the temple when she went inside for darshan,” Beevi said. “Several Muslim organisations had asked me why I can’t take Amma into the fold of Islam. They wanted Antharjanam to embrace Islam. But my reply was a firm no. I would live my religion and Amma her Hindu religion,” said Beevi, whose husband is a small businessman.

“We will live together until one of us bids adieu to this world,” she adds.


Muslim Nations Agree On UN Code to Combat Violence against Women and Girls

Muslim and Western nations agree on UN landmark code to combat violence against women and girls

March 25, 2013

Muslim and Western nations late Friday overcame deep divisions to agree a landmark United Nations declaration setting out a code of conduct for combating violence against women and girls. Iran, Libya, Sudan and other Muslim nations ended threats to block the declaration and agreed to language stating that violence against women could not be justified by “any custom, tradition or religious consideration.”

Western nations, particularly from Scandinavia, toned down demands for references to gay rights and sexual health rights to secure the accord after two weeks of tense negotiations between the 193 UN member states.

Some 6,000 non-government groups were in New York for the Commission on the Status of Women meeting. Cheers and wild applause erupted when the accord was announced in the UN headquarters late Friday.

Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women, said it had been an “historic” meeting. It was announced straight after that Bachelet would be leaving her post to return to Chile.

“People worldwide expected action, and we didn't fail them. Yes -- we did it,” Bachelet said.

UN leader Ban Ki-Moon said UN members had committed “to take action to prevent violence and provide justice and services to survivors” of violence against women, which he called a “global menace” and “moral outrage.”

Iran, the Vatican and Russia and other Muslim states had formed what some diplomats had called “an unholy alliance” to weaken a statement calling for tough global standards on violence against women and girls.

They had objected to references to abortion rights and language suggesting that rape includes forcible behavior by a woman's husband or partner.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood had called the proposed UN document un-Islamic and warned it would lead to the “complete degradation of society.”

But the chief Egyptian official at the meeting, Mervat Tallawy, head of the country's National Women's Council, backed the accord. She said the declaration was needed to counter “a global wave of conservatism, of repression against women.”

With Norway and Denmark leading a European alliance with North America calling for tough language, right up to the final hours it had appeared that the meeting could end without an accord.

The last attempt by the UN commission to agree a declaration on violence against women in 2003 ended in failure.

“The commission urges states to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination,” said the declaration.

It added that states should “devote particular attention to abolishing practices and legislation that discriminate against women and girls, or perpetuate and condone violence against them.”

Countries should “address and eliminate as a matter of priority domestic violence,” went on the declaration.

The United States welcomed the accord. It was an important first step to ensure that women and girls “live productive and safe lives, free from the scourge of violence and abuse,” senior US envoy Terri Robl told the meeting.

Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig said the document was “balanced and strong.” Wittig tweeted that the declaration ”sends a much needed message to the women around the world: your rights are crucial”.

A World Bank report estimates that in the age range of 15 to 44 more women die as a result of rape and domestic violence than of cancer, traffic accidents, wars and malaria taken together.



Two Men in Dubai Charged With Forcing Maids into Prostitution

(Marie Nammour) / 24 March 2013

DUBAI - Two men have been charged with forcing five maids into prostitution after luring them to travel from their country with job offers.

The two defendants, both Bangladeshis — one on a business visa, identified as H.A. (32), and the other a worker and identified as J.M. (30) — are believed to have deceived, along with another suspect at large, the women into coming to Dubai and forcing them to work in prostitution after beating them up.

H.A. is also accused of raping the three of them.

They both pleaded not guilty to charges of human trafficking, false imprisonment and running a brothel in Hor Al Anz in Muraqqabat. H.A. additionally denied having raped the victims when they both appeared in the Court of First Instance.

The maids, also Bangladeshis, told the prosecutors how they were conned to travel from their country with job offers and then coerced into prostitution.

A 17-year-old alleged victim said that H.A. picked her from the airport in June last year and took her to an old villa in Hor Al Anz. There, he ripped off her clothes and took naked photos which he threatened to circulate on the internet if she did not obey him.

He raped her and forced her to have sex with a man for Dh50 which he collected. He then locked her in the villa.

She, however, managed to escape with two other women while they were being taken to a flat in Naif on August 7 last year.

Another maid, 19, said that when she arrived at H.A.’s villa she saw 15 Bangladeshi women working unwillingly in prostitution. Those women have also left the country.

Another maid, 19, said the defendants took her passport and visa and that H.A. raped her about 10 times.

She managed to take H.A.’s mobile phone and call the police while H.A. was busy beating another woman on August 5 last year.

A police corporal said they raided the villa after being informed about women being held against their will and forced into prostitution.

The maid who called the police, led them to the house by waving to them from the bathroom window.

The police found two visitation cards in H.A.’s car indicating that he had made two visits to a woman jailed in Dubai in connection with a human trafficking case. Passports, visas, ID cards and sums of money and jewellery were seized from the villa.

Source: Khaleej Times



Saudi Arab Female Employment Rate Among Lowest In MENA Region

KSA female employment rate among lowest in MENA region

 25 March 2013

Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest female participation rates in the work force in the region, a recent World Bank report has found.

“The employment of women stands at less than 12 percent. This puts Saudi Arabia at the 11th position in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA),” Al-Riyadh daily reported, quoting a World Bank report on gender equality and development in the region.

While female participation in the work force grew to above 50 percent in the Africa, Asia and Pacific region, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and Caribbean over the past 15 years, participation in the MENA region has lagged behind at 25.2 percent, the report said.

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait topped the list with at least a 45 percent increase in women’s employment.

Full report at:



Shops in Saudi Arab Face Obstacles in Employing Women

25 March 2013

Nearly 30 percent of Abayas, night-wear and wedding dress stores may close or be sold at prices ranging between SR 500,000 and SR 1 million because of difficulties over employing women staff, local media reported, quoting sources in Jeddah.

A number of traders plan to sell more than 570 stores operating in the market due to problems related to the application of the feminization decision, said head of the garments and ready-made clothes committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Mohammed Al-Shihri.

Al-Shihri said traders are complaining that the law was implemented too quickly, and about a lack of support and numerous delays in the payment of salary subsidies promised by the Ministry of Labor and the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), he added.

Full report at:



Yemeni Ballerinas Step Out Of Traditional Line

Friday, 22 March 2013

Saja Ahmed is one of the few Yemeni girls in Sanaa learning how to pirouette and point her toes at the city's first ballet school.

Others try to match their steps with their Russian instructor, some effortlessly, others struggling, but never lacking in eagerness.

“I came here from two years or one. I love ballet and I love my friends and my teacher,” says Ahmed.

Hadeel al-Saeedi says she loves dancing.

“I have been here for three months and it's lots of fun here,” she says, dressed in a bright, sequined outfit.

Full report at:



Somali female journalist shot dead in Mogadishu

 March 25, 2013

MOGADISHU — Somali gunmen killed a female radio journalist in Mogadishu, the latest in a string of reporters murdered in the war-ravaged capital, colleagues and witnesses said Monday.

Two men shot dead Rahmo Abdukadir, who worked for the private Radio Abduwaq station, late Sunday.

"One of our female staff members was shot and killed in Mogadishu," said radio station director Abdikarin Ahmed.

"We don't know why she was killed but we are in shock," he added.

Witnesses said men approached the reporter before firing repeatedly and then running away.

"Two men armed with pistols shot the woman... they fired their guns five times before fleeing," said witness Abdi Moalin Shire.

Full report at:



Maldivian Sentenced To 14 Years Imprisonment for Sexually Abusing A Minor

By Minivan News | March 25th, 2013

A man convicted of the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by the Criminal Court.

An official from Criminal Court told local media that Afrah Hussain of Maavaidhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll was sentenced following witness testimonies proving he had been involved in sexual activities with a minor in Hulhumale’ on May 30, 2011.

Local media reported that the state had also pressed charges against Afrah Hussain for owning pornographic material.



Morsi announces initiative to support women’s rights

Ethar Shalaby

 March 24, 2013

President Mohamed Morsi announced a new initiative on Sunday to support Egyptian women’s rights which aims to expand the role of women and resolve their most pressing challenges.

The initiative’s objectives include exploring methods that help improve the lives of women in Egypt, whether in rural or urban areas, while researching their status politically, economically, and socially. The project also aims at recognising and prioritising the challenges facing women across the country’s 27 governorates.

Full report at:



Doha Briefing on women’s rights

 25 March 2013

DOHA: The Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development (DIIFSD) recently hosted its annual Doha Briefing, entitled ‘Arab Spring: A chance or a risk for women’s rights’, in New York.

The event addressed the Arab Spring and its impact on women’s rights. It was held during the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations headquarters.

DIIFSD has a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The briefing was chaired by Noor Al Malki Al Jehani, Executive Director of DIIFSD, and featured a three-member panel of international women’s rights experts, including Dr Nadine Naber, Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies, American Studies and Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan, Dr Sophie Richter-Devroe, a lecturer in gender and the Middle East studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter University, and Dr Rabab El Mahdi, Associate Professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo.

Full report at: