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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 28 March 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Girls on Bikes Reclaiming the City

New Age Islam News Bureau

28 March 2016

With the aim to mobilise women and to reclaim public spaces for them, the Girls at Dhabas, a group of young women, organised a bicycle rally in Pakistan


 Pakistan Girls on Bikes Reclaiming the City

 Indian Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Muslim Law Board on Triple Talaq, Polygamy

 From Peru to Kosovo, Female Mps Aim to End Abuse of Women in Politics

 India: Lucknow’s New Landmark Sheroes Upholds the Indomitable Spirit of Humanity

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Pakistan Girls on Bikes Reclaiming the City

March 28th, 2016

With the aim to mobilise women and to reclaim public spaces for them, the Girls at Dhabas, a group of young women, organised a bicycle rally here on Sunday.

The rally provided a platform to the women to cycle around the city as a group and get comfortable with the idea of cycling on roads. The rally was simultaneously held in Lahore and Karachi.

“These bike rallies aim to give women a platform to reclaim the streets and cycle in public spaces without fear of harassment,” said Sanayah Malik, one of the organisers of the rally.

The rally started from the Main Market, Gulberg, and moved on the Jail Road and Canal Road.

The activity was organized through the social media which connected borrowers and lenders of bicycles and some male cyclists also lent their bikes to the female participants on the spot.

“It’s heartening to see the community response to this event where male cyclists are lending their bicycles to women to encourage them to participate in the rally,” said Sanayah.

Prior to the rally, the participants were given general instructions about cycling on the main roads. Supporters of the rally, including males, stayed behind, holding placards which were inscribed with slogans such as “Aurat Ka Pehyaa Chalnay Do, Bhai Chalnay Do”.

After the rally, the participants got together for a session to discuss their experience of cycling.

“Being able to cycle in public for the first time in 15 years was a delightful experience. I can’t wait to buy my own bicycle and take on the roads of Lahore,” said Noor Rehman, one of the participants of the rally.


Indian Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Muslim Law Board on Triple Talaq, Polygamy

R Sedhuraman, Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, Mar 28, 2016: The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on the validity of triple talaq, polygamy and remarriage restrictions on Muslim women. A Bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice UU Lalit also asked the central government to submit to the court the report of an experts’ panel that had studied the status of women since 1989 and the impact of personal laws on them.

AIMPLB has filed an application pleading to be heard on Supreme Court’s move to go into the validity of personal laws in the context of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The Board has taken a stand that Muslim personal laws were based on the tenets of Islam and as such the judiciary had no power to go into the validity of these laws.

The Bench sought the panel’s report on a PIL by Shayara Bano, a victim of triple talaq. Constituted in February 2012, the 14-member panel headed by Pam Rajput of Panjab University had submitted its report in 2015.

In its report titled ‘Women and the law: An assessment of family laws with focus on laws relating to marriage, divorce, custody, inheritance and succession’, the panel is understood to have recommended amendments to the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, banning triple talaq and polygamy and providing for statutory interim maintenance to Muslim women.

Since the report had not been made public, it should be produced in the Supreme Court, which was suo motu scrutinising personal laws, the petitioner said in an application.

Bano has pleaded for the triple talaq and polygamy to be declared illegal and unconstitutional as the provisions treated women like “chattel belonging to men” and militated against modern principles of human rights and gender equality.

She said she wanted to secure a life of dignity, unmarred by discrimination on the basis of gender or religion. Under the remarriage restrictions (nikah halala), Muslim women cannot marry a divorced man without an intervening marriage with another man.

In her petition, Bano pleaded that the marriage and divorce acts of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Parsies did not have such gender discriminatory provisions.

In fact, many Islamic nations, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq, had banned or restricted such practices. However, practices continued to vex not only Indian Muslim women like the petitioner but also society at large.



From Peru to Kosovo, Female MPs Aim to End Abuse of Women in Politics

24 March 2016

During her time as mayor of Lima, the Peruvian capital, Susana Villarán experienced brutal and harmful attacks and threats. She says they were designed to “diminish my image and make it clear it was not a place for a women like me to try and disrupt that male world of politics and power”.

The British MP Jess Phillips began receiving online threats when she started speaking about women’s rights after winning her parliamentary seat last year. She receives daily attacks and has seen online articles in which “people wished to see me raped or come home to see my sons hanging from a tree as I couldn’t possibly care about men”.

Villarán and Phillips shared their stories at the launch of a campaign by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to stop violence against women in politics.

Launched on the fringes of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York last week, the #NotTheCost campaign is seeking to raise awareness of the different methods of violence women face when seeking positions of power at local, national and international level. This can include physical, sexual, psychological, verbal and economic violence.

The NDI wants indicators to be developed so that data on the prevalence of the problem can be gathered, and is calling for more support and training for women on how to respond to acts of violence. The institute hopes the UN will take an interest and begin to investigate instances of violence against women in politics.

While men also come under attack, women frequently receive threats because of their gender and the nature of the abuse often involves sexual violence. The aim of the harassment is usually to discourage women from entering politics, says the NDI.

According to reports, in 2010, nine out of 10 threats against candidates running in the Afghan elections were received by women. In Peru, which is going to the polls to elect a new president next month, 39% of local female leaders have reported harassment because of their political work.

“Violence against women is not a cost of politics,” said Madeleine Albright, chairman of the NDI at the launch and the first woman appointed US secretary of state.

“We have celebrated gains [over the past 20 years] but during this time we have grown more aware of just how difficult it is to overcome barriers that still prevent women from participating in public life.

“It’s clear when we speak about violence, we’re not restricting ourselves to acts of physical harm. In reality it encompasses the whole spectrum of harassment,” she said.

“And where some say it’s cultural, I say it’s criminal and has to be stopped.”

Measures are being taken to support women wanting to enter politics. UN Women works with local women’s groups to train and build the confidence of prospective politicians, and has set up “situation rooms” during elections where women can report problems with voting, or violent incidents.

“This is not about political opinion, but a huge network of people threatened by any power a woman takes,” said Phillips.

Mimoza Kusari-Lila, mayor of Gjakova in Kosovo, who has received death threats during her time in public office, added: “All these efforts only make me stronger. I know it might frighten many young women from entering politics [but] this is a pattern. We have to win the war to win the peace. You keep throwing stones at me and I will keep paving roads.”



India: Lucknow’s New Landmark Sheroes Upholds the Indomitable Spirit of Humanity

Manjari Singh: 16 March 2016

“She loves dancing, just play her music and see her foot tapping,” gushes Lakshmi as she puts her one-year-old daughter Pihu to sleep on her lap. It was International Women’s Day and one couldn’t think of a better day for the launch of the Lucknow branch of Sheroes Hangout, a café run by acid attack survivors.

Lakshmi is visibly busy, instructing the staff and interacting with media simultaneously.

“So, what does being a woman mean to you?” asks a journalist. Lakshmi, who was attacked with acid when she was barely 16 by a 32-year-old man whose advances she had rejected, thinks for a while and replies, “It means blessing, I still feel blessed, even after all that happened to me. I didn’t start hating men after I was attacked with acid. I suffered for a very long time but hating men would also mean hating my father and brother, and I wouldn’t have found Alok, if I had turned into a man-hater,” she smiles.

Alok Dikshit is Lakshmi’s partner and founder of Stop Acid Attacks, an organization that helps rehabilitating those attacked with acid. Sheroes Hangout at Agra is a café established in 2015 by this organization run by survivors. “And the biggest blessing is sleeping on my lap,” Lakshmi continues with a smile.

Located in a prime location at Lucknow’s Gomtinagar, Sheroes Hangout is going to be the ‘coolest hangout’ of the city. And why not?  It has everything that is quintessentially required to be one, right from out-door seating to live music and of course, great food.

“Our café in Agra is known as the second Taj Mahal of Agra; whoever visits the Taj Mahal pays a visit to our café as well,” says Lakshmi. The ‘pay as you wish’ concept is also faring well for Agra’s café and will be implemented in Lucknow too.

“Yes, you might want to know why we don’t charge like the way cafes do but then, this is no ordinary café, it’s all about the spirit,” says Lakshmi, adding that the Agra branch is a profit-making venture. “There are some people who eat, enjoy the ambience and pay nothing at all but then there are also people who leave lots of cash and love behind.”

The women running the cafe in Agra didn’t get any professional training and learnt everything through small workshops that the organization conducted from time to time; the staff at the Lucknow café too learnt the same way. “They were quite hesitant at the beginning but then they were immensely appreciated by the visitors and that boosted their confidence,” shares Lakshmi.

The café in Lucknow will primarily be run by four survivors, namely, Farah, Reshma, Rani and Sunita. Most of these women were attacked by their spurned lovers.  Reshma who will be assisting the chefs is a survivor from Kanpur who had been married to a man from Lucknow for 16 long years. The marriage turned sour after Reshma gave birth to her fifth girl child. When her husband learnt that she is pregnant for a sixth time in 2013, he asked her to get a sex determination test done and when she refused, he attacked her private parts with acid.

“I was at the initial stage of pregnancy that time, I didn’t get any first aid and my in-laws locked me inside a room,” she says. She was rescued by local NGOs and had surgeries done after she got in touch with Stop Acid Attacks.

“I delivered the child too, and he turned out to be a boy. He lives with my parents and I will bring him here once I am settled here,” says Reshma.

The surgeries, trauma and bitter memories did break Reshma for a while but now life feels like a dream.  “I travel alone and I interact with so many people confidently. I thought my life was over after I was attacked,” she says.

Reshma went to Agra to learn to make Kebab Paratha and Biryani along with other items. “And that was the first time I went to a city other than Kanpur and Lucknow. All thanks to Alok Bhaiya. My legs hurt when I walk but then Alok Bhaiya never lets us get our spirits down,” she says.

That is exactly what Alok Dikshit had in mind when he started Stop Acid Attacks in 2013 – to ensure that the spirits of those who are attacked and survived never fail. “Society shuns those who are scarred with acid, but here we let survivors know that there’s more to life than scars and trauma,’ says Lakshmi.

“Our next café will be in Udaipur, we have already finalized the location and it will be functional by next year,” Dikshit adds. The organization will soon start hunting down the survivors living in Uttar Pradesh who were attacked before the law related to acid attacks was introduced in 2013. This law promises compensation and free treatment by the state government.

“186 women were attacked with acid in 2014 in Uttar Pradesh itself, that’s a huge number,” says Ashish Shukla, co-founder Stop Acid attacks. “We also stage Nukkad Nataks to create awareness amongst people,” he adds.

Shukla admits that the only way such attacks can be curbed is by stopping the sale of acids. He points out that there is a law against every crime, including murder or rape, but then law alone hasn’t been able to stop these criminal acts. And that is why he emphasizes citizen’s participation in ensuring effectiveness of these laws. “Sale of acid is banned by law but shopkeepers still keep it and you never know who is going to be attacked next, so I feel it’s citizens’ responsibility to report sale of acids whenever they spot it,” he says.

The organization also plans to have counseling sessions with the survivors’ families. “When a girl is attacked with acid, the only thing that comes into families’ minds is marriage. We will tell families that there’s more to girls’ lives than getting married; an acid attack is not the end of everything,” he says.

The latest addition to the organization is Rani from Orissa who will be handling the customer care department at the Lucknow outlet. Rani was attacked by a man whose marriage proposals she had turned down five years ago. She was in the ICU for nine months and bedridden for four years. She lost her vision partially due to the attack but her spirits are shining bright today. “I was trained at Agra and I am quite excited about the new chapter of my life,” she chirps.

All the women will be living in a hostel provided by the organisation in association with the state government. “After being dependent all my life, I am excited at the thought of leading an independent life in a new city,” adds Rani.

The guests are pouring in by now; some women are dancing to the music which the live band is playing while some are busy serving food to the guests. Ritu Saini who works at the Agra café has been on her toes since the morning and she is not complaining. “I am happy that my friends will live a dignified life, just like I do,” she says.

Ritu was a Class Twelve student and a state level volleyball player, before she was attacked by her cousin in Rohtak over a property dispute. “I stopped going out, even those numerous surgeries couldn’t get me my old face…but now I know more feel victimized,” she adds.

Time to wrap up for the day as the band plays the last song of the evening, ‘Bol ke lab azaad hai tere.’