News Flash November 2013
Twelve years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s government is considering bringing back stoning as a punishment for sex outside marriage. The sentence for married adulterers, along with flogging for unmarried offenders, appears in a draft revision of the country’s penal code being drawn up by the ministry of justice. It is the latest in a string of encroachments on hard-won rights for women, after parliament quietly cut the number of seats set aside for women on provincial councils, and drew up a criminal code whose provisions will make it almost impossible to convict anyone for domestic violence.
Locals shot dead a girl and her boyfriend in northern Baghlan province after they eloped. Javed Basharat, the provincial police spokesman, said police tried to mediate and rescue the pair, but tribal elders promised to surrender both victims yet failed to do so.
A survey of 22 Arab states by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found Egypt lowest in the women’s rights listing and with the highest rates of violence against women – including sexual harassment and female genital mutilation (FGM). Egypt was followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.
Aboobacker Musaliya, one of Kerala’s most influential Sunni leaders and general secretary of the All India Sunni Jam-Iyyathul Ulema said “…Islam has not changed its decrees regarding the life of women. Muslim women should not work in a place where only a woman and a man are present. They should work only in a place where there are enough number of women and trustworthy men. Ninety per cent of jobs do not require men and women to mingle. These rules cannot be changed.” The cleric also said that women should travel only if it was unavoidable. Even then, these journeys must be for purposes ratified by Islam.
A document adopted by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council with president Rouhani’s signature has been forwarded to the education and health ministries to “reduce the unnecessary mixing of males and females.” The section on gender segregation included the expansion of the culture of chastity and the veil.
Majlis (parliamentary) social affairs committee head Abdulreza Azizi said: “Almost 20% of marriages in Iran end in divorce, as a result of promiscuity, sexual license, perversion, and a tendency to favour Western values.” Azizi quoted from the Koran, claiming that the holy book stipulates that women have no right to seek divorce. If they did, it would mean they could ask for a separation on any pretext, whenever they chose to. Azizi also blamed drug addiction, unemployment, economic hardship and foreign satellite television for the high divorce rate.
Following mounting criticism of the Iranian police’s harassment of women who refuse to abide by compulsory veiling rules, the ‘modesty project’ has been transferred to the Interior Ministry. Police commander Brigadier Ismail Ahmadi-Moghadam said: “The government has decided to hand the project over to a social council, which is in the process of organising staff and procedures. We will still be available to play a role if required. We are optimistic about this move, and hope the modesty project will be conducted more efficiently in future.” Over 26 government agencies have been involved in imposing hijab, spending millions of dollars over several decades in the process. However both sociologists and politicians now admit that harsh campaigns have failed to force Iranian women to submit to the guidelines. In the past, Iranian officials have accused women who defy hijab of making a political statement in an attempt to ridicule the regime.
Ghulam Ali Hadad, a close advisor and confidante to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his son’s father-in-law who was a candidate in last June’s presidential election has said Iranians and many other people around the world tend to adopt the cultural values of the West. Addressing students at Payam Noor University in Mashad, he said: “Women who observe Islamic hijab are currently under considerable pressure to change their appearance. This is a consequence of the harmful influence of Western culture on our society. Western values have even influenced architecture and interior decoration. Some people’s dreams and aspirations are inspired by the West.”
Over 15% of homeless in Tehran are women addicted to drugs or alcohol. Most fled their families in the smaller Iranian towns and villages and went to the Iranian capital in search of better social and economic conditions.
Iranian women are banned from attending football matches. Some disguise themselves as men to attend facing arrest and imprisonment if found out. On social media, women football lovers asked FIFA’s head to raise the issue on his visit with Iranian authorities, which he did.
The Iraqi Justice Ministry announced that it had sent a copy of a draft law on Shiite jurisprudence and personal status to the cabinet for approval. The draft law stipulates that Iraqi Shiites would refer to Islamic Sharia, and specifically principles of Jaafari jurisprudence, for personal status issues — which include marriage and divorce, as well as issues of inheritance and adoption. The pending legislation threatens to further divide Iraqi society on the basis of sectarianism and ethnicity and violate women’s and children’s rights, including potentially making the latter susceptible to sexual abuse through child marriage.
Seventy-two percent of Jewish Israelis do not trust the police in protecting women victims of domestic violence and their children, according to a survey. According to the data, half of Israelis know at least one woman who experiences violence of some kind from her husband. Among them, about a third indicated that the woman they know suffers from physical violence, while the rest said the violence was verbal and emotional.
Hundreds of women turned out in Algeria Square in Libya to protest against the presence of armed militias in Tripoli streets and across the country. They called for a complete end to the country’s militias.
Forced to marry the man who had raped her, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl committed suicide last month. As Abdel Ali El-Allawi, director of the local chapter of an international NGO, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, said, the rapist was first put into prison but that his family “entered negotiations with the family of the victim” and proposed that their son marry the teenager; her family assented.
A human rights activist stated that fifty-six women have been killed in Pakistan this year for giving birth to a girl rather than a boy.
The Palestinian Authority banned the Islamist Hizb ut Tahrir from holding a seminar in Bethlehem under the title: “Women’s groups and societies seek to corrupt women.” The group recently launched a campaign against women’s organisations and societies, accusing them of corrupting Palestinian women. The campaign is being held under the motto “Women’s honour must be protected and the infidels and their tools are conspiring against women.” The campaign by Hizb ut Tahrir drew strong condemnations from women’s rights groups in the West Bank. The groups accused the party of inciting against women and appealed to the Palestinian Authority to take action to stop the fundamentalists from pursuing their campaign.
Saudi religious police arrested two young men offering a “free hug” to passers-by in the capital. Free Hugs Campaign is a movement for individuals to offer hugs to strangers in public places,
especially in big cities, “to brighten up their lives.”
Two activists in Sudan are due to stand trial for ‘indecent behaviour.’ They are at risk of imprisonment or flogging. Najlaa Mohammed Ali, a lawyer and human rights activist, and Amin Senada, also an activist, were arrested on 21 October in Port Sudan after they were found to be travelling in the same car together. Initially, members of Sudan’s police and security forces took the pair into custody after accusing Senada of placing his hand on Ali’s shoulder. The arresting officers later claimed they had found them kissing in the car, charging both with ‘indecent behaviour’ under Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Code. It is believed that the charge is a response to Ali’s political activism, including her participation in countrywide demonstrations that took place in September.
Under the guise of protecting morality and preventing the co-mingling of the sexes, which is deemed “prostitution,” government officials have deployed the public order regime against unmarried men and women alike who dare to share office space and taxi rides or attend parties together.
A new report estimates 6,000 women have been raped since March 2011 however during the Syrian conflict; the actual number is likely to be much higher given most cases go undocumented.
A Yemeni court ordered the release of an eloping Saudi woman and her boyfriend and gave 22 year old Huda Abdullah three months to rectify her legal status in the country. Huda had fled her family home in Saudi Arabia and headed to Yemen to meet her beloved. She was arrested in Yemen for illegal entry and placed on trial, amid mounting pressure from her family and Saudi authorities for her to return home. But she stuck her ground, pleading in court to be able to stay and marry her boyfriebd, and applied for asylum through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.